The End of the Sacraments – The End of All Things

The holidays bring a bit of my family together – for fun and conversation and the joy of a feast. The conversations, however, can serve as a reminder of what I don’t know. Two of my adult children are deep into the world of computers: one is a software engineer, the other a web-designer (among other things). Sometimes their conversations lapse into the technical world of jargon – words that I do not know. I see that they’re smiling at each other so there’s no argument taking place. As a parent, all I can do is nod and pretend not to be as clueless as I am.

Most professions have their jargon, specialized words that serve to speed up the exchange of information. Theology is no exception. If I say that I take an ontological approach to eschatology – it saves about two paragraphs. It also means that over 99 percent of those reading it pass into cluelessness. The information received mostly goes like this: “He knows more than I do.” How is that useful?

This explains to me my frequent joy in reading ancient theological writings. Occasionally, an ancient author writes in a manner that is “pre-jargon.” He shares a common experience with us, but his language can be more free-ranging. He reaches and explores for words while we often settle for something less. A wonderful example of this centers around the word, “sacrament.”

There are those who like to point out that the traditional Orthodox word for “sacrament” (Eucharist, Baptism, Chrismation, Unction, Ordination, Marriage, Penance) is “mystery.” Common speech, though, usually reverts to the more popular, Western word. Interestingly, the Latin “sacramentum,” originally meant an “oath.” Exactly how it came to be the word used to describe these holy events in the life of the Church is not known (I have a guess, but I’ll keep it to myself). But even the term “mystery” was slow in coming to be the primary term used in the Orthodox Church. Language sometimes evolves slowly. That Greek-thinking Orthodoxy preferred the term “mystery” to the more legal-minded “sacrament” is itself a lesson. However, I will take us all down a different path – with a word from one of the Fathers that might give a clue as to how he thought about these things.

The author, Dionysius the Areopagite, writing in the early 6th century, made huge contributions to the theological vocabulary of the Church. Though he wrote under the name of the first-century Athenian philosopher converted by St. Paul, historical scholarship agrees that his work should be attributed to an unknown author in the 6th. His writings, however, are well-named. He engaged the popular philosophical writing of his day, primarily of the Neo-Platonists, and managed to correct them, and to draw their insights into the service of theology. He invented the word, “hierarchy,” for example, with a much broader meaning than today’s bureaucratic use of the term. He was looking for language to describe the inner order of a universe created to reveal its Maker. His acceptance and wide influence makes him one of the most important voices in the history of the Church.

The word that interests me for the purpose of this article is “teleute.” It is related to the word, “telos,” which is the “end” or “completion” or “purpose for which something exists.” It is Dionysius’ preferred word for sacrament. It opens a whole vista of understanding on what is going on within the life of the Church.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann famously said that sacraments do not make something to be what it is not, but reveals it to be what it truly is. That thought is also found in St. Basil’s liturgy, where, instead of saying, “Make this bread to be the Body of our Lord, and God, and Savior, Jesus Christ,” he says, “And show (manifest) this bread to be…etc.” In the sacraments, God is “pulling back the veil,” so to speak, and making known to us the purpose of His creation and our purpose within it.

This interests me as well when we contemplate a famous use of the “telos” language in the New Testament. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, “And be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word “perfect” translates teleios, and is certainly not incorrect. However, in modern English, “perfect” generally carries only a meaning of moral perfection. As such, it is a verse that sort of grinds us into the dust as we languish in our sins and failures. Who can be perfect?

The verse takes on a very different meaning, though, if teleios, is given a more proper translation. “Be whole, as your heavenly Father is whole.” “Be complete…” or most especially, “Be what your heavenly Father created you to be just as He is Who He is from eternity.” The oppression lifts, and the good news radiates into our hearts.

Dionysius takes this word “teleute” to describe the sacraments as they work in us to complete and bring to “perfection” the fullness of their intention within us. He places this in a classical framework that many Orthodox will be familiar with:

Purification, Illumination, Theosis

First, the sacrament grants “perfection” (completeness) to those who are being purified…
Second, it illuminates with teaching those who have been purified…
Third, it initiates into completion those who have been illumined.

