Christ’s Saving Work as the Foundation of the New Life

July 31, 2012 § 3 Comments

“But when the truth rose, like the sun, from the earth for those who sate in darkness and shadow of falsehood, then righteousness stooped down from heaven and, for the first time, appear to men in its reality and perfection.  We were justified, first by being set free from bonds and condemnation , in that He who had done no evil pleaded for us by dying on the cross.  By this He paid the penalty for the sins we had audaciously committed; then, because of that death, we were made friends of God and righteous.  By His death the Savior not only released us and reconciled us to the Father, but also ‘gave us power to become children of God’ (John 1:12), in that He both united our nature to Himself through the flesh which He assumed, and also united each one of us to His own flesh by the power of the Mysteries.  In this way, the, He makes His own righteousness and life to rise, like the sun, in our souls.  Thus it becomes possible for men, by means of the sacred Mysteries, both to know true righteousness and themselves practice it” (Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, 53-54; emphasis mine).

Forgiveness as the Life of Christ

September 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

“…This life of forgiveness, which is nothing other than the life of Christ within us, is our inheritance in the faith. The life of blame, recrimination, bitterness, anger, revenge and the like are not the life of Christ, but simply the raging of our own egos, the false self which we exalt over our true life which is “hid with Christ in God.”

The rightness of a cause or the correctness of our judgment do not justify nor change the nature of our ragings. For none of us can stand before God and be justified – except as we give ourselves to the life of Christ, who is our only righteousness.

The question of forgiveness is not a moral issue. We do not forgive because it is the “correct” thing to do. We forgive because it is the true nature of the life in Christ….In the same manner, the refusal to forgive, the continuation of blame, recrimination, bitterness, etc., are not moral failings. They are existential crises – drawing us away from the life of Christ and Paradise, and ever deeper into an abyss of non-being…”

HT: Fr. Stephen Freeman

On Repentance

March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Justification in the New Testament does not mean a transaction – a kind of deal; and repentance defies mechanical definition. It is a continual enactment of freedom, a movement forward, deriving from renewed choice and leading to restoration. The aim of the Christian is not even justification but a re-entry by sinner and saint alike into communion in which God and man meet once again and personal experience of divine life becomes possible. Both prodigal and saint are “repenting sinners.”

Repentance is not to be confused with mere remorse, with a self-regarding feeling of being sorry for a wrong done. It is not a state but a stage, a beginning. Rather, it is an invitation to new life, an opening up of new horizons, the gaining of a new vision. Christianity testifies that the past can be undone. It knows the mystery of obliterating or rather renewing memory, of forgiveness and regenera­tion, eschewing the fixed division between the “good” and the “wicked,” the pious and the rebellious, the believers and the unbelievers. Indeed, “the last” can be “the first,” the sin­ner can reach out to holiness. Passions are conquered by stronger passions; love is overcome by more abundant love. One repents not because one is virtuous, but because human nature can change, because what is impossible for man is possible for God. The motive for repentance is at all times humility, unself-sufficiency – not a means of justification for oneself, or of realizing some abstract idea of goodness, or of receiving a reward in some future life. Just as the strength of God is revealed in the extreme vulnerability of His Son on the Cross, so also the greatest strength of man is to embrace his weakness: “for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I render glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12.9). To be flawed is the illogical, perhaps supernatural characteristic of humanity in which one en­counters God.”

Read the entire article on Repentance and Confession – An Introduction

Orthodoxy on Justification

November 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

“In Western theology we often see a distinction being made between justification and sanctification.  And one feels that we are dealing here with two separate stages which are clearly distinguished from each other.  Justification is considered the first stage, the starting point, after which follows the second stage, sanctification.  I maintain that in Orthodox theology the matter is placed on a different basis.  What is stressed in not the distinction between justification and sanctification, but the dynamic character of justification.  It is this very dynamism of justification which constitutes sanctification.  Thus, man can become an infinite being with immense potentialities opening before him.  Through baptism he puts on Christ; that is to say, he participate in the justification which Christ himself created, while finding the way open for him to raise himself ‘unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:23).  Justification is a given fact, but at the same time it is a reality towards which man continuously advances.  It is, in the final analysis, the process towards the unending end of perfection” (69, Constantine B. Scouteris; “Church and Justification” found in Ecclesial Being: Contributions to Theological Dialogue).

55 Maxims from Fr. Thomas Hopko

May 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

  1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything
  2. Pray as you can, not as you think you must
  3. Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline
  4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day
  5. Repeat a short prayer when your mind is not occupied
  6. Make some prostrations when you pray
  7. Eat good foods in moderation and fast on fasting days
  8. Practice silence, inner and outer
  9. Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day
  10. Do acts of mercy in secret
  11. Go to liturgical services regularly
  12. Go to confession and holy communion regularly
  13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings
  14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly
  15. Read the scriptures regularly
  16. Read good books, a little at a time
  17. Cultivate communion with the saints
  18. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race
  19. Be polite with everyone, first of all family members
  20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home
  21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby
  22. Exercise regularly
  23. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time
  24. Be totally honest, first of all with yourself
  25. Be faithful in little things
  26. Do your work, then forget it
  27. Do the most difficult and painful things first
  28. Face reality
  29. Be grateful
  30. Be cheerful
  31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small
  32. Never bring attention to yourself
  33. Listen when people talk to you
  34. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are
  35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary
  36. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly
  37. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out
  38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance
  39. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine
  40. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise
  41. Don’t compare yourself with anyone
  42. Don’t judge anyone for anything
  43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything
  44. Don’t defend or justify yourself
  45. Be defined and bound by God, not people
  46. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully
  47. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty
  48. Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves
  49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice
  50. Be merciful with yourself and others
  51. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath
  52. Focus exclusively on God and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin
  53. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy
  54. When you fall, get up immediately and start over
  55. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame

Father Tom explains this list of maxims in an excellent podcast for Ancient Faith Radio.

HT: Oh Taste and See

Just Saying No is Not Enough

April 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

” ‘Just say no’ is an insufficient principle.  The strongest man or woman in the world is not nearly strong enough to triumph over his or her sin simply by saying no to it.  What we need is the strength-giving grace occasioned by our saying yes to something else, by our saying yes, and yes, and yes—ceaselessly—to Someone else.  It is not our finally turning away from sin that frees us from sin’s recurrence; rather it is our turning toward Christ–and the mystery of our continuing to turn into Him–that puts sin behind us” (The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain, Scott Cairns, 67).

Friday, 2nd Week of Lent

February 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Matins, Canticle Five
“Crucified, Thou dost release me from corruption; pierced by a lance, Thou makest me immortal.  I glorify Thine ineffable mercy, O Christ, for Thou hast come to save me” (Lenten Triodion Supplement, 110).

Matins, Canticle Nine
“Through Thy Crucifixion Thou doest open Paradise again and deliver me from the eternal death of disobedience.  With rejoicing I partake of life, and magnify Thee as my God, O Thou who lovest mankind.

O Lord, Thy lifecreating Cross has turned the instrument of the curse into a seal of blessing.  Beholding Thee upon it, we who before were dead are brought back to life, and singing Thy praises we magnify Thee as our Master” (Lenten Triodion Supplement, 113).

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