Which Wolf Will You Feed?

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One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, ‘Grandpa, which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one that you feed.’

As we go about our lives, we can choose which of the wolves we want to feed. We can choose to feed the wolf of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, and all those good things in every moment, or we can choose to feed the bad wolves. We have to remember that it’s not often one choice, one feeding of a wolf or the other, that creates what we see inside ourselves and what we see inside the world. It’s a long history of feeding one wolf over the other. It starts every day.

These wolves live inside us. Though one wolf – say, the good wolf – might at any given point in time be a little bit malnourished, we can always feed it. Though one wolf, the evil wolf, may be a little bit plump because of choices that we’ve made in the past, we can choose today to feed a different wolf.

It often turns out that what we see in the world from other people and from our circumstances is very much correlated with the wolves that we’re feeding inside of us and inside of other people. When we encourage other people, when we feed their good wolves, we see that. We see that in them, and we see that in the people they change, and they tend to want to feed other people’s good wolves. When someone’s bad wolf has been overfed, we tend to see that, and those are the wolves that bite us. Those are the wolves that hurt us, as opposed to those good wolves, which protect us and help us out along the way.

As you’re going about your days, as you’re going about your weeks, I hope that in those moments in which it seems so much easier to feed the bad wolf, you’ll choose instead to choose the one that you want to win, the good wolf.

http://www.wolfyoufeed.com

 

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Broken and Humbled

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Up to a certain point, our salvation depends on us.  It is up to us to say “yes” to Christ, so that He will have the right to enter into our lives and bring about our resurrection.  But because man has been given the gift of freedom, he must repeatedly affirm and provide proof of his complete and voluntary bondage to Christ.  God will not agree to take captive a heart that has not suffered, wept, and been broken.  He seeks only the heart that is broken and humbled (Psalm 50:17), for such a heart shows that it lives for nothing else but divine captivity.

From the moment we give God the right to enter our lives; His grace and power begin to operate, granting us divine knowledge grounded in experience.  Not that God’s grace was ever absent: it has been with us since baptism, but it was active in proportion to our voluntary death, to our spiritual labors, and to the extent that we are prepared to accept God.

Having voluntarily emptied ourselves (Philippians 2:7), we need to demonstrate our desire, our longing, if we wish to enter the place of God’s grace and power.  The first thing that God asks of us is that we should manifest our desire through all prayer (Ephesians 6:18).  This does not mean that we should make use of and endless variety of different prayers, because that would be something earthly.  Instead, it means that, in the end, our entire life should become a prayer, so that we “breathe Christ always.”  Thus it is not a question of reciting this or that prayer, but rather that everything within us should become a prayer, that we should be praying in everything, through all prayer.  Prayer is the assimilation of the intellect to God, the transformation of the intellect into God’s chariot (Psalm 67:17; Ezekiel 23:24).  Just as it is the proper function of my eyes to see, of my hands to feel, of my mouth to speak and sing to the Lord, so too the proper and primary purpose of the intellect is to pray.

But there is more, for Saint Paul does not simply say through all prayer; but through all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:18).  I make supplication to someone when I feel a deep need, when I feel that I am deprived, naked, persecuted, wounded, stripped of everything it is then that I turn to someone and seek help, assistance, and refuge.  Thus, through all supplication means that I have to recognize my utterly miserable condition, my state of hopeless, inner disarray; that I feel naked of God’s grace and deprived of His power; that I am not accomplishing works of power (Galatians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7), because the grace of God does not find a place through which to enter into me and do what it wills.  It wants to slap me, embrace me, blind me, and destroy me: to do whatever it wants.  But for that to happen, I have to become a perfect instrument in the hands of divine grace.

We can also seek God’s grace and power by means of fasting.  Fasting is a concrete, visible sign that separates us from all that is earthly, fallen, and demonic. Any slackening of the conscience, however slight, with respect to fasting, introduces an unhealthy relaxation into our entire being-body and soul- so that God is not able to speak to the heart of a person who does not fast.  Fasting drives away demons.  Fasting attracts the angels. Fasting makes the material spiritual.  But fasting also requires complete attention and focus, for it places us in a state of heightened expectation.  It means that now I live waiting for God, expecting Him in earnest, with patience, through all afflictions, with an empty stomach, an empty intellect, and an empty heart, knowing that they will all be filled by God.

