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Homily for 2/12/12 - PS - All things are lawful

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  • Fr David Moser
    “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Cor
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2012
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      “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all
      things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of
      any.” (1 Cor 6:12)

      As a child, we had many rules; things like, “don’t touch the stove” or
      “don’t cross the street”. As we grew older those childhood rules fell
      away as we gained understanding and skill so that we understood that you
      could touch the stove, but that it could be hot so you had to be careful
      or that you could cross the street, but you had to look out for cars and
      other dangerous situations. As we grew, our childhood rules fell away,
      replaced by adult understanding. This is how it works for all of us as
      we become adults. But imagine for a moment what might have happened if
      our parents had said, “Well its OK to go out into the street, but just
      be careful so you don’t get hurt” without telling us what to watch out
      for or how to avoid danger. The rule is in place as a means to give us
      time to learn these things, to give us time to adjust to a situation
      with potential danger. If we don’t yet have the ability to deal with the
      various dangers of a situation, then our parents are wise to forbid it
      to us until we can remain safe.

      Just as we have rules to protect us in our physical life, so also we
      have rules to protect us in our spiritual life. We have the ten
      commandments and a rule of prayer and a rule of fasting and all kinds of
      rules. For someone without understanding it might seem like the
      Christian life is one of rules and more rules. But this is not really
      the case. These rules are in place so that as spiritual children we are
      prevented from getting into a situation of spiritual danger. The rules
      help to shape our developing spiritual life and understanding so that we
      know how to cope with the various situations in which we find ourselves.
      The ten commandments help us to order our lives so that we can develop
      good habits (to honor God) and to avoid dangerous situations (“Thou
      shalt not…”). The rule of prayer helps us to develop a good and
      effective prayer life and teaches us how to pray (for we do not know
      this naturally). The rule of fasting teaches us how to deny ourselves
      (the first step on the path to salvation) and how to subdue the passions
      and resist temptation. The rules are there, even once we reach an
      understanding of them, however, they are not there are requirements
      which are to be fulfilled as a goal in themselves, but as an aid to
      living a profitable Christian life, enabling us to embrace that which is
      good and avoid that which is harmful.

      Therefore the Apostle says to us, “All things are lawful, but not all
      things are profitable” He immediately follows this saying with another
      which serves to provide even more clarity, “All things are lawful to me,
      but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Here is a key to why
      we follow all these “rules”. We are created to serve God alone, however,
      as a result of the fall, we have become subject to the temptations of
      our own passions. While the passions might have an element of good, if
      they get out of control, then they can enslave us and turn us away from
      serving God to serving the passion. It is good to be hungry and eat for
      this sustains our physical life and health. Not only that but the
      variety of tastes and smells of the food we eat can be pleasurable. None
      of this is wrong in and of itself. However when our tongue and our belly
      bring us under their power, the sin of gluttony overwhelms us and we eat
      more than we require or we eat only that which pleases us. Food, whether
      in quantity or quality, has become our god and we live as slaves to
      appeasing our hunger. When we tire, it is good to rest and regain our
      strength, however, if we allow ourselves to “rest” too much then we
      become addicted to a life of ease and fall prey to the passion of sloth.
      Ease and rest become our god and we are robbed of the inclination to
      follow Christ.

      There are many passions and with each one we could show an example of
      how we could become enslaved to that passion, placing the object of the
      passion in the place of God in our lives. It is this of which the
      Apostle speaks saying, “I will not be brought under the control of any.”
      This statement of the Apostle brings us back to the very first
      commandment where God tells us, “I am the Lord your God and you shall
      have no other gods before me.” This is not only about idolatry, but
      about what enslaves us in our lives, what we place in priority above all
      else. We must avoid being brought under the control of any thing, and
      maintain the state for which we are created –serving only the one true God.

      Fasting is a part of the routine of our lives as Orthodox Christians. We
      fast on Wednesdays and Fridays; there are various isolated fasting days
      as well and we have 4 major fasting seasons during the year. Of those
      fasting seasons, the most important, the most intense, is Great Lent.
      Once a year we reacquaint ourselves with the rigors of the strict fast
      for an extended period. Once a year we shed all the extraneous luxuries
      and excuses and rationales that have accumulated in our lives over the
      year and renew our commitment and dependence on Jesus Christ alone. Once
      a year we set aside this time to focus on the labor of self-denial so
      that we might cut off any tendency to be enslaved to any passion and
      desire, freeing us to focus instead on following Jesus Christ alone.

      The fasting rule of Great Lent is quite strict. We are instructed to
      abstain from all meat and animal products including fish and other cold
      blooded animals. We also abstain from wine (which makes the heart glad)
      and oil (which enhances and carries the taste of most foods). This
      leaves us with only the most simple fare, eating only those things which
      are necessary to sustain our lives. Not only do we abstain from certain
      types of food, but we also limit the amount of food that we eat – always
      remaining a little bit hungry. To this end it is good to eat only a
      limited amount and not continually refill our plates until we can eat no
      more. Not only do we limit the food we eat, but we also abstain from
      other things. Our entertainments and amusements during Great Lent are
      limited, keeping our focus on the spiritual life, on repentance from our
      sins, on gaining those things which are spiritually beneficial and
      profitable, on filling our eyes, our ears, our minds and hearts with the
      images, words, and thoughts which lead us to Christ.

      Abba Dorotheus of Gaza puts it this way, "Not only should we observe
      moderation with food, but we must also abstain from every other sin so
      that just as we fast with our stomach, we should fast with our tongue.
      Likewise, we should fast with our eyes; i.e. not look at agitating
      things, not allow your eyes freedom to roam, not to look shamelessly and
      without fear. Similarly, arms and legs should be restrained from doing
      any evil acts. " It is clear in this that the rule of fasting isn’t
      simply about food – but about a means of self denial and is meant, in
      the end to include our whole being.

      All things are lawful to us – but not all things are profitable, nor do
      we allow ourselves to be enslaved by anything. All things are lawful,
      however only some of those things are useful in our Christian life and
      will lead us nearer to Jesus Christ. All things are lawful, but we
      should avoid those things which have the potential to enslave us and
      pull us away from Jesus Christ. All things are lawful, and it is the
      fasting discipline of the Church which teaches us by self denial to keep
      any of those things from enslaving us and how to discern that which is
      useful. All things are lawful to us, but only those things which lead us
      to Christ are useful and beneficial to us. It is then up to us to avoid
      those things which distract us and lead us away from Christ and to fill
      our lives only with those things which bring us closer to Him.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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