Existence as an Act of Love


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Act I

Once I wallowed in the darkness of the void

That darkness darker than the night

Ever searching, ever groping, ever longing

My hands clutching shadows that slipped through my fingers.

Lost in a maze without meaning, without purpose, without destination

I wandered in a dry and waterless land

My soul aching for something or someone to give me hope

An experience to justify this pitiful existence.

How I yearned to escape the absurdity

I clung to my individuality, my uniqueness, but in vain

Having rejected You I acknowledged that all was One – ever turning, all encompassing

And within this Monolith “I” was an illusion.

How I longed to communicate – to understand and to be understood

How I longed to reciprocate – to love and to be loved

How I longed to impose my will – to create and to be created

But how could I escape the Monolith?

Mindless forces, endlessly indifferent, from the dawn of time

Blindly marching on, from everlasting to everlasting

Laws of nature too powerful to escape

Leading me, guiding me, shaping me, informing me, fating me.

I was but a cog in the wheel

One piece of the machine

And even this wasn’t real

For everything was One and “I” was an aberration, a twisted trick of nature.

My thoughts were merely a chimera

Every doubt, every fear, every belief, every feeling, every passion was an inevitability

A destiny set in stone by the cold, irrational, unconscious, laws of physics and biology

Since the dawn of time.

Reason and rationality became but a farce

I groped aimlessly in the night

For “I” was but the dust in a star

Like grass, my puny body would deteriorate and die

My atoms scattered to and fro . . .


 

Intermission 

And so it was that I sank into the pit of despair and hopelessness

Where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 


Act II

But You, my Beloved, drew near in my distress

You who made blind eyes see, shattered through the night

Piercing the darkness with your unapproachable light

Illuminating my mind and reviving my heart of stone!

Through You, O Lord, we may see existence as an act of love

Ultimate reality as an intimacy shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

The eternal wellspring of personality, communication, and love

The perfect communion of three distinct personalities sharing one

nature, energy, and will.

For in You, O God, is perfect community, true intimacy, and pure holiness

It was out of this  love that You gave birth to the Universe

Speaking into existence something other – yet still reflecting Your incomparable beauty

A supreme act of Self-Giving.

And You imprinted Your image and likeness upon it

Creating other distinct personalities capable of communication and love

That they, too, though finite and limited, might share in the wonder of your eternal glory

and experience the delight of Your All-Holy Spirit

Even now You lovingly maintain the order and harmony of the Universe

Fixing the laws of nature, those models of elegance and simplicity

Maintaining regularity – the ebb and flow of matter and energy

That we may live and move and have our being.

Ever communicating Your love!

Ever revealing Your heart!

Ever beckoning us to abide!

That we may join the everlasting and harmonious community of the Blessed and most Holy Trinity

Come let us abide in You and You in us!  Amen.

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Random Musings/Prayers


IMG_0355As we (Orthodox Christians) enter the last week of Lent prior to Holy Week, I wanted to post a few random thoughts/prayers that I wrote out this morning pertaining to the essence of Lent and Pascha (Easter). Why do we fast? Why do we lament? Why do we recognize these things? I hope you find these short snippets of my thoughts/prayers to help provide a tiny answer to those questions.

On the Moral Nature of Man

What is man if nothing more than a tree? If we lose our roots, then we become nothing more than fuel for a fire. You, O Lord, are our roots. You are the fertile soil for our wooden souls. It is in You that we grow. But our sin, our passions, everything contrary to You is the wind that uproots us, that rips us from our soil, and it is then that we become deadwood, something to kindle the fire of the Enemy’s rebellion.

We have sought to create for ourselves our own reality. A false creation! A garbage heap! A simulacrum! You are Reality, it is You we seek, but like the wandering tribes in the exodus from Egypt we create golden idols and act like they are You. What folly there is in the desires of man.

On the Created Nature of Man

There are those who say we are evil in our nature. They say your first children tainted our very essence, that there is no good to be found in us. But You said we were very good and in us You found enough goodness to die for. And if we were evil by nature, then how could we say that we sin? All evil actions would be inevitable, it would be in keeping with who we are. There would be no sin if we were evil. Instead, we are as You created us. We are good, very good, in our nature. And this is why we call sin evil, because it is any action that goes against our created purpose. We are morally evil only because we are by nature good.

