C.S. Lewis: The Great Divorce

Why You Should Read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" | Catholic World ...

I’ve been attending my local Orthodox parish since September and I’m looking forward to my upcoming baptism into the Orthodox Church. I’ve ventured out a bit more into the social aspects of the church by attending the Lady’s Group. It’s a study group in a book club type format. Presently we are reading The Great Divorce written by, C.S. Lewis. For me, it is a refreshing change from the fill-in-the-blank bible studies I’ve become accustomed to, but never really liked. Some, like me, enjoy this format while others struggle with the lack of traditional structure and conformity of read and answer ‘here’ type studies.

Conviction from an Orthodox brother in Christ.Kind of sounds like something Piper or Spurgeon would say...or what Jesus clearly demonstrates in the Word...hmm...:

As I said, I am enjoying the study but it is sad to read about people unwilling to give up their passions for the Ultimate Passion… Christ. Also, because I am going to be baptized soon, as I read the book, it is helping me to remember items that need to be added to my life confession I will be doing with my priest soon. Believe it or not, little memes I run across on Pinterest, as well as reading books on the lives of the ancient fathers and their experience with confession, sin, and temptation are helping me not to be too panicked about baring my life’s dirt to a priest. This concept is unheard of in protestant churches and is very new to me. As a protestant, I would confess to God, or my husband and hope no one else ever caught wind of what I did because people, especially Christians, can be incredibly judgmental. I have also been judgmental, and it is something I work on everyday. It is something I work on with the help of; the writings of the ancient fathers, (a resource not available in protestant churches sadly), my priest, the weekly opportunities for prayer & worship in my temple, and my at home prayer life.

As I said, this is all very new to me because in protestant churches, especially evangelical and charismatic churches, sin seems to be encouraged as a way for the grace of God to move in our lives. I call it ‘The Chili Dog Gospel’. Why? Because I have heard many pastors say that since scripture tells us we can tread on poisonous things and not be harmed, we should also be able to eat ‘poisonous’ things, like chili dogs, and not be harmed. ‘Go ahead and eat that chili dog and watch God move mightily in your life!!’. Um, no thanks I’d rather not eat it, fast & pray and see what happens when I move in obedience. There is very little talk, at least that I ever heard in the churches I attended, about giving things up for our sanctification. Sanctification was not something openly spoken about or encouraged. What does all this have to do with, The Great Divorce’?  This is a book that talks about the things that people do that they are unwilling to give up in ordered to be perfect as Christ is perfect. From homosexuality, to one’s intellect, to one’s ‘rights’ (the right to be offended, angry, greedy, respected, etc.) to people not wanting to give up what they perceive as security even though it keeps them in hell. Lewis lays it all out for examination by the reader. ‘Pick one or all that apply.’, he seems to be saying. Even now, over 70 years since its writing and publication, it is relevant in the life of, Believers.

St. Seraphim of Sarov:
Is being judgmental of others your passion?

People these days like to think they are, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’. What do these words mean? If you are not willing to give up whatever sin you are justifying with these words, they are just as much a chain holding you back from heaven as they’ve ever been. We are not the first generation to use those words, or to try and talk ourselves out of giving something up we love… our ‘pet sin’. Is the need to always be seen as being right important to you? Is it so important that you are willing to give up the blessings that come from being a peacemaker? Trust me, there are more blessings from God for those who are peacemakers than those who are willing to assassinate relationships in order to be right. Interestingly enough, I don’t know of a single person who was argued into the kingdom of God…do you?

One of my favorite quotes from Saint Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox
St. Seraphim of Serov Orthodox has a word of knowledge for you if you love to stir things up and cause strife in your life and the lives of those around you.

Our passions are creating a spirit of disunity within our churches and our communities. Not only do they separate us from God, but from one another as well.

People’s passions against icons keep them out of the Orthodox Church.  Here is one that you might enjoy. You’re welcome.

Creation of the sun:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Here we see, Jesus or the Word of God, creating the universe.) This is an Orthodox icon.
Christian Art: Thomas Blackshear and Thomas Kinkade
This is a protestant icon. Just in case your passion is iconoclasm.

This bit about icons is a bit off track but not too much as there are those who are passionately against icons and yet are ok with nativity sets, Easter eggs, crosses, etc. All of which, including our bibles, are icons. I just wanted to show those who are passionately against icons and point fingers at the Orthodox church that protestants also have icons. They just call them ‘Christian art’. This iconophobia is just an example of a passion that needs to be given to the Lord. The passion that only fill-in-the-blank bible studies are real bible studies is another passion that can be given up. We all have them. Some people refuse to try anything new unless it was their idea first and they were able to lead their friends and family to it. This passion causes them to lose out on so much!

I hope this partial review (more to come possibly) has given you food for thought about the passions you hold on to that are holding you back from a more mature, complete, and fulfilling relationship with God. Oh, how I wish this book was read in schools all across America! Would people, ‘get it’? Would it help us to be more unified and to let some things go that we needlessly hold on to that are killing us and our communities? Or would most people read it and think it is for someone else but not for them?

If you’re looking to change your community, you must first be changed. How? How do we transform our communities, our places of work, school and worship through ourselves?

