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Thread: Gems of Orthodox Christianity (Eastern Orthodox Church / Catholic Orthodox Church)

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    Gems of Orthodox Christianity (Eastern Orthodox Church / Catholic Orthodox Church)

    Once in a while I will be sharing here some inspirational material regarding the Orthodox faith and its traditional wisdom. Although I do not consider myself a Christian, their moral teachings often have directness and eloquence that I love to read and hear.

    Faith Encouraged Daily Podcast: episode "A Solder, An Athlete, and A Farmer

    Elder Paisios on the Final Judgment

    That is how my thoughts perceive Judgment will take place. Christ is not going to say: “Hey you - come here! What have you done?” or “you: you are going to Hell!” and “you: you are going to Heaven”; but rather, each one of us will compare himself to the others and will proceed to where he knows his place is.

    The Morning Offering blog: Mine


    In the spirit of generosity of heart, we must become agents of a palatable joy that lifts up those who are fearful, sad, or despondent. Saint Symeon the New Theologian said, “Cheerfulness consists in not regarding such things as we possess as our own, but as entrusted to us by God for the benefit of our fellow servants. It consists in scattering them abroad generously with joy and magnanimity, not reluctantly under compulsion.” The things that bring us joy belong to the God who created us, and, in a real sense, are on loan. Acting as though these gifts are our possession, betrays the gift.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    Glory to God podcast: The Desire for Justice and the Mercy of God

    I really enjoyed this theological exposition.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  3. #3
    Charles David's Avatar
    Charles David is offline Sifu Charles Chalmers - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Canada
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    Thanks for sharing these. In my experience there are great teachings in all of the religions that open-minded aspirants can learn from. Why not learn from whomever you can?

    Yours,

    Charles
    Charles David Chalmers
    Brunei Darussalam

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    Dear Understanding,
    was wondering a bit myself whether to post something in reply at all for several reasons, also not sure whether your intention is to get a feedback on this.
    Didn’t listen to the podcasts, but you wrote:
    1. That is how mythoughts perceive Judgment will take place. Christ is not going to say: “Heyyou - come here! What have you done?” or “you: you are going to Hell!” and“you: you are going to Heaven”; but rather, each one of us will compare himselfto the others and will proceed to where he knows his place is.
    In case you'd like to hear an alternative view on such ‘wisdom’ here’s what came up for me, in my limited understanding, also understood that I can’t say what your words really mean for you yourself:
    a) One of the basic principles for example in ‘Kung Fu’ is to never ever compare yourself to anybody and never compare others, because everybody is an individual.
    b) One basic principle of ‘Kung Fu’ (or also Zen, Buddhism etc.) is to never just believe something you’ve heard, even from ‘authorities’, but to test it or get to impressions through own experience which also is not in the domain of ‘thoughts’.
    c) One of the basic principles in ‘Kung Fu’ is to train your mind in starting to train it to be a ‘mind of no thoughts’ (which means for me that one could not hold any believe in form of thoughts).
    d) Sitaigung wrote in ‘Sukhavati’ that the hellworlds people are going to are created by their own minds (and I heard this also from others). Which means it’s a good thing to ‘train’ or purify the mind with ‘no thought’, ‘noble thoughts’ and be conscious about with what or which ideas one let’s sort of ‘imprint his subconscious or conscious mind’; and also it means, it’s their own minds creating the hellworlds (though they may be influenced by collective thoughts/ideas/dogmas including from so-called ‘christian’ churches).
    e) Why would ‘Judgement’ be necessary or something good at all? Or the Idea of a ‘judgement’day? You sort of seem to take ‘Judgment’ for granted, that it ‘will take place’. If ‘Christ’ stands for Love, Forgiveness, Compassion and Acceptance how could he stand for ‘Judgement’ at the same time? Apart from the mentioned virtues I guess also understanding transcends judgement, doesn’t it? And how about the term ‘final judgement’ in the podcasts name, shall I laugh or cry? And what if the ‘final judge’ does not know good genuine Kung Fu? I’d give it a try…
    f) The ‘highest’ goal of Zen or Buddhism or Taoism for example – also as written for example by Sitaigung in ‘Sukhavati’ – is neither to go to hell, nor to heaven, but to transcend the phenomenal world at all.
    g) One of the goals of Zen, Meditation etc. is to leave the sense of separation behind and come to a feeling of oneness with ‘all’. So ‘Buddha/Tao/Jesus/God’ would not be separate from you and you not separate from him/it, some call this ‘christ consciousness’, but the posted statement seems to be from a place of separation from Christ and others and a separation from heaven and hell.
    h) The statement seems to have linear thought including a linear timeline and as far as I understand reality is non-linear and time is an illusion.

