A letter to prisoners, June 26/ July 9, Apostles Fast 2013
I am sorry, fellows, I chose not to come this Wednesday, 07/10/13. I am recovering from pneumonia, and feel pretty good, but I tire easily. Getting up at 3am and having a very long day, plus being in the hot 8 building may be too much. I have a lot of people warning me to take it easy, and, since I am a stubborn Irishman, I have ignored some of their advice, but truth to tell, the last couple nights I have been pretty exhausted. My antibiotics are almost finished, and I have not had fevers or anything since late Thursday, but at the beginning of last week I was pretty sick, with constant fever and night (and even day) chills. Barring any setback, and if I do not act too stupid, I should be good to go next week, and will see you in 2 weeks.
I will try to write about stuff we talked about (in both prisons). I think it is good to review stuff and maybe flesh things out a little. I will make no claim to being organized here, and some of this stuff may seem to be random (welcome to my brain!), but it is stuff that we talked about recently.
Monophysite - a heresy, which posits that Jesus Christ has ONE nature (Greek "monos" - only or single and "physis" - nature). Generally, adherents to this heresy would say that this one nature is divine, and would believe that the human nature of Christ was assumed into the His Divine Nature. The heresy as a whole is called "Monophysitism". To this day, there are still people who subscribe to this heresy, such as the Coptic Church. These brave people are being martyred for their faith in Christ, and we should revere them and pray for them, but this does not mean that we should gloss over their inaccurate understanding of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May God save them and count them as martyrs for their great struggles, which includes property destruction and theft, torture, murder and the extremely common raping of their women.
By the way, did you know that in order for a woman to prove she was raped in a Moslem country under Sharia law, she must have FOUR Moslem men (not women, and all other faiths are considered to be infidels, and not reliable witnesses), which testify that they have absolute proof that the rape occurred? This basically means that they saw it, and of course, this is an impossibly high standard of proof. If a women makes such an accusation, and does not have these witnesses, she will be convicted of fornication (since, by the twisted logic of the demonically inspired Sharia law, she will have "confessed" to having intercourse with someone other than her husband!) and be punished, sometimes very severely, or even executed, even though she was raped!
We as Christians must learn something from this. On the one hand, justice and truth must be in our hearts, and we should not depend on the world to hold to these Godly virtues. All things will be revealed in the last judgment, and until that time, there will be many depravities which are not exposed. There will come a time when all things will be revealed. This is a promise straight out of Scripture, and I hope you recognize it.
We should both weep and exalt because of this. We should weep because many will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (this latter phrase from the scripture is an indication that they will be sorry and ashamed, but have no opportunity to repent), and it is a terrible thing for a person who has been made in the image of God, to fail to obtain His likeness, and perish. We should exalt, with cries of great joy, because all those who have endured terrible things, and kept their faith in God, will be filled with joy forevermore, and like the mother who has just given birth, no longer remembers the pain they endured in this life.
Please remind yourself everyday that you have put your hand to the plow, and am approaching the Heavenly Jerusalem in everything good that you do. Prison is a place where there are many petty and great annoyances and even times of great injustice. Most of those things cannot be changed, and none of it will matter in the next life if you have not allowed any of it to make you bitter or angry. You were made for eternity, and everything good you do brings you closer to it. Nobody can take that away from you.
Back to the Monophysite heresy.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. We confess Him as "Light of God, true God of true God". He is uncreated, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created all things. Before He was man, before there was anything, He was. He was the one who told Moses His name: "I AM", meaning, that as God, He exists - He is the only one Who has always existed, and all things have come into being through Him, and nothing has existence without Him. He is unchanging and perfect, and shares all knowledge and all "Godliness" with His Father and the Holy Spirit.
Because of man's terrible predicament - sin, He, of his own perfectly free will, and by His power, became man, without in anyway changing that He is God. Simple understanding of the Godhead proves the Monophysite heresy to be false. God does not change. Nothing can be added or taken away from the God nature, which we also call His essence. If Jesus Christ, who was God before becoming man, and therefore had a nature which was God, in becoming man, mixed His newly acquired human nature with his God nature, His God nature would change. This is a complete impossibility. We confess that Jesus Christ is God and man, with two distinct natures in one person, Divine and human, in complete cooperation and sharing the same purpose, but not commingled or joined in any way.
Why is this important? Because "God is the Lord and hath revealed Himself to us, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord". God has revealed Himself to us as He is, and we would be impudent and stupid, as the created, to make pronouncements which contradict the word of the Creator about Himself.
This is the main reason to reject Monophysitism. There are logical reasons too. The purpose of the incarnation was to heal human nature. We have a saying from the Holy Fathers: "What is not assumed is not healed." Jesus Christ took on our nature, and healed it. If Jesus did not posses our human nature, but His nature was some strange mix of human and divine - neither human nor Divine, He could not have healed our human nature.
How do we *really*, *fully* learn this stuff? Perhaps it seems like a war of words with you, having has little practical meaning. If we understand why we were created, and by Whom, and therefore how we will be completely healed and obtain our inheritance, we will understand why how we view God and the Son of God is important.
