Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I bow down to Thee, O Master; I bless thee, O Good One; I beseech Thee, O Holy One; I fall down before Thee, O Lover of mankind; and I glorify Thee, O Christ; for Thou, O Only-begotten master of all, O Only Sinless One, wast, for the sake of me, an unworthy sinner, given up to death on the cross in order to free the soul of a sinner from the bondage of sin.

And how shall I repay Thee, O Master? Glory to Thee, O Lover of mankind! Glory to Thee, O Merciful One! Glory to Thee, O Longsuffering One! Glory to Thee, Who forgivest every fall into sin!

Glory to Thee, Who didst descend to save our soul! Glory to Thee, Who didst take flesh in the womb of the Virgin! Glory to Thee, Who didst suffer bondage! Glory to Thee, Who didst accept scourging! Glory to Thee, Who was made an object of humiliation! Glory to Thee, Who wast crucified! Glory to Thee, Who was buried!

Glory to Thee, Who didst rise from the dead! Glory to Thee, of Whom the prophets spoke! Glory to Thee, in Whom we have believed! Glory to Thee, Who didst ascend into heaven! Glory to Thee, Who didst sit with glory at the right hand of the Father and Who art coming again with hosts of angels to judge every soul that has scorned Thy holy passion!

In that anxious and dreadful hour when the heavenly powers are roused, when all the angels, archangels, seraphim and cherubim will stand with fear and trembling before Thy glory, when the foundations of the the earth will be shaken, and when all that breathes will be terrified by the incomparable greatness of Thy Glory--in that hour mayest Thou take me under Thy wing and may my soul be delivered from the terrible fire and from the gnashing of teeth, from outer darkness and eternal lamentation, that I may bless Thee and say: Glory to Him Who has desired to save a sinner according to the great compassion of His mercy!

- St. Ephraim the Syrian, a Spiritual Psalter, No. 2

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Discipleship and the Cross - A Meditation on Bonhoeffer's ideas

In the Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer argues against the "cheap grace" of his day in the Lutheran and other Protestant churches (I suppose) wherein obedience and suffering are not necessary. His life is an object lesson in the reality of a Christian walk, and a stern reminder to us in this country where it seems we tend to want health, wealth, and expect a merciful Lord to simply say: "it's OK, John, I know you didn't 'mean' to do it! Come, good and faithful (wishing) servant, enter in to the Joy of your Lord!"

The first thing Bonhoeffer points out is that there is a call to discipleship which insists on rote obedience. He seems to parse this a little too finely in showing that faith follows on obedience, whereas I think this is perhaps too clinical, too mechanical a view. Nonetheless, I agree that where faith is lacking, obedience is still necessary. In this great discussion of "the Call" he focuses ultimately on the rich young ruler and the insistence of our Lord that nothing come between our Lord and his disciple - every attachment, stratagem, argumentative device, even hiding behind the law as a means to avoid obedience, is to be, as Bonhoeffer says, abandoned in the face of the call. Thus, when riches are thrown up as a roadblock to true obedience to the call of the Eternal Logos speaking face to face to him, Jesus commands the rich ruler to cast them aside and follow him.

Having set the stage, Bonhoeffer then turns to the matter of discipleship. He argues that discipleship is bound up in suffering and rejection:

"Had he only suffered, Jesus might have been applauded as the Messiah. All the sympathy and admiration of the world might have been focused on his passion. It could have been viewed as a tragedy with its own intrinsic value, dignity, and honour. But in the passion Jesus is a rejected Messiah. His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory. It must be a passion without honour. Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus. To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men.

. . .

Jesus must therefore make it clear beyond all doubt that the "must" of suffering applies to his disciples no less that to himself.

. . .

The disciple must say to himself the same words Peter said of Christ when he denied him: 'I know not this man.' Self-denial is never just a series of isolated acts of mortification or asceticism. It is not suicide, for there is an element of self-will even in that. To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. Once more, all that self-denial can say is: 'He leads the way, keep close to him.'

He then turns to suffering and rejection:

"To endure the cross is not a tragedy: it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ . . . It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. . . Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God. Each must endure his alloted share of suffering and rejection. But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom, while others he does not allow to be tempted beyond what they are able to bear. But is the one and the same cross in every case.

. . .

Jesus' summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life. The call to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life. The call of Christ, his baptism, sets the Christian in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil. Every day he encounters new temptations, and every day he must suffer anew for Jesus Christ's sake. The wounds and scars he receives in the fray are living tokens of this participation in the cross of his Lord. But there is another kind of suffering and shame which the Christian is not spared. . . the Christian also has to undergo temptation, he too has to bear the sins of others; he too must bear their shame and be driven like a scapegoat from the gate of the city. . . And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross of Christ in which I now share."

I will tell you, friends, that this dying daily is a fearful thing, in my opinion. It is where I fail my Lord constantly.

More to follow . . .

Caveat: Recently mired in recurring besetting sin, I do not offer this meditation by way of preaching; it is a meditation in order to repent, refocus, and move forward. I post it for record, and for only a small hope another may find some reflection wherein the image of the Logos Incarnate may be glimpsed - not because of me, but because of that great cloud of witnesses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Miscellaneous Observations

Things I thought I'd write about in this post, but then decided I wouldn't after all:

- The Antiochian Archdiocese Board of Trustees' decision to have an internal audit and what a bad business decision that was;

- Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon's Pastoral Ponderings podcast and its thinly veiled shot at Ochlophobe Owen White, and the subsequent large number of comments generated by Owen's responsive blog post (at last check, there were 98 comments - sheesh!);

- Comments made here and there in the Orthodox blogosphere about how we ought to get out of Afghanistan, and quick;

- On the continued erosion of any sense of private life in this country

In the end, I decided none of this would be useful other than to allow me a place to vent, albeit with the secret hope that someone would read my post with high approbation.


I am thankful for a friend that lent me some of Forster's Hornblower series - a good read, and far better (in my estimation - sorry fans) than the Patrick O'Brien novels. I am particularly pleased to have the loan of a "handbook" written by the author which is replete with maps and notes and short discussions about the places featured in the novels.

I am in awe of the windstorm we had last night - truly a wild one, but thankfully we sustained no damage.

I am happy to report our freezer is filled with nearly 90 lbs of lamb for the winter and early tasting reveals it to be all we had hoped - quite mild but flavorful and reflective of having finished on grass. Given the fast, we will next have lamb probably for Christmas. We are thankful for this

I am also happy to report that we quite likely have both ewes successfully bred for next year and everyone is in good condition going into the Winter.

I am anxiously watching the persimmons come on - should have some ready to go by next week! Persimmon pudding is (God willing) soon to be in our future!

AMC is playing "The Prisoner" (c. 1967) on demand on Comcast or streaming on AMC. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the original episodes.

Finally, friend John (Terry) Cowan has some interesting recent posts over at Notes from a Common-place Book.