This is, to a certain extent, a description of the catechumenate, but can be extended to describe the whole process of the Christian life. It is a life-long liturgy (of which Pascha and the rite of Baptism are the most singular example) as we move deeper into union with God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Years ago, during my ordination to the priesthood, as the Bishop laid hands on my head he pronounced the words:

The Grace Divine, which always healeth that which is infirm and completeth that which is lacking elevateth, through the laying-on of hands, (NAME), the most devout Deacon to be a Priest. Wherefore, let us pray for him, that the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.

I recall a conversation with the late Archbishop Dmitri, of blessed memory, about that prayer. I had served for 20 years as an Anglican priest. I had baptized hundreds, married just about as many, heard confessions, and celebrated the eucharist over a thousand times and more. There was no answer to the question, “What about all of that?” Perhaps the answer would be, “There was something lacking.” I do not think the answer would be, “It meant nothing.” His Eminence comforted my heart that the work of the Holy Spirit was to “complete that which is lacking.”

I think to myself that this work continues. I am not yet the priest that I am called to be. The priesthood of Christ resides in me, it is God’s gift. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to complete it. “Be complete!”

All of this, though, takes me into the mind of Dionysius. Every sacramental event is far from being a “thing.” The sacraments are not discrete holy moments where we try to touch heaven. They are, instead, “completions,” revelations and manifestations of what the whole of the world, and ourselves, are meant to be. “Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him,” Christ says. Dionysius would tell us that this is the purpose, the end (telos), of our existence. It is who we are – those who abide in Christ and in whom Christ abides.

The simple bread and wine that we bring and offer is not yet what it shall be as it is completed and made manifest on the altar as the Body and Blood of God. We are all sacraments of the Goodness of God (as is the whole creation). Creation groans as it awaits that final manifestation (Romans 8). We groan within ourselves as well – but, as often as not, we forget that we are being purified, illumined, and completed. We lack. We hunger. We wait.

Complete us, Lord, and elevate us to the glory you have ordained for your sons and daughters!

 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



Posted

in

, , ,

by

Comments

45 responses to “The End of the Sacraments – The End of All Things”

  1. Margaret Avatar
    Margaret

    Thank you so very much for these words, Fr. Stephen, they remind me of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, in Ikos 8 where these words have brought me much hope for those I pray for:
    “Raise our children to fulfill the Word of God, and to be partakers of the heavenly
    blessedness for which they came into being.”
    After reading your article here, and substituting the idea of “Be what your heavenly Father created you to be just as He is Who He is from eternity.” for the idea of “be perfect”, I have even more hope and encouragement in Our Good God Who Loves Mankind.

  2. Christopher King Avatar
    Christopher King

    Thank you Father Stephen. The Mystery and Teleos which I hear from your article is Being, Becoming, and Wholeness which continues now and forever.
    Glory be to Jesus Christ! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  3. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Margaret,
    Thank you for the feedback. Such comments make the work a joy!

  4. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Father Stephen,

    Thank you for the post. I unfortunately left “Mystagogy” at work, so I won’t get any further in it over the weekend, but I hope to have more relevant questions as you continue writing about Dionysius. That he coined “hierarchy” is a good tidbit to know, especially in this age of Jordan Peterson (I do not especially follow/read Peterson, but it’s hard to be completely unaware of him nowadays).

    [quote]
    I had served for 20 years as an Anglican priest. I had baptized hundreds, married just about as many, heard confessions, and celebrated the eucharist over a thousand times and more. There was no answer to the question, “What about all of that?” Perhaps the answer would be, “There was something lacking.” I do not think the answer would be, “It meant nothing.” His Eminence comforted my heart that the work of the Holy Spirit was to “complete that which is lacking.”
    [End quote]

    I much appreciate your frank openness about such experiences and questions. Even if biographical transparency makes a writer more vulnerable to misunderstanding and reader digressions from his core message, the commonality and communion of person that we also have been discussing, I think, is worth that risk.