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Goal of fasting in Christianity

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What is the goal of Asceticism (mainly fasting)?  Asceticism is concerned with the inner transformation of the human person.   We are all created in the image and likeness of God.  God is free and He gives us free will.  We fell under the law of sin and became enslaved to our environment.  In order to restore His image in us which includes having a free will, we have to get rid of all the things that have authority over us.  We have to break that enslavement.  Fasting is the freeing of the will of man.  It is basically saying nothing in this entire world will have control over me.  Christ showed us how it is done by fasting 40 days and nights.

It is not only about food.  It is about everything that has control over us that gets in the way of our relationship with God.  It is about sin, lust, TV, social media, jealousy, envy, gluttony and so forth.  Fasting from food is emphasized because controlling the stomach is the entry to controlling all the other passions.  The devil deceived Eve in the garden through eating of the forbidden fruit.  We must also begin the work of our restoration through control of our consumption of food but that is only the beginning.  Fasting is the restoration of man into the full image of God.

So what we are saying is nothing will come between us and our relationship with God.  Fasting will lead us to becoming truly free if done in relationship with God.  Christ has an absolute free will.  Out of His own will, He sacrificed Himself.  So in order to grow to the full stature of the image of Christ, we truly have to be free people.  And so fasting is the restoration of this free will in us.  If fasting becomes ritualistic, then it stops becoming relational.  It stops being developmental.  We are not developing our humanity to become like Christ, if it is just ritualistic.  We will not be developing that sort of relationship that no matter what happens in the world, we will continue to have a relationship with God.

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TO LIVE THE TIME OF OUR LIVES IN PEACE, AND REPOSE IN REPENTANCE

Metropolitan Athanasios

The Orthodox Church ascribes enormous significance to time as the instrument of our salvation. Therefore the Church continually prays: “To live the time of our lives in peace, and repose in repentance, let us ask of the Lord.” How important it is that we should live the rest of our days in “peace and repentance”!

But in what kind of peace? The “peace” with which our relationship to Christ is bound. This is not just any peace, with no wars or cataclysms, nor is it a certain peaceful state in the soul. Here the Person of Jesus Christ Himself is named with the word “peace”. The apostle speaks of this: For He is our peace (Eph. 2:14). Thus, “in peace” means dedicating the rest of the time of our lives to Jesus Christ. How? In repentance—for it is not at all our merits and achievements that defend us before God is, but only our repentance. This is because—and this is an indubitable fact—there are no perfect, sinless people.

I would like to ask once again: What is it that justifies us before God? It is not our “perfection”, or “sinlessness”, since no perfect or sinless people exist; nor is it our having never made any mistakes, since neither are there any people who never make mistakes. Then what is left for us to do? Our justification is in our repentance of our sins, of our apostasy from God, that we are all spiritually damaged, that even our human nature itself is damaged—our nature is changed, perverted, its original state is lost; that the passions—those evil tyrants—and our sins changed in us the image and likeness of God as He created us in paradise to the point of being unrecognizable. But despite all of this, we still have boldness before the Lord Jesus Christ; for the Lord created all things for the sake of our salvation—it was His good will to take on flesh, to be baptized, to be born of the Virgin. None of these acts of the Lord were accidental and they all have deep meaning; they were all directed towards man’s salvation. The Lord took each of His steps for the sake of mankind’s salvation. Knowing this, we have boldness before the boundless love of God. And the aim of Christ’s coming to earth is to bring lost and perishing mankind back to Himself, so that we would “acquire” ourselves anew.