On God’s Resolution

Into the darkness, You spoke light. Into nothingness, You spoke everything. Into the void, You spoke fulfillment. Into the chaos, You spoke order. Into the violence, You spoke peace. What is sin if not the attempt to undo all you have spoken? Death is the only conclusion to such actions. And yet, into the death, You spoke Life.

On the Two Gardens of Humanity

In the Garden of Eden, man rebelled against You and was cast out. In the Garden of Gethsemane, man rebelled against You and was found. In the first Garden, man sought to be like You. In the second Garden, man sought to kill You. In the first Garden, man needed a covering for his nakedness. In the second Garden, the covering for man’s nakedness was given. In the first Garden, man sweat out of fear for Your judgement. In the second Garden, You sweat blood out of compassion and our redemption. In the first Garden, man sinned to be equal to You. In the second Garden, You died so we could be like You. In the first Garden, man lost his way. In the second Garden, You found man.

On Hope

The pursuit of Good, the pursuit of You, is nothing more than an attempt to get back to our nature, to who we are meant to be. But our wills are not aligned with Your will and so our actions are contrary to You. Yet You have supplied a way to transcend our very selves, to be like You. As Your servant St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become God.” Your servant St. Maximus the Confessor has said, “Man becomes like God in all things except essence and being.” You created us for Yourself and in our redemption we become all for You and therefore become like You, not by nature, but by grace. Our desire for salvation should not be out of want of Heaven or fear of Hell, but out of a desire to be united to You.

A Prayer on Why Christ Came Into the World (with apologies to St. Augustine)


nativity iconO Father, forgive me, a sinner, for the words I am about to speak to you. For I am a fallen and finite creature, who am I to address the Holy and Infinite one? I am ashamed that the impure should address He who alone is pure. Please forgive me for the inadequacy of my words, the limitedness of what I have to say, and for my ignorance.

I confess that you alone are love, O Lord.[1] There are those who say that you created primarily or solely for your glory, but I know that you created out of love. For what can you do that does not display your glory or love? You had no need of creation, no need of us as humans. Your glory was eternally recognized by yourself; you did not need creatures to recognize your glory for you. You, being the only perfect being that is without limit and lacks in nothing, but is infinite, had no need to gain glory for you are glory. You had no need of us for fellowship, for you have eternally existed as one God in three Persons. Love has existed within yourself for all eternity, for you are love and this love has been displayed in your Triune nature.

Oh what beautiful sacrifice to create us! For you had no need and thus the mere act of creation was an act of sacrifice. Who can add to you, O God? Is there anything you can create that can make reality better? No, because you are Reality. Thus, you plus nothing is ultimate reality, absolute perfection, but in creation something lesser than you has been added, something to which you must divert your attention. Were you to turn your attention away from any aspect of creation, were you to forget about this tree, or that planet, or that galaxy, or the electron in an atom, then it would cease to exist. It is through your attention that creation continues on, for all things have their beginning and sustainment in you.[2] As your Word stated, you are concerned over even the birds and do not turn your attention away from them.[3] You even know the hairs on our heads.[4] You have counted and named all the stars.[5] All of this is done and known through your love.

You created man in your image and likeness[6], calling him to be holy as you are holy.[7] To man alone you bestowed your reason and love, both of which we were to use to glorify you and unite with you. We were created to enjoy your love and grow in you. You, God, are our purpose for living, you are the reason we exist, you are our goal, our happiness, our everything. Continue reading

A Prayer for the Broken Heart of Connecticut (12/14/2012)


IMG_0261Lord, please have mercy

Our world is so dissonant

What do we make of atrocity

The insane claims the life of the innocent

 

Into Your hands we commit their tiny souls

As we are left and our tears swell

And their lives we extol

Accept them Father for they have endured Hell

 

For those left behind we give to Thee

Show grace to those with empty rooms

They face unopened presents under a cold tree

Let their pain be what You assume

 

Lives snuffed out at a madman’s whim

A debate over the gun will tear us apart

We can pass laws against a weapon so grim

But can we interdict the hate of our heart

 

A mother and father cry over their loss

We can only wonder if Thou cares

Yet, for a promise made on a cross

We await our swords to be ploughshares

 

A last plea bring them to Your embrace

Let them run in the fields of love

Allow us not to fight but live in grace

And give us peace from above

 

Lives cut so short on this December day

Futures removed from mankind’s fraternity

But in hope we can always pray

That they remain in your memory for eternity

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A Confessional Prayer


This was previously posted in 2010, but it feels appropriate to post it again:

What among your creation is like you, O God? What in your creation can be compared to you? Shall we point to the tallest peaks in order to match your majesty? Yet your majesty towers over them. Shall we look to the furthest galaxies and the vast expanse of space to find something as big as you? Yet you contain it all within your hands.