    A quick thought: If instead of “be perfect” we translated it as “be perfected,” I think teleute would carry the same connotation as you describe–more of an ongoing process that is happening to us, rather than an expected benchmark of behavior.

  5. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mark,
    Thanks for the thoughts. I still think that almost any form of “perfect” carries huge amounts of baggage in the contained in a moral interpretation. It’s also a misleading treatment of teleios. In language, we have the “perfect” tense, which indicates “completed action” (I have made up my bed). But that meaning is lost in modern speak. So – I press forward with alternatives. The language brain is pernicious. We say “be perfected” – but the nuance will quickly be swallowed up by the echo of “perfect.” There’s no reason to retain any form of that word in the context.

  6. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    There are three words I would like to erase from my vocabulary: Perfect, good, and bad. They can mean anything we want, we can use them anyway we want, and I can always think of a better word to use instead. They are virtually useless. “A hammer is perfect for driving in nails.” “HIV is perfect for depleting CD4+ cells.” “My kid is perfect.”

  7. Fr David Gilchrist Avatar
    Fr David Gilchrist

    Thank you so much, Father Stephen, for what you said about the Liturgy of St Basil!
    In the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese the English version says, “We pray to You and call upon You, O Holy of Holies, that by the favor of Your goodness, Your Holy Spirit may come upon us and upon the gifts here presented, to bless, sanctify, and make this bread to be the precious Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
    But the Greek is ἁγιάσαι καὶ ἀναδεῖξαι.
    I have corrected the English in my personal copy.
    Thank you also for the clarification of Matthew 5:48.

  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Mark, thank you for your insight. “Be perfected” is much better than “be perfect” however I am more partial to the becoming whole. Wholeness has a dynamism for me that lends itself more easily to the mystical reality of union with Christ in and through the Mysteries and devotion in prayer and service.

    Somehow, to me, wholeness is more a call to participation with Jesus and the Holy Spirit than “be perfected”.

    Wholeness indicated an on going healing that stretches through time and touches on what was not whole in the past as Fr. Stephen’s Anglican folks. Wholeness is less linear to me. I do not like linearity in anything but geometry.

    God continue to bless you . You always seem to make thoughtful comments.

  9. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Thank you Father for you profound insights! The expression Dionysius uses in Greek is rather pregnant with possibilities. He uses “τελεσθήναι τελετήν Ἱεραρχικήν” which is like saying “bring a hierarchical ceremony/rite to completion”.

  10. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dino,
    I have a volume of D’s The Mystical Theology with Greek and English on facing pages and a huge volume of commentary (the MT is actually quite short). But reading my way through the Greek – I realize that no English translation has come close to displaying the genius wordsmith in his work. This volume (by Riordan) does the best I’ve seen – and is pointedly working at it.

    In some ways, it reminds me of St. Gregory the Theologian’s poetic writings. It’s as though Dionysius is writing from inside the ecstasy of heaven itself!

  11. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    My father, memory eternal, grew up as a pioneer homesteading on the eastern plains of New Mexico with his mother and father and brothers
    Eastern New Mexico is wide open rolling prairie that is hard to imagine for city folk.
    As he did his daily tasks he began to perceive, mystically, how all the life around him and including him were somehow connected. Each life sharing a bit with all other life.

    He tried to live his life with that vision in mind. He could never include Jesus in that however but both his sons have (my brother is an Orthodox priest). So I am beginning to see that the wholeness of the incarnate Jesus Christ acknowledges and proclaims that mystery and brings it to completion.

    Am I on the right track?

  12. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Michael,

    I do like the expression of it as wholeness. Perhaps that description appeals more to us as we age (haha) and we just want to be as we once were, rather than the youthful aspiring for self-improvement and perfection.

    In any case, I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. One of my first jobs was as a copy editor, and so my predilection is to make the minimal change necessary. In my experience writers were more likely to go along with a suggestion (or correction) that way 🙂

    Perfect as a verb with an accent on the second syllable carries a bit less absolutist baggage than does the adjective. (For example, “Bessemer perfected the process that bears his name.”)

