Tag Archive for: purity

Advent 16-50: Oaths

Advent Day 16 of 50: Oaths

By this time, still in the early part of the Sermon on the Mount, we are understanding that what we are hearing, is uniquely Jesus Christ. “Those of old” have heard one thing, but today, we are hearing, “But I say to you.” And thus far, the message plain and simple, is about the sincerity of our expressions.

Jesus was reacting to the times. Religion had become mechanical, non-relevant and therefore meaningless. Matthew records that the religious elite, the Pharisees, were criticizing Jesus on multiple fronts. On one occasion (chapter 15), Jesus’ disciples were eating in a manner not prescribed by the Law of the Jews. Jesus taught that it was not, “what goes into the mouth [that] defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

The words we speak reflect the purity of our heart. And so, the next teaching we encounter in the Sermon on the Mount is about oaths, the words that come from our mouth, and thus proceed from our heart.

Jesus says, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

An oath is the ultimate statement of one’s sincerity. To this day, oaths are taken to mean a person’s complete commitment to his or her promise. It is a vow solidified by some higher power. For this reason, often public oaths are taken on the holy scriptures, in sanctified spaces, or in the presence of a representative of ruling authority.

Jesus’ commandment is that we refrain from oaths that we cannot keep. Thus far, he has given a higher standard of living than what the religious community was handing out. Remember, murder is not only killing, but it is defined by anger. Likewise, adultery is the lustful conditions leading to the act. Jesus’ standard is a higher standard, and he cautions that we be honest and say nothing more than yes or no.

Let us pray, from the 17th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer, You who bring back the wanderers, turn me from my evil ways to good ones and imprint upon my soul the recollection of the dreadful day of death, the fear of hell and the love of Your Kingdom that I may repent from my sins and do righteousness. Have mercy on me. Amen.

Cover: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Advent 12-50: Control

Advent Day 12 of 50: Control

Yesterday we discovered that Jesus’ teaching about adultery is about fidelity in the context of a broader demand for sincerity. Jesus separates action from thought – what we may refer to as premeditation – the thoughts that lead to actions.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus continues, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

Jesus uses hyperbole, for sure, in an attempt to draw attention to the difficulty of disciplining the senses. As we learned in the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount, that is, in the Beatitudes, harnessing our power is essential to spiritual growth. The struggle between the physical and spiritual life is ever present and Jesus refers to this duality throughout his ministry. Most glaringly in the Garden of Gethsemane, he challenges the disciples to stay awake with him as he prays, but he also knows the physical weakness they will succumb to and identifies it as, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

The teaching on adultery, is an invitation to take control of our most innate and powerful physical urges. It is a call to open ourselves to the honesty and control of our expression and to the limits of our physical abilities. The sin is not the physical act alone, but the lust that draws us to the physical act. Herein is the challenge to rise and ascend to the spiritual realm, where lust is controlled to prevent the sinful act. In honesty and control we find purity. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

We pray today from the 8th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer, O Searcher of secrets, I have sinned against you, willingly and unwillingly, knowingly and unknowingly. Grant me forgiveness for since my birth from the baptism font to this day, I have sinned before you Lord, with all my senses and with all the members of my body. Have mercy upon me, a sinner. Amen.


Sincerity and Purity

Armodoxy for Today: Sincerity & Purity

Throughout his ministry, Jesus associated with a wide variety of people. You could say that his circle of acquaintances – friends, associates – was diverse. Jesus was often criticized by the religious community of the day for this association with sinners. We read in scripture, (Luke 5) that the Pharisee rebuked Jesus for eating with sinners, to which Jesus responds, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

In fact, Jesus tolerated and associated with everyone. Most notably many remember that he forgave the adulterous (John 8) and included the tax collector (Matthew 9) in his inner circle. The tax collector, we should remember, was considered among the lowest of the low because he was a Jew collecting taxes for the oppressive Roman government. Yes, he accepted them all, but for one. The one person for whom Jesus showed contempt and criticized was the hypocrite. The hypocrite was the one who said one thing with his mouth and lived another way with his life. The Pharisees were the teachers and keepers of the law. They knew scriptures backwards and forward, they gave a tenth of their income to the Temple, but Jesus called them out as “blind guides.” (Matthew 23) He said, 27 “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

For Jesus, sincerity and the pureness of heart is central to being in the Kingdom of God. His invitation to become as children (Matthew 18) was an invitation to sincerity and purity of heart.

(For the last couple of days we’ve been looking at the phenomena of Arev Children in Yerevan.) Fr. Gregor, who founded the Arev Children after his child was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, works with these children daily. He has formed a theatre, where the Arev Children perform by reciting poetry, playing music and dancing. But their greatest asset is their sincerity.

According to Fr. Gregor, “It is not possible to be next to the Arev-children and not learn from them to love and see only the good in people.”

As we spent time with the Arev children, Fr. Gregor’s words resonated with more and more meaning. The children are pure and sincere. They laugh, they smile and they hug, and there is nothing insincere about any of their expressions. Every bit of the love they share comes for the deepest depth of their soul.

In these children we see only good. We realize how superficial our lives have become because we identify people by what we observe on the outside. God, looks into the depth of our heart and sees what is real. We refer to a child as having Down Syndrome while God identifies them as the ones who love, laugh, smile and hug with complete sincerity. Fr. Gregor’s Arev Children give us a chance to see beauty that comes from the soul. We understand the value of sincerity and how it is missing in the world. We now understand the words of our Lord Jesus as we read in Matthew chapter 18:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.… See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Learn more about the Arev Children at their Facebook page

Social Waste

Next Step #533: The Coptic pope orders monks and himself off social media after a bishop’s murder: Lessons on waste of life and purity. The power of turning OFF. Challenging limits of critical mass in bringing about change. The Courage to Be: Anxiety of Death and Fate and the answers. Proper aligning of the self with the technology.
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Catholicos Vazken I Scrapbook
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