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Δευτέρα, 11 Νοεμβρίου 2013

The mountain of your ego

 
D o you believe in God? Good. Do you confess Jesus Christ as Son of God? Excellent. Your challenge now is to acquire and grow in the Holy Spirit producing the fruits of faith. Your heart is like a garden which is warmed by the sunshine of the Father and into which the seed of faith in Christ is planted. Your faith, however, will not grow, strengthen, and mature unless it is watered by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

This grace not only softens our heart for humbly accepting faith in God, it nourishes it to keep it strong. Like any garden, your heart needs to be tended. It must be fed, watered, protected and pruned in order to bear fruit. If you truly believe that the Eucharistic cup holds the mystical Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, your faith will be fed. The blessed Holy Spirit will water your faith in worship as it pours down from heaven upon those who worship God in spirit and truth. The garden of your heart is protected by the loving boundaries set by the Church for healthy and righteous living.  And the pruning of your garden is effected by your honest repentance whereby you seek to cut-back if not uproot the sinful weeds that threaten to choke your faith. If tended carefully and well, the garden of your heart will grow and mature and reward you with much spiritual bounty.

However, this is not an automatic process. You cannot take it for granted. You cannot go on "autopilot." You must constantly strive to not only maintain the faith you have, but increase it with love and glory for God. Do you only come to Church when it is convenient? Do you only pray to Christ when you need help? Do you practice personal prayer and devotion outside of Church? Do you have a personal prayer rule you try to follow? Perhaps you could use the daily readings of the Church in combination with your heartfelt prayers as a first step to getting started. A few quiet minutes before your icons and candles is a blessed way to begin and end the day.

If you do not tend the seed of faith that wants to grow in your heart, the weeds of ego will slowly, silently, and surely begin to crowd it out. Instead of fruits of righteousness, your heart will become a bed of wildness. Given a brief opportunity, the thorns of pride and greed will flourish, not to mention lust and anger. When these have firmly taken root, their fruit of doubt and despair, hopelessness and fear will burst open with all manner of foul expression. As if this were not bad enough, the rot enjoins gluttony, envy, and sloth to seek their company making the later condition of disorder worse than the first. But it does not have to be this way.
A tended garden produces the fruits of the Holy Spirit in ever increasing abundance; fruits such as love,joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These are good, true, and healthy. They grant purpose, direction, and hope to those with faith in Christ. Does this sound all too grand and theoretical? Consider St. Peter. He was a close personal friend of Jesus Christ and a member of Christ's inner circle. And yet, his faith was immature; at least at first. He abandoned Christ at His arrest and denied knowing him not once, but three times before it was all over. Second only to the noxious betrayal of Judas, the abandonment by Peter had to be most bitter indeed. And yet, Peter did not give up.

Washed by personal tears of repentance and a possessing a love that would not give up, Peter openly preached the risen Christ and eventually gave his life as a martyr. His writings reflect a man who had grown and matured in faith to exhibit grace and wisdom; a far cry from the impetuous, uneducated fisherman he had started out as. Faith in Christ grows with effort. If left alone, it slowly withers; choked by neglect. If nurtured through regular prayer and worship, it will better endure the trials and tribulations of this life granting that peace of mind and strength of heart we all seek. But, we have to work for it.

It is written: "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." If you want to acquire the Holy Spirit, you will have to humble the mountain of your ego before the ocean of God's grace. It may not be for the faint of heart, but it is well worth it.

BY FR. JOHN WALLACE

source:Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC.

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