Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Silence of the Minds by Fr. Basil Tudora

Why do we always have to say something? Or for the same reason why do we have to listen to something all the time: radio in the car, TV at home, iPod when working out and we can go on and on. Put three people in an elevator for a couple of minutes and you will immediately see the beginning of a conversation. Weather, local sport teams, the financial crisis and other general subjects flourish in any communal moving vehicle. No one wants to just travel in silence and everybody feels the need to say something, or at least to smile, nod, interact in some way with the others. One thing is clear everyone hates uncomfortable silence.

The term itself however is paradoxical: why would silence be uncomfortable? After all silence is associated with peace, tranquility which is the opposite of annoying.

The answer might be that there is something we are afraid to be alone with. Archmandrite Meletios, from the Monastery of St. John in California, says it is our thoughts. Our mind generates an uninterrupted stream of thoughts, or logoismoi, as the Greek Fathers call them. This stream of thoughts, originating in the primordial separation between our mind and our heart (nous), is what drives us nuts when there is silence around. Suddenly we have to deal with all our inner turmoil, all our frustration, all our depression, all our deep seated feelings that are masked by focusing our attention on something else. Conversation and any other surrogates of sort are like a Band-Aid on an eviscerating wound.

The problem of inner thoughts is a very important one because the thoughts are the root of all we do. No sin is done without passing through the mind that gives the command. Stop the command and you will stop sin. In our minds we are at war, an unseen warfare, as people like to call it, in which our path in life as persons is defined.

The mind is so affected by these unstoppable thoughts that it becomes unbearable at times; this is where the discomfort in silence comes from. The only way to stop it is to do what St. Theophanes the Recluse says: “Get out of the head and into the heart.” The heart or the nous (I’ll use these two terms interchangeably) is the only part of us that is not affected by the logoismoi because is the part that could establish the contact with God and God does not have to be explained in words, He just Is. The goal becomes then to sink our mind into our heart and embrace the peace that comes from the presence of God in our heart. Until we completely surrender our mind to God we will continue to be bothered by thoughts.

Talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, St. Isaac the Syrian said that the language of the future is silence. This may seem odd for many that cannot imagine eternal Communion with God as being silent, without words. We imagine that at the End we will be able to ask and find answers to all our questions and God will preach explaining everything we want to know. I doubt that this will be the case because in the presence of God there are no more questions and answers, no noise, distractions or entertainment, just love that flows and fills everything. The very presence of God is enough to fulfill any need or question we might have. He, the Logos, the Word incarnate is the answer. He was, is and will always be the answer to all our questions. We just have to shut-up and listen.

A beautiful article taken from the Orthodoxy and the World

Orthodox Faith and Marriage

"When we believe that we are the center of the universe, we remain focused only on what makes us happy without realizing that “happiness,” in and of itself, is a fleeting emotional state. There are many things that make me happy (a good book, a piece of chocolate), but few things that bring me complete and utter joy of the gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit variety (like watching my students really learn or celebrating Liturgy). When we focus on meeting someone who “makes us happy,” we’re developing a superficial relationship, looking for the fairy tale ending of presents, platinum, and Prince Charming. Truly solid marriages can’t be based on similar interests in traveling and pumpkin flavored coffee alone: they have to have a solid core. That’s not easy when the rest of the world sees God as an abstraction and Sundays as the day for football and laundry. The struggle against the current can be exhausting when you’re looking for someone who understands that marriage is about becoming martyrs for each other in small ways every day and not about picket fences and puppy dogs.

The only thing I know for sure is that, like the Resurrection after the Crucifixion, the end result will be completely worth the struggle. When we’ve finally reached that point, we’ll be able to toast to a couple where each person brings out the light and love of Christ in the other. And if they also happen to like traveling and pumpkin coffee, that’s just the icing on the cake."

Taken from Blind Leading the Blind by Emily E. Howard

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wisdom of Holy Father Anthony

God guides all by the action of His grace. Therefore, do not be lazy or lose heart, but call to God day and night to entreat God the Father in His loving-kindness to send you help from above to teach you what to do. Do not give sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids (Psalms 131:4) in your zeal to bring yourself to God as a pure offering, in order to see Him; for without holiness, no one can see God, as the Apostle says (Hebrews 12:14).

He who does not with his whole heart conceive hatred of all that belongs to the material and earthly flesh and to all its movements and actions, and who does not lift his mind on high to the Father of all, cannot receive salvation. But a man who does this will move our Lord to mercy by his labors and will be given an invisible transubstantial fire, which will burn up all the passions in him and completely purify his mind. Then the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ will come to dwell in him and will abide there, teaching him to worship the Father aright. But as long as we take pleasure in our material flesh, we shall be enemies of God, His angels and all the saints.

I beseech you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, do not neglect your life and your salvation, do not let this short moment of time rob you of eternity which has no end, nor this material body deprive you of the kingdom of light, which has no bounds and which no words can describe. Truly, my soul is troubled and my spirit freezes at the fact that, although we are given freedom to choose and do the deeds of the saints, we are intoxicated by passions, as though drunk with wine, and do not want to lift our minds on high and seek greater glory, do not want to imitate the deeds of the saints nor follow in their footsteps in order to become heirs of their words and receive with them the eternal heritage.

"We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to
their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned,
but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides.
It's an austere ritual, in the sense of - there's nothing new here; it's
sublime, in the sense of - creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest
can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what
he thinks matter little. He hasn't written the service that he
officiates. It isn't about him or his prowess. He's an interchangeable
functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such,
never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the
Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or
preacher - invisibility, while making God seen."

Taken from the the First Radio Parish Church of America