Saint Sophia Cathedral
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Topic of the Week –The True Real Life and the False Imaginary Life
“We only call the Lord, God, but in reality we have our own gods, because we do not do the Will of God, but the will and thoughts of our flesh, the will of our heart, of our passions; our gods are – our flesh, pleasures, money, dress, etc.
What vanities, what foolish fancies often occupy most of us, even in sight of the highest, the most important objects of faith, in sight of the greatest holiness.
For instance, when a man stands before the icons of the Lord, of the Mother of God, of an Angel, of an Archangel, of one or a whole assembly of saints, at home or in the temple, and, sometimes, instead of prayer, instead of laying aside, at this time, in this place, all worldly cares, he casts up his accounts and reckonings, goes over his expenses and receipts, rejoices at the gain, and grieves at the loss of profits, or the failure of some undertaking (without, of course, a single thought of spiritual profit or loss) , or else he thinks evil of his neighbor, exaggerating his weakness, his passions, suspecting him, envying him, judging him, or if it is in church, he looks at the faces of those, standing near him, also how they are dressed, who is nice looking, and who not, or making plans what he shall do, in what pleasure or vanity he will spend the day, and so on.
And this often happens at the time when the greatest, the most heavenly Sacrament of the Eucharist, that is, of the most-pure Body and Blood of our Lord, is being celebrated; when we ought to be wholly in God, wholly occupied in meditations on the mystery accomplished for our sakes, of the redemption from sin, form the eternal curse and death; and on the mystery of our being made godly in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How low we have fallen, how earthly-minded we have become, and from what does it all proceed? From inattention, and the neglect of our salvation, from attachment to temporal things, from weakness of faith, or unbelief in eternity.” – Excerpted from My Life in Christ, Saint John of Kronstadt, p230
“Our life is child’s play, only not innocent, but sinful, because, with a strong mind, and with the knowledge of the purpose of life, we neglect this purpose and occupy ourselves with frivolous, purposeless matters. And thus our life is childish, unpardonable play.
We amuse ourselves with food and drink, gratifying ourselves by them, instead of only using them for the necessary nourishment of our body and the support of our bodily life.
We amuse ourselves with dress, instead of only decently covering our body and protecting it from the injurious action of the elements.
We amuse ourselves with silver and gold, admiring them in treasuries, or using them for objects of luxury and pleasure, instead of using them for our real needs, and sharing our superfluity with those in want.
We amuse ourselves with houses and the variety of furniture in them, decorating them richly and exquisitely, instead of merely having a secure and decent roof to protect us from the injurious action of the elements, and things necessary and suitable for domestic use.
We amuse ourselves with our mental gifts, with our intellect, imagination, using them only to serve sin and the vanity of this world — that is, only to serve earthly and corruptible things — instead of using them before all and above all to serve God, to learn to know Him, the all-wise Creator of every creature, for prayer, supplication, petitions, thanksgiving and praise to Him, and to show mutual love and respect, and only partly to serve this world, which will some day entirely pass away.
We amuse ourselves with our knowledge of worldly vanity, and to acquire this knowledge we waste most precious time, which was given to us for our preparation for eternity.
We frequently amuse ourselves with our affairs and business, with our duties, fulfilling them heedlessly, carelessly, and wrongfully, and using them for our own covetous, earthly purposes.
We amuse ourselves with beautiful human faces, or the fair, weaker sex, and often use them for the sport of our passions.
We amuse ourselves with time, which ought to be wisely utilized for redeeming eternity, and not for games and various pleasures.
Finally, we amuse ourselves with our own selves, making idols out of ourselves, before which we bow down, and before which we expect others to bow down.
Who can sufficiently describe and deplore our accursedness, our great, enormous vanity, the great misery into which we voluntarily throw ourselves?
What answer shall we give to our immortal King, Christ our God, Who shall come again in the glory of His Father to judge both the quick and the dead, to declare the secret thoughts of all hearts, and receive from us our answer for every word and deed. O, woe, woe, woe to us who bear the name of Christ, but have none of the spirit of Christ in us; who bear the name of Christ, but do not follow the teaching of the Gospel! Woe to us who ‘neglect so great salvation’! Woe to us who love the present fleeting, deceptive life, and neglect the inheritance of the life that follows after the death of our corruptible body beyond this carnal veil!”
Excerpted from St John of Kronstadt: My Life in Christ
“I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.” – Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
“As Orthodox Christian parents, we do not want to see our children forget God forever. Nor do we want them to miss out on experiencing God’s presence and appreciating His benevolence. Therefore it is imperative that we be aware of the amount of material goods we are amassing as well as how much stuff our children have been/are being given.
There are many articles available to parents to help them combat materialism in their home and with their families. Here are suggestions gleaned from a few…” On Materialism | Orthodox Christian Parenting (wordpress.com)
Elementary/Middle School:“There is, my brethren, a true, real life, and there is a false, imaginary life.
To live in order to eat, drink, dress, walk; to enrich ourselves in general, to live for earthly pleasures or cares, as well as to spend time in intriguing and underhanded dealings; to think ourselves competent judges of everything and everybody is—the imaginary life; whilst to live in order to please God and serve our neighbors, to pray for the salvation of their souls and to help them in the work of their salvation in every way, is to lead the true life.
The first life is continual spiritual death, the second—the uninterrupted life of the spirit.” – St. John of Kronstadt, Orthodox Church Quotes (wordpress.com),
How much of our days do we spend living in an imaginary life? How much do we spend living the true life? How can we learn to spend more of our time in the true life and less in the imaginary one?
“What hinders you from fulfilling Christ’s commandments?The flesh and the world: that is, pleasant food and drink which men like, in which they delight both in thought and in fact, which make the heart gross and hard—a partiality for elegant dress and adornment, or for distinctions and rewards; if the dress or adornments are made of very beautiful coloured and delicate materials, then care and anxiety arise how to avoid staining or soiling them, or getting them dusty or wet, whilst care and anxiety how to please God in thought, word, and deed vanish and the heart lives for dress and adornment, and becomes entirely engrossed in these things, ceasing to care about God and being united to Him; if such is the case with a priest, then he neglects praying for his people, and becomes not soul-loving, but money-loving and ambitious, seeking not the men themselves, but that which appertains to them, that is, money, food, drink, their favour, their good opinion and good word, and flattering them.
Therefore fight against every worldly enticement, against every material enticement that hinders you from fulfilling Christ’s commandments, love God with all your heart, and care with all your strength for the salvation of your own soul, and the souls of others, be soul-loving.” — St. John of Kronstadt, Orthodox Church Quotes (wordpress.com)
How often are we thinking about how to please God in our thoughts, words and deeds as opposed to being concerned about our possessions or what others think of us?
A Message from Maria Spanos
I am passionate about our Orthodox Christian faith and seek to help others learn as much as they can about it. My purpose here is to share online resources that help strengthen our relationship with Christ and bind us closer to His Church. I believe they are invaluable in learning about our precious Orthodox Tradition, and are a great aid for teaching family members, friends and others about Orthodoxy. ~Maria
Two of my favorite quotes:
“A true Christian behaves in this life so that it may be a preparation for the future one and not only a life here below. In his actions, he does not think what will be said of him here but of what will be said there in heaven; he represents to himself that he is always in the presence of God, of the angels and all the saints, and remembers that someday they will bear witness of his thoughts, words, and deeds.” — Saint John of Kronstadt
“Of all the holy works, the education of children is the most holy.”
— St. Theophan the Recluse