Tag Archives: Holy Communion

Christianity makes no sense.

Christianity makes no sense.

At least not rationally, and this is a problem for a large population of the world. The concept of a sort of “meta-person” who exists and has the ability to create, control and interact with creation can be a difficult concept for some, but the idea that that person could then die, and that be a good thing, complicates it exponentially. In a letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote:

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Even two-thousand years ago the idea of a god which which died, and yet was supposed to be all powerful, didn’t quite make sense. For the Jews, whose history had been filled with wonderous events such as the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the first born in Egypt, the gift of mana from the skies and many others, the death of a person whom these new Christians said was of the same essence of the God they worshiped did not seem miraculous at all; perhaps more blasphemous!

For the Greeks, who valued above all wisdom, and who were steeped in the traditional philosophies of giants such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, the Stoics, the Pythagoreans, and a number of others, the conclusions of Christianity couldn’t not (and cannot) be arrived at through an archetypal rationalistic method.

At the beginning of his letter, the Apostle tells us:

Brethren, among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.

Christianity does not make sense, if we try to understood with the wisdom or rationality of the current age. This was true two millennia ago, and still true today. This age is ruled by science, which while by no means is a bad thing in of itself (I shudder to imagine what life would be like without the knowledge we have now), what is bad is the individual and collective egotism which can come from it.

We have learned so much about the universe around us; from how what goes on on the surface of the sun affects what goes on here on earth, to how a malfunction in a single gene of our genetic code can have profound effects on the body. We have used this knowledge to take control of our world, to build communities of previously unimaginable sizes and manipulate our environment to sustain them, to chase away the dark with perpetual light, to fight back against illnesses that would previously ravage our bodies with little to no opposition, and to build machines which allows us to communicate instantly any where in the world, manufacture goods with almost no human interaction and carry us across vast distances.

These are all good things. But these things have also caused us to believe that if something exists, we can find it,  and that if something needs to be known or done, we have the power to do it; it has caused us to believe that we can do anything that we need to, on our own.

The Orthodox Church teaches us that this is what was the downfall of humanity, represented in the persons of Adam and Eve, this belief that our wisdom is so great that we do not need God and figure everything out on our.

In the quote above, the Apostle mentions that he and his fellow workers impart a secret and hidden wisdom, one which does not pass away as does the wisdom of the rulers of the age. More importantly, it’s a wisdom that God has instituted for our glorification.

When humanity was first created, God created us for the purpose of communion, communion with each other and with Himself. We created in such a way that we had unlimited potential to grow closer and closer to Him, to share in the love and communion which the Holy Trinity has among each person. This was our glory; that we could become increasingly more like God in love and to share in His divine light. God created us with free will so that the extent to which we grew closer to Him was dependent on us, that the love which was to be shared would be real and not imposed.

However it is also this free will which caused our turning away from Him. The tree from which the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve came was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this way the author of Genesis conveys the idea that humanity took it upon itself to learn of the world and decided that it did not need God anymore to make moral decisions. When this decision was made, humanity turned away from the Giver of Life, and ventured out into the darkness by itself.

Due to this, God gave humanity the Divine Commandments, to give us a guideline on what was good and what we should be doing, to act as a yardstick of morality. The commandments are not a way to eternal life, they are not salvation; rather they show the way of death, and create sin by saying that any action which went against the commandments, was a sin, a turning away from God.

The Logos, the Word of God, then became incarnate in the person of Jesus. God Himself married his divine nature to our human nature and in doing so He healed the sickness which the turning away from God had created and refreshed our souls. God made it possible for our nature to receive a fresh start and to return to the state it was in when humanity was first created.

And lastly, to return to the point of contention at the beginning of this post, Jesus, God incarnate, died. Up until this point, when the body died the soul could not return God, since in life it had turned away and lost the glory which had been ascribed to it. Having turned away from the Source of Life, the soul was shut out the Kingdom of Life. Jesus’ soul too went down into death, but, being divine and the Source of Life the bonds of death could not contain Him. The divine nature broke the bonds of death and “shattered the gates of Hades,” making it so that those who had turned back to Him in life could not be prevented from returning to him after it.

