Saturday, July 13, 2013

Only by my Tradition

     Growing up a heathen I was left with very little to inform me about God. However, the little that I did have became the stepping stone to where I find myself today.  I guess you can say using what little I had was a continual process because in my case not knowing much about God I found myself exploring many traditions of faith until finally I found my home. Of course, the path I took to where I am was not an easy one. Not knowing what to believe I often found myself in a place of humility and had to change many times my thinking. I’m sure finding humility is not over but one thing for sure I know is that my spiritual tradition has transformed the whole way I have come to know God. Consequently, for me the Byzantine tradition is not just an expression of faith but the very means in which I am experiencing salvation.
     The idea of spiritual diversity in the Church today is sometimes oversimplified. There are those that often believe that all Christian spirituality is the same since the result is God. However, in my experience the result might be the same but certain forms of spirituality do not always allow a person to achieve greater development. There are many factors in this obviously but one thing for certain is that the need for spiritual diversity is intrinsic to the Christian tradition. This point I believe is thoroughly stressed in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium where it says, "By divine providence it has come about that various churches, established in various places by the apostles and their successors, have in the course of time coalesced into several groups, organically united, which, preserving the unity of faith and the unique divine constitution of the universal Church, enjoy their own discipline, their own liturgical usage, and their own theological and spiritual heritage(23)” As it says it’s by Divine Providence that spiritual diversity exists. Being that we also receive unique development through Divine Providence there is no doubt that God has called each us to benefit  sometimes differently from what is present in the diverse spiritual traditions in the Church.
     When it comes to benefiting differently, as I said in the beginning, the Byzantine tradition is not just an expression to me but the very means of my salvation. This might be hard for some to grasp but I can’t just go to any Catholic Church and have the same experience. Grace might be available in all of the liturgies of the Catholic Church but for me it is better communicated through my tradition. Consequently, faced the reality of not being able to attend a Divine Liturgy I would gladly stay at home and recite Byzantine forms of prayer instead of going anywhere else. I’m not saying that I am opposed to going to other churches, since I do all the time, but merely demonstrating the fact that because of divine providence my tradition has become the unique means by which I can better experience God.  Being that this is my experience I really can’t say this is the thinking of all those in my church but one thing I do know is that my experience of God’s love would not be what is apart from my tradition.
     Before discovering my tradition I was a faithful Christian but in many ways God seemed to be out of reach. The best way to describe this would be to say that God was on another planet and even though he wants us to have more of Him still remains far away in space. Unfortunately, I found myself always trying to advance in my spiritual life only to be left somewhat incomplete. This also I believe is a prevailing mentality of many faithful Christians and to some degree we end up using our spirituality to manage the perceived distance between God and man. Thankfully, by the grace of God I eventually discovered just how wrong I was in believing in God’s distance. As I once shared on my blog long ago when I had my first encounter with the Byzantine tradition God showed me that there was so much more of Him to encounter and this was something I could have in the here and now.
     For me one of the most liberating moments I had in my life was discovering just how near God is to us. This of course, is something that became more and more obvious as I studied the Byzantine tradition. Some may not know this but there is a constant theme in my tradition which is that  we receive mystically all of what God is upon becoming baptized into Christ .Such realization in my case further emphasized that no longer was God far off but now completely within, with no walls ,or anything that could separate me from Him. It is only on my part to continually offer what I am to that reality that is present within me or as many Byzantine spiritual fathers say, “to participate in the Divine Nature”. It truly is an awesome thing to realize how much God has committed Himself to us. To know that each day I can chose to open my life to Him who is fully within me.  There is no limit to depths that we can experience God and for me I would not know this apart from my tradition.

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