Simplicity, the Ultimate Sophistication

Alchemist5

Leonardo da Vinci. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In Paulo Coelho’s brilliant little book, The Alchemist, the author tells of a young lad sent by his father to a wise man to discover the secret of happiness. The wise man lived in a magnificent, faraway castle complete with sweet music, beautiful artwork, delicious food, and sprawling gardens. It was a wonder of the world. After a long journey to the castle and waiting for hours to speak to the sage, the boy finally gained an audience. The wise man listened to the boy’s explanation for his visit, then answered, “I do not have time to reveal the secret of happiness to you.” Instead, he handed the boy a teaspoon with two tiny drops of oil in it, and instructed him to wander around the castle for two hours without spilling the oil.

alchemist35
The lad did as instructed, carefully climbing the high stairwells and creeping down the long hallways of the palace, his eyes always fixed on the teaspoon. When he returned to the wise man, he was asked, “Did you see my Persian tapestries, my extravagant gardens, my parchments in the library?” Embarrassed, the boy replied that he had not. He had been focused solely on the drops of oil in the spoon. With this confession the boy was sent back to tour the castle, and this time he focused all his attention on the beauty that surrounded him. He returned to the wise man with excitement, thrilled at all he had seen. The wise man then asked, “And where are the two drops of oil I gave you?”

alchemist33

The boy realized that he had spilt them along the way. The wise man then revealed his “secret” to happiness: “Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” This parabolic story calls for a much needed balance: Joy is the product of being in tune with the world around us, while caring for the few precious things we have been given to carry on our journey. We cannot ignore the realities of our surroundings, and we cannot ignore our personal responsibilities.

alchemist21

But the real brains of Coelho’s story is that the wise man gave the boy only two drops to carry in his spoon; not a quart of oil, not a five-gallon bucket full, and certainly not a heavy, back-breaking tank of the stuff. It was only a couple of drops, revealing that happiness is maintained by keeping our personal load as light as possible. Do you want to be happy? Lighten your load and simplify your life. The most deeply spiritual thing that some of us could do is have a garage sale. Purge our calendars. Resign from a few of our many activities. Our unhappiness isn’t related to a poor prayer life, the lack of reading the Scriptures, or going to church too little.

alchemist6

We are carrying too much baggage. We are trying to manage too much stuff. We have too many possessions, too many obligations, and too many batons juggling in the air. This is an unqualified recipe for misery. Because all of these weights and concerns of life — most of which we have assumed (they haven’t been put upon us by anyone else) — are choking out any real chance at being happy, as we simply cannot carry our self-loaded burdens or lift our heads to see the beauty around us.

alchemist3

None of us can live our lives, worship our God, enjoy our world, or take care of those who have been given to us to love (these are the few, priceless drops in the spoon by the way), if we are constantly looking at our own shoelaces, burdened with ourselves and our many concerns. Thus, when we simplify, we are doing much more than getting rid of physical possessions or conserving our precious time. We are sharpening our emotional focus; we are making spiritual space. We are choosing to be happy. Happiness, after all, is an intentional choice, and it is the wisest choice of all.

alchemist11

“The Wisdom of Simplicity” by Ronnie McBrayer at http://www.wilsoncountynews.com/article.php?id=50850&n=keeping-faith-ronnie-mcbrayer-keeping-faith-wisdom-simplicity

Advertisements

Remove The Sandals From Your Feet

land1

Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees.

— Revelation 7:3

trees50

The saints embrace the whole world with their love.

— St. Silouan the Athonite

On the Holy Mountain of Athos, the monks sometimes put up beside the forest paths special signposts, offering encouragement or warning to the pilgrim as he passes. One such notice used to give me particular pleasure. Its message was brief and clear: “Love the trees.”

tree63

Fr. Amphilochios, the geronta or “elder” on the island of Patmos when I first stayed there, would have been in full agreement. “Do you know,” he said, “that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment “love the trees.” Whoever does not love trees, so he believed, does not love God. “When you plant a tree,” he insisted, “you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.” An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing confessions of the local farmers he used to assign to them a penance, the task of planting a tree. During the long summer drought, he himself went round the island watering the young trees. …

tree11

Fr. Amphilochios was by no means the first spiritual teacher in the modern Greek tradition to recognize the importance of trees. Two centuries earlier, the Athonite monk St. Kosmas the Aetolian, martyred in 1779, used to plant trees as he traveled around Greece on his missionary journeys, and in one of his “prophecies” he stated, “People will remain poor, because they have no love for trees.” We can see that prophecy fulfilled today in all too many parts of the world. …

tree13

“Love the trees.” Why should we do so? Is there indeed a connection between love of trees and love of God? How far is it true that a failure to reverence and honor our natural environment — animals, trees, earth, fire, air, and water — is also, in an immediate and soul-destroying way, a failure to reverence and honor the living God?

