19 February 2008

Strong Words, as Father Would Say...

2 Peter 2:9-22

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous [are they], self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption: And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, [as] they that count it pleasure to riot in the day-time. Spots [they are] and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: they have a heart exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Who have forsaken the right way, and gone astray, following the way of Balaam [the son] of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling [words] of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, [through much] wantonness, those that had quite escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for by whom a man is overcome, by the same is he brought into bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it hath happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and, The sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.
So, that's today's Epistle reading from the lectionary. There are so many, many times that I feel precisely like the vomiting dog, or the once-washed sow. I remember, very often, the words from the Canon of Repentance: "Why dost thou wrong the poor man? Why dost thou hate thy brother? Why dost thou pursue lust and pride? O my sinful soul, what is this thou hast desired?" Why is it that knowing the right, I choose the wrong? Why is it that having tasted the fount of immortality, I should choose to drink from the polluted mires of sin?

The sad and sorry truth is, I obviously am not so far along the road to salvation as I like to think. I am constantly telling my friends that are fence-sitting about belief that they cannot understand who Jesus Christ is in their heads--that they have to come to perceive it with their hearts, with the nous. And yet, here I am, still trying to do precisely that: to make my salvation into a psychological experience. God, cleanse Thou me a sinner, and have mercy upon me! How is it that I can know the route and the destination, and yet cannot seem to find even the modicum of motivation to walk down it? I crawl, like some infant, around the start of the path, while the race runs past me. Lord, have mercy upon thy unprofitable servant, and deliver me from my many transgressions!

I suppose this is the best time of the year to come to these sorts of realizations about yourself; Lent has a wonderful way of sharpening the perceptions about one's self, and one's sinfulness. I shall leave today with the prayer after the Canon of Repentance, which I really ought to say every day:

Lord Christ our God, Who hast healed my passions through Thy Passion, and hast cured my wounds through Thy wounds, grant me who have sinned greatly against Thee tears of compunction. Transform my body with the fragrance of Thy life-giving Body, and sweeten my soul with Thy Holy Blood from the bitterness with which the foe has fed me. Lift up my downward looking mind to Thee, and take it out of the pit of perdition, for I have no repentance, I have no compunction, I have no consoling tears, which uplift children to their heritage. My mind has been darkened through earthly passions, I cannot look up to Thee in pain. I cannot warm myself with tears of love for Thee. But, O Lord Jesus Christ, Treasury of good gifts, give me thorough repentance and a diligent heart to seek Thee; grant me Thy grace, and renew in me the likeness of Thy image. I have forsaken Thee - do not forsake me! Come out to seek me; lead me up to Thy pasturage and number me among the lambs of Thy chosen flock. Nourish me with them on the grass of Thy Holy Mysteries. By the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother and all Thy saints. Amen.

Pax vobiscum+


Brigitte said...

Strong, convicting words indeed! I recently sort of rediscovered the Canon of Repentance and I really like the idea of praying its final prayer every day.

Btw, do you plan to get the new study Bible? There is such controversy around it. I understand the cautions about studying the Bible Protestant-style, but I also see the benefit of the Fathers' words and having an Orthodox Bible with the books in their proper order. Thoughts?

Justinian said...

I've already ordered mine. I have one of the NT + Psalms already. Yeah, I dislike some of the stuff in the commentaries in it; but it was done by the EOC folks before and just after they became canonical...they recognize that it was flawed. But, I think the effort is important, and a good study bible, with appropriate commentary from the fathers, is something the Orthodox desperately need.

That being said, the Old Testament translation, even if it is far from perfect, is absolutely essential because of the effort to translate the books of the Septuagint text, and to keep them in their proper order.

You know, St. John of Kronstadt press is publishing lots of bible commentaries by the Fathers. In fact, they have a whole set of St. John Chrysostom's commentaries on the gospels, in hardback, for $80. I've been thinking seriously about acquiring those too. I've become very lax about bible study, even before I became Orthodox, but it's something that I need to get back to--but, I've truthfully been afraid of it because I don't want to get into the problems of private interpretation. I've been saying that good commentaries are exactly what we need--from the Fathers, not from modernist scholars (especially not those from St. Vlad's or Holy Cross!).

Yeah, I think I'm going to add the prayer to my rule for the duration of Lent--to remind me what I need.