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Friday, March 2, 2018

     “But give rather the spirit of whole-mindedness (σωφροσύνης), humility, patience (ὑπομονῆς), and love to Your servant.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part 2)

     As the second week of Lent draws to an end, I am grateful to be reminded of God’s Spirit of “patience” or “hypo-mone“ in Greek (from “ὑπό” meaning “behind,” and “μένω” meaning “to remain”), which is a “remaining behind” and waiting things out, even when the going gets rough. “Behind” what? Behind the secure borders of “the God-zone,” if I can put it that way. When things change, or don’t go as I expected, in the Spirit of “patience” I am reminded that time is a blessing, not a curse.

     Patience is a gift one often neglects in our culture of instant gratification; of fast information, fast food, and fast...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας), despondency (περιεργίας), love of power (φιλαρχίας), and idle talk (ἀργολογίας).” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part 1)

It is not sane to “love“ power or authority over others, although it is vital that some people exercise it, as their God-given vocation, – either as parents, or as political, military, or Church-leaders, or as teachers/professors, or as business-managers or executives. As St. Paul reminds us, “there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.“ (Rom 13: 1) The response-ability (or “ability to respond“ to the call/vocation) of power is humbling and often painful, for example, when one must “parent“ a misbehaving child while wanting to be a “f...

Friday, February 23, 2018

"O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας), despondency (περιεργίας), love of power, and idle talk (ἀργολογίας).
But give rather the spirit of whole-mindedness (σωφροσύνης), humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen
." (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem)

One of the great paradoxes of the cross-carrying journey, (the cross itself being the greatest paradox, as something that brings victory through defeat), is that I learn to embrace God’s Spirit, of whole-mindedness, humility, patience, and love, through being confronted with, and turning away from, “other” or opposing “spirits,” like idleness, despondency, love of power, and idle...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” (Joel 2: 12-13)

Yes, I do know that it is “not” Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent, for us Orthodox Christians today. Nonetheless, the above-quoted passage is, indeed, part of our Church’s reading for today, Cheesefare Wednesday. Because this week, or Cheesefare Week (Maslenitsa in Russian), the week preceding Lent, is liturgically already preparing us for the season of fasting and “return to the Lord” that is Lent. In fact, today, on Cheesefare Wednesday, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, and th...

Monday, March 13, 2017

But grant unto me, Your servant, a spirit of chastity (σωφροσύνης, whole-mindedness, цело-мудрия), humility (ταπεινοφροσύνης, humble-mindedness, смиренно-мудрия), patience and love.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, part 2)

Humility is an elusive kind of thing, hard to define. It is also easy to mistake some “humility-counterfeit” for actual humility. For example, I might imagine I am being “humble,” while actually escaping responsibility, according to my vocation, or donning a mask I have concocted, just not to be who I am called to be in my God-given place, time, and identity. As G. K. Chesterton famously noted, “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A m...

Friday, March 10, 2017

O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας, праздности), despondency, lust of power, and idle talk / idle words (ἀργο-λογίας, праздно-словия).“ (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, part 1)

It is important for us to talk and to share with one another our thoughts, sorrows, joys, and so on. No doubt about it. In fact I think we don’t do enough of that today, when we are so often “alone together,“ even as a family, with each member staring into his or her computer/phone while sitting at the same table. Nonetheless, there is such a thing as “idle talk/words,“ so let me reflect on that a bit. What is it?

Just like “idleness” (ἀργία, from ἀ-ἐργία, or “not doing”) means “not doing” what I am supposed to be doing, how, when and why I am supposed to be doing it, so does my “i...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας, праздности), despondency, lust of power, and idle talk (ἀργο-λογίας, праздно-словия).“ (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, part 1)

Here the “spirit of idleness” or “ἀργία” (from “ἀ-εργία,” literally “not working” or “not doing”) means the bad kinds of “not doing.” There are also good kinds of “not doing” (праздность) at certain, appropriate times (праздники), because we all need an occasional break in order to be restored. But here idleness means “not doing” what I am supposed to be doing, and when I am supposed to be doing it, according to my “vocation” or calling from God, specifically out of an avoidance and/or neglect of “responsibility” (i.e., my “response-ability” or my “ability to respond” to God’s call). One such...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing…Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples,‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2: 12-13, 17)

This passage strikes me as painfully relevant to us today. It is one of our Church’s readings for this Wednesday of Cheesefare-Week, on which we on the Byzantine liturgical calendar have Lenten services with the reading of the Lente...

Monday, February 6, 2017

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of idleness, despondency, lust for power (φιλαρχίας, любоначалия) and idle talk.” (Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part 1)

The exercise of ”power” or “authority” by some of us is an essential, God-given ministry, whether we are parents, managers, political leaders, church-leaders, or leaders of some other kind. As St. Paul reminds us, ”For there is no authority (ἐξουσία) except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom 13: 1) It would in fact be sinful to avoid the exercise of power or authority, if this is part of one’s vocation or ministry. Because somebody has to do it, to maintain the “order” (“taxis” in Greek) of things, as well as the security that order provides for all of us.

But a “lust for power” (φιλ-αρχία, litera...

Monday, April 11, 2016

 

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge (κατακρίνειν, condemn) my brother, for blessed are You, unto ages of ages. Amen.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part Three)

 

Here I am asking for God’s kind of vision. He is able “to see” and yet “not to condemn” (κατακρίνειν, to judge uncharitably). I, on the other hand, can not see in His way, without His help, because we “do not see,” without the light of the Lord. Our kind of vision is darkness in light of Him, Who is the Source of all justice, as Christ reminds the Pharisees: "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." (Jn 9: 39) And as the wisdom of St. Ephrem’s prayer reminds me, His kind of vision opens up to me through seeing “my own...

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