Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Nitpickers

     Have you ever had those who are telling you how wrong things are with the Church? Well, there was a time in my life when I had an Icon on every wall, the best prayer ropes, and a book on every saint. However, in all me religious dedication I lacked the most vital thing, which was a better relationship with God. Not knowing what I really needed I went on to seek ritual purity and became what some would perceive would be zealous for our traditions. There is nothing wrong with loving tradition but in my case I noticed that the love was misguided. Instead of trying to better develop my own spirituality through tradition I started seeing how everyone  else is doing it wrong. This led me to believe that somehow I was the spiritual person because I was doing certain church traditions right. In the end and in truly discovering the heart of our Byzantine tradition I learned that true spirituality is not in the accumulation or precision of religious activates but in a life of complete repentance.
     The Byzantine tradition is packed with many rituals. However, it is not ritualistic. All the ornate or drawn out liturgies that we have are designed to reveal one thing, which is the beauty of God within each of us. We are greater than the rituals we perform because we are the living icons of God. In thinking about this I am reminded of the theological poetry of St Symeon the New Theologian where he says, "We awaken in Christ's body as Christ awakens our bodies, and my poor hand is Christ, He enters my foot, and is infinitely me". What the saint speaks of is what we celebrate as Byzantines and when we don’t have a chance to celebrate this or for some reason if our church life is diminished we never become separated from this experience of God.
     Sometimes I think a lot of Roman Catholics and even our own people at times struggle with the radical expression of intimacy that we have with God in the Byzantine tradition. For example, many times I have been told that our Byzantine churches are suffering because we don’t have Eucharistic Adoration like the Roman churches do. In contrast, our spirituality demonstrates a weakness with such positions that try force us to leave the radical experience of the "Adoration" of what's inside. When we begin to make our experience of God based on a quality or a performance of a ritual we then find ourselves outside of what it really means to be Byzantine. For us as the scripture says, "nothing separates us" from the fullness of the gift of God and the quality of our rituals or lack of will not change this. As it says in Romans 8:39 "neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord". God became a man for us as the saints say so that in no way we can miss in becoming what God is other than by our own lack of repentance.
     Many may not realize but one our greatest Byzantine saints found a deep relationship with God outside of what we would normally experience through a "Sunday obligation" or perfected liturgical experience. There was a time in the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov that he practiced a liturgical life that would make many of us uncomfortable. At one point he went to live in the woods are there were noted times when he did not leave from a prayer, he even prayed once for a "thousand days" in one spot as one source says. As our tradition continues to venerate him there is no doubt that this saint embodied the quality of Byzantine spirituality. However, for some of us, like I did in my own life, we always find time to point out the errors of why our churches (or their churches) are not byzantine or catholic enough. Consequently, never seeing the real problems for what we are really doing is manifesting our own lack of experience of God.
     As I found out it's never too late to discover that we can go astray. I think in looking at our tradition we should be humbled at the fact that real knowledge of God is the experience of him. No matter how well I do my theology or perform a rite I am never guaranteed him. Even in receiving the sacraments our experience of God stands on how we our opening ourselves to him through a life of repentance. I think in seeing that I was not pure I begin to nitpick at the way others were doing things. When doing this we really become at odds with the essence of Christ's teachings. He warned us about this in many places but sometimes we don’t want to see this because in doing so would bring us to the truth that we are not as spiritual as we thought. However, God waits for these moments when we come to repentance. It is then when we discover that we really have nothing he then shows us that we really have everything.

1 comment:

  1. Scrupulosity can be a very difficult thing to deal with...but perhaps your 'nitpickiness' led you to where you are today