Dormition Fast: What Am I Waiting For?

I was blessed to preach the Gospel last Sunday, July 28th and focused on the need to be in the presence of Christ. I got my traditional Baptist preacher three points across and called it a day.  Our clergy and laity thought it was a good homily and appreciate my public speaking ability.  All was successful, glory and praise be to God.

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Yet, a couple of items on Facebook woke me up to the fact that I still haven’t quite moved, or am not moving as I should from my paralysis. Yesterday, an article from the Orthodox website Pravmir described how St Timon and generations of Middle Eastern Christians (I am in the Antiochian Archdiocese) have taken that Gospel message to rise up and walk to love their neighbors despite the brutal persecutions they have gone and still go through.  Not an hour later, Fr. Barnabas Powell posted, “‘Your sins are forgiven’ – Jesus Christ.   So, what’s your excuse now?”

In a way, I haven’t quite been sitting on my spiritual butt. I have been reading a passage from The Art of Prayer once, and sometimes, twice a day and done a couple of other things to add to my prayer rule in the mornings.  I even chant in Byzantine tones during the first, third, sixth, and (when I’m not rushing to leave work) ninth hours.  My walk is not perfect.  But, by God’s grace, there has been some growth.

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I think a post from a friend and seminary classmate may have hit the nail on the head, “‘Whoever desires to eliminate future tribulations must bear the present tribulations with joy’ – St. Mark the Ascetic.”  I bear a good deal of bitterness and discouragement with my struggles.  Finances, health issues, my wife’s health, car and home repairs; like everyone else, I have a grocery list of trouble and woe.  When we let our problems overshadow our recognition of God’s presence, they distract us from spiritual growth and, often, lead us into sin.  I have forgotten this way too many times.

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So, I’m using this year’s Dormition Fast to better identify and struggle against crippling attitudes and inactions. Along with following the Church’s dietary restrictions, I’ll be tweaking some things in my prayer rule and, perhaps, pick up a book to help me along the way.  Actually doing something outside of my normal comfort zone is in the cards as well.  Where the Holy Spirit leads, I will follow.

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The Loss of Gentleness

Isaiah prophesied that the Christ would not break crushed reeds or quench smoking flax (1). True to the forecast, Jesus was the personification of compassion.  Prostitutes, tax collectors, the mentally and physically ill, widows: they all found mercy in their encounters with the Lord.  He even prayed forgiveness for those who were killing Him (2).  Only the temple money changers felt the sting of His wrath (3).  Other than that, Jesus Christ was gentle in this world as there was a greater one that He would rule over.

Unfortunately, many of us have missed this characteristic of the Lord. Threats and violence are commonly used by individuals, groups, and nations to impose their will on others.  And where a physical attack does not happen, grudges and ill feelings are held against those whose ideas and ideals do not match our own.  Sadly, gentleness in the heart and mind can be scarce.

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This failure can be traced back to Cain and Abel (4). Cain was greatly discouraged when he saw that the Lord rejected his sacrifice of earthly fruits while accepting Abel’s gift of his first lambs and rich meats.  God pointed out the elder brother’s sin and told him to be patient for his time to rule over the younger.  It was bad enough that Cain’s sacrifice fell short of righteousness.  But, his bitterness, impatience, and lack of repentance put him on a path to kill his own flesh and blood.  Abel is murdered and Cain wanders far away from Eden’s peace.

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Perhaps these are reasons why we kill each other with attitudes and words and well as weapons. It is easy to get discouraged when things don’t go as we planned.  When this happens, we fail to take the opportunity to see where we went wrong and change our thoughts and behavior.  Rather than repent and wait for our situation to improve, we hold on to grudges and ill feelings.  This turns to a deep anger where we are willing to kill our own flesh and blood. People are killed.  Even when murder and warfare haven’t occurred, our animosity creates a threat to true peace where violence can happen.

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There is a way above the physical and mental cruelties of this world. St. Justin Popovich offers these words:  Oh my eyes, look through (man) him and above him to the One who is All-Good and All-Gentle. Goodness and gentleness, this is life for me, this is immortality, this is eternity.  Without goodness and gentleness, life is hell (5).  We Christians are called to show the world the better means of existence through love and mercy toward others and repentance for our own sins.  When in God’s presence, we must be humble,  commit to change our thoughts and actions, and wait on Him to make a way for us.  Thoughts, threats and violence only put us in a downward spiral of death and fear.  Our risen Savior wants us to rise with Him.