This is the wisdom of God that the rulers of the age did not and continue not to understand. This is the “foolishness” of God that wiser than the wisdom of man. God did not die, he destroyed death. The wisdom of this age cannot understand the wisdom of God because it is temporary, while the wisdom of God has been since the very beginning.

No, Christianity doesn’t make a bit of sense if one attempts to arrive at it from a rational, self-contained, temporal understanding. It is not something we can hope to understand on our own because it is something completely outside of us; we cannot see it, we cannot arrive at it from cause and effect, we cannot deduce it from the evidence around us – ironically though, what Christianity teaches is a bigger miracle than was ever revealed to the Jews and it is a more profound and sublime wisdom than the Greeks could ever conceive:

It is the miracle, wisdom and gift of life itself.


Nothing else did You ever desire or seek from me, and nothing else do You desire or seek from me now.

Almighty King of heaven and earth! Who made You enter my unworthy heart, when I am accursed, and poor, and blind, and naked? No one, of course, but Your immeasurable love for me. O uncreated love! O love most sweet! What do You want of me, beggar that I am? Nothing, as I see and understand, except my love for You; nothing, except that no other fire should burn on the altar of my heart but the fire of my love for You, which would consume all love and all desire other than that of bringing myself to You as a burnt offering and fragrant incense. Nothing else did You ever desire or seek from me, and nothing else do You desire or seek from me now. So hear now, O Lord, the vows of my heart! See, I combine my desire with Your desire; and as You have given the whole of Yourself to me, so I give the whole of myself to You, to be wholly in You. I know, O Lord, that this cannot be, unless I renounce myself wholly; it cannot be if any trace of self-love remains in me, if I harbor some sympathy or disposition towards a will of my own, thoughts of my own, or some self-pandering habits of my own. Therefore I desire and I strive from now onwards to oppose myself in all that is not acceptable to You,  even if everything in me and outside me should rebel against it. By myself, I have not strength enough to succeed in this. But since from now on You are with me, I daringly trust that You Yourself will accomplish in me all that is needed. I seek and strive that my heart may be as one with Your heart; and I trust that Your grace will grant me this. I seek and strive to see nothing and to hear nothing, to think of nothing and have sympathy with nothing, except that which Your will, determined by Your commandments, leads me to and shows, and I trust that it will be granted me by Your power working in me. I strive and I seek not to let attention stray from the heart, where You dwell, there to gaze at You unceasingly and be warmed by the rays of light issuing from You; and I trust that this will be given me by the touch and embrace of Your hands. I strive and seek for You alone to be henceforth my light, strength and joy; and I trust to be given this by Your saving action on my inner man. It is of this that I pray and shall always continue to pray. O merciful Lord, grant me this, grant me this.

This is prayer which the authors of Unseen Warfare recommend to be prayed after receiving Holy Communion, and what a powerful prayer it is!

In it we have the humble confession of the person praying it, acknowledging that they themselves have done nothing worthy of God entering into their very being.

In it we see just what it is that God wants us from us; He doesn’t demand anything outlandish, anything that would stoke the pride – He wants only our love, in return for the divine love which He is so eager to pour out on us.

In it we have a firm resolution to conform ourselves to God’s will and to do what it is that He wants from us, while acknowledging that in order to do so we must deny ourselves and not give any room to self-pandering.

In it we have a confession that this is not something we can do on our own, that it not something that we can do without help. In confessing this we we simultaneously deny the original sin of Adam and Even which was just this: the belief that we, as human beings, can make our own way without God and do not need to rely on Him.

And finally, in it we have a firm statement of faith and trust in God. This is perhaps the hardest part; to relinquish the control which we try to have over ourselves and our lives, and to trust that once we do so, and invite God’s eager help, that He will indeed provide for and take care of us.

This, in my opinion, is a very amazing prayer which can be said at any time. I hope that I – and whoever else might come across this prayer – can take it to heart, and once it’s there, pray it from the heart with all sincerity and surety of the love of God.