All is contingent upon you, O God. A dove does not fly, a drop of rain does not fall, a wave does not churn, an atom does not move without your constant reflection upon their being. Were you to ever turn your gaze from your creation it would disappear. Nothing in your creation can ever compare to you for you are infinitely above it.

I confess that you are not weak. Your piercing gaze tames the untamable lion. When the storm rages and the seas refuse to cease and yield their might to no one, they are calmed by your whisper. What man can bring down the planets or the various galaxies? What man can ever hope to travel light years, to traverse billions of miles within a human lifetime, to visit these distance lands? And yet with your mere word they came into existence. You are above your creation and control your creation.

You are not limited to any space. We do not need to climb a mountain to find you or travel to a distant land to seek your wisdom. You are eternally present in all your creation, though your creation remains distinct from you and is not in you. For as the Psalmist says, if I should make my bed in the deepest valley, you shall be there. I cannot escape the presence of my God for my God is beyond all of creation.

You are ignorant of nothing O Lord! Nothing escapes your knowledge; you are infinitely wise, so much so that you know what could have happened even if it has not happened. What is man’s knowledge compared to you, O God? We are but foolish children in your presence, but this still does not display our knowledge to yours. We are ants to you, but an ant’s knowledge is closer to a man’s knowledge than a man’s knowledge is to you. You are far above us, O God. You know the placement of every electron in the universe and you know where they will be located tomorrow, the next day, or the day after. Nothing escapes your knowledge or foreknowledge.

I know that you are not evil and are held to no standard but your own. In all that you do, O Lord, you are good. It is in your goodness that you chose to create and it is your goodness that prevented you from eradicating your creation when we turned against you. No evil is to be found in you and no judge can condemn you, for you are the standard of good. We know what is good because you are good.

In all, you are love, but a love that we humans cannot fathom. Who would dare to put your love into words? This is why you did not sent a poet to sing of your love, a philosopher to explain in intricate detail how you love us, or a skilled rhetorician to sooth us with the knowledge of your love. Instead, you sent your Son to die on our behalf so that you might display your love, but even so we shall never comprehend your love.

Who are we to you O God? We are but infinitely small and insignificant rats who rebel against your glory!  Have mercy upon us, O Lord! But in your love for us, you have stayed your perfect judgment – for no judge is as just as you, you give to all what they deserve and require due penance from those who should pay – in your love you created us.

What is greater than you, O God? There is nothing greater than you. When you created, something other than you existed and imperfection existed. Only you are truly perfect; we met your standard of goodness, for we were as perfect as a created being can be. The creation of us was a sacrifice, to have to deal with that which is lesser than yourself, but you chose to do it anyway! When men see the darkness of this life they curse you for the gift you have given them! Job cursed the day he was born, but did not take into consideration that his mere existence was an act of love on your behalf. O Holy God, have mercy upon us sinners!

What was before us? What was before you spoke into the black void of nothingness? You existed in perfect harmony with yourself, in three persons sharing in one essence. Father, Son, and Spirit existing in perfect harmony and love.

I know that you are Trinity, O God, for how could you love if you were anything else? If you were one person, how could you love when no one else existed? I confess through your example and through your words that the greatest love is sacrificial, for only one who loves would lay down his life for his friends. But if you were one person then to whom did you sacrifice? To whom did you give your love?

In this we know that there were three; the Father loved the Son and both loved the Spirit. For you are perfect in your love and perfect love shares. The love between Father and Son would have been selfish and so, in your nature, you loved the Spirit as well. O Holy Trinity, forgive me for being so inadequate in my language about you. Please have mercy upon me on the Day of Judgment if I have offended you with my simple words!