Celibacy in Marriage: The Ignored Option

Without a doubt, the sex drive is one of the strongest desires of the flesh. In particular for men, it is very rare to go through the day without some lustful fantasy or thought occupy our minds for a few minutes.  Overcoming what some ancient fathers called fornication is so difficult that many of us modern Christians find it easier to give in to the temptations.  “Boys will be boys.”  “I can’t help it.”  “I was born this way.”  Sexual sins have now been excused into inevidiblity

The spirituality of ancient Christianity does not accept such normalization of immorality. In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Eucharistus was not a monk; but a secular man with a wife and a herd of sheep.  Two monks that thought highly of thier spiritual achievements were directed by God to see this seemingly ordinary couple.  When pressed for an answer to his way of life, Eucharistus admitted: … Since I married my wife, we have not had intercourse with one another, for she is a virgin; we live alone (1).

For a husband to have sexual relations with his wife is expected and that she is a virgin is an honor that she maintained her purity up to her wedding night. Jesus Christ held nothing against marriage as did Paul and the other Apostles.  Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and other patriarchs fondled and knew their wives in their blessed and lawful unions.  Why would Eucharistus and his wife, Mary, not be fruitful and multiply?

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Even before this was the story of Chrysanthus and Daria from the third century. The young man, Chrysanthus, became a Christian despite the objections of his father.  He resisted the advances of an immoral woman his father tried to set him up with.  Although giving into a marriage he didn’t wish for, he led his pagan bride, Daria, to accept the faith and that they would live as sibblings with no sex between each other.  They were cruelly tortured and martyred for their faith.  But the grace in which they bore their sufferings led others to believe in Christ as well (2).

Chrysanthus would have been in the wrong to have sex as an unmarried Christian. But, after converting Daria to the faith, he would have still been a pure man having intercourse with his spouse.  He was not a bishop, priest, or deacon.  There was no mandate from his priest not to have a Christian wife and start a family.  Daria, like any other virgin, may have expected to give her body to her husband on their wedding night.  Why would they resist the normal desires of the flesh even within religiously and socially acceptable boundaries?

What ancient Christian couples understood is that there is a great blessing to put aside something good for something better. In Orthodox Christianity, we married couples refrain from sex during our days and seasons of fasting as we do from meat and dairy products.  The early Church Fathers knew the necesity of developing faithful families and the beauty of sexual expression within a marriage.  But, they also understood that periodic self-control even between a husband and wife was beneficial for their spiritual growth.  Enjoying intimacy in prayer to the true Bridegroom brings a greater joy than the bride and groom can have with each other.  Striving to live as pure children of the heavenly kingdom is more important than producing offspring in this world.

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Modern Christianity and the nominal standard has failed to teach these lessons. It is bad enough that life-long celibacy and monasticism has been cast aside as too much as unnecessary (like anything else “Popish”) and impossible to maintain.  A husband and wife “denying each other” is out of the question if they are both in good health and youthful prime.  Even the not so young and elderly can take pills or go to therapist. For a husband or wife to have intimate relations with a sex therapist is not unheard of.  “Sex aids” can be ordered from online and print catalogues that sell orthopedic socks as if not having sensual pleasure is an illness.

What is truly ill is that our Christian society denies believers the idea of celibacy within marriage, even the practice of self-denial for periods of time for the sake of prayer and fasting. A fresh water trout seeks to live in cold streams of the purest water available.  With warmer water and pollutants, the fish become less healthy and may die out of the stream.  There is no reason to wonder why the divorce rate among Christians is as high as it is for everyone else.  We have removed the aim and practice of purity from the married life.  This opens the door for even more adultery, pornography and other sins.  We should not expect the secular world to live better morally when we are content to narrow our spiritual horizons.

 

  1. Sayings of the Desert Fathers, pg. 60
  2. Prologue of Ohrid Vol I, pgs. 323, 324

Westmoreland & the Path of Humility

A Path Seeker's Journal

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a diversity training session for my job at Westmoreland State Park. Visiting the Potomac River shoreline is a homecoming for me.  My family and I used to live in Sandy Point in a house owned by Joseph J. Roane, a prominent African-American of the county.  I attended Cople Elementary School for Kindergarten and first grade.  The park was a hop-skip-and-jump from where we lived.  So, my parents took us there frequently (my brother was born not long after we moved to the county).