tree12

Let us begin with two visions of a tree. Edward Carpenter, in Pagan and Christian Creeds [records] a partial vision of a tree. “It was a beech, standing somewhat isolated, and still leafless in quite early Spring. Suddenly, I was aware of its skyward-reaching arms and up-turned finger-tips, as if some vivid life (or electricity) was streaming through them far into the spaces of heaven, and of its roots plunged in the earth and drawing the same energies from below. The day was quite still and there was no movement in the branches, but in that moment the tree was no longer a separate or separable organism, but a vast being ramifying far into space, sharing and uniting the life of Earth and Sky, and full of amazement.”

tree1              tree2

… Two things above all are noteworthy in Edward Carpenter’s “partial vision.” First, the tree is alive, vibrant with what he calls “energies” or “electricity”; it is “full of most amazing activity.” Second, the tree is cosmic in its dimensions: it is not “a separate or separable organism” but is “vast” and all-embracing in its scope, “ramifying far into space … uniting the life of Earth and Sky.” Here is a vision of joyful wonder, inspired by an underlying sense of mystery. The tree has become a symbol pointing beyond itself, a sacrament that embodies some deep secret at the heart of the universe. The same sense of wonder and mystery — of the symbolic and sacramental character of the world — is strikingly manifest in Peaks and Llamas , the master-work of that spiritual mountaineer, Marco Pallis.

tree61

Yet there are at the same time certain limitations in Carpenter’s tree-vision. The mystery to which the tree points is not spelt out by him in specifically personal terms. He makes no attempt to ascend through the creation to the Creator. …

tree100

Let us turn to a second tree-vision, which is by contrast explicitly personal and theophanic: “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”  (Ex 3:1-6)

tree68

Comparing the experience of Moses with that of Carpenter, we observe three things: in the first place, the vision described in Exodus reaches out beyond the realm of the impersonal. The burning bush at Horeb acts as the locus of an interpersonal encounter, of a meeting face-to-face, of a dialogue between two subjects. God calls out to Moses by name, “Moses, Moses!” and Moses responds, “Here I am.” “Through the creation to the Creator”: in and through the tree he beholds, Moses enters into communion with the living God.

land2

In the second place, God does not only appear to Moses but also issues a practical command to him: “Remove the sandals from your feet.” According to Greek Fathers such as St. Gregory of Nyssa, sandals or shoes — being made from the skins of dead animals — are something lifeless, inert, dead and earthly, and so they symbolize the heaviness, weariness, and mortality that assail our human nature as a result of the Fall.

tree99

“Remove your sandals,” then, may be understood to signify: Strip off from yourself the deadness of familiarity and boredom; free yourself from the lifelessness of the trivial, the mechanical, the repetitive; wake up, open your eyes, cleanse the doors of your perception, look and see! And what, in the third place, happens to us when in this manner we strip off the dead skins of boredom and triviality? At once we realize the truth of God’s next words to Moses: “The place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Set free from spiritual deadness, awakening from sleep, opening our eyes both outwardly and inwardly, we look upon the world around us in a different way.

tree6

So we enter the dimensions of sacred space and sacred time. We discern the great within the small, the extraordinary within the ordinary, “a world in a grain of sand … and eternity in an hour,” to quote Blake once more. This place where I am, this tree, this animal, this person to whom I am speaking, this moment of time through which I am living: each is holy, each is unique and unrepeatable, and each is therefore infinite in value.

tree8

Combining Edward Carpenter’s living tree, uniting earth and heaven and the burning bush of Moses, we can see emerging a precise and distinctive conception of the universe. Nature is sacred. The world is a sacrament of the divine presence, a means of communion with God. The environment consists not in dead matter but in living relationship. The entire cosmos is one vast burning bush, permeated by the fire of divine power and glory. …

*

For more Orthodox ecology of Transfiguration, theophanic transparency, pellucid double vision and Zen ‘haeccitas’, read the full article THROUGH CREATION TO THE CREATOR by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia

 at http://incommunion.org/2004/12/11/through-creation-to-the-creator/

Bending in the Archer’s Hand

Poetry, Theology, Videos: Orthodox Worship, Conception and the Personhood of the Unborn 

gibran-arrow

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet

*

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” Jeremiah 1:5

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance” Psalm 139:16

*

Orthodox Worship, Conception and the Personhood of the Unborn 

“If we turn to the Festal cycle, the consciousness of the personhood of the unborn is strikingly manifest especially in three important Feasts: The first is the Feast of the Conception of John the Baptist (September 23) in which we sing: “Rejoice, O barren one, who had not given birth; for behold you have clearly conceived the one who was about to illuminate the whole universe, blighted by blindness. Shout in joy, O Zacharias, crying in favor; truly the one to be born is a prophet of the High!” John the Baptist existed as a human being and a part of God’s plan of salvation from the moment of his conception.

