Miscellaneous ramblings - continued
The question, for Orthodox Christians in the Antiochian jurisdiction, is what to do. There is a strong temptation on my own part to act to "cleanse the temple." But until I cleanse the temple of my own spirit and body, I will have little success and indeed, the desire is one borne more out of pride.
In Matthew 23:2 Jesus tells the listeners in the temple:
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for the preach, but do not practice."
I think this is good advice even now (of course it is, coming from the Son of Man!). Rather than seek to drive out those who sit in Moses' seat, we can (obediently) observe what they preach (that is - Jesus words - if they preach another gospel that is another matter), but not what they do.
We must, as my friend Romanos constantly reminds us, do what we see Jesus doing (not the cliche WWJD style, but honest efforts to "put on Christ" - to imitate Christ - to be like him). If we cleanse the temple of our own spirits, this nonsense will soon pass away - in 10 years, in 2, maybe in 100, but it will not last against the inexorable Will.
In the meantime, what I will endeavor to do is seek for fiscal responsibility and transparency at the local parish level pursuant to local nonprofit corporate law under which the local parish is organized; and, as much as is reasonably possible, to make most contributions "in kind" to the parish (foodstuffs for the priest's family, etc.) and specifically earmark monetary contributions in such a way as to avoid financing Englewood - for I cannot trust where this money goes. It may go to support Hizbollah (through many indirect means), or the Syrian regime, or simply to line pockets of graft. It may go to wholly worthy causes. However, being unable to reasonably ascertain where the money goes, I will personally exercise discretion in contributions.
Moreover, money can be spent locally more effectively, and personal work in support of the Kingdom is better for the soul than throwing cash at some charity far off that I know little enough about. There are hungry and cold people right here.
For a friend in the Santa Clara area:
CS Lewis wrote:
"I used to ask how on earth it [faith] can be a virtue -- what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements? Obviously, I used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants to or does not want to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. If he were mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence that would not mean he was a bad man, but only that he was not very clever. And if he thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, that would be merely stupid.
Well, I think I still take that view. But what I did not see then -- and a good many people do not see still -- was this. I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But this is not so. . . .
. . . I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in. But supposing a man's reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again, his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. . . .
. . . That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where they get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.
The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?
- Mere Christianity, Ch. 11
I recently had a change to see two wild bison bulls challenge each other in Wyoming. At 35 yards when the two bulls are a bit above you on a bank, it is a terrifying and awesome thing to watch, wondering if one will slide down and crush you or turn and trample you in an effort to escape the victor.
I had the good fortune of attending Divine Liturgy with one of our local Greek parishes and was much edified.
On the farm here figs are in season, as are blackberries. Pumpkin is slow to develop this year, as are the plums, but hopefully we will have some pumpkin by mid-to-late October and have plums in a few weeks. Granny Smith apples are pickable now. Our blueberries are almost finished and the first glimmering of fruit on the persimmons (harvested in late November) is visible. Shearing is due, and getting hay in the barn, and then fall slaughter and fall breeding as we prepare for another winter.