Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Religion Gone Bad

     It is amazing how we sometimes go out of the way to make ourselves look holy. You can even say that many of the divisions that we have in the Church are based on this. Looking at our history we find that such divisions often begin with certain ways people express the same shared faith as opposed to other ways. What first comes to mind is found in the scriptures where the apostle Paul had to reminded the Corinthians that he had come not to baptize but to preach the gospel. At the time the Corinthians were fighting over who was more spiritual because of how they were baptized. Like the Corinthians sometimes we to make ourselves out to be more righteous by the way we observe a ritual or express our faith. In the end we fail to realize what the Paul taught concerning how he came only to "preach the gospel". For the Apostle spirituality is dictated less by expression and more by interior transformation that is achieved through a proper response to the gospel, which is found only in a life of repentance.
     When it comes to expression we have to keep in mind the teachings of St. Hesychios the Priest in the Philokalia. He says, "we should strive to preserve the precious gifts which preserve us from all evil(v.1. pg.80)".He also, states concerning expression that the emphasis of the New Testament aims at the "purity of the heart" rather than what could be determined as a ritual performance. From this perspective we should utilize what we find helps us most to be transformed within. At the same time recognizing the great diversity in human nature in trying to achieve this transformation. For instance, what I find helpful as a Byzantine Catholic might not be so with a Roman Catholic. In addition, just because the way I preformed my rituals helps me this does not mean that all others are inferior.
     All heavenly things belong to us in Jesus Christ. In the Church there is a profound diversity in demonstrating that there is no limit to the human expression of this. On the other hand, the only limit to our experience God is our own failure to follow his commandments. For in any type of prayer or ritual what lasts is our response to the gospel. As Elder Sophrony once said, " prayer offered to God in truth is imperishable. Now and then we may forget what we have prayed about God but God preserves our prayer forever(His Life is Mine pg.72)".Based on this we should take heed not to judge others who might not be at our level of spiritual performance. They may not do it to our expectation but in the eyes of God what they are doing is holy and precious if they are doing it through repentance.
     In my own life I have had the opportunity coming out of heathenism to try a variety of Christian spiritualities. In them all I wanted to find the one which helped me personally develop a better relationship with God. In my journey every one of them helped me to know God better but as I developed my faith I found that in the Byzantine tradition a place to help me to discover God better. When I discovered this there was a temptation to burn the bridges that brought me to where I am at and to see the Byzantine tradition as the most pure and developed form of spirituality. Consequently, to do so would put me in the boat of the Corinthian Christians that I mentioned. In contrast, the Byzantine tradition taught me to see a diversity in spirituality that has its origins in God. God is always becoming human in us and this is seen in the ways we turn to him through acts of repentance.
     There is only one right way to celebrate our traditions. This way is not in precision or performance but in a simplicity. Only in a life of continual repentance do we find that the gospel is truly manifesting in our traditions. Even in the brightest temples filled with a plenitude of icons and incense they become truly dark if the people are no repenting. No matter how hard we perform our traditions they will become meaningless outside of a true response to the gospel, which is found in repentance. Our God has made access to him so simple but it's up to us to embrace this through our actions. Since it is up to us to repent we should always encourage the same in others and never making them feel weaker because they don’t do it the way we do.

1 comment:

  1. ..this is a great post...its interesting how interchangable the word 'repentance' and 'humility' might be in the context of this post..The Greek ‘metanoeo’ translates to 'have a change of mind' while the Hebrew word in the Old Testament for repentance is ‘Teshuvah’ and denotes 'return' or 'a returning back'(to God).....(mike)