    Your brother in the Shaolin Arts,
    Sincerely
    Michael
    Last edited by MichaelS; 19th February 2016 at 04:31 PM. Reason: formatting

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    My dear Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your heart here! You have many sharp observations. I did not intend this thread to be a place for initiating dialogues, but there is plenty of space here for exchanging opinions. Personally I am not very fond of metaphysical speculation or debating anyone else's highly personal opinions (of Elder Paisios in this case), so hopefully you will not be disappointed when I pass the chance to comment on your thoughts. Maybe someone would be interested in addressing your concerns over religious judgements?

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelS View Post
    And how about the term ‘final judgement’ in the podcasts name, shall I laugh or cry?
    You are making a factual error here, and I have to set this correct. Not everything I post are podcasts, and the quote and the title which provoked you came from a written article. If it was a podcast I would have indicated so in the link. It is not a great grief to make such a mistake, but it is useful to bear in mind that we should inspect our own presumptions in far greater detail than we scrutizine others' biases.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    Last edited by understanding; 22nd February 2016 at 09:20 AM. Reason: unsure of Family title, removing it
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Traditions by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos

    Western theology, however, has differentiated itself from Eastern Orthodox theology. Instead of being therapeutic, it is more intellectual and emotional in character. In the West [after the Carolingian "Renaissance"], scholastic theology evolved, which is antithetical to the Orthodox Tradition. Western theology is based on rational thought whereas Orthodoxy is hesychastic. Scholastic theology tried to understand logically the Revelation of God and conform to philosophical methodology. Characteristic of such an approach is the saying of Anselm [Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109, one of the first after the Norman Conquest and destruction of the Old English Orthodox Church]: "I believe so as to understand." The Scholastics acknowledged God at the outset and then endeavoured to prove His existence by logical arguments and rational categories. In the Orthodox Church, as expressed by the Holy Fathers, faith is God revealing Himself to man. We accept faith by hearing it not so that we can understand it rationally, but so that we can cleanse our hearts, attain to faith by theoria* and experience the Revelation of God.

    Scholastic theology reached its culminating point in the person of Thomas Aquinas, a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. He claimed that Christian truths are divided into natural and supernatural. Natural truths can be proven philosophically, like the truth of the Existence of God. Supernatural truths - such as the Triune God, the incarnation of the Logos, the resurrection of the bodies - cannot be proven philosophically, yet they cannot be disproven. Scholasticism linked theology very closely with philosophy, even more so with metaphysics. As a result, faith was altered and scholastic theology itself fell into complete disrepute when the "idol" of the West - metaphysics - collapsed. Scholasticism is held accountable for much of the tragic situation created in the West with respect to faith and faith issues.

    The Holy Fathers teach that natural and metaphysical categories do not exist but speak rather of the created and uncreated. Never did the Holy Fathers accept Aristotle's metaphysics. However, it is not my intent to expound further on this. Theologians of the West during the Middle Ages considered scholastic theology to be a further development of the teaching of the Holy Fathers, and from this point on, there begins the teaching of the Franks that scholastic theology is superior to that of the Holy Fathers. Consequently, Scholastics, who are occupied with reason, consider themselves superior to the Holy Fathers of the Church. They also believe that human knowledge, an offspring of reason, is loftier than Revelation and experience.

    It is within this context that the conflict between Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam should be viewed. Barlaam was essentially a scholastic theologian who attempted to pass on scholastic theology to the Orthodox East.

    Barlaam's views - that we cannot really know Who the Holy Spirit is exactly (an outgrowth of which is agnosticism), that the ancient Greek philosophers are superior to the Prophets and the Apostles (since reason is above the vision of the Apostles), that the light of the Transfiguration is something which is created and can be undone, that the hesychastic way of life (i.e. the purification of the heart and the unceasing noetic prayer) is not essential - are views which express a scholastic and, subsequently, a secularised point of view of theology. Saint Gregory Palamas foresaw the danger that these views held for Orthodoxy and through the power and energy of the Most Holy Spirit and the experience which he himself had acquired as a successor to the Holy Fathers, he confronted this great danger and preserved unadulterated the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.
    About Still Being Here: On Converts by Father Andrew

    The psychology of neophytes (recent or old) is universal because human nature is universal. To quote some real life examples, regardless of whether we are talking about a Protestant who has become a Roman Catholic, a Roman Catholic who has become a Protestant, a Frenchman who has become a Buddhist, an Englishman who has become a Muslim, or a German who has joined the Orthodox Church, neophyte idealism remains the same.

    Yes, idealism, and often the bookish sort, because that is what we are dealing with when we deal with neophytes. Neophytes always want to live the ideal, the convert to Roman Catholicism wants to become a Papist now, the convert to Protestantism wants to know the whole Bible by heart by this evening, the convert to Buddhism wants nirvana straightaway, the convert to Islam wants to become a Sufi mystic today, the convert to Orthodoxy reads the Philokalia and wants to become a hesychast just like that.