  13. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Father,
    I also believe that to be true, i.e.: “Dionysius is writing from inside the ecstasy of heaven itself”. And it is possibly the only framework to properly understand most of these divine writers!

  14. Helen Avatar
    Helen

    Thank you Father for your writing!
    As I was thinking of the idea of becoming whole. My first reaction is “what am I missing to be whole?” That felt like a reaction to “perfect”. Then I thought in mathematical terms 😊. You are not whole when you divide. We are divided inside of us. Becoming whole is getting rid of the divisions.

  15. Paul Avatar
    Paul

    Father,

    I can truly say that I learn something everytime I read one of your posts. Thank you so much.

    Paul

  16. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Helen,
    “whole” or “complete” is such a rich image. It might not be that something is missing – it could be that what is there is not yet finished. When Christ says, “It is finished” on the Cross – he uses this same Greek word. So, when some of us say, “God’s not done with me…” (at least we say that here in Appalachia) it’s a pretty solid, Orthodox thing. 🙂

  17. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Helen wonderful. But there an element of math that explores the unseen is there not or at least more than 3 dimensions. Wholeness encompasses us.
    Gods Wholeness is express in the Incarnation of Jesus, the making manifest the Holy Trinity The Unseen becoming seen and embodied.
    It would seem our wholeness encompasses our natural seen ness and embracing what is normally unseen in us as well.
    As Father and Dino write regarding Dionysus writing “inside the ecstasy of heaven.

  18. Helen Avatar
    Helen

    Father, I love the additional comments on wholeness. (BTW, wholeness kinda sounds like holiness 😊)
    Michael, yes! The seen and the unseen, God, us and what the language of math describes.

  19. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    In Romans 6 it says “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.” It leaves one with the impression that the slave/freeman language is a human way of speaking about sin and righteousness. Then in 1 Cor 3 it adds “I could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” Is it possible that language about “transformation” as opposed to “revelation” in the sacraments is language intended to communicate something of the experience of the sacraments that is appropriate to different stages of spiritual completeness?

  20. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Simon,
    I would think that’s possible. It’s always intriguing to wonder at what St. Paul might have said if he could speak as freely as possible.

  21. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    “God’s not done with me…”

    Father, I remember that saying and haven’t heard it for years. I love it. (and so appropriate for this topic!!)
    It’s a keeper!!

  22. hélène d. Avatar
    hélène d.

    Thank you P.Stephen for relieving the “impossible” weight of “And be perfect”….
    and I can also say : The oppression lifts, and the good news radiates into my heart !
    This happens, many times, throughout your writings…
    A “lightness” so alive and full of Hope before all that comes, that is to say the accomplishment of all things in God…

  23. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    A mystery to me that serms connected to what St Paul says is how to reconcile the fully human/fully divine Jesus. They seem so very different abd yet both are necessary.

    St. Paul addresses it a bit in Galatians 3:27

  24. Justin Avatar
    Justin

    Fr Stephen,

    Your discussion here has reminded me of a realization I’ve had since I have been entering the Church. We talk about the Liturgy not being a single, discreet event which occurs once a week, but as a continuous celebration for all time. We say similar things about the Mysteries, not that Eucharist, Baptism, Catechumenate, Unction, etc. are discreet, ordered events but are always at every time occurring. Outside of chronological time. As +Metropolitan Kallistos said, “I am in the process of being saved.”

    As I enter, it seems that I am moreso jumping into the the stream already flowing in the direction of… our telos(?), union with God. (I don’t know, I’m in deep, now and I can’t find the right words.) In a way I am always a catechumen. In a way my Baptism is complete but still happening. My first reception of the Eucharist, in a way, will be my last and only. Yet I will continue to receive.

    I think I just popped a neuron, so I will leave it at that.