The second is the Conception of the Theotokos (December 9). Here the vesperal hymn proclaims: “Behold the promises of the Prophets are realized for the  Holy Mountain is planted in the womb, the Divine Ladder is set up, the great Throne of the King is ready, the place for the passage of the Lord is prepared . . .” It is notable that both Elizabeth and Anna were advanced in years and barren. Thus they were considered “cursed” in the Jewish tradition where children were a sign of God’s blessing. (Consider that mind-set with our own of today and how God’s Plan is being affected by the hundreds of millions who will never participate in it.)

*

The quintessential Feast illustrating the Church’s belief of the importance of human beings from the moment of conception is the Annunciation (March 25) which is so important that a Divine Liturgy must be served even when it falls on Great and Holy Friday! The Annunciation Troparion makes a most profound statement:

“Today is the beginning of our salvation, the revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin as Gabriel announces the coming of grace…” 

*

  This is a far cry from the “pro-choice” rhetoric of “Who knows when life begins?” or the degradation of the unborn by calling him a “blob of tissue” and a “product of conception.”

*

Can any Christian seriously propose that Jesus Christ was ever a “blob” or an appendage of the Theotokos’s body?

*

At the Great Compline the hymnography makes this astonishing claim: “…O marvel! God has come among men; He who cannot be contained in a womb; the timeless One enters time…For God empties Himself, takes flesh, and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception…” This is not sung at the feast of our Lord’s Nativity but at His conception!!! Such concepts as “viability” and “quickening” are utterly withoutmeaning and irrelevant.

 *

 

Scripture and the Unborn 

In the New Testament, consciousness of the personhood of the unborn is clearly manifested. The same word – brephos – is used for the child in the womb as out of the womb unlike modern medical and scientific distinctions of “zygote,” “embryo,” “fetus“ etc. used to differentiate among the stages of pre-natal life. The Latin word “fetus” simply means “little one” and was never intended as a means of denying humanity to the child dwelling in his mother’s womb. A similar pattern of language occurs in the Old Testament as in the book of Job 3:16 in which he refers to: “Infants [gohlal] which never saw the light.” 

*

In Luke 1:41 we find another astonishing image of the scriptural consciousness of the personhood of the unborn: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb” Here, the unborn John the Baptist recognizes and rejoices at the unborn Messiah – a “fetus” greeting a “fetus.” This is not just a “literary device” as some would insist. It illustrates the narrator’s consciousness of the already existing personality – and Divine calling – of an unborn human being. We do celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the Theotokos, and the Lord Jesus Himself, but we also celebrate their conception – their entry into time and the physical world – the “fulness of time” as it is called by St. Paul.

*

A more profound point to this all is that these feasts, especially the Annunciation, point to the Incarnation. By Jesus Christ taking on our humanity from the moment of conception, existing in the pre-natal condition in the womb of the Theotokos, experiencing birth, living through infancy to adulthood, and finally physical death, God sanctified every moment of human existence – from conception to death.

*

There is more to this – God also completely identifies with us in our fallen suffering nature, and by dying for us on the cross, He expresses His solidarity with us: whether we are a zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, adult, or elderly: human existence is a continuum from conception, and – yes – beyond death to life eternal in the Lord! Read the rest of the article at “Abortion: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Sanctity of Human Life” by Rev. Deacon John Protopapas at https://orthodoxword.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/abortion-an-orthodox-christian-perspective-on-the-sanctity-of-human-life/

*

“Science Does TOO Know When “Human Life” Begins”. Read more at http://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism

*

Watch a disturbing undercover investigative video by Live Action, “What is Human?”, which  probes America’s late-term abortion industry, and reveals chilling admissions from abortionists on the humanity of children in the womb, at https://www.lifesitenews.com/pulse/this-viral-video-is-changing-countless-minds-about-abortion

*
Watch a very disturbing undercover video which catches planned parenthood selling “uterine contents” (ie. one unborn baby plus placenta and amniotic fluid –> aborted baby body parts), while casually sipping wine and eating salad at a ‘business’ lunch: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/80682.htm

*

Watch a new, shocking video: Planned Parenthood abortionist–between sips- jokes about harvesting baby’s brains, getting ‘intact’ head at https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/tearing-off-a-babys-head-intact-is-something-to-strive-for-planned-parentho 

*

“Hooverized” is a California High School Expression for an abortion

As for “Reproductive Justice”,  there is absolutely nothing ‘just’ about abortion!