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I arrived at Westmoreland about an hour early so I could visit the Park Manager, my former boss Russell Johnson, and sneak in a hike.  Big Meadow Trail is a favorite of park guest as it leads to the Fossil Beach section where the occasional Megaladon shark tooth can be found.  I like everything about the trail as it…

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Our Need for Radical Humility

I had the privilege to speak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service at Mount Nebo Baptist Church on Sunday, January 20th at 7 pm.  The event was sponsored by the West Point Ministers Association.  For some reason or another, I was unable to print out this manuscript.  I don’t consider myself to be the best at extemporaneous public speaking.  But, I got my points across even if I didn’t get every sentence.

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Our Need for a Radical Humility

… And being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore, God also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.  Philippians 2:8, 9

America will never be great, nor will any resistance work until we learn how to die.  Dr. James Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology, said in a conference a few years ago that the church today needs to learn how to die.  That the black church spends way too much time striving to be prosperous and successful in the kingdom of earth rather than dying for the kingdom of heaven.  Fr. Turbo Qualls, an African-American Orthodox priest, made the same point in a St. Moses Conference lecture.  It is easy to get caught up in the trappings of religion and ritual.  But, if we are to achieve oneness with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we need to possess a humility that will allow and cause us to die.  And the scripture teaches us that Jesus did this and was greatly rewarded by the One he humbled Himself to obey.

I believe that our nation’s ongoing problems of class, race, sex, and other issues is that we don’t know how to be humble enough to die.  Not everyone will be shot on a Memphis hotel balcony, run over by a racist in Charlottesville, or be butchered by an Islamic terrorist in Libya.  But, I think we Christians of all branches have a strong bad habit of skipping to the good part of the Gospel message.  In whatever form or style of worship, we all love to get to the part where At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.  We used to play kick-ball in elementary school and we had a playground rule.  If you wanted your turn to kick, you had to spend some time in the outfield.  I loved my mother’s deserts.  But, I had to eat my meat and vegetables before I could have some blackberry cobbler.  Today, we want God to bless our nation, give us breakthroughs and favor.  We cannot have any of that unless, like Jesus, we humble ourselves to be obedient to God to death.

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Black or white, conservative or liberal, eastern or western Christian; we don’t want to die in any shape, form, or fashion.  We have to have the last word in an argument face to face and on Facebook.  Our point of view has to come out on top in every discussion.  Keeping up with the Joneses is not enough, we have to beat them at their own game and make up things that they can’t do.  Anyone who doesn’t fully agree with us is not a friend, not simply an enemy, but not even human.  And we pray that in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we will defeat them.  We want to live and win this kingdom of earth and will abuse the name of God to do it.  Apparently, we have forgotten history and faith.  Jesus rebuked Peter’s feeble swordsmanship and rather than calling on legions of armed angels, the Lord continued to the Cross.  When the Jewish zealots resorted to armed struggle to re-establish the kingdom of David, the Romans wiped Judea off the map.  And after 300 years of violently striving to destroy the faith, Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity.  C.S. Lewis said it in a nutshell, “If you aim for heaven, you’ll get the earth thrown in as well.  If you aim for the earth, you’ll get neither.”

Look at what we are doing in this nation that has “In God We Trust” on our currency.  We spend more on military protection than twice that of our closest rival and putting ourselves in a deficit in the process.  Our life expectancy rate has declined over the past three years caused by our increasing number of drug overdoses and suicides.  While the rate of abortions have been in decline, adults under 50 are dying of ODs more often than automobile accidents.  Fear and despair are killing us faster than any illegal immigrant or racist cop.  But rather than become repentant and self-evaluating, we chase after catchy slogans, popular marches, and the latest real and fake news of the politicians we don’t like.  We are refusing to die and yet we are dying anyway.  Our Christian ancestors of all races in the first three centuries went to their deaths with joy honored to leave this earthly kingdom for the heavenly one.  Our “Christian” nation today is dying with needles of careless living, pride, and self-righteousness in our arms.   We are quick to condemn those who commit surface sins.  We have to understand our deeper faults of our nation as the Prophet Isaiah 16:49 revealed about Sodom; “pride, gluttony, and calm complacency.”

