From The Blog

Mission Monthly – May 2006

“One great characteristic of holiness, is never to be exacting—never to complain. Each complaint drags us down a degree, in our upward course. By complaining, I do not mean the simple imparting of our troubles to others. Complaint savors always of a little bad temper, and a slightly vindictive spirit. The saints were never exacting. Contented with their lot, they never desired anything that was withheld from them.”

Charlotte M. Yonge

Holiness is often misunderstood, though it need not be. Simply put, holiness is that which reflects Him Who is Holy. We call God “Holy”—in Greek, “Agios” – which simply means “set apart” or “other than.” God as eternal, divine and uncreated certainly is set apart and other than man and the whole of creation which is temporal, material and created. He and His Word and His Spirit are therefore the Standards by which we are governed, taught and judged. Man becomes “holy” when by grace and action he reflects Him Who is Holy.

Sadly, holiness is often cynically perceived as self-righteous and judgmental because the world around us may not see the witness of love and “otherness” that should be reflected in the lives of Christians; especially in a society where there is —more and more—little differentiation between Christians and non-believers, and an active participation by many Christians in the dishonorable, immodest and immoral practices of the world. There is also a false notion that to have any sort of absolute conviction as to morality and the value of life is “politically incorrect,” wrong and even unloving. As Christians we must face these unfortunate realities of today’s social insanity, while standing firm in living and proclaiming Who we believe in and what we believe.

Having just ended what may very well have been the most beautiful Lent, Holy Week and Pascha of my life, I must admit to maybe being the most tired I have ever been following this season of our Church’s year. The many beautiful but long services, together with a growing congregation leading to longer Communion lines and more time dedicated to confessions, could potentially leave a priest feeling overwhelmed and discontented. Yes, even the priest is beset with temptations!

The inner life of every man must be vigilant, wise and discerning in order to recognize temptation and resist it! The inner life of every man must be convicted that his life in Christ is fully and completely subject to the will and providence of God: every commandment he is asked to follow, every teaching he is asked to believe, every word he is asked to pray, every discipline he is asked to undergo, every situation he is asked to face, every help he is asked to give, every exhaustion he is asked to endure.

What is often lacking is contentment. True contentedness is founded only in one source: thankfulness. While thankfulness can be an emotion, more importantly it is an attitude and an action. Man CAN choose to be thankful in any situation. Therefore we can conclude that any discontent one may feel is a direct result of one’s failure to choose to be thankful.

The Church’s journey to Holy Pascha is not just a guided tour through the tragic events of history surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth. For the true believer it is a holy time—a time “set apart”—to face the same human frailty and evil, and enter into the same victory and ascent as that of our Lord Jesus Christ: to die with Him and to rise with Him!This is what our Church, God’s Church, gives us and asks of us, in a special way surrounding the commemoration of our Lord’s Pascha and throughout the entirety of our lives as we are called to immerse ourselves in the Godly call of being saved. It is not a game or a performance. It is not a punishment or a carrot on a stick leading to a festive banquet. It is a chance for each of us to gain control of our lives in the context of all that is true and good and right and holy! And here we see holiness in the truest of forms: simply entering into that which is “set apart,” choosing to be thankful, joyfully entering into the faithfulness of each moment, and ascending to love God and serve our neighbor. May our successes and our failures be more than mementos of the time that has past, but rather building blocks to the character of holiness to which each of are called in our Lord’s Resurrection. Beloved, Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!