Spirituality Archive

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Spirituality

by Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald

Orthodoxy believes that the supreme treasure which God wishes to share with us is His own life. Our faith begins with the affirmation that God has acted in history to permit us to participate in His love and His goodness, to be citizens of His Kingdom. This conviction is expressed so beautifully in the prayer of the Liturgy which says: “You have not ceased to do all things until You brought us to heaven and granted us the Kingdom to come.”

The fundamental vocation and goal of each and every person is to share in the life of God. We have been created by God to live in fellowship with Him. The descent of God in the Person of Jesus Christ has made possible the human ascent to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that each Christian is involved in a movement toward God which is known as theosis or deification. [Read More]

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Detach from the World to Attach to God


As we are now well into Great Lent, allow me to focus on one of the most challenging aspects of our spiritual journeys – detachment. Detachment is living in the world but not being of the world. We know that the Greek word for saint, “ayios”, literally is “one removed from the earth.” To be “holy” (the general way “ayios” is translated) infers this detachment. This is a major theme of the desert fathers and mothers and a core theme of Orthodox Christian spirituality. In fact, it is mentioned in the second and third rungs of the thirty rungs of the spiritual ladder in St. John Climacus’ book, The Ladder of Divine Accent. This classic is read at Orthodox monasteries throughout the world annually during Great Lent. What does this detachment mean for you and me?

Detachment means to not allow the things of this world to become too important to us and to, in their place, choose God. Now, when we speak of things of this world, we also refer to people. Of everything within this world, people are of course the most important. More important, however, than either things or people, is God. Detachment, quite simply is about balance and having the proper priorities in life – God first, others second and things third. Simple to say, but not simple to do. Do we live our lives in terms of time, talents and treasures with these priorities? Our human tendency after the Fall of Adam and Eve is not to. The pre-Fall human tendency was to focus on our soul first and then the body, to focus on God first and everything else second. The Fall skewed this perspective. The body and its pleasures (the material world) became primary and the soul, (the Godly spiritual world) secondary. Detachment is about reversing the order to its original beauty – to focus first on God and His Kingdom and not on the kingdoms of this world.

Practically speaking, it means that we are to detach from the “things” this world offers. We are also challenged even to detach from people. As we relate to them, we do so in the context of God’s love. Therefore, their love or lack of love towards us is understood in the context of God’s eternal love for us. We of course love people with kindness, respect and care. To do so is to be Godly. However, when someone praises us for doing something (presumably) well, we detach – offering the praise to God. Conversely, when someone criticizes us, we accept it and then let it go, in humility to God. If we do not detach and hang on to either a praise or a curse (criticism), we are in danger of placing too much attention on either the praise or criticism of an imperfect person. This in turn can take us to either vanity – thinking of ourselves more than we should — or worthlessness — thinking of ourselves less than we should. I should add that it could also lead us to judgment and bitterness of the person judging us. We then place ourselves above them. The sin in these three cases is pride. It comes from claiming our worth based upon imperfect and worldly opinions. Detachment places our trust in the Perfect God who provides the context for relationships and love.

All people, all things are validated through their relationship with God, their creator. As we continue in our Lenten Journey, may we focus first – in everything – on our Loving Lord. May we live in this world but not be of this world. May we live as strangers knowing that God’s kingdom is not of this world. May we remember that it is His Love for us as our true Parent that validates us. If He is for us, no one can be against us!

Have a blessed remainder of Lent, Holy Week and a Glorious Pascha,

Fr. Lou

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Humility and Childlikeness

What does it mean to be a devout and committed Christian?  What is at the very core of our approach to and relationship with God?  Allow me to answer these questions with a quotation from our Lord.  “ At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who then is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’  Then Jesus called a child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, ‘Assuredly I say to you unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Mt.18:1-5).

Who do we honor in this life?  Typically we honor entertainers, athletes, the wealthy, politicians, CEO’s of corporations, successful, accomplished men and women.  They are often motivated, hard working, self-sufficient, and articulate.

Who do we honor in our Orthodox faith?  We hold up as examples and honor after our Lord, the saints.  Without a doubt, many of the saints were gifted with similar qualities as those possessed by the “idols” of our times.  However, the saints accomplished something that few have.  They were “converted” and became as little children.  Now, that does not mean that they were childish, with the immaturities of childhood.  What it does mean is that they were childlike, with a purity of faith, trust and love for God.  It means that they were humble and always ready to learn, never looking at themselves as better than another, seeing that anything good that they did was as a result of God’s Grace and not their own.  This childlikeness was something that they, through humility had to re-learn.  They were “converted” to this attitude of life.  Since after the Fall of humankind our tendency is to rely on our self and not God.  Most of the “great ones” honored in our world, with our fallen tendencies focus on their accomplishments and possessions.  A “converted one” learns to direct any good away from self and towards God.  The truth is that in my experience, even within the Church this is not easily accomplished.  More times than not our attitudes are not “converted”.  This is the main reason why petty differences and power struggles occur everywhere.  Our own egos keep us from this childlikeness and humility.  In our circles, this applies to clergy and laity a like.

Our Lord tells us, “…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mt. 19:24).  This reference specifically is towards wealthy people.  However in principle “wealth” can refer to anyone who thinks of him or herself as great or at least greater than another, when essentially we are nothing without God.  Tito Colliander in his book, Way of the Ascetics, says, “The holy Fathers say with one voice: the first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself…This decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset…For how can a human being receive advice, instruction and help if he believes that he knows and can do anything and needs no directions?” (pg. 4).

How then can we “convert” to this childlikeness?  Step I is to, in humility recognize in our heart’s depths God’s incredible love for us.  “ God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:16).  He loved and loves us even though we are not perfect.  Step II is to strive to love God as first and foremost in our lives—above self, parents, spouse, children—everyone.  We have a challenge in our maturation process to learn to depend on God attitudinally as a child depends upon a parent.  I emphasize maturation because this assumes adult responsibility to do things that we ourselves can do and to not wait on our parent (God) to do them for us.  When we do them, however we do them for His Glory and not for our own satisfaction and glory.  Step III is to love others and learn to not focus on their limitations but rather to focus on God’s grace within them.  After all, if God loves us in our imperfection, it stands to reason He loves others as well.   Step IV is to be ever vigilant and not let one’s guard down.  Our fallen tendency is always there until our final breath with temptation lurking in the shadows wanting us to rely on self, thus judging others and even God as inadequate to direct or guide us.

In Humility and like a little child, let us submit to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus our whole life so that through God’s Grace and Strength we may live in His Presence and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

In Christ,

Fr. Lou