I propose that a radical humility, a humility and obedience to death will help us as individual Christians and perhaps save our nation.  This mind that was also in Christ overcomes the evil one.  Among the early African Desert Fathers, Macarius the Great was walking back to his cave when Satan tried to cut him with a scythe and failed repeatedly.  Tired, the adversary said to the saint, “Everything you do, I do even more.  You fast, I never eat.  You wake up and pray at midnight, I never sleep.  The reason I can’t overcome you is your humility.”  Think of how many times churches were bombed, marchers were beaten, and counter protesters opposed the Movement.  One reason why the enemies failed was that the forces of good were made up of share croppers, house keepers, ordinary adults and young folk who knew how to be humble enough to obey to the death.  One cannot be humble and a slave owner at the same time, that’s why Paul sent the runaway slave back to Philemon to learn that it’s better to have brotherhood than bondage.  One cannot be a racial supremacist and obedient to the God who made us all in His image and likeness at the same time.  That is why white supremacy is failing and black supremacy will never succeed.

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This radical humility builds community that breaks barriers.  A legion of African soldiers was sent by the Roman Emperor to slaughter the survivors of a Germanic tribe that was defeated in a battle.  The commander, Maurice, and his troops refused because they saw the Europeans wearing the same cross of Christ they believed in.  They saw each other as brothers.  The emperor slaughtered Maurice and his entire legion instead for disobeying him and being obedient to God.  To this day, there are towns and churches named for St. Maurice and the Theban Legion in France, Germany, and Switzerland with the commander’s statue, though with late European armor, very much dark skinned.  A more recent and less gruesome social death was felt by Clarence Jordan of Georgia.  Jordan was highly educated and skilled in agriculture and New Testament Greek.  His Kionia Farm was a place where blacks and whites learned modern farming practices, gained a greater knowledge of early Christianity, and lived together as brother and sisters.  Needless to say, he was one of the most ostracized white men in the South.  The society Jordan was born in considered him dead.

But let us not forget that the Gospel is good news for our salvation to kingdom of heaven, not a religion to rule the kingdom of earth.  So, we must seek a radical humility to better obey the will of God.  That obedience will mean leaving some things of earth for the sake of gaining the kind of life that leads to eternal life.  Arsenius was a wealthy and powerful Roman senator who wasn’t satisfied with his place of comfort.  Seeking a closer walk with Jesus, he fled to the Egyptian desert and was found getting advice from an older Christian peasant.  Someone recognized and asked him, “You are a well-educated man.  Why are you talking with this peasant?”  The saint replied, “As educated as I am, I don’t know this man’s alphabet.”   Moses the Black, a dark Nubian brother, didn’t make excuses for his sins saying, “I was born this way.”  But, he continued a life of disciplined and earnest prayer and repentance for almost 15 years and became one of the most honored saints in our Church.  Mary of Egypt struggled even longer until she got to the point where a monk-priest who thought he was living holy found her to be even holier.  Every 5th Sunday of Lent, we of all ethnicities and nationalities honor her as an example of repentance and redemption.  These and other saints from all the corners of the earth died to their sins so that they could be alive in Christ.

Thou receivest saints of all ages and from all races,

Without caste, without distinction, the last and the first,

Pure of sin, fruitful in goodness,

Noble souls, kindred to thy Christ-

These Thou callest saints.

— Hymn of Praise for Saint Sylvester

Cumberland Marsh & My Need for a Fundamental

A Path Seeker's Journal

Cumberland Marsh Natural Area Preserve is one of those very rare places where the American beech trees haven’t been scarred by a love-stricken vandal’s pocket knife.  Holt’s Creek is a broad hidden waterway inside of the marsh that flows into a thoroughfare that creates  a wetland island in the Pamunkey River.  Once in the woods from the trail, hikers are treated to a series of small, non-tidal streams.  Eventually, the trail comes to a striking view of Holt’s from a high bluff.  In the late fall and winter, one can even catch a slight glimpse of the greater river that combines with the Mattaponi to form the York.  There are no steep ravines to navigate; the terrain is flat.  But, the distance from even secondary road traffic makes Cumberland Marsh an excellent hike.

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I have to confess, there was one ulterior motive for hiking Cumberland.  Rick’s Country Cafe has a…

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Habakkuk of Serbia: A Hat of Honor & Humility

There are some people who want to enter the clergy to wear impressive vestments.  It is an honor to wear the Sticharion and Orarion as well as the inner and outer cassock as a deacon.  But the item I most wanted to wear was the skufi.  This head gear is worn by deacons and priest in the Greek and Serbian jurisdictions.  Back in late 1980’s, it wasn’t uncommon to see Afrocentric minded blacks sporting them as a similar hat was a part of traditional West African dress.  No doubt, it can be found in the Middle East as well.  Two of my good friends, Fathers Justin Matthews and Turbo Qualls of St. Mary of Egypt in Kansas City wear them.  I like to wear my black, gold cross embroidered skufi to the grocery store after church to let people see that I practice a different type of Christianity from western Protestantism.