Check more Pro-Choice Euphemisms at http://gerardnadal.com/2010/05/31/how-many-pro-choice-euphemisms-can-you-list/

OrthodoxWord

Abortion: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Sanctity of Human Life 

 

Reflection:

Each human being is unique creation of God. Each one of us has never been before and will never be again – throughout all eternity each human being who is, has, and will be conceived is unique.

  

By Rev. Deacon John Protopapas, Executive Director,Orthodox Christians for Life 

 

Overview

  The Orthodox Church regards abortion as premeditated murder. As such, She strongly opposes it because God demands the protection of all innocent human life, including that of the unborn child. The humanity (personhood) of that child exists from conception, a scientific fact that has always been recognized and unquestioned in Orthodox theology from the very beginning. Indeed, conception and not birth is the moment of the union of soul and body.

  The Early Church – of which the Orthodox Church is a…

View original post 4,528 more words

Die Before you Die

crucifixion-scene-christ-on-the-cross-with-mary-and-john-1516

“If you die before you die, you will not die when you die” (Greek Orthodox monastery)

*

“… This week, I noticed a pattern in popular music of our time that I had not noticed before. It was something I heard in song lyrics. I’ll quote some for you from a few different songs:

So cut me from the line / Dizzy, spinning endlessly / Somebody make me feel alive /
And shatter me. (Lindsey Stirling / Lzzy Hale, “Shatter Me”)

Don’t let me die here / There must be something more / Bring me to life (Evanescence, “Bring Me to Life”)

How can the only thing that’s killing me make me feel so alive? (Parachute, “She (For Liz)”)

I could lie, couldn’t I, couldn’t I? / Every thing that kills me makes me feel alive. (OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”)

Do whatever I’m yours / Do whatever I’m sure / Anything, anything, anything, anything to feel alive (Jhené Aiko, “Drinking and Driving”)

When everything feels like the movies /Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive (Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris”)

Those are from six different songs. I could quote lots more like this, but this sample should suffice. These are all popular songs from the radio.

So what is the pattern? There are two things here. First, there is a cry out to be made to “feel alive” or to “come alive.” I did a Google search on a large popular song lyrics website, and there were nearly 1,100 songs that mentioned wanting to “feel alive.” Almost 1,300 used the phrase “come alive.” 100 used the phrase “bring me to life.”

I started clicking around when I saw this pattern and looked at the full lyrics to a few dozen songs. And the second pattern I noticed was that this language of wanting to feel alive was often paired with language about death and/or violence. For many of these lyricists, the key to feeling “alive” was first to die, to feel the pain of violence or to commit violence.

… So what is the point of this little tour through pop music? This is just one way of taking the temperature of our culture, of getting a sense of where we are as a people. There is a sort of anesthetization of life these days. We’re always trying to feel better, to feel entertained, to feel alive. And our pop songs sing about violence—even self-violence. And the movies and TV get more graphically violent. And the consumption of pornography is nearly off the charts. And we watch wars in other countries on TV as a perverse form of entertainment. …

Compare all this violence with Apostle Paul’s words: “I bear in my body the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus.” …  Into our culture of virtual violence and screaming out for the feeling of life come these words of the Apostle Paul: “But God forbid that I should boast, except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”

It’s not clear exactly what Paul means when he says that he bears in his body “the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus.” But he is probably speaking of his own suffering, that he has been physically wounded for his confession of faith. Paul is no stranger to violence. He feels pain. He is beaten. He is thrown into prison. He will be beheaded. Paul knows about violence. He knows about death.

… Paul embraces the death of the world! And he embraces his own death. But not because he just wants to feel alive. He embraces death because he knows that in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is life. He embraces death because he knows that he himself must be crucified with Christ so that his death can be joined with Christ’s death.

This is the paradox of our great hope as Christians—that we seek life, just like the pop songs! And we seek death and even violence, just like the pop songs! But it is not just any death or any violence that brings us life. It is the suffering and death of Jesus, to which we join our own suffering and death by repentance, by confession, by the sacraments, by love.

… The pop songs get it right, but not quite right. There is more to life than merely “feeling alive.” Life is not found in mere violence and death. Life is found in sacrifice and resurrection. Life is found in Jesus Christ, and in His Cross we therefore glory. Like Paul, we boast. Like Paul, we are crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to us. And death is slain. And we are made truly alive. And with Christ we will rise from the dead.”

Source: Road from Emmaus blog

By Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/roadsfromemmaus/2015/09/13/you-bleed-just-to-know-youre-alive/