As Elder Porphyrios reminds us, we need to remember that this war we are waging against the pull of the world, more often than not will be won with “true love.” I admit that I am on Facebook to stay in touch. I moved an inordinate number of miles away from all that is familiar to me, and while I settle in and make my way, I stay in touch with friends and family on Facebook. I also belong to several online pages where we discuss various subjects, and offer prayers for one another. And my journey of mileage has also become a journey of philosophy and theology…a journey of “theosis.”
Theosis is a term that many who study purely western theology and philosophy often disagree with. As found on OrthodoxWiki: “Theosis (“deification,” “divinization”) is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamartía (“missing the mark”), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation. Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to share in the Life or Nature of the all-Holy Trinity. Therefore, an infant or an adult worshiper is saved from the state of unholiness (hamartía — which is not to be confused with hamártēma “sin”) for participation in the Life (zōé, not simply bíos) of the Trinity — which is everlasting.” This definition quite often frightens people because they think, that you think, that you can become God. And that is not the point, at all. The point is that we strive for the perfection that is God’s. We cannot be God, because God is God. But we can become as God when we strive to obtain that mindset, outlook, and philosophy of the attributes attributed to God. Basically, we live the Ten Commandments. And I mean really live them.
I have been reading several different sites recently and I have noticed that all of them seem intent on out-doing one another in their use of terminology and their “holiness” factor. Personally, one of the reasons I find myself veering more and more to the East is the simplicity of it all. God just is. Forgiveness just is. Love is love. Prayer is to God. We act, we live, we believe quite simply that God is LOVE…and we try to live that each and every day.
I read a blog the other day by a single dad. He was lamenting the treatment of a young boy in line, in front of him at Costco, by the boy’s father. The man belittled his son and made him cower in fear of him. And I could relate to that so much. I do not believe for a moment in breaking a child. I believe we need to guide them and mold them into the adults we see the potential of them being. And words can be everything to a child. In explaining the concept to my son, I explained that parents are like the bumpers in bumper bowling…we allow them to sway from side to side, but we keep them heading to the pins at the end of that alleyway. They may bowl slowly; the may throw the ball; they might just push it to begin rolling. Regardless of how that ball was put on the alleyway, the bumpers keep it safely on its way to the pins. (Unless it’s me bowling, and the people two or three lanes on either side need to be on guard…I am the worst bowler, ever! Bumpers or no bumpers!!).
Reaching people with words and sermons and theology sometimes does not allow them to proceed where they need to be headed. Sometimes our lofty terminology and theology turns them completely away from organized religion. Sometimes our words make them walk out the door, and opt to never go back inside. When I read some posts and I see things like, “There is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church,” I get a little “sideways.” Mostly because people who say that often mean that unless you attend a Roman Catholic Church, are baptized, confirmed, and receive communion in a RC Church, you are going to hell. There are those who feel that Catholicism brought Christianity to the world, so all Christian religions are tied to the Catholic Church. Protestant sects are ones that have “some” of the truth, but do not live in the “fulness” of the truth, but can find salvation. Then they talk about the Orthodox as Christians gone astray through politics and governments running their Church, when in fact their theology was brought to them through seekers sent by Tsars and others to investigate Christianity around the world. They loved the Byzantine worship they came across the best and took it back with them to their homelands and there developed their version of it. So it has some of the markings of the Church (apostolic? not so much) but once again, do not enjoy the fulness of the truth to be found in Catholicism. See how hurtful words can be? What is interesting to me is that there is no mention of all the Eastern Churches who are independent Churches but align themselves with the Bishop of Rome (sui juris). People speak, using words that are often hurtful to those they speak about, without knowing what they are really saying.
We had a group at a former Latin parish that were very much a part of the exclusionary ideas of Fr. Feeney. (Feeneyism is a term for the doctrinal position associated with Leonard Feeney (1897–1978), a Jesuit priest and founder of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Fr. Feeney favored a strict interpretation of the doctrine extra Ecclesium nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation” – Wikipedia). They did not believe that anyone who, even if they led a good life but did not know Christ, would enter heaven. It caused many heated debates, even though the Church excommunicated Fr. Feeney for his “opinions” in the late 70s. Words can hurt. Sermons and posturing can hurt.
I have many relatives who are not Catholic. They believe that I am going to hell; that my husband, children, and now grandchildren will go to hell with me. They have talked to me, my children, and extended family members about my family’s terrible predicament. They have never accepted that our faith is true, and honest, and real. One family member is a former Catholic, who left the Church as a young adult, with an 8-th grade-confirmation-class-understanding of the faith. Making adult decisions based on knowledge gained at 12 or 13 is not the wisest road to choose. And words can hurt. They have hurt – for years. Non-acceptance is hurtful. Using words to try and drum-home a point of view that is contrary to the one you are talking to, can hurt.
When my heart is heavy, and words become a noisy gong in my life, I tend to retreat. I know that a cup of tea, as Elder Sophrony shares, can be a great reliever of stress and despair. And I quite often retreat to enjoy a hot “cuppa.” But my mind is still rolling over words. I am finding myself more and more put off by strong rhetoric, be it in the marketplace (the mess with Target and identity theft comes to mind), sports (a previous post when I addressed the NFL playoffs), politics (so much, SO MUCH, comes to mind there), and even my faith. Why is it that we have to resort to harshness when GOD IS LOVE? WWJD? Indeed, what would Jesus do? He sat with sinners; He laughed with them and dined with them, and He loved them.
The Church is not a place for those who have “made it.” It is not for those who “are saved.” The Church is a huge tent, in which there are many rooms: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way I am going.” (John 14: 1-3). Christ tells us that there are many rooms and that if we believe, He will come for us and receive us “to Myself.” It like a previous post when I spoke about the grace and healing we find in confession – the mercy that envelopes our whole self, all of who we are, all at once. God is mercy; God is forgiveness; God is love.
Why cannot our words reflect that? Why cannot our methods of reaching one another reflect that? Why do we strike out at those who are different than we are? If it is not exactly what we think it should be, it obviously has to be wrong? Why do our perceptions of the Divine Truth separate us from our families, our friends, or even fellow believers, who are also seeking the Divine Physician in His hospital, the Church?
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” Matthew 10:34-40
We come into this world alone; we leave this world alone. The very least we can do is to be kind to each person we touch, every day we come into contact with others. We need to begin in our homes, in our families, with our friends, and in our parishes. God is Love! True Love!