Tag Archive for: Ego

Lenten Journey Day 19 – Ego

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 19: Baked Sweet Potato Wedges

Lenten Journey Day 19 – Ego 

We are at the third week of Lent. It has been a good journey. We have had time to look inward, to contemplate, meditate and pray. We have restricted our diets as well as restricted idle conversation. We are feeling good. The changes we are making are starting to impact others, our families our surroundings, our work environment, our communities and therefore, our world.

Now we start understanding that real changes come from within. Perhaps it is the only thing we can alter in this world, because it is the only thing in which we have complete control. God places that control in our hands. He gives us this life and He allows us to live it the way we wish.

We conclude this week by looking at one more dimension in the story of the Prodigal Son, namely the ego dimension. You see, all of our difficulties in life stem from the ego. It is for this reason that all major religions, true religions, ask you to lose the ego as part of their spiritual discipline. For the Christian we are reminded of Jesus’ words, “ He who loves his life will lose it and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it for eternal life.”

Take a look at great people who have impacted society and life and are recorded in history in a very positive manner. You’ll find something very similar among all of their biographies. They have been willing to sacrifice themselves. They have given of themselves. Now, do not mistake this for low self esteem or low self worth. People who impact life in a positive manner have a very positive image of themselves, but they are also willing to sacrifice because that positive self image is not a false one nor is it built on false pride.

False pride is very easy to acquire. Especially going through some of the Lenten rituals, as we are doing now, it is very easy to confidently boast, “Look at me, I am doing something that others can’t do.” In that statement we forget the reason for the Lenten season. In other words, the means become the focus of our actions rather than the end or goal of our efforts. The goal of Lent is to better ourselves and therefore better our relationships and our world. In the same way, we can think of our dietary restrictions during Lent. There is a reason for us to abstain from animal products. It is not only for the sake of lowering our cholesterol or our weight, but it is to keep things on an even playing field, understanding what is essential in our lives.

Think of the great people who have impacted the world. Now focus on the great people in your own life. They may be a parent or a teacher, a mentor. You will find again that these have been the ones who have been willing to put themselves second to better the lives of others, be they their children, their husbands, their wives, their country, their society or their community. Whatever the case, in the sacrifice that they made ego was contained. Ego was put on hold so that others were allowed to prosper.

To raise children, to support a husband or a wife, to deal with aging parents, to offer love and affection to people around, requires sacrifice. Many times in church life we need volunteers to get jobs done. Sometimes we think, would it not be easier if we paid people to work in these positions? Certainly it would be easier, but the real power of getting things done in the church is by volunteers, because in volunteerism the ego has to be suppressed.

When you get down on your knees and wipe the floors of a church you are acknowledging that there is something greater than yourself there that needs to be served. When you volunteer to help in community organizations, in organization that have goals that are striving for peace or world justice, you are placing a greater-than-sign (>) between the purpose and yourself. In volunteering, the ego gets left behind. You are not as important as the we.

In the story of the Prodigal Son the younger brother is driven by ego. He wants his inheritance, not for some community project, not to better the lives of other people but to enjoy himself. Quickly we see that when the money runs out and so does the enjoyment. His friends back off. There is no intrinsic value to the things he acquired. He was driven by ego and he lost the value of life.

Think about all of the difficulties you have in your life, can you trace them back to ego? Think about the very basic seven sins that we identify, namely pride, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, laziness and covetousness,. Each one of these sins has a foundation made up of an ego that needs to be fed. When we get rid of ego, or at least trim it down, we start seeing that our motives become more pure, our actions are more productive. We begin to understand that we give because it is right to give, not because we are expecting something back in return. We care for people because it is right to care for them, not because we are obliged to do so. If we love people, we are doing so because it is right to love, not because we are living out someone else’s ideals. When the ego is abandoned, we find a new purity of purpose and of self. Our motives and intentions move toward the noble and perhaps even the sacred. We find the power to become the people we want to become and need to become. It is for this reason that our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us, “Blessed are the pure at heart for they shall see God.”

Let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali in concluding today’s meditation:
Son of God, true God who descended from the bosom of the Father and took flesh of the Holy virgin Mary for our salvation, who was crucified and buried and rose from the dead and ascended to the Father. I have sinned against heaven and before you. Remember me like the robber when I (yes?) come in your kingdom. Have mercy on your creatures and upon me a great sinner. (I Confess with Faith 4/24)

Service, the Last Stop

Armodoxy for Today: Service

We started this journey at the direction of the Church almost 50 days ago. Advent, meaning coming. We have prepared ourselves for the coming of Christ – the Nativity, or in more distinct terms, the Theophany. Preparation has been emotional, spiritual and even physical with the scriptural passages and the exercises prescribed to us by the Church.