For what wickedness have I not done…

I just wanted to share this prayer by St. Simeon Metaphrastes of the 10th century. I try to pray it on the night before I receive Holy Communion and it never fails to touch me in some way by saying what it is I feel but don’t have the words for myself.

St. Simeon MetaphrastesAs though I stood at your dread judgment-seat that has no respect of persons, O Christ my God, awaiting judgment, and rendering an account of the evils committed by me: even so today before the appearing of the day of my condemnation, I stand before your holy altar in your sight and in the sight of your dread and holy Angels, and, bowed down by my own conscience I offer up my wicked and lawless acts, triumphing over them and publishing them.

Behold, O Lord, my misery, and remit, O Father, my sins. Behold, my iniquities have increased above the number of the hairs of my head. For what wickedness have I not done, what sin have I not committed, what evil have I not imagined in my soul? Already in my works I have practiced fornication, adultery, arrogance, imposture, railing, blasphemy, foolish talking, drunkenness, gluttony, greediness, hate, envy, avarice, cupidity, graspingness, self-love, self-vaunting, robbery, injustice, covetousness, jealousy, slander, lawlessness; all my perception and every member have I polluted, corrupted, and disabled, and am become wholly the workshop of the devil.

And I know, O Lord, that my iniquities have gone over my head: but immeasurable is the multitude of your loving-kindness, and the mercy of your goodness and forbearance beyond telling; and there is no sin that conquers your love toward all men. Wherefore, O King all-marvelous, forbearing Lord, cause the wonder of your mercy to lighten even upon me, a sinner; show the power of your excellence, manifest the strength of your kindly condescension, and, as I return to you, receive me, the sinner, receive me, as you did receive the Prodigal, the Thief, and the Harlot.

Receive me who have sinned against you exceedingly in word and in deed, in foolish desire, and in thought without reason. And as you did receive those that came at the eleventh hour and had done nothing worthy, so also receive me, a sinner. Much have I transgressed, and offended, and grieved your Holy Spirit, and provoked your loving-kindness toward all men, in deed and word, and thought, by night and by day, openly and secretly, wittingly or unwittingly: and I know that you will set these my sins, which have been committed by me, before me, and require an account from me of the sins which I have knowingly and unpardonably committed: but, O Lord, convict me not with exact judgment, neither chastise me in your anger: have mercy upon me, O Lord, for not only am I weak, but also I am the work of your hands.

You, O Lord, have laid your fear upon me, but I have wrought evil in your sight. Against you only have I sinned, but I ask of you, enter not into judgment with your servant, for if you, O Lord, will be extreme to mark iniquity, who shall abide it? For I am a sea of sin, and I am not worthy, neither sufficient, to behold and to gaze upon the height of heaven, for the multitude of my sins, of which there is no number. For every work or evil, and every guile, and craft of Satan, corruption, instability, effeminacy, seduction, remembrance of wrong, counsel toward sin, forced laughter, and a thousand other passions beside have I not put aside from me.

For with what sins have I not been corrupted? In what evils have I not been occupied? Every sin have I practiced, every prodigality have I set before my soul, I have become unprofitable both to you, O my God, and to men: who will raise me up who am fallen into such evils and such transgressions?

Upon you, O Lord, have I hoped; O my God, if I have hope of salvation, if your love toward all men conquers the multitude of my lawlessnesses, by my Savior; and according to your loving-kindnesses and your mercies, remove, remit, and pardon all things wherein I have sinned; for my soul is filled with many evils, an in me there is no hope of salvation; Have mercy upon me, O God, after your great mercy, and requite me not according to my deeds; but convert, uphold, and deliver my soul from the evils implanted in it, and from the dread projects. Save me for your mercy’s sake, that where sin filled full measure, your grace may also abound; and I will praise and glorify you all the days of my life.

For you are God of those that repent, and you we ascribe glory, with your Eternal Father, and with your all-holy, and gracious, and life-giving Sprit, now, and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.