    Thanks,
    Justin

  25. Robert kaschak Avatar
    Robert kaschak

    Coming from a Western RC backround one of the most attractive aspects of Orthodox soteriology is the belief that the Church and sacraments/mysteries are the means of healing, the Church as God’s hospital rather than merely where to obtain juridical forgiveness and remission of sins. The doctrine of theosis became foundational in my understanding of salvation. I have found it it mentioned in the Eastern churches in communion with Rome, but not emphasized as it should be as part of their essental patrimony. As you know Father Freeman it is mentioned even in the Anglican tradition but is in no way a part of mainline doctrines of salvation in the West, wich is very unfortunate indeed. (Please i don’t want this to open up a back and forth conversation of Orthodoxy vs Catholicism.) As one who is very conscious of his brokenness I find this very appealing. I have previously had mixed conversations with others regarding the translation of “teleios” as “perfect” versus “complete ” or “whole” and have thought that “be perfected” as a good compromise for those who insist on the word perfect. Personally I still have an aversion to that usage since no one can or ever will be “perfect as (our) heanenly Father is perfect.” We can, however, be what we were meant to be by Grace of theosis which is complete and whole . Makes much more sense. Thank you Father Freeman for reminding me of that.

  26. Nikolaos Avatar
    Nikolaos

    Father Stephen

    With respect to “Be whole, as your heavenly Father is whole”, this translation ties in with the Orthodox understanding of the Church as a spiritual hospital, which aims to help sick people acquire their full health, ie be wholesome.

    This is salvation and the Greek word for salvation, soteria – σωτηρία, is derived from σώος or σώς, which means integral, whole.

  27. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    My question: is it possible to be whole as a human being if we segregate too much: the distinction between Greeks, Russians , Arabs, etc. As a Heinz 57 ‘merican largely German and English let alone the rest of the distinctions.
    Some of my closest brothers in Christ happen to be black All Orthodox yet not received as such sometimes. We were given to each other by God.
    Those distinctions or at least the inner fear and loathing that often go with them seem difficult to overcome. Including in me. I have great difficulty with Greeks, God for give me.

  28. Nikolaos Avatar
    Nikolaos

    When Jesus said : “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified”, He did not just refer to the Greeks who wanted to see Him, but to all nations other than the Jews.

    There is some wonderful work carried out in black Africa by Greek missionaries, like hieromonk Fr Damascene in Congo and the renowned Fr and Dr Evangelos Papanikolaou in Cameroon (many YouTube sermons).

    I enjoy the chanting of Meletios Kashinda https://youtu.be/21qYtFInpWc

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    I think St. Paul had a clear word on this. Our own history and culture are still working it out…as always

  30. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Dear Michael,
    I appreciate the Heinz 57 among us! I believe most of us in the US have such a lineage.
    The one Trinity conveys multiple hypostases, yet Jesus has two natures, one hypostasis. This is part of our spiritual heritage, Glory to God!

    For reasons of Providence, of God in all things, we have multiple jurisdictions. And the practicalities of that situation seem to us moderns a problem as we seek to create a unified Church by the hands of men (rather than of God). Sometimes I lack patience with this fact myself. For example, I’m not sure western rite Orthodoxy was a good idea. But no one is asking my opinion on that one. And as such, I must ask for forgiveness for offering my unsolicited opinion. We seek wholeness as a Church. But that wholeness lies with Christ.

    Meanwhile, I’m learning Greek! : ) And I love it. I’m still such a novice that it’s embarrassing. But I’m focusing on the prayers first, such as Our Father. God willing, I will become more proficient in it. And I’m grateful for the prayers in Greek in my parish. For reasons I cannot explain, they warm my heart. But of course, I’m equally grateful to have a translation in English. I wish the translations were not as limited in western languages as it seems. I pray the Lord might let me grow in my own capacity to translate.

  31. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Dear Nikolaos,
    Thank you so much for the link. It just made my day, it was so beautiful!

