What and how are we laying a foundation for eternal life?
"Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." St. Paul to Timothy (I Tim. 6:17-19 NKJV)
Here are a couple reflections on today's epistle reading:
St. Gregory the Theologian sums it all up well: "There is one innate and trusty wealth: to use one’s substance on God and on the poor."
In case you missed it, Timm's interview with Fr. Roberto Ubertino is now available on Ancient Faith Radio. In Part 1, Fr. Roberto speaks about the theological background of the second liturgy. In Part 2, he shares examples of ways that parishes can participate in the second liturgy. Fr. Roberto is the Founder and Director of St. John the Compassionate Mission in Toronto, and the Good Neighbours Drop-in, an Orthodox community outreach in Scarborough, Ontario.
Here's an excerpt from Part 1:
"The model of life that we have is proving to be quite effective, because it’s very simple. I’m learning myself by living it. The intuition of living out the liturgy after the Liturgy actually works. It’s quite exciting to see it play out.
"We are called in the Liturgy to go forth in peace in the name of the Lord.... You continue this Liturgy wherever you go. The very nature of the Church is to manifest this new reality of the Kingdom of God that is present among us. To simply see the Liturgy as divorced from humanity, from the concrete lives of the people around which the Church celebrates the divine mysteries, seems to me to make the Liturgy, [as] St. Maximos the Confessor would say, into an idol.
"It is the sense that the Church has an intimate life and it also has an exterior life. It has a call to intimacy with God, but it also has a call to go out of itself. Only in that dynamic tension, both within and outside itself, can then the Liturgy be truly a Liturgy that gives glory to God. Otherwise, we make it into an idol, a beautiful idol, a moving idol, but it’s still something that we don’t often pay attention to. In the same writings of St. Maximos the Confessor, he speaks about how, in a profound and very strong phrase, the poor man is God. He speaks about how God suffers until the end of time in those who suffer.
"St. John Chrysostom uses another way of describing it: there are these two altars—the altar of the Lord; there are always people who want to serve there. But he then speaks about the liturgy in the marketplace, the altar of the brother, the altar of the poor, and at that altar the Lord finds very few people who are willing to serve there. In order to truly have the table of the poor, the table of the brother, you also need to have an intention in relation to the table of the Lord. And the same, the table of the Lord, when we sit at the Lord’s table, it draws us to also to the table of the poor, and it draws us to the liturgy of the marketplace. When you live those two, you really live the fullness of the faith in action.
"So we have actually built the mission in that way, where we have the two tables, and they are both cared for, liturgically both looked after in each appropriate way. Where we serve the meals, where we sit around and talk and share and welcome the stranger, there is as much care in making sure that place is dignified and conveys a meaning to who we are as images of God. There is as much care in that as there is in setting up for the Liturgy and taking care of the sanctuary. That’s concretely how it’s lived. That’s how the two realities of both living the Liturgy and the liturgy after the Liturgy come together. It’s really simple and it works."
I walked home from a class this evening and passed a couple experiencing homelessness resting on a few benches by the side of the road. They stopped their conversation and stared at me as I awkwardly walked past.
I’ve always had some internal conflict with situations like that.
You want to recognize their need, validate them as human beings, and offer helpful solutions.
All of that sounds good, but in reality, that’s a massive undertaking. How do you say all that in the few seconds that your paths cross?
Honestly, there is no good generic answer, because every situation is different. Sometimes just saying hi is enough. Sometimes a conversation happens, and you just have to remember not to dwell on their obvious needs.
It all comes down to making sure that you’re coming across in a positive, respectful, and loving way.
I mean, the adage goes that we should preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words, right? So maybe it isn’t about what we should say, but how we should act.
It’s always nice to pass someone on the street who’s smiling or laughing. It’s a positive reminder that there is still some joy in the world.
If we don’t see that positivity, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be joyful. A smile can speak louder than words.
At the minimum of our interactions with those in physical need, we should always be the loud smiler.
Ever wanted to get rid of stuff?
Looked around at your apartment, office or house, and just realized that there’s too much stuff lying around?
A month ago, Timm and I found ourselves in that situation, so for the month of October, we set the challenge of completing The Minimalism Game. In case you’re not familiar with how the game works, it goes like this:
“Find a friend or family member: someone who’s willing to get rid of their excess stuff. This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day.”
That’s right: for a 31-day month, like October, we each got rid of a total of 496 items.
At first it was easy, a couple of t-shirts here, a mug or glass there. As the month progressed though, it became harder to find things with less sentimental value. After all, who wants to get rid of those treasured memories? About a week or so from the end the game helped remind me of something.
We all have it.
It runs so much deeper than just physical items and clutter. It’s the emotions we associate with memories, the relationships that we have with each other.
We’re all made up of memories and experiences that make us who we are: we are made of baggage: memories, junk and clutter.
As the Nativity season draw near, this struggle between baggage and the minimalism game serves as a reminder for us to sweep back the cobwebs to clear that clutter from our hearts.
I recently read an article written by Dr. Albert Rossi and Julia Wicks about the Orthodox perspective on the ownership of time, and it reminded me of this decluttering mentality. Dr. Rossi, a theology professor at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, wrote the following:
“Every loss is a gift that God gives us so that He can give us more. It might be saying goodbye to high school or college days, a move from the old neighborhood, the loss of a job, the loss of physical or mental health. We might lose loved ones through separation or death. In degrees, the reactive thought might be, “This is the beginning of the end.” A more truthful thought would be, “This is the beginning of the beginning.” Death is the beginning of a new relationship with Christ, a fresh beginning of an entirely new life. Each loss and little death is a new beginning towards our ultimate beginning—heaven.”
It’s that loss, that separation, that brings the minimalism game into our spiritual life. Removing items from our lives to decrease the distractions should ultimately bring us closer to Christ. We’re all called to be in the world but not OF the world. That means that the things that tie us down, the junk, clutter, and stuff, it all means nothing. What really matters is what we have stored in the kingdom of Heaven, for as we hear at the end of the Divine Liturgy, “Lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all.”