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In my daily reading of the lives of the saints in the Prologue of Orhid, I have been challenged to think twice as I wear this head gear. During the Turkish occupation of Serbia, Abbot Paisius and Deacon Habakkuk of the Travana Monestary were impaled on stakes in Belgrade. As he carried the instrument of torture, the deacon sang en route to death.  His mother saw him on the way and pleaded that he would save his life by converting to Islam.  Habakkuk’s reply was amazing:  “My mother, I thank you for your milk.  But, for your counsel I thank you not.  A Serb is Christ’s; he rejoices in Death.”

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I don’t know if this martyred deacon wore a skufi similarly embroidered as mine.  But, there is no doubt that Habakkuk had a sense of courage and faith that I don’t think I have come close to matching.  Sure, I had gone through my own set of trials and tribulations converting from being a Baptist pastor to an Orthodox layman.  Picturing what driving a stake through a human being is and that he and others could have avoided such a gruesome death teaches me that what I wear is not a matter of style.  The skufi, as well as my vestments, is a declaration that I will adhere to the Orthodox faith no matter what the world will inflict on me.  My calling is for a life long commitment to the kingdom to come, not to put on a show for this temporal nation.  Indeed, I must rejoice when condemned.

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My skufi sits on a make-shift hat rack (old TV “rabbit ear” antenna) beside my Liturgickon at my living room prayer corner.  Before wearing, it is to be surrounded by prayer and attentiveness.  Not only my hair, by my mind should be clean every Sunday morning as it is a part of my diaconate wardrobe.  Habakkuk, and other martyred saints, have given me a Christian model to aim for.  If tested, I pray that I will pass.  If I fail, that my repentance will be true and tearful.

The Diaconate & River

A Path Seeker's Journal

The Colonial Parkway between I-64 and Yorktown has always been one of my favorite places in the state. As a kid, my family would drive from Richmond to my Uncle Bill and Aunt Edith’s house in Gloucester for weekends of crabbing, fishing, and swimming.  Brenda and I spent a day of our honeymoon with a great drive and picnic.  Even today, I can’t help but admire the York River on a rough and windy afternoon.  Looking up-river from Indian Fields Creek, I am awestruck that such a body of water comes from a couple of smaller rivers that can be wadded across at the King William and Caroline County borders.

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I hadn’t planned and plotted this time in nature. It just seemed like a good place to enjoy in route to my church, St Basil the Great Orthodox in Hampton, to practice my role as a deacon during the Divine…

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Beyond Kavanaugh Craziness: Confronting Our Deplorable Sex Culture

I am afraid that too many people on either side of the Kavanaugh confirmation fiasco are going to continue to ignore the far deeper problem in our society than who sits on the Supreme Court. Our culture of “boys will be boys” is deeply embedded in America to a point where even many Christians are tolerant of sexual immorality.  I have mentioned the words of the late educator Benjamin Mays a couple of times before in my blog articles, “The problem is not failure.  The problem is low aim.”  While we can have all of the proper laws against rape,  extend the statute of limitations to a hundred years, and permit every DNA and polygraph test in courts of law and public opinion; unless we aim for purity and repentance in our minds and souls we will have many more Cosbys and Kavanaughs to come.

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint, LXX canonized over 200 years before the birth of Christ), we read in the fourth Psalm Have remorse in your beds for what you have said in your hearts (1) and As you lie in bed, repent for what you say in your heart (2).  The context of the scripture addresses the sin of anger.  However, the sin of lust should also be expelled from our hearts and be repented of as we go to sleep.  The New Testament era writing The Shepherd Hermas warns us, Or do you suppose it is not an evil thing for for a righteous man if an evil desire arises in his heart? It is indeed a sin, and a great one (3).  Jesus Himself confirms, But, I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (4).  Please note, no actual physical sexual assault has to take place.  The sin begins in the mind.  And in the case of Hermas, the desire for the woman was in the context of marriage.  If our society taught remorse and repentance for lust while it is still in the mind and soul, rape (like any other sin) would still happen.  But, it would happen far less than it does now because the root of this horrible and obvious sin is being addressed and corrected at the root. 