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is revealed in the great feast of the Baptism of the Lord; we hymn this in the troparion for Theophany: “The mystery of the Trinity was made manifest…” How is this expressed? “The voice of the Father bore witness unto Thee…” that is, the voice of God the Father bore witness to the Son, “and the Spirit in the form of a dove”—the Spirit was in the form of a dove (the Holy Spirit was not a dove, of course, but in the form of a dove)—and the Son of God, Jesus Christ, baptized in the Jordan. This is a very important point: God the Father gave manifest testimony: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him (Matt. 17:5); and then Jesus Christ began His saving preaching of the Gospel.

There exists a false opinion, especially among the heretics, that Christ was anointed as the Messiah at the moment of His baptism from the Father. This is an error, because Christ was perfect God and perfect Man from the moment of His conception in the womb of the Mother of God. The Gospels tell us about this. When the Theotokos conceived in her womb and came to visit Elizabeth the mother of St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth said, And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk. 1:43). Do you see? The Most Holy Theotokos was still only carrying the Infant in her womb, yet Elizabeth called her the Mother of her Lord by the movement of the Holy Spirit; and not only her Lord, but also the Lord of the Prophet and Forerunner John, and the Lord of all people and the whole world. This means that at the moment of conception, before Baptism, Jesus Christ was perfect God and perfect Man.

By His Baptism the Lord sanctified such an important element as water, and by His Baptism He showed us the saving path—through receiving Baptism…

As Holy Scripture further shows us, after Baptism Christ was taken by the Spirit to the desert, to begin the ascetic labor of fasting. By this He showed us the spiritual path of Christian ascetic labor. When we say that the Lord fasted, we mean that He did not take any food or drink at all. There in the desert, the apostate from God, the devil, approached Him and tried to tempt Him thrice with the main passions and temptations—those three giants, the fore-parents of all the passions: vainglory, the passion for pleasure, and love of money.

The passion for pleasure consisted in the devil’s tempting Christ to command that the stones be turned into bread; after all, Christ had just finished a forty-day fast. Love of money was expressed in the devil’s tempting Christ with wealth, showing Him in the twinkling of an eye all kingdoms and their glory, saying, “All this will I give to you if you will bow down to me.” Vainglory consisted in the devil’s tempting Christ to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, and by remaining unharmed to show His divine omnipotence. Our Lord Jesus Christ put the devil to shame, rejecting all his attacks and temptations. Then the angels came to the Lord and ministered to Him as the God-man.

Thus the Lord Jesus Christ, having been victorious in the desert over the man-hating devil, goes to the world to preach the Gospel, saying, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17). The Lord began preaching the Gospel with the words, “repent”. In Greek, the word “repentance”—μετάνοια—means “correction of mind”; the root of this word is νόος, or “mind”, and μετα, or “change”. The Lord calls us to change our mind, our way of thinking, and to acquire, according to the apostle, another way of thinking: But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). This “other” mind is nothing other than the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church. As we have already said, the Lord created all of this to show us that we need the sacrament of Baptism and the sacrament of confession, which He established. We also need to war daily with the passions, with “diabolical suggestions”, be they vainglory, love of pleasure, love of money, or any of the other passions. By saying, “Repent!” He shows us that the feeling of repentance should be based upon our ascetic labor; it should “dissolve” all our actions. If we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we simply must learn the feeling of repentance.

The Lord came to the world not just with the aim of making good people out of us, because we can also become good people without Christ—at least up to a certain degree. Christ appeared to this world so that by His Love He might make us children of God, as the apostle John the Theologian writes: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God (Jn. 1:12). And what does it mean to “become children of God”? It means that the Lord gave us the possibility to again become the “image and likeness of God”, to become what we were created according to His design. He gave us the possibility to again acquire the Father’s love and the whole beauty and dignity of human nature, which He by His mercy and love restored through His divine Providence. We can clearly see this divine Providence and design if we follow the whole yearly cycle of divine services and participate in all the major feasts established by the Church.

Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol
Translation from the Russian version by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

Diaconima website

08 / 08 / 2017

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Christ at the Center of our friendships

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Active members of the Church

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Active members are being saved and they are being made like Christ.  What does an active member look like?