  32. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, I have zero capacity to learn languages other than American/English. My brain just will not go there. The different languages don’t seem to be the problem though. At least not here.
    All I can do is ask God to forgive the hardness of my heart. What troubles me in others also has a piece of my heart too.
    I grew up here in Wichita which has, as I have known personally and historically been a compartmentalised town. With each different race or culture having its own section of town. Still going on, just more subtly than it used to be.
    The pejorative names largely have disappeared in public but barely. It wears on me. Even though I would be profoundly uncomfortable going to the Greek parish here (have been the few times I have gone.) God forgive me the sinner.

  33. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Dear Michael,
    I understand. The ethos of a parish can be difficult, depending on the circumstances. In my case, various ethnicities abound where I live, and with such diversity, the associated bigotry. That can be very difficult to bear, especially in a parish setting. I’m grateful that I haven’t found any of this in my current GOC parish. But I am pretty aware that it depends on the community. However, there is a sort of continual associations or assumptions that I have to deal with no matter where I go.

    Once when I revealed to someone my Native American background, the person was very enthusiastic and asked me to teach him how to drum. I told him the only drum I have is a bodhran, an Irish drum I acquired when I visited my in-laws in Ireland. He was duly disappointed!

    Another time someone was staring at my eyes and asked if they were real. I had black hair, light brown skin, and grey eyes at the time. They were sincere in their question. But a Mexican-American friend of mine overheard and fumed in indignation.

    Over the years, I have accepted such comments and questions without too much heartache. It’s only the occasions where I’m accused of devil worship or that what I’m doing belongs in the house of the advisory that seems to hurt. And that kind of hurt sticks with me for a while.

    May God grant you and Merry peace and joy on this holy day!

  34. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    It is just that sometimes I feel like Albert Finney in Network. Of course that means I am unbalanced. The reaction, including mine, is often no better, but there has to be some action in the Spirit that will awake us and help bring reconciliation as a testimony to the reconciliation that Jesus brings through repentance…

  35. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    FWIW, it’s just sin – and it’s the sins of others – which is not something you can fix. It becomes a distraction from our own sins and a waste of time, beyond praying for others, and choosing to live differently yourself. As much as possible, I’d let it go.

  36. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    But that’s my point, Father—it is my sin. Just a slightly different form of it that I export because it is easy to do that and make s comfortable judgement cocoon. Other people have similar stuff going on but the only way it changes is if I repent in deed as well as thought.
    I have been blessed by unique folks who have demonstrated the process to me, yet I ignore it because it is easier that way.

    The fact is that the evil I see in others is largely a creation of my own heart and mostly lies in me.

    The results are devastating at times. I had not been faced with it for awhile so I had forgotten.

    Thanks to you and Dee for helping me work it out better.

  37. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
    Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
    And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
    Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
    Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
    Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

    That goes for our sins and the sins of others.

  38. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I suppose there is an element of shame at both my own sin and my inability to initiate change in others. So, “politics” becomes the way to force change upon others with little mercy. There is obviously shame quite deep running around. Does not unaddressed shame merely protect the status quo?

  39. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Michael,

    I think you mean Peter Finch (if you’re talking about the character of Howard “Mad as Hell” Beale).

    Could you clarify what you are saying by this?

    “there has to be some action in the Spirit that will awake us and help bring reconciliation”

    Particularly, what do you mean by “has to be”?

    I cannot remember which Orthodox source caused me (truly) to stop objectifying other people, but that might help with what I understand to be the struggle you describe. I have had empathy in the past, don’t get me wrong. But a good deal of the time I live as though the world radiates out from me and my eyes are the vantage point from which everything is seen. Other people fit into my worldview, rather than my being conscious of each person having an entire world (universe?) inside that I am little aware of. Their life is as rich and varied as mine with people who care overwhelmingly about them and to whom I matter not one whit.

    Above all, God loves all these other children as much as He does me, no matter how much I may think I’m better than they are.

    Keeping this in the forefront of our thoughts and actions toward others is what is meant (n part) by love your neighbor as yourself. I used to do it a little, but mostly with people I already loved or at least liked. But in the last year I’ve tried more and more to make it my standard way of viewing everyone, even someone vexing me at the moment.

