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Homily for 2/23/14 - LJ - pride

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  • David
    1Cor 8:8-9:2 Our greatest spiritual obstacle is pride. We are all afflicted in one way or another with it. Pride is at the root of all our other passions. It
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2014
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      1Cor 8:8-9:2

      Our greatest spiritual obstacle is pride. We are all afflicted in one
      way or another with it. Pride is at the root of all our other passions.
      It was pride that tempted our first parents to disobey God and to set
      their will above His. It is pride that continues stand between each of
      us and God. Pride is the greatest vice against which we must struggle
      throughout our lives. The remedy for any passion, the fathers tell us,
      is to practice its opposite. Pride then, is remedied by acquiring
      humility. It is therefore no surprise that as we prepare of the
      spiritual warfare of Great Lent that we hear over and over again of the
      necessity of humility in our lives. We heard the Gospel parable of the
      Publican and the Pharisee two weeks ago – and the humility of the
      Publican was held up by our Lord as his greatest quality. We heard last
      week the parable of the Prodigal Son and we saw the humility of the
      prodigal as he lived among the swine and confessed the error of his
      pride and humbling himself returned to his father in complete
      repentance. Today, the Sunday of the Great Judgment, we find humility to
      be necessary in order to stand before the throne of God. The Lord says
      to the righteous, “When I was hungry you fed me; when I was thirsty you
      gave me to drink; when I was naked you clothed me; when I was sick and
      in prison you came to comfort me.” And the righteous ones reply, “When
      did we feed you, give you a drink, clothe you or come to visit you?” In
      their humility they see only their own sins and do not catalogue their
      righteousnesses. Humility is vital to our spiritual well being and Great
      Lent gives us the opportunity to work to acquire it.

      In the epistle reading that we heard today, that theme of humility is
      again apparent. The church in the city of Corinth struggled with many
      controversies – one of which was the issue of eating meat that had been
      sacrificed to idols. Some considered this meat to be cursed and to be
      avoided while others reasoned that because the idols were themselves
      nothing that therefore they could neither bless nor harm the food that
      was dedicated to them and therefore it could be eaten. The Apostle
      addresses this controversy by taking neither side, but showing that both
      contain truth. He confirms the spiritual truth that idols are nothing
      and that there is but one God and the other so-called gods are nothing.
      On the other hand, he chides those who would brazenly eat of food
      offered to idols because in so doing they became a stumbling block and
      stone of offense to those who were more strict in their purity and
      piety. And so he says to them, “when you sin so against the brethren and
      wound their conscience, you sin against Christ” and “if meat causes my
      brother offense, then I will eat no flesh while the world stands.”

      Humility plays a key role in this discussion for the apostle is calling
      upon his spiritual children to set aside even their own “rightness” in
      the face of a more important truth that one ought not to cause his
      brother to stumble. St John Chrysostom, in speaking of fasting, says
      “For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet
      bite and devour our brethren … Because of this Paul utters the fearful
      saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not
      consumed by one another.” (Gal. 5:15). More plainly, it is more
      important to humble ourselves, letting go of our need to be “right” and
      “correct” and instead to work to assist our neighbor in his salvation.
      Remember the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is like
      unto it, to love your neighbor. When we stray from these commandments,
      we fall immediately into the sin of pride.

      This kind of pride is described in the spiritual classic, “Unseen
      Warfare” (the Athonite text edited by St Nicodemous of the Holy Mountain
      was translated and revised by St Theophan the Recluse in Russia) which
      tells us, “(The devil) sees the strength and firmness of will of those
      who pay attention to spiritual life, and strives to conquer their minds
      by means of curiosity, in order to gain possession of their mind and
      will. For this purpose, he is wont to suggest to them thoughts that are
      lofty, subtle, and wondrous, … Attracted by the pleasure of possessing
      and examining such … thoughts … they are enmeshed in the bonds of pride
      and conceit; they make an idol of their own mind and thus, little by
      little, without realizing it, they fall into the thought that they no
      longer need any advice or admonition from others, since they are
      accustomed in all cases to hasten to the idol of their own understanding
      and judgment.

      “This is a very dangerous thing and not easily cured; … when the mind is
      firmly grounded in the self-relying thought that its own judgments are
      better than others (even those of the Church), who can cure it in the
      end? When this eye of the soul – the mind – is itself blinded by pride
      and remains uncured, who will cure the will? Then everything within is
      so disorganized that there is neither place nor person for applying a
      healing poultice. This is why you must hasten to oppose this pernicious
      pride of mind before it penetrates into the marrow of your bones. Resist
      it, curb the quickness of your mind and humbly subject your opinion to
      the opinions of others (particularly those of the Church and your
      spiritual father). Be a fool for the love of God, if you wish to be
      wiser than Solomon: ‘If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this
      world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.’ (1Cor 3:18)”
      These Corinthians were captured by the pride of their mind. They were
      fascinated by this lofty idea concerning the idols and allowed this
      fascination to lead them into the grave sin of offending their brethren
      and introducing discord and unrest into the Church. The Apostle sought
      to pull them out of this delusion by reminding them of that we are
      called to love our brothers – even if (and especially when) it means we
      must set aside our own high self opinion in order to follow in obedience
      the guidance of our pastors and archpastors given to us by God.

      During Great Lent, the evil one will be looking for every opportunity to
      divert us from the path of spiritual benefit. One of his greatest
      weapons against us in this battle is pride – for we are so susceptible
      to this particular temptation. Pride, particularly the pride that warps
      the mind, can alienate us from God, from one another, from the Church
      which is the ark of salvation. You must therefore oppose this attack
      with the infallible remedy of humility, which is acquired first by
      recognizing your own sinfulness and fallibility; and second by the self
      denial of setting aside your own desires, thoughts and ideas, and living
      instead in complete submission to the instruction of our Holy Mother
      Church which she gives to us through our pastors and archpastors. Too
      many times I have seen this pride drive a wedge between a devout and
      pious Christian, pushing him further and further from the Church as he
      cuts off this group and that group and another group of Christians who
      do not agree with him. Too soon he finds that he is the only one that he
      considers to be untainted by what he considers to be error and cuts
      himself off completely from the Church, refusing even the sacraments
      because they too might be tainted. This is the tragic triumph of the
      devil for without the shelter of the Church and the life-giving
      sacraments we are totally in the power and control of the demons.
      Therefore, I would like to finish with the words of Fr Archimandrite
      John Krestiankin, a spirit-bearing elder of Pskov caves monastery: “Fear
      separations and schisms in the Church! Fear falling away from the Mother
      Church; it alone staunches the lava flow of antichristian revelry in the
      world today! Fear judging the Church’s hierarchs, for this is ruinous …
      Fear sin!” and I would add “Fear especially the sin of pride” Humble
      yourself. Love God and love your neighbor for in this you will find the
      path of salvation.

      --
      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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