8th Day Pastoral Reflection - 06-27-04
- 8th Day Pastoral Reflection - 06-27-04
weekly reflection from
Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
Hoy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
My Dear Ones,
We are born as individuals and we die as individuals. Even twins are two
individuals bound beyond non-twin understanding, but individuals
nevertheless. Groups of people can die in an instant catastrophe. Yet,
they too die as individuals, bound forever in their moment of transition.
Each of them a unique entity. Each personally known to God. But did each of
them know God?
At this weekend's retreat, I made the point that everything in Holy
Orthodoxy, everything that God has given us for our salvation boils down to
a simple question: are we willing to be what God has created us to be?
Some may instantly respond "of course!" and will follow with "show me how!"
Others will logically assert - "do we have a choice?" Yes, we do. All too
often we choose to be something else.
God created us to be in His image, His likeness, and we have a very
difficult time living to that Truth. We can see this in the way we treat
ourselves. The way we treat others. The way we treat the rest of His
creation. None of us has to look very far to see the great divide between
the way we innately understand God should be revered and the dreadful manner
we treat each other, especially those for whom we wish to keep a distance.
This raises two issues for about living in this world: the problem of self
and the problem of others. To complicate matters, each of us has been
endowed with free will. Free will is the ultimate of personal power. It is
the fundamental basis for all freedom and liberty as well as the source of
all violence and warring.
The problem of self is not the individual entity created by God, born into
this world with a unique combination characteristics that are instantly
familiar yet allow distinctions between us. No, if we live to the full
realization of that "self" - we can only follow the very purposes of our
creation, our salvation and the redemption of this world. Rather is it
"selfishness" that is the problem of self. It is a self-centered-ness that
looks to be gratified and sated. This is driven by animal survival
instincts but enhance by the complexities of human culture and personality.
If I say that a color is "reddish" I am saying that it is NOT red. It is
"sort of red." So when I say "selfish" - I am saying the exact same thing -
it is "sort of self." The selfishness of modern society is extreme. It
seems everything from commerce to relationships, from careers to recreation,
revolves around a false self or, even more damning, the lack of self
awareness. Modern television commercials (and advertisement in general) can
be quite entertaining at times, but they are driven to entice buyers of
products and services, regardless of need or desire. For if the desire is
not there, advertisers use all kinds of tactics to change or confuse the
objects of desire and need. To the point that middle-class Americans, like
my family, think they need so many things that are easily lived without. It
is living in the "sort of" self that we loose track of what is essential.
"It is with the heart that one sees clearly. What is essential is invisible
to the human eye." So says the fox in his note to The Little Prince when he
can no longer be with the Prince as he realizes he is becoming tame. In
other words, not what he is created to be.
To get to the true self - we must accept the Truth of our-SELF. First, that
although individuals, we are not alone. Second, although human, we do not
have to be separate from God. Third, that no amount of earthly success,
goods or popularity will guarantee salvation that is everlasting life - as
we have to choose "selfish" life that will die or the life of the "self"
that will live forever.
What must we do to inherit eternal life? Such is the question posed to
Jesus Christ several times in the Gospels. His response encapsulates the
Commandments: Love God with all your mind, heart and soul and your neighbor
To love God with all MY mind, heart and soul? Surely that is impossible,
will there be nothing of mySELF left? Truly, losing our life in order to
gain eternal life. Christ says, "Those that lose their life for My sake
will gain it." This is the life lived the trueness of who and what we are.
Death will take the "self-ish." It is dying already. This is the driving
force of the lower animal in us. We honor all life, but our focus must be
eternal life with the life-giver. It is not to develop a lack of living in
this world, rather to develop a God-ward manner to live the life we have
Unfortunately, being mySELF means being in this spiritual struggle, that is
at times a spiritual warfare. There is a saying in the monastics community
about the monk who went to the market to get some staples for the monastery.
A woman asked, "Since no woman is allowed in the monastery. I am curious.
What do you do there?" To which the monk responded with great tenderness,
"We fall down and we get up again. We fall down and we get up again. Please
pray for us." Of course, this is the answer to the question "Show me how
to live the spiritual life" as well.