May I recommend asking God to show you right now your passions that are interfering with your sanctification? Then, if you’re Orthodox, take them to your priest and confess before Sunday and enjoy a Liturgy and Eucharist free from hidden passions/sins. What a weight will be lifted from your shoulders! If we do not kill our passions, they become our idols. They interfere with our sanctification, drawing nearer to God and our quest for perfection. I’m actually looking forward to my life confession. With appropriate trepidations of course. It’s not going to be fun, but it will be freeing.

I’m working on it. Lord have mercy.

 

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What happened last night

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Angels | TOM PERNA

The last couple of weeks have been rough. A dear family member was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I have had strep throat. My husband does not like it that I’m going to an Orthodox Church but praise God, he has not asked me to stop going. On the way to church last night for vespers, I prayed and asked God to give me a sign if I was supposed to stop attending this church. I was so excited to get there as it had been two Wednesdays since I had walked through those blessed doors. I picked up some candles in the narthex. a big red glass candle for the person with cancer, a small beeswax taper for myself, and hubby. Approaching the icons and lighting the candles, I start crying. Softly at first then, by the time I reach the large icon of Mary to the left of the holy doors, I’m sobbing. If she had been in physical form, I would have collapsed in her arms. What a blessing it was to be in the presence of such good friends. The love, the comfort, the peace. I make it to the back of the sanctuary and collapse into one of the tiny chairs that line the wall. I fumble in my purse for an unused tissue. A lady I had said, ‘hello’ to in the parking lot ambles up to me (she must use a cane to walk) and hands to me several tissues she had clutched in her hand. She asks me if I need anything, ‘prayer’ I say. While we talk, the parish priest, Fr. Anthony comes up to us. He squats down in front of me. ‘Melissa?’ he asks to confirm my name. I’m new there and we have spoken a bit over emails and in passing but there are over 200 people at this church. ‘Yes.’ I reply. ‘Did you still want to be a catecumen?’ he asks. (I had mentioned it to him in an email that I had wanted to make it official, then I came down with strep so it had not yet happened.) ‘Yes!’ I confirm with enthusiasm. In my mind I’m thinking; Yes, I want to be part of this church. Yes, I want to make it official! Yes, I want to, I want to, I want to!

Last night, standing at the back of my church, I officially became a catecumen.

... Victorian Religious Print Simply to Thy Cross I Cling Large | eBay
This is how I feel these days about going to the Orthodox Church. Clinging to it in the midst of the storms of life. It is my refuge.

So, it’s official. I’m walking that path facing East. What an interesting answer to prayer. Lord have mercy.

Do you fear the world?

 

Galatians 2:11-16 (Epistle)
11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.13And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Do you wish to go deeper in your spiritual walk but you are concerned about what friends, family and the world (co-workers, etc.) might say? ‘Who cares’? Would be the simple answer, but we see that even Peter, on whom Christ built His church, had issues with appearances. People claim we all should be individuals and yet, when our individuality leads to an outward show of our identity in, and love for, Christ- we are labeled as weird. We who just want to go deeper in our spiritual walk can be labeled as being a religious zealot for observing fasts and feast days. Branded as old fashioned, or culturally out of sync, for wearing a head covering, or lighting a candle.

One of the things I like about the Orthodox Church is that, no one cares if you get it exactly right or if you do something that modern church goers would consider, ‘goofy’ because pretty much everything done by Orthodox church goers looks bizarre to people unaccustomed to what they see happening in an orthodox church. The first time I saw ‘DOX’ church goers get down on their knees and put their foreheads on the floor I about ran out of the building. That was definitely NOT part of my church experience growing up.

Many protestants are hearing God lead them to the Orthodox Church. My journey has been on going for about 2-3 years now. I did not start my journey looking for Orthodox Christianity. I began it studying head covering. I’ve looked into other, more traditional forms of churches and communities but none of them has stayed with me beyond the respect of an outsider looking in. I began attending services at the Orthodox temple closest to me last year. Due to certain commitments, and some things that happened, I had to stop attending for a bit. During this time, the Lord spoke to me and told me to stop going to the church I had been attending. People don’t like it when you stop attending their church and tell them it was a directive from God. If that church is good enough for them, why is it not good enough for you? It has nothing to do with that but everything to do with my desire to be obedient to God. Even though scripture tells us to be obedient… even THAT raises eyebrows because of the can of worms opened up when you claim to hear the voice of God. Everyone talks about it, but no one really expects other people to be able to hear from God especially if they themselves do not hear from Him.  I never do what I do as a poke in the eye to those around me. I do it in obedience and it is interesting to see how it can open a new level of communication between the Lord and I. However, as the aforementioned scriptures speak, no Christian should feel they are able to live in sin while telling those around them that they are bad people destined for hell. Every person’s spiritual walk could be picked apart but that is not what we are here to do. While we are here, we are to love, feed, heal, repent of our own sins, walk in obedience, forgive, walk in humility, deny our flesh, and (among many other things) make sure that we are righteous; all the while making ourselves available to those around us in Christ-like brotherly love.

If God is telling you to visit people in the hospital then go. If He is telling you to stop going to this church and to go instead to this other church… GO. Your obedience and loyalty belong to God and not to any church leader, co-worker, family member, etc. God’s ways are not our own. That is something for which I am SO thankful!!! God’s rewards are also beyond our comprehension. God never has and never will lead anyone astray. Trust Him and lean not on your own understanding.

I feel as though someone young man is going to read this who has questions about whether or not to go to Orthodox seminary to become a priest. God is telling me to tell you ‘yes, do it’.

That’s all for now. Lord have mercy.