You have revealed to us that the Father has eternally begotten the Son, not in the carnal begetting that we experience, but in a begetting we cannot understand. But I confess that you did this without changing and that the Word had no beginning. Lord, you are begotten, but not created. Just as the rays of the sun are begotten from the sun, but co-exist with the age of the sun so too is the Word to the Father, begotten by the Father, but co-eternal with Him.

And what of your most Holy Spirit? We praise you Spirit, for you are God and proceed from the Father. You have revealed that your procession did not begin within time, but that you are co-equal with the Father. Just as the heat from the sun’s rays proceed from the sun, but co-exist with the age of the sun, so too do you proceed from the Father, but co-exist with him.

Who am I to even understand this much about you, O Lord? How have I, a sinful man, been found worthy of your grace for you to allow me to understand this portion about you? May my mind never seek to go beyond what you have revealed. Who am I to understand the mysteries of you, O God? Should I ever attempt to understand you who are unbegotten and begotten, who proceeds and causes the procession? Shall I ever attempt to define you, you who escape all definition? May it never be Lord! May you strip me of my rationality should I ever say that I comprehend you! May you block my path and eradicate me from all existence should I ever attempt to go beyond what you have revealed!

Who is man that he might elevate himself over you? Who am I that I might take pride in my knowledge when you are the giver of that knowledge? What can I claim on my own behalf? That I can turn a page and read the words on it? You can move a mountain with no effort. Nothing is hidden from you and you know all things; I confess that I know nothing unless revealed to me, so what pride am I to take in that?

May I ever take refuge in you O Lord. May I have an eternal vigil in your presence. I am not worthy to know who you are, but you have allowed me to know. O glorious God, I worship you and thank you for who you are. Have mercy upon me, a sinner.

Mystic Mondays: Sharing a Prayer


Today I wanted to pass on this beautiful prayer that my wife shared with me.  She read it in a devotional book by Molly Sabourin entitled Close to Home which I highly recommend.  It is the prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of the Orthodox Church.  Please read it carefully, meditate on its content, and make it the cry of your heart.

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.  Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.  Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.  O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.  For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation; I dare only to stand in Thy presence.  My heart is open to Thee.  Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.  Behold and lift me up!  In Thy presence I stand, awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments, into which my mind cannot penetrate.  To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.  No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.  Teach me how to pray.  Do Thyself pray within me.  Amen.

Prayer and Public School


Fox News reported that U.S. District Judge Fred Biery has ruled that participants in Medina Valley High School’s graduation ceremony cannot pray, invoke the name of God, say “amen,” and that the program itself must change certain words on its program that may give off religious connotations. Of course, being Fox News, the entire story isn’t being told. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between the two:

Or we could turn to the local San Antonio news, which directly contradicts the claims that Fox News makes. So what’s a Christian to make of all of this?

If it’s true that the judge ordered individuals to not even say the name of God or invoke any religious symbols in their speech, then he is wrong (though I somehow doubt this is the case and suspect that Fox News is embellishing the story…I know, shocking). After all, while I may not believe in Allah, or accept atheism, or believe in any one of the Hindu gods, if a graduate wants to thank one of those gods, or Allah, or thank himself and say, “because God doesn’t exist,” then so be it. It’s his right to do so and if it offends me, then tough.

When it becomes wrong is when the act of prayer (or the cessation of prayer) is compulsory. If the school were forcing others to participate in the prayer then this would be a direct violation of their rights. But so is preventing students from praying in public, so long as they do not force others to bow their heads or join in.

But aside from all of the legal aspects of the case, from a Christian perspective why would we want prayer to be compulsory at a graduation ceremony or even in schools? Yes, there is power in prayer, but that power comes from the faith behind the prayer. Forcing people to pray to a God they don’t believe in accomplishes nothing except alienation. While it makes us look like a spiritual nation, it doesn’t make us spiritual. Prayer is a product of faith, so why would we force those who lack faith to engage in prayer when this will only ostracize them even more and possibly make them bitter towards Christianity?

In the end, while we should hope for a culture that is closer to God, we should hope that those in our culture voluntarily come to Christ, not through legal pressure. We can’t force a culture to act virtuous or to fall in love with Christ; they must choose these things.