On Christian Life

“What good is doctrine when it is merely kept hung up in the closet so that it can be worshiped?”

— Protopresbyter John S. Romanides


CHRISTIAN LIFE is rooted in faith in Christ, and shaped by actions that radiate from that faith. Without the faith, the works are impotent, and without the works, the faith is dead. How our faith is cultivated and then put into practice—or not—is usually the realm of the term “spirituality”. But saying “spirituality” can sometimes leave us forgetting that “being spiritual” means doing very concrete, material things.

The posts in this section will engage the inherent tension between faith and works or theory and practice, and will rely heavily on the teachings of the saints—whether in their words or acts—and looking at the wealth of the lived tradition of the Church for guidance in these matters.

St. Nicholas Kabasilas: Doubting the Mysteries

“But, you will say, the priests who make the offerings are not always good men; some of them are guilty of the worst vices; so we are in the same doubt as we were before. When both the offerers are displeasing to God (and this does happen) where do the offerings receive the grace to be acceptable to God and accepted, consecrated and sanctifying? Surely, they cannot receive such grace; they must be truly unacceptable. We must therefore always be in doubt, since we can know nothing of the spiritual state either of the offerer or of the priest. ‘For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him’ (1 Cor. 2:11); therefore we have serious mistrust and doubt concerning the holy mysteries, and no confidence in them. And of what use is participation in the holy mysteries to the faithful if they lack firm belief?

Such arguments might be justified, and such doubts legitimate, if one regarded the priest as sovereign lord of the offering of the gifts; but he is not. That which brings about their offering is the grace which sanctifies them, since for them, to be offered is to be sanctified […]

Grace works all; the priest is only a minister, and that very ministry comes to him by grace; he does not hold it on his own account. For the priesthood is nothing other than a ministerial power over sacred things. But from what has been said it is clear that all the offerings sanctify the faithful always, since they are always accepted by God.”

Excerpt from A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy.

Quiet

I need quiet. And I’m pretty sure a lot of you do, too.

SERVING IN one of the largest of our parishes in NYC— let alone the USA—with an office abutting a busy thoroughfare, an animated office environment, a school with hundreds of elementary- and middle-schoolers, and so on and so on, makes finding that quiet time and place quite a challenge.

Anyone who’s been in my office has seen this. When I’m in the office, this is my quiet place during the day. I often have a candle lit. I stop to pray occasionally. It’s the center of my attention when I look up from my desk.

At its center is the Cross. Christ crucified. Between two jeering thieves. Above mocking crowds. Deafened by the silent screaming pain of wounds and strain, and a heart pounding in the eardrums. Crying out, “why have you forsaken me!”

Gasping. Dying. Dead.

Quiet.

What better way to drown out mundane clatter—both that outside my head and the grumbling voice of self-pity and annoyance inside it—than to recall the noise endured for us by Christ? What better way to find gratitude for noise engendered by peace and freedom, not by war? What better way to be revived than to recall Jesus’ life-giving death?

I need quiet. We all do.

I suggest the Cross of Christ as a place to discover it, no matter where we might be.