The last stop on the Advent Journey is the passage that comes to us from the Gospel of St. Luke and is read during the last Sunday worship before Theophany. It reads as follows:

Now there was also a dispute among [the Disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (22:24-28)

This is the “last station stop,” so to speak, before the celebration of the Theophany. Having learned the lessons of the last six weeks, today we move on to service. Jesus tells us, in no uncertain terms, that he comes to us to serve and sets himself as an example for all of us to do the same: to serve one another. During his last supper with his disciples, he further demonstrates the message of service by washing the feet of the disciples (see John 13).

We find this as the last station stop because in order to serve you must first be spiritually and emotionally ready. This means you must be rid of egotism that will restrict or forbid you from serving others. Christian service is selfless, in other words, it demands that the self be put on hold while you tend to the needs of others. Without the training of the last six weeks, service would be extremely difficult because emotionally you were not at the spot to cast aside selfish pleasures to be able to help someone else. Service comes from an empathetic heart. Empathy is the result of understanding the pain of others, or walking in their shoes.

The path of Armodoxy is simple and interconnected. Today you are one step closer to the great news that Christ is in our Midst. Tomorrow, Theophany will be explained.

Let us pray, O Lord, Jesus Christ, you have given us an example of loving and serving. May we be worthy to be called your Living Body, the Church by loving and caring for others. Allow me to see the hurting world and the pain of people, and answer with my ability to serve others. Give me the strength and courage to express my love to all. Amen.


Armodoxy for Today


The Great Banquet Parable (Luke 14:12-24) is the topic of this week’s Advent Journey. Jesus presents a scenario where a man invites friends and relatives to participate in a huge banquet he has organized. One-by-one the invitees come up with excuses. In response, the organizer of the dinner party goes ahead and extends to the invitation to the those who are considered “outcasts” – to the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind. And still yet, he invites everyone from the four corners of his town to participate in the banquet.

In the time of Jesus, and still today, there was a general feeling that there are people that are “chosen” by God. This parable is a simple way of expressing a reality at the time, that Jesus, the Banquet, had come and people who were invited, that is the “chosen ones” found excuses to stay away. Instead, the banquet – the goodness the “the prize” which was assumed to be limited to a small group was accessible to everyone. The invitation was to all.

Often in religious circles, ego dominates our understanding of salvation to the point that we forget that life and the consequences of life – eternal life – are gifts from God. In the time of Jesus there were people who were certain that God and His Kingdom were accessible only to them. It’s a type of elitism that Jesus spoke against, and in fact, his outright expression might have even been the reason for his execution. This elitism could be delineated on along ethnic lines, socio-economic grounds, or even around beliefs. In other words, there are those who feel that unless you belong to a particular tribe, ethnic group, class, understanding, or even religion, you cannot access the fullness of God.

One of the tenants of Armodoxy is that we understand that God is God and we are people, that is, He is the Creator and we are the creation. If God is Father of all then we are brothers and sisters with everyone. In matters of life, whether here in earth or in heaven, the final word belongs to the Author of Life, God. For this reason, we shy away from proclamations such as “I am saved.” Salvation is the decision of God and Christ is very clear about us following, rather than setting standards and degrees of justification. To the Parable, Christ tells us those who think they are invited to the banquet, in the end, are left out with their places being taken by people they never would have assumed would be let in.

In the sight of God, there is no ethnicity, boundaries, or borders, rather we are all his children. For this reason, Francois de Salignac de La Mothe-Fenelon once said, “All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers…”

The Great Banquet Parable teaches us that all are invited to be part of God’s banquet and each of us can accept or reject the invite. It’s based on that acceptance or rejection that the banquet is filled. Tomorrow, we’ll look deeper into acceptance and rejection of the invite. I look forward to having you join us on this Advent Journey through Armodoxy.

Positive Steps

Armodoxy for Today
Positive Steps

We started our Advent Journey meeting the “Rich Fool,” a character in one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 12). In a sense, he is what we may call a negative hero, in other words, he’s the main character of the story who teaches us what not to be. Negative heroes are all too common in religious stories as well as in real life. In politics, some may vote for a candidate because s/he is not the other candidate. In business, some may choose to trade with one firm because it is not the other company. In so doing, we focus more on the negative attributes of one, instead of the positive attributes of another and in turn, we start seeing our religious obligations and responsibilities in terms of what not to do, rather than what to do.