    Now that I’m writing about it, this may be another practice I originally encountered in CS Lewis, but certainly Orthodoxy has watered the seed Lewis planted.

    Does this apply to what you’re saying, or am I completely misunderstanding you?

  40. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Mark, Albert Finney Was the actor. Mark, hood qiestion. If a sinful situation is to be truly healed just “Getting mad as hell and not taking it any more” does not change anything personally or societally because anger does not lead to real change, in my experience, personally or corporately. In fact I have seen anger become a tool used to motivate folks to give power to others which is then used to initiate tryanny.

    Anger is a sin, a sin that blocks acting in love on s personal scale. Acting personally in a state of sin, as I have done only leads to even deeper sin that becomes entrenched.

    grew up in the 60’s a decade earlier than the movie. There were two prominent situations in which the “mad as hell” philosophy became the norm.

    I am finding out 60 years later that repentance works better.

    I will give you another example non-sin related and factual. I have a bad back. It hurts. Physical therapy helps relieve the pain and I function better. Recently, I was just starting a course of PT to help my upper back. BUT, I got shingles. Rashes and inflammation and muscle spasms that are hurt and can be debilitating (analogous to anger) initially motivated me to seek PT treatment–docs agreed it would help. It did not, infact, it ended up making my back worse. I talked with my therapist. We put the PT on hold until the shingles passes(through the medical treatment and time) to restart the PT.

    I am up at 3 AM writing this, in part, because of the shingles pain waking me up.
    The pain is helped , interestingly enough, acknowledging the pain rather than getting msd at it and praying and engaging you. That makes the pain better (for both the pains — physical and the spiritual.

    Joy and laughter are replacing it.

    Back to reality: I cannot ignore the situation as Fr. Stephen advises, forgive me Father, because I have a friend whom God gave me, who is caught up in a real life situation of which I am a part. It has been going on for a long time and there is now a God given moment for us to address the pain. “Getting mad as hell and not taking it any more” is a temptation for both of us. That will not help. I see that now, by the Grace of God time to change course. Now, my friend and I have to walk together into the darkness, in repentance and love. 5 years ago when the specific mess began, we both did that. Now God, thanks to advice from both Father and another friend, we have a chance to get it right this time bringing joy and laughter. Healing the shame by God’s mercy AND YOUR PRAYERS Mt. 4:17 is possible. 5 years ago, neither of us were ready. No one was ready.

    Now we get to see “the rest of the story”. Salvation is a work of patience and humility.
    God is good.
    .

  41. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    It’s always good to do the “good” that is at hand. You’re spot on regarding anger.

  42. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    … and my friend had the same realization. We are, by grace, acting on it.

  43. Juliana Avatar
    Juliana

    Father Stephen,
    A while back I came across the the Scripture that says, “Be complete, be of good comfort, be of one mind and the God of love and peace will be with you.”.
    I have been praying just that for my family and fellow parishioners while thinking “Be complete? Whatever that means, Lord, please help us.”.
    This post took me a long way toward understanding it and I thank you!

  44. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Juliana,
    It’s an interesting verse. The verb translated as “complete” in it, is different (katartizo). But it has the sense of being mended, repaired, and made whole. I like the thought of being made whole and complete – it doesn’t carry the baggage of moral perfectionism.

  45. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father,
    Have you ever written on the role of angels in helping us be complete? Speaking of angels can get out of hand pretty quickly as there is much fanciful speculation but I know that they help us in many ways, e. g, my wife and I frequently loose track of things.
    If we ask for angelic help to the angels we call “the finding angels” we usually find the item within a short time.

    There are other more consequential intercessions both of us have seen, often in tandem with Mary as “Queen of the angels”. I have never seen any authoritative Orthodox thought that treats the help of the angels in guiding us to wholeness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to blog via email

Support the work

Your generous support for Glory to God for All Things will help maintain and expand the work of Fr. Stephen. This ministry continues to grow and your help is important. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!


Latest Comments


Read my books

Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman

Listen to my podcast



Categories


Archives