“I believe Lord and profess that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God, come to this world to save sinners, of whom I am the greatest. I believe also that this is really your spotless body and that this is really your precious blood. Wherefore I pray to You: have mercy on me and pardon my offenses, the deliberate and the indeliberate, those committed in word and in deed, whether knowingly or inadvertently; and count me worthy to share without condemnation your spotless mysteries, for the remission of sins and for eternal life.” Amen (from the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
When my husband and I first attended a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, and I heard and read these words of prayer recited by each person in attendance, before the reception of Communion, I was stunned and truly moved. The prayers of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy have such an impact on how we think and behave, if we but allow them to. And one of the things that drew me to the East were these prayers. When they are recited week after week, they tend to sink into our psyche, whether we realize it or not. Which brings me to my blog today.
We have made friends from so many different walks of life. I have friends from elementary school, two different high schools, college, sorority, neighbors from various living situations, and different working environments. They run the gamut from very liberal and atheistic, to very conservative, right-wing, born-again Christian fanatics, with many other faiths thrown in for good measure. And I love them all for what they have brought to my life. It has enriched me and made me a more well-rounded person, and enabled me to become friends with people of very divergent backgrounds, philosophies, and faiths. Being drawn into an Anthropological, or a more “over-all” and “all-encompassing” viewpoint (begun in my collegiate days) has helped me become who I am and helped me to see these differences for what they are, and how they have also formed these friends of mine. It is one of the treasures in my life.
Our Church is a very large tent, metaphorically speaking. There are rites existing in this tent which encompass the history of Christianity around the world; it is truly a universal Church. And within that miasma of cultures, languages, and practices, I have found my deepest comfort on the eastern, or Byzantine, side of things. The feeling of holiness, for me, is more simplistic and direct. The faith is simple and direct; the words are profound and the movements indelibly marked on my soul. The sights, smells, tones and bells entrance me. The Holy Icons speak to my heart. I also find myself drawn further and further into an Orthodox view of life and faith. I find myself being continually enriched by the Holy Fathers and the many incredible gifts their words have given to me. And now, all of these things have begun to collide in my life. How am I being that Christian soul, who is asking for forgiveness for sins?
The crux of this post is that I am feeling terribly let down by people I thought were “friends.” I believe their position, should they find themselves reciting the prayer above, would be that in regards to me, they acted indeliberately and unknowingly towards me. I believe that their hearts are good and their souls are struggling, just like mine is, to reach Sanctification with God in Heaven. The people I have made as friends are good people, regardless of their voter registration or place of worship (or even lack thereof). But my problem is how to handle rejection, or perhaps lack of response, from people I have been close to for years. Yes, I love to gab; I am a woman! A woman home alone all day with a 14-year-old son. And perhaps when they have messages from me they have to decide when best to reply because they know the conversation will be a long one! And is that a good thing to be known for? I am thinking that it is not. But I also know that people get caught up in life and the busy-ness of our days, and quite often, and perhaps because I moved away from our community, I am now “out of sight, out of mind” to some of them. If that is so, am I really friends with them? The other issue is people I see locally, who have I have become (or have been for years) friends with…they are also so busy. I am “assuming” their lives are busy and chaotic and therefore, not communicating with them perhaps as often as I would like. These slights I am feeling, well, it makes my heart contract a little bit because it is an opportunity to grow in holiness and I am failing miserably. The Lord never stops correcting us through the actions of others, and through our own misconceptions. But this realization and situations has given me an opportunity to grow, as a gabby female, friend, and Child of God.
Abbot Tryphon (what a great man) from “All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery on Vashon Island in Washington State is someone I quote quite often. If you have Facebook, please look him up. Each day he shares some of his wisdom with us Facebook users. Today was no different…and it was the impetus behind me blogging! Here is his post on Facebook today, in its entirety:
HOW TO HAVE A HEALTHY SOUL
Don’t react, be at peace.
“Each day brings on new challenges regarding the health of your soul. Those moments when a family member or coworker makes a remark that are meant to anger you, are those times you need to guard your heart. When those around you are gossiping about someone, that is an opportunity for you to keep silent. The driver who’s just cut you off on the freeway; the woman who pushes her way in front of you in the check out line; the rude neighbor; all are moments in time when you can take control and grow stronger spiritually.
Trials and temptations, when confronted with a peaceful heart, bring forth healing and make the soul that much stronger and healthier. Reacting does nothing but bring forth paralysis of the soul, binding us to our fallen nature. Receiving all these temptations with a peaceful heart and not reacting to outside negative stimulus, helps strengthen you for the next round of trial and temptation. Little by little, you will find that the Peace of Christ fills your every waking moment, bringing on a joyful spirit and a peaceful heart”.
And so, today, when my heart is aching because someone is slighting me, I read these words of comfort from Abbot Tryphon and I know that my goal towards that peaceful heart is slowly evolving. The words from Divine Liturgy about seeking forgiveness for those things I have committed….”whether knowingly or inadvertently” really hit home. If someone is not responsive to me, what am I putting out there, to them? Am I being that light of faith, or is my faith really resting under that bushel basket? Am I extending the hand of Christ to them, or does my invitation of friendship involve reciprocity? Do I expect as much, in equal measure, in return? Ugh….because Scripture clearly tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38). We cannot give with the expectation that anything will be given back to us.
I am resolving to work at training my heart and my soul to give without the thought of recompense; without expecting people to give back to me. In friendships and most relationships – to give fully, without expectation of anything in return and I am struggling to find peace with that. The idea of getting no response, nothing in return is not a common philosophy in our world, which normally thinks, “What’s in it for me?” I think that when the Abbot said, “Reacting does nothing but bring forth paralysis of the soul” he was speaking to me. And I know that expectations usually leave us feeling empty and dissatisfied. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). And I also think that one of the things I need to do for my own spiritual health, is learn to keep a Holy Silence. It truly benefits me the most. My trust is in the Lord (Psalm 16:1) and keeping a Holy Silence allows Him to heal me and help lead me to a “joyful spirit and a peaceful heart.”