Sometimes, being mySELF, means trying to be less of me than I am or to
strive to be more of me than I am. This is the second part to the Great
Commandment: to love my neighbor as myself. Perhaps it might be more
revealing to restate this: I can only love my neighbor as I love myself. Do
not read this in the "self-ish" manner, but observe not just our own actions
but others as well. Each person reveals their self love in the manner they
treat others. To be more clear about this, if our true self (which is of
God) is subjected to the sort-of-self, then we view and treat others with a
peculiar contempt - what can they do for me? how can they advance my agenda?
what can they give me? etc. Then we demonstrate love, courtesy and respect
with the expectation of return if not at that moment, then later. If we
don't get anything back that could be used for the sort-of-self, we either
ignore, neglect or, even worse, disparage and back bite. We assume that
getting a return on our investment of love activity should at least equal to
what we have given. We assume, from our lower self perspective, that this
is reflective of our true self worth. How pitiful we become without the
love of God! How easily depressed and alone without those expressing God's
We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling the scriptures
say. Yet, we are not in this world without aid. Holy Orthodoxy has
preserved the template of our True Self - in the sacramental life, we are
given access to the instruments to defeat the deceit of this world, the
tools for our spiritual work. Through Holy Church, we are not alone - no
matter how small the congregation for the saint and the angels celebrate
with us in the joy of Holy Qurbana and aid us in the work of carrying the
life-giving message of Christ to others. It is these life-giving words and
rituals that sustain me. It is not that I don't remember, it's that I
forget so easily.
The battle to transcend this world by living in Christ is not won by
neglecting the world, nor by correcting everyone who doesn't know the Truth.
Rather the battle is won by being who we really are, children of God,
children of Light, in very Truth, filled with God's love to share. So, our
eternal life has begun. How are you spending it?
Pray for me and for our mission in Madison.
Holy Transfiguration Malankara Orthodox Syrian Mission
6205 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53705 ~ (608) 236-9622
+ HEAL YOUR LIFE + DEEPEN YOUR FAITH +
+ ENRICH YOUR PRACTICE + REFRESH YOUR SPIRIT +
You are invited to join us for our upcoming events. If you need more
information, please contact us directly.
Upcoming mission events
Summer - 4th Mondays will focus on the practice of Christian meditation
June 28 - Pray Without Ceasing
July 26 - Transfiguration and Theophany
August 23 - Partakers of Divine Nature
"Orthodox Church in a Multicultural Society"
The 24th Annual St. Gregorios Family/Youth Conference
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - Saturday, July 17, 2004
Marriott Renaissance Airport Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Dear Moderators,
A grand reception is planned to be accorded to the high level 9-member W.C.C. delegation and 15 member MECC group, arriving U.A.E. on a short visit, on Friday, 18th April 2008, after Holy Qurbana, at Dubai St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral. Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement (MGOCSM) Dubai Unit will be hosting the prestigious function - a unique event in many aspects especially since it is the first of its kind happening in its history. It also coincides with a One day conference of the movement, slated to trigger enormous interest and arouse immense enthusiasm among MGOCSM members all over UAE. The Secretary of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Church and Shepherd of the Kandanad Diocese, Dr Mathews Mar Severios Metropolitan, as well as Vicar of St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Fr. P.K. Thomas along with other officials of the Parish will welcome the dignitaries.
The General Secretary of the largest non-catholic organization of Christians, Rev Dr Samuel Kobia will lead the World Council of Churches(WCC) delegation while Dr Gurguis Saleh, General Secretary of Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) will head the representatives of MECC, hailing from Middle East and GCC countries. MGOCSM One day conference will be inaugurated by Rev Dr Kobia by lighting the traditional lamp. A newsletter of MGOCSM, published in connection with the centenary celebrations of the Movement, will be released during the meeting.
Other dignitaries include Ms Doris Peschke (General Secretary of Commission for Migrants in Europe), Dr Prawate Khid Arn (General Secretary of Christian Conference in Asia), Mr Mark Beach (WCC Communication Dept), Rev Rolf Pearson (Former MECC coordinator) Ms Carla Khijoyan (WCC Middle East Desk), Dr Paul Amerding (Bahrain), Rev Michael S Bos (Al Amana Centre, Oman), Dr P.C. Alexander (Oman), Mr Ashia Haroun (Coptic Church), Mr William Gois (Director of Migrant Forum in Asia), Rev Bo Hanson (MECC Gulf liason office), Mrs Carina Hallesten (MECC) Mrs Catherine Graham (MECC), Rev Stephen Miller (Mission to seafarers)Rev John Weir (Anglican Church) Mrs Maureen Morgon, Rev Victor Earnest and Babu Gunta (Bible Society)
A resplendent and colorful procession, welcoming the distinguished guests with pomp and pride in a glorious traditional manner depicting the heritage of India, at 12 noon will mark the beginning of the 1st session. Customary drum set (Chenda melam), Suriyani Christian Dance Form (Margam Kali) and various floats featuring the rich culture of Nazranis will add elegance and render impetus to the function.
Key note address of the conference based on the theme ‘ For we walk by faith, not by sight’ (2Cor 5:7) will be delivered by H.G. Dr Mathews Mar Severios Metropolitan in the second session, followed by Group discussions, Group findings presentation, Workshops, Quiz, Songs, competitions, Magic show and group activities.
Earnest prayers of all ICON family members and presence of those residing in UAE in the functions, are kindly requested.
Thanks & best regards
Babu Kurian Puliyeril, Dubai