    But it does not work like that. The error of all neophytes is that they want to run before they can walk. By definition that means that they fall over. And when you fall over, you hurt yourself. And when you hurt yourself, you can do one of two things: you can pick yourself up and tell yourself, ‘I have been humbled, now I will listen to voices of experience and like everyone else will first learn to walk before I try to run, all the more so as no-one ever asked me to run, I imposed it on myself’; or you can pick yourself up and walk away in the bitter depression and despair born of pride, giving up the struggle for self-improvement.

    This is called lapsing and that is extremely common among neophytes and is always caused by pride, lack of faith. I remember an elderly nun who had been in her convent for fifty years who would say: ‘I may not be a very good nun and certainly I am no saint, but I have seen them all come and go, one after the other, but at least I am still here’. And ‘still being here’ is what salvation is in part about because we cannot be saved without perseverance, which is faith, hope in God’s Providence.
    The latter exposition is especially charming.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    Our Thoughts by Abbot Tryphon

    “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility (Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica)”.

    Saint Saraphim of Sarov said that if we “acquire peace, a thousand around us will be saved”, for having been created in the image of God, and we are part of the Divine thought that was made material in time and space. We not only influence those around us with our thoughts, but we even influence the cosmos. If we focus on the negative, those negative thoughts impact everyone around us, and even the whole world. The Elder Thaddeus tells us we can be either very good, or very bad, depending on the thoughts and desires we breed.

    There is a lot that is wrong with the world, but it begins with us. If there is to be peace in our world, it must begin with me. If hatred, anger, envy, lust, and spite, are to end, it must end with me. When we allow destructive thoughts to destroy our peace, the peace around us is destroyed. We can not blame the world, or even those around us, for that which happens around us, radiates from us. Blame for all that is wrong with the world, can not be placed beyond our own hearts.
    Doesn't it sound wonderfully familiar?
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    The All Consuming by Abbot Tryphon

    According to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, heaven and hell are not about location, but about relationship. God is everywhere, and He did not create a heaven for some, and a hell for others. If we love God, His fire will be a comforting warmth, but if we choose not to have a relationship with Him, His fire will be as hell fire. We choose how we will experience the presence of God in the afterlife, and since God can not be absent from anywhere, those who have chosen to ignore Him, will, nevertheless, be in His presence for all of eternity.

    Saint Gregory said that Paradise and Hell do not exist from God’s point of view, but from man’s point of view. It is all about man’s choice and condition. According to him, heaven and hell are not two different locations. They are simply two different experiences of the same place.

    Everyone will spend eternity in God’s presence, but how we experience the Divine Presence will depend upon the condition of our soul. Those who have been transformed by the action and work of the Holy Spirit, will experience God as light and bliss. Those who have rejected God’s love will experience it as pain and suffering. For the unbeliever and the unrepentant, their sins will not allow them to enjoy the Presence of God.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    Silence Is Golden

    Entering into the Silence by Abbot Tryphon

    All Orthodox Christians are aware of the importance of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in our journey to God. These three practices are at the heart of the Great Lenten Fast. Prayer is our way of communicating with God on a daily basis, and fasting days (Wednesday and Friday) are called for throughout the Church Year. As Christians, we are also obligated to give alms to the poor, as demonstrated throughout the New Testament. Yet we often overlook the great spiritual practice of entering into the Silence as a way to discover ourselves, and deepen our experience with God’s presence.

    Today’s technological advancements have introduced noise into our lives in ways unthinkable to the ancients. Not more than a hundred years ago, most families found silence as an everyday experience, for when the sun went down, families nestled into warm corners of their parlors, and their kitchens, often reading books, or simply watching a crackling fire. Along with this quieting down of the day, silence was part of every evening. Orthodox families were especially cognisant of the need to spend quiet time on the eve of the Sunday Liturgy, as well as great feasts of the Church, knowing that this silence served as a preparation time for receiving Christ’s Body and Blood, during the celebration of the upcoming Liturgy.

    Keeping silence by turning off radios and television sets, muting iPods, and turning off computers, is a splendid way of allowing everyone in the family to experience the silence that allows us to listen for the voice of God, speaking in our hearts. Refraining from conversation, music, and all forms of entertainment for just an hour or two, helps open us to an experience of God that has become foreign to most modern Americans.

    Silence is the means by which we may access and deepen our relationship with God, and develop self-knowledge. Silence allows us to live more harmoniously in our world, and actually listen for the voice of God speaking to our hearts. Saint Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, placed the virtue of silence on par with the faith itself in a synodal letter from AD 400. “Monks—if they wish to be what they are called—will love silence and the catholic faith, for nothing at all is more important than these two things.” This invitation into the silence is not for monks only.
    Silence is Golden! I wish more Christians were aware of how essential silence is to the development of Holiness and living life to the fullest.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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