The Advent Journey is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the message of Christmas. At the end of the journey is waiting Christ, as Gift, as Light, as Savior. The extreme and most positive expression in life will be waiting for us and we will react to that gift. That reaction is a movement, it’s a step forward in our life.

Over the past few days we looked at the Parable of the Rich Fool from a few different vantage points. At the end, if we are truthful with ourselves, we will discover that the Rich Fool is, in fact, us. Like the Rich Fool, we are each consumed by the riches and possessions which are polished by our ego, by our wants and desires. And all of these prevent us from experiencing the fullness of God and, therefore, the beauty of life.

Jesus prefaces the parable with the warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Taking this to heart, the first part of the Advent Journey is to inventory those things that matter and are important in your life and proactively, that is, take an action to celebrate the abundance of those things that matter in your life, such as your relationships, your love for others, the beauty of life that surrounds you. These are simple treasures that are accessible by all.

For today’s prayer I’d like to share with you a variation of Shnorhali’s prayer of the 9th hour, with an accent on doing: All provident Lord, give me the clearness of vision to look at the beauty around me, the sharpness of hearing to listen to the music of nature, the courage to speak words of truth, the clarity of heart to think goodness, strength to my hands to work toward justice and to my feet to walk in paths of righteousness. Guide my motions that they may be according to all your commandments. Amen.

And there I was…

Armodoxy for Today

And there I was…

Our Advent Journey continues with the parable of the ‘Rich Fool,’ as told by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. The last couple of days we have looked at this parable as the starting point for the Advent season. If you remember, on our first day of examining this parable I asked you to pay particular attention to the words expressed by, whom we now understand as, the Rich Fool.

The entire parable is all of 120 words uttered by Jesus himself. Of that count, 62 of the words, that is over 50% of the words are those attributed to the Rich Fool. And of those 50%, every one of them was about himself and articulated with I-s and My-s!

… ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?… I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’

In fact, the Fool has no regard for anyone or anything beside himself. The great minister of the Gospel and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once answered the Fool by suggesting that he could have stored the extra food, the abundance of crops, in the bellies of starving children! But any hope of extending the bounty to others is wiped out by the abundance of the I-s and My-s in the Fool’s vocabulary.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautions against calling anyone a fool, yet he has no problem designating this man with the adjective, for in fact a person who doesn’t see life beyond themselves is a fool.

Armenian Orthodoxy grew in a world where sharing the abundance of the land was a rule of life. When we see beyond ourselves, we then mimic God because we begin to speak the language of love. “Love does not seek its own,” says the Apostle (I Corinthians 13:5). We understand the beauty of the Christmas message that God so loved the world, so much so that He gave His very best. (John 3:16). When we remove the I-s and My-s from our vocabulary, we make room for so much more, especially for words such as We and Us.

Let us pray a prayer that comes from the Wedding ceremony of the Armenian Church, a ceremony that ties two into one. It is a simple prayer, “Lord, plant me as a fruitful olive tree in the House of God.”

We continue the Advent Journey tomorrow. I look forward to having you join us.


Comparison Shopping

Armodoxy for Today
Comparison Shopping

Jesus shares this story with us, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”  Jesus then tells us, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

The lessons of this parable are many, but for this Thanksgiving season, we focus on the prayer of the first man, the prayer of the Pharisee, who, by the way, was a learned man. He knew Holy Scriptures backwards, forwards and all around. His prayer, you will notice, is a prayer based on comparison. “I thank God that I am not like the other man…” he says.

If you’re listening to this podcast, it means you have some degree of electronic access, which means that you’re better-off than most people on the planet. It is easy to say thank God I am better off than most, just as the Pharisee thanked God in his prayer. Unlike comparison shopping thankfulness is not about comparing things we do or do not have with those things that others have or do not have. It’s easy to look at the blind man and be thankful for our sight. Or hear of hunger in countries menaced by famine or war and be thankful of our food and peace. Thank God, we might say, that I am not like them!

In the history of the Armenian Church, you find that the prayers of thanksgiving are offered at times of abundance as well as times of scarcity, at times of peace and at times of war and even genocide. Thankfulness is the ability to put the ego on hold, in check, and understand yourself as a part of something greater. It is the beginning of religiosity and ultimately peace.

We pray with the Psalmist (26) Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. For Your loving kindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth. I will wash my hands in innocence so I will go about Your altar, O Lord, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works. Amen.

Advent: Sin, Faith and Duty

Next Step #549: Sin, Faith and Duty are the lessons of this week in Advent in preparation for the Christmas celebration. Losing the Self and Ego, to make room for God. St. James of Nisibus. Violence in the world. Also In His Shoes programs for the season.
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