  1. An active member of the Church stays in the Church.  A good example is the story of Doubting Thomas.  We all can somehow relate to his story especially people who are thinkers.  Because anyone who really thinks about their faith is going to experience doubt sooner or later.  Saint Gregory the Theologian says that the Trinity is a cross or a crucifixion for the mind.  It is not going to make sense.  One and three, virgin and mother, human and divine…How does this work?  It is a crucifixion for the mind.  So when Thomas hears that Jesus is risen from the dead, it is a crucifixion for his mind.  It is impossible.  How could this happen?  But what does Thomas do eight days later?  The Disciples are together and Thomas was with them and Jesus appears in their midst.  Despite his doubt, he stays in the Church.  He hangs in there with the community of God’s people.  We all may not have enough faith.  We may not be a very good Christian.  But Salvation is not based only on me.  Salvation is not only me and Jesus but it is us and Jesus.  Salvation is of the body.  We may get an infection with one of our hands.  Unless, it really gets bad, we don’t cut it off.  We hang in there and the body heals the infection.  We stay in the Church as someone who needs to be saved not as a Savior.  One of the mistakes, some people make is that they see a problem in the Church and say that they are the ones God is raising to fix it.  The Church heals itself by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to be saved in the Church not to be saviors.  Once we internalize this, life becomes much more peaceful.  We focus on us being saved. Saint Seraphim of Sarov says acquire peace and a thousand around you will be saved.  Without us knowing it, the Holy Spirit will flow through us to save thousands of people that is we acquire the Holy Spirit.
  2. Active members turn to God as their Father, turn to Jesus as their Savior and they turn to the Holy Spirit and are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We also turn to our brothers and sisters as family.
  3. We love and seek salvation in a particular community or in a particular Church family in which love, service and obedience are worked out.  Saint James said how can you say you love God whom you have not seen when you do not love your brother whom you have seen.  It does not mean that somebody who is abusive needs to be tolerated.  We have to speak the truth but it does mean that it has to be worked out.   We can’t say, oh, they are all a bunch of hypocrites over there.  Since this is our family, we have to work out in a particular community.  There are no lone rangers Christians.  Even hermits are connected to a community.
  4. We must be engaged in a therapeutic program.  In other words, we have to be actively seeking the salvation of our souls not in the sense of saying, oh, Jesus, do something and save me.  The fact is Jesus already do something.  What we have to do is engage the therapeutic program.  Therapy is the word used by the Church Fathers.  Most of what we call sin that is most of what we recognize as sin in terms of our outward actions is really not so much sin but the manifestation of the sickness inside us.  What is the sickness?  We don’t glorify God, we are not thankful, our thoughts are futile and thus our hearts are darkened.  To sin less, we have to heal our souls.  Classically, it is through confession and forgiveness.   But confession and forgiveness are bookends to a whole process.  It starts with fasting (asceticism) not only with food but the beginning to say no to ourselves that old man inside us.  It crucifies our self-will and egoism.  This thought that we know what is good for us.  The third thing is prayer. The inability to stop our passions will drive us to prayer because we don’t have the power to stop it.  The seed of repentance is in the fruit of sin.  When we fall, the very consequences of that sin can drive us to repentance.  The torment can be the very pain that drives us to the Father like the Prodigal Son.
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Want to experience God?

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Want to experience God every moment of every day?
If we want to experience God, the way is simple.

1st Live the mysteries of the Church (confession & Communion). There is a reason we call them mysteries. These mysteries are what joins us to God Himself. God cannot be known rationally and intellectually.

2nd Stop judging. Stop identifying what is wrong with your neighbor even when you are right. We judge constantly. A lot of time, we are right by identifying something that is really wrong. We say they should not do that or they should not say that. Or we would say it is bad for them to act like this or that.

The problem is that we are not wrong. The problem is that it poisons the heart. That kind of truth will kill us. Christ makes that pretty clear. Stop judging and let the heart be free. The reason we don’t see things is not because they are not there, it is because our vision is blinded by judging and condemning.

If we just do these two things, we would see God in ways we have never imagined.

Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

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