From The Blog

Mission Monthly – July 2005

“Everything that you gain in your inner battles will be reflected in your life in God. Struggle against every passion which arouses in you critical thoughts about others. Do not accept what the enemy suggests to you against someone who is unjust towards you. Whether you are alone in your room or in company, every critical thought, every negative inner movement, creates a crack in your spiritual fortress and in that of your community. No thought is born or passes without consequence. With good thoughts, you will be able to see in every person that you meet someone very beloved. With negative thoughts, on the contrary, your facial expression and your psychological energies will spoil your relationships and affect the environment around you. When grace is with us, we do not see the defects of others; we only see the sufferings and the love of our brethren.”

Archimandrite Sophrony

One of the greatest blessings I see in the midst of our beloved congregation is our common striving to truly “love one another” and to live in harmony together in our life in Christ—even though spiritually we are as diverse as each of our characters and personalities. Some are able to pray more fervently, others are just beginning to discover and appreciate the higher standards of the life of the Church. Some are able to make greater faith sacrifices, others are not exactly sure how God fits in their lives. The beautiful thing about this is that it can be no other way as the Good Sower of Seeds continues to sow, looking for good soil where roots can grow deep and plants can yield an excellent harvest! Oh, that all our soils might be deep and rich with spiritual nutrients to receive and give life to the life-giving seed of Life!

Where I find myself most encouraged is that despite our diversity there is in our midst such a striving to love one another that it is easy to see the diversity of gifts and truly hard to distinguish the diversity of struggle. I would like to believe this is because people are not looking “to the right or to the left” but are concentrating on their own inner weaknesses and sins. I am encouraged by the love of this community and the willingness each of us has in striving to forebear the sins of others. This truly is the cornerstone of any quality relationship be it between spouses, friends, or co-workers; or within families, church communities or any group. Maybe I am looking through rose colored glasses, but what I see in this church community is real commitment to non-judgment.

It is hard to write about negativity. I do not want to produce negativity by talking about it. Nevertheless it really is an important topic, especially today in America where it is the social norm to complain and criticize. The politics of personal destruction that has arisen over the last couple of decades is maybe the best example of this; regardless of one’s political affiliation, the gaining of popular support today is often sought not in the arena of good ideas but rather through the defamation of one’s opponent. So much of our news media is more about opinion than about actual news. Even our “entertainment” media has a critical overtone where parents are made fools of in situation comedies and traditional moral and ethical values are disparaged in drama. We have been so deeply formed by the social revolution of self-determined opinion that virtually any person, idea, or institution can become the target of criticism and complaint. The only thing that doesn’t seem to be a focal point of our negativity is ourselves. “God forbid” that we should criticize ourselves or be criticized by others!

Within the Church we must demand something better and always guard against the ease with which a man can rapidly slip into the spirit of criticism and complaint! I have felt this temptation affect me, and have seen how “cracks” can develop in the fortress of my faith. Thankfully, as by grace I am better able to resist these destructive thoughts, I see how beautifully positive thoughts do further the seeing of the “beloved” in every person. While we do have a beautiful and loving community I will continue to encourage each of us to pursue vigilantly the grace to resist the spirit of negativity, especially against those whom we love! And beyond that, may we strive to become true witnesses of love and forbearance to the society in which we live. There are enough voices out there ready to point out our defects, how beautiful when we are filled with grace only to see the sufferings and love of our brethren!