Tag Archives: Optina

He that is idle shall not eat.

Our works in this life are the sowing, and the future life is the harvest of what we have sown. Whatever one sows here, that is what he shall reap there. If one hastens to cultivate the field of his heart, to fertilize it and to sow in it the seeds of immortal grain, he can confidently expect to see a corresponding harvest unto eternal rest and delight. He that sows with tears of repentance shall reap with rejoicing and “shall be filled,” says the Prophet, for sweet rest follows upon the labors of piety. Bust rest and refreshment are denied to him who has not labored in the work of piety –he that is idle should not eat; it is said.  – Elder Moses of Optina

A big misconception that many Protestants have towards Christian “organized religion” such as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox is that we believe our works can grant us salvation. This is a major stumbling block for them because it violates one of the “Solas” that they hold, Sola fide, or the belief that salvation comes through faith alone and they are partly correct. Salvation does not come through good words, it is given only as a gift to those who choose to reunite their will with that of God and to leave as He intends us to.

However, we cannot truly be living in this manner unless we are doing good works. It’s like a music lover who hears their favorite song: as the notes sweep over them they cannot help but to dance or sing along. So it with the Christian: as the love and awe of the Holy Trinity sweeps over us we should not be able to help but to do good works to benefit those around us, and in so doing  to prove our faith.

I recently received my B.A. in Philosophy, and there’s a quote about philosophy by Ludwig Wittgenstein which rings so very true: “A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring.” How much more so is this sentiment true for the Christian? We could say in a similar manner, “A Christian who is not acting on his faith is like a pilot who never flies; they both seek the heights of what is humanly possible, but neither will reach it.”

Tomorrow is the Nativity of Christ, the moment when God became incarnate so that he might show us the way back to perfection and to rescue us from death. He did not just talk about doing so — He acted. Let those of us who seek to imitate Christ also not just sit around idly, but take action.



Muslim Christians?

A Church in Optina Monestary

What does it mean to be a Christian? What are we called to do? Very broadly speaking, we are called to be muslims, no, not in the definition of the word as “an adherent of Islam” but in the literal translation of the word which means “one who submits.” St. Nikon of Optina says:

Without humily, one cannot be a disciple of Christ. Without humilty, the heart of a man does not receive–does not assimilate–the teachings of Christ. Humilty inspires the heart of a man: to be submissive to the will of God; to humbly accept everything that the Lord is pleased to send on his path of life; to submit his mind, his understanding, and his desires to the obedience of Christ.

Every minute of every day we are called to submit to the will of God. This is a difficult thing! But just because it is difficult does not mean that it impossible, or that we should not try. As Orthodox Christians we are called to take up our cross and struggle to theosis, struggle to become ‘partakers of Christ” as the apostle Paul put it.

I dare not speak for God himself, but I do not believe that he is going to judge us on whether or not we are able to acheive this, but whether or not we sincerely try; whether or not we struggle against our own selfish desires and wants; whether or not we push aside our own will and submit ourselves, body mind and soul to Him.

St. Hesychios the Priest gives a good way in which we can ensure we are submitting ourselves:

Each hour of every day we should note and weigh our actions and in the evening we should do what we can to free ourselves from the burden of them by means of repentance–if, that is, we wish, with Christ’s help, to overcome wickedness.

Each our of every day we can examine how we lived that past hour to see whether or not we are living as God commands. If you think about it this way it becomes a very managable thing: What did this past hour? What good? What bad? Am I acting contrary to God’s will?

The important thing however is to not get caught up on any particular action no matter how sinful <b>or how spiritual</b>. At the end of the day we shouled  pray wholeheatedly for reprentance, and then start over again the next day. We have to live in the very present, in the very moment. If we get caught up on what has yet to occur, or what has already occured, then it will become terribly easy to not keep watch over what we are doing this very instant.