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Because the writings of the Apostolic Fathers are not in the Bible, it was easy for modern Christianity to ignore Hermas and other ancient books (no matter how highly regarded they were to early Christians). Biblical translators from the Maseoritic Hebrew text of the Middle Ages exchanged the words remorse and repent with less challenging terms like commune (King James and Revised Standard), meditate (New Revised Standard) , and ponder (New King James). As the reader feels less of a need to correct himself, he will make excuses for his thoughts.  I can’t help it, I’m a man. She shouldn’t have been dressed like that.  Those girls deserve it.  She really wants it.  She really wants me.  Ain’t no harm in thinking.  Since lust is such a difficult sin to overcome, making excuses for it seems to make common sense.  If the mind is set in the wrong direction, it only takes opportunity for thought to turn to action.  This is true even for clergy who proclaim the teachings of Jesus Christ.  While most men do not become rapist and molesters, the atmosphere of sexual violence is upheld when we make excuses for ourselves and others who aren’t “as bad as _______________.”  We give Satan a foothold everytime we do not use quiet moments outside of worship to be remorseful and repentant for our “little” sexual sins.  As long as he knows his foothold is unchallenged, he can be content for years and decades.  Sometimes the devil brings us down with a hurricane or tornado.  He is just as happy to rot us out like fungi and termites making our holiness and morality an empty shell.  To have a society full of judgemental and tolerant excuse making empty shells causes the demons great rejoicing.

The call to be remorseful and repentant on our beds is not a time of fearful condemnation and self hate. If anything, it is just as much a time of rejoicing as it is a time of tears.  We ought to be mornful of our interior wickedness and consider ourselves to be chief among sinners (5).  But, God has given us this opportunity for self correction.  It is far less destructive to cleanse our hearts and minds than to have sexually violated someone (men get raped too).  We are much better off taking the treatments of healing our soul than letting them rot until we die.  Mourning over our sins brings about the promise of Christ to comfort us (6).  Repentance gives us that peace in mind that we can enter the kingdom of God (7).  Our Lord taught that if we clean the inside of a cup or dish, that the outside of it will be clean as well (8).  If we continue to make excuses for lust in our hearts and minds, people will see past our apperances of righteousness and despise us for the hypocrites we are; especially if we call ourselves “Christians” (9).

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Among the Desert Fathers, Macarius the Great was once accused of impregnating a young woman (10). Instead of passionately pleading his case, the monk (badly bruised and beaten by an angry mob) returned to his hut to sell off and make even more baskets to support the new wife that he resigned himself to be bound to.  When the time for her to deliver came, she couldn’t until she confessed that Macarius was not the culprit.  Rather than wait to gloat before his embarassed accusers and tormenters, the saint left the area so he could continue a life of undistracted prayer.  If this father can trust God in the midst of such an obvious and false accusation, we can do the same in confessing our private sins that we know we are guilty of.  Let’s do it now before accusers and tormenters arise and take us to task.

  1. Orthodox Study Bible, Psalm 4:5
  2. John Cassian, On the Eight Vices, Philokalia Vol. 1, pg. 83
  3. Shepherd Hermas, Vision I:1-9, The Apostolic Fathers (edited by Jack N. Sparks) pgs. 161, 162
  4. Matthew 5:28
  5. 1 Timothy 1:15, Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
  6. Matthew 5:4
  7. Matthew 3:2
  8. Matthew 23:25, 26
  9. Romans 2:24
  10. Sayings of the Desert Fathers (translated by Benedicta Ward), pgs. 124, 125.

Ancient Christianity and Afro-American Conference 2018: A Sober Joy

Desert Fathers Dispatch

I grew up with traditional black Baptist revivals. Over the years, I’ve been to various conferences and services of different races and denominations. No matter what the event, there always seemed to be a push to get some sort of “high.”  Perhaps from the keynote speaker, music concert, prayer session, something was supposed to give the attendees a level of excitement and uplift that everyone would feel ecstatic and would leave yearning for the next event.  Some evangelist and worshipers refer to these experiences as “Holy Ghost Parties” (Ain’t no party like a Holy Ghost Party ’cause the Holy Ghost Party don’t stop).  This year’s St. Moses Conference, several of us mentioned that we experienced something different. (1)  I’m not sure who came up with the term.  But, it fits: a sober joy.

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Yes, it was joyous. Old friends were re-acquainted and new ones were made.  Our host in South…

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