Archive for January 7th, 2008

Holy Russia

January 7, 2008

Like the returning exiles of Israel from ancient Babylon, the Russian people have been returning to a Church that was frequently devastated and constantly persecuted under 70 years of Communism. When an Orthodox Church is consecrated it is set aside “until the end of the world.” Thus you do not simply walk away from a Church gutted by the godless, but it is restored.

 By the same token, you do not walk away from a people whose soul has been under such oppression. For unlike a Church building, the soul, through the mercies of God, is eternal (as will be the body). These have to be rebuilt through prayer, fasting, returning to liturgical services, praying before the icons, learning a new charity, forgiving enemies, and becoming, “Holy Russia,” a very common name for a land once marked by the depth of its piety.

Many of us in the modern West have no roots in such a memory. The British isles once breathed a holy Orthodoxy during the years of St. Cuthbert, Sts. Cedd and Chad, St. Drithelm (one of my favorites) and something like 28 saints in their royal family alone.

America has not known a period of “Holy America” despite the propaganda surrounding the Founding Fathers. Some were Christians, but we have no saint to whom to point whose prayers and holy life provided an inspiration for this nation. There are saints of North America, largely the product of Holy Russia. Much prayer, and much holy living will be required of us to found a Holy America. It cannot be voted for and will never appear on a ballot. Grace knows no democracy, other than the single “yes” from our hearts.

Russia will only become Holy Russia as it fills its Churches, populates its monasteries, feeds its poor, and forgives its enemies. They are surrounded by a great cloud of new martyrs who will not forget their efforts.

Nor will God forget America. The saints know no national boundaries and will pray for us all. But to be a holy America will be a great burden and a cross.  

Keeping Your Eyes Open

January 7, 2008

donkey.jpg

A hermit said, “Cover a donkey’s eyes and it will walk in circles around the mill wheel. If you uncover its eyes, it will not continue to walk. The devil obscures our vision and leads us into all kinds of sins. If we keep our eyes open, we will more likely escape.

Keeping your eyes open is perhaps one of the harder spritual feats of our present age. So much of the material of our culture is specifically meant to mislead and deceive. And then again, so much of our culture has a “virtual” existence rather than a real. To a large degree, keeping your eyes open means keeping them focused on what is known to be true:

1. Avoid rumors

2. Avoid gossip

3. If you share something you expect someone else to keep secret, you are doing something you are asking them not to do (confession is obviously exempt from this).

4. Avoid information that is shared in anger

5. Avoid information (or treat sceptically) that is disseminated for profit (which would include almost all media).

6. In religious matters, novelty is not a virtue

7. Do not take delight in the sins of others.

St. Silouan of Mt. Athos never read newspapers. When asked how he could pray for the world without information about the world, he answered that the newspapers never tell us what we need to know for prayer. God will do this. My heart weeps when I think of the noise that will only increase in our culture as its election year heats up in earnest. So much money spent and so little truth told. I plan to vote, and I will look for information before I do, but it will not be by watching campaign ads.

Of far greater importance is to pray for a nation that thrusts itself into such a maelstrom so regularly and for the peace of mind of everyone around you – and to avoid those things mentioned above. Christ said:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (Matt. 6:22).

And St. Paul:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).