Tag Archive for: Loving

Praying Sideways to God: The Greater than God Experience. Lent Day 11

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 11: Roasted Potato Fans!

Lenten Journey Day 11 – More Important than God
The eleventh day of Lent is a special one in the journey. Eleven is the first and only prime number of equal proportions. It reminds us of the delicate balance between body, soul and mind. It reminds us of the uniqueness of the primes as well as the uniqueness of our lives. Finding that balance in our lives, of course, is one of the reasons we are taking this journey.

Today’s message comes to us from the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 5. Here Jesus is addressing a large crowd in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon Jesus outlines a way of life and living. His message is very clear. He speaks of our relationships with one another. In so doing, he mentions that there is something more important than God.
Matthew 5:21, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said of men of old, you shall not kill and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment, but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment and whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council and whoever says you fool shall be liable to the Hell of fire.”
Christianity is really a very difficult religion to practice; in fact it has been argued that Christianity has never really been practiced because of statements such as what we read. Jesus tells us that it is not enough to say that murder is bad, but when you have evil in your heart, when you harbor that anger towards your brother, you are committing those acts of evil, those acts of murder. He is saying, “If you have anger and act upon that anger and insult your brother, or if you are angry and talk down to your sister you are already committing murder,”
If we’d like to wipe out hatred and anger from our life, then we have to pay attention to this message. It is so necessary to understanding the revolution Jesus brought. And now, if we read further, we find something even more important. In fact, it’s what Jesus says is even more important than God! As hard as that might be to believe, the Holy Scriptures points to Jesus’ words, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you leave your gift, leave your offering, and go! First be reconciled with your brother and then come and offer your gift.”
Reconciling with our brothers! Jesus is telling us it is more important than the worship of God, that is, the celebration of God. Leave your gifts at the altar. Leave God! Go reconcile with your brother and then come back to the altar! He demands that we love one another. To be able to love others is the expression that God demands of us. In that love we begin to understand the unique relationship between us and our heavenly Father.
The Christian message is about people. It’s about harmony and that peaceful existence comes about when we become part of the solution. It’s not about looking up to heaven, but reaching out to one another here on Earth. If there is going to be harmony in our lives, if there is going to be peace in this world, it’s not because I am offering a prayer upwards, but because I am offering a prayer sideways. I am reaching out to my brothers and my sisters and I am going to be the vehicle of love. I’m going to be the one who reaches out and becomes that means of reconciliation. True peace, true harmony, true existence is about us loving with one another.
“You cannot say,” say’s the evangelist John, “that you love God who you do not see when first you do not love the brother who you do see.” It is so critical in the life of the Christian that we understand this very clearly and plainly. God is Love. So let’s repeat that, “You cannot say that you love God who you do not see when first you do not love the brother that you do see.”
Our first obligation is to love one another. By this Jesus tells us we become Christian. By loving, people will know that we are truly His children.
On this eleventh day of Lent as we find harmony and balance, as body soul and mind come together, keep in mind where God wants us to be. The relationships that need to be nurtured, that need to be mended in our lives, this is a perfect time take action on them. The Lenten period is some time to go out and reach out sideways, not only vertically with God, but horizontally with God inside each of us. Reach out to the people around you to say that yes I have faltered, I have sinned. We all make mistakes, but I’m willing to rise above that imperfection and become a child of God.  
By loving one another, put away old habits and problems. Begin each day as a new creation and find that new creation in the loved ones all around me.
Let us conclude with the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:

Uncreated Essence I have sinned against you in mind, soul and body. Do not remember my former sins, for the sake of Your Holy name, have mercy upon your creatures and upon me a great sinner. Amen (I Confess with Faith 6/24)

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

The Secret Journey – Lent Day 1

Day 1: The  Lenten Journey

 “From the east to the west and throughout the entire Christian world, wherever people call on the name of the Lord in holiness, by their prayers and intercession, may the Lord have mercy upon us.”

Lenten Recipe

These are the first words of the Prayer of Sunrise from the service of the same name, Arevakal, in the Armenian Orthodox Church.  We are reminded today that just as the Sun rises from the East and travels to the West, shining its light, radiating its heat, so too we find God everywhere.  We find the presence of God everywhere and anywhere where there is life, where there is love.

On this first day of Lent, our Church Fathers direct us to the Gospel of St. Matthew asking us to keep in mind our three main obligations during the Lenten journey: Giving, prayer and fasting.  While fasting is more formulated, in other words, keeping away from meat with dietary restrictions, and while prayer gives us an opportunity for conversation, giving is the action element to the Lenten cycle. 
We will be looking at all three of these elements – giving, prayer and fasting – in  detail in the next few days. For today, as a primer, we will look at all three of them in the context we find in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, specifically from the Sermon on the Mount. 
Matthew Chapter 6: And Jesus says Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  For whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward.  For when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your alms may be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
Secondly, Jesus talks about prayer: And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by others.  Truly I tell you,  they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door.  And pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
And regarding fasting, Jesus says, And whenever you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.  Truly I tell you they have received their reward.  For when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
The first day of Lent is a time for a fresh start. Do not approach Lent as an obligation but approach it as an opportunity to grow. This 40 day period is an opportunity not a responsibility. In the Scriptural passages above we see that giving, prayer and fasting are private opportunities to build on your relationship with God. The Lenten Journey is between you and God. It is a time for reflection and introspection.
During the next 40 days you will see what is really important in your life. Remember, after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness he was tempted to change the stones into bread to feed his physical hunger. His answer, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God” is the cornerstone to the Lenten Journey. We are reminded that there is so much more to life than our physical existence. There is a soul which has spiritual hunger. These next 40 days will give you the opportunity to see what is necessary in your life. You will find that prayer, fasting and giving, will connect you to a higher reality.  Remember, it is between you and God, and God is “From the East to the West…”, that is, He is everywhere, within and without you. St. Nectarous says, “Seek God within your heart and not outside of it.”  It is just between you and God. Lent is between you and all of life.  Take advantage!  Here’s an opportunity like no other.
Let us now pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali (the Graceful): 
Oh Christ, Guardian of All, let your right hand guard and shelter me by day and by night; while home and while away; while sleeping and while awake that I may never fall.  Have mercy upon all your creatures, and upon me, a great sinner.
Cover Photo: Gregory Beylerian, 2014

Outward Love

Armodoxy for Today

Outward Love

Yesterday we made a bold proclamation by saying there was something greater than God, and Jesus pointed to it when he instructed the people to approach God only after reconciling with their brothers and sisters. St. John the Evangelist, in his letter, focuses on the reasoning behind this pronouncement.

“No one has seen God at any time,” says St. John and continues, “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. … We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. … If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (I John 4)

Love, for the Christian, is not a conceptual idea, nor is an abstract thought. Love is expressed and understood in our relationships with one other. Loving is caring. Loving is embracing. Love is real. It is God given and demanded back in return by loving and caring for others here in this lifetime.

Let us pray a prayer from the Armenian Church’s Book of Hours (Jamakirk), “Lord our God, we give thanks to You, for You have granted us to pass the day in peace. Grant us, Lord, to pass the evening and the night without sin and stumbling, and to stand firm and abide steadfastly in faith, in hope and in love, and in the observance of Your commandments. Give peace to the entire world and stability to Your holy Church and salvation to our souls. For to You is befitting glory, dominion and honor, now and forever and ever. Amen.