God is love, and created us because of love. All things can be understood by love, but only by the same love that God has for Himself, which is an eternal love, according the His knowledge of Who He is. God revealed Himself to us and continues to reveal Himself because of love. We grow in knowledge of Him and union with Him because of love. Love is always according to knowledge of the truth. Love without truth is not love (much of the heresies of our day, especially the sexual heresies, are based upon a false idea of love which rejects truth). All our problems, all of our sins, are because we love poorly; we do not love as God loves. All that we do must be to learn to love as God loves, and in so doing, we will become like God, and know God. It is unthinkable to love God as He is not; we must love Him as He is, and He has revealed certain things about Himself that we must therefore believe. Without perfect love, these things cannot be understood perfectly, or even poorly, but as love grows, so always does knowledge grow, and wisdom and understanding.
The best option in every case is to love. May God help us to love as He loved Himself, and loves us.
There are other heresies related to Monophysitism. All of them have the same basic misunderstanding - they reject that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man, without either nature joining with the other.
"Monothelism" teaches that Jesus Christ has one will, even though He has two distinct natures. It is basically an attempt to "compromise" the Monophysite heresy with the Orthodox dogma. It perhaps is a bit closer to the truth, but we do not treat the truth as something to be approached, like throwing a horseshoe or a hand grenade! This is not possible if He has two unmixed natures, since every nature has as one of its attributes, will.
The Divine will is infinitely stronger than any human will, although a perfect human will agrees with the Divine will perfectly in all things. Jesus became man to heal our will, and make it stronger. His incarnation healed the three attributes of human nature: the attributes of knowledge, desire (or appetite), and will (or irascibility). The Divine will is perfect and unchanging and in perfect cooperation at all times with the Divine knowledge and desire. Our will must be brought into complete cooperation with our knowledge and desire - we must know the truth, desire to follow the truth, and have the ability by our will to live according to our knowledge and desire. At its perfection, this is theosis - union with God.
There are other terms related to the Monophysite heresy. "Miaphytism" believes that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature" ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. This pretty much sounds like Monophysitism to me. Eutychianism holds that the human and divine natures of Christ were fused into one new single nature: His human nature was "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monophysitism). It is so named for one of the chief protagonists of this heresy at the fourth ecumenical council (of Chalcedon). Eutyches is considered to be a saint by many who hold to the Monophysite heresy.
The important thing to remember is not the long and very technical Greek words. It is important to know that in the fullness of time, the uncreated Logos, Jesus Christ,
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " (Philippians 2:6-11)
He took on our nature, which was in every way like our nature except for sin ("For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15)), and He purified it, strengthened it and healed it, so that, after the waters of baptism have flowed over us, we can be new creatures, and have all of our attributes completely united with one-another and with God.
“All of our striving is concerned with acquiring the love commanded of us by Christ. When this spirit of Christ-like love enters within us our souls thirsts for the salvation of all people. We are appalled that by no means everyone wishes for himself what we ask for all in our prayers. Worse, we often meet with refusal, even hostility. How can people be saved when there is such perversion? We live in an age, the events of which make the tragedy of our fall more and more evident. To take my own life: for over half a century I have prayed, sometimes weeping bitter tears, sometimes in wild despair, for the peace of the whole world and the salvation, if it be possible, of all. And what do you suppose? To this hour, in my old age, I see every evil increasing in its dynamics. The close of mankind’s earthly history is scientifically thinkable and may become technically realizable tomorrow. We are nonplussed by the utterly irrational character of the happenings of our time. So what are we to do? Despair and reject the everlasting Gospel? And if we decide on rejection what else in the whole world is there to satisfy us? Positively nothing could separate us from Him, however bitter the trials that we must suffer. He has opened our eyes to infinity, and now we cannot close them and prefer the blindness of new-born puppies. “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,’ said the Lord. And now we stand before the Living Absolute- which is exactly what, and only what, we are seeking.” (Elder Sophrony of Essex, "We Shall See Him as He Is")
A Guardian Angel is given to each person at the moment of his baptism. How should one guard the union of the soul with its Guardian Angel? He carries out his activity through the conscience and the heart. When a person cares for the salvation of his soul, guards his conscience, and avoids all manner of sin, then he senses his Guardian Angel. The Guardian Angel instructs him in every good thing, sends him good thoughts, and warns him against evil. We will see our Guardian Angel on the day of our departure from this life. But what kind of meeting this will be will depend upon us and our deeds. Will our Guardian Angel rejoice or will he sorrow at our careless life? .... Let us be attentive towards our Guardian Angel, let us prayerfully beg his help in all good deeds and for deliverance from every sin. Let us entreat him to lead us persistently to the Lord, and let us not disgrace him by our actions. (Elder Sebastian of Optina, "On Guardian Angels", Selections from the Sermons of Elder Sebastian, in Tatiana V. Torstensen, Elder Sebastian of Optina, David Koubek (tr), Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1999, pp. 378-379.)
Truly the penitent is not one who laments over the evil he has committed, but one who laments over all the evil that he is capable of committing. A wise landowner not only cuts the thorn bush that has pricked him, but every thorn bush on the field that is waiting to prick him. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956) in "Prayers by the Lake")
"The greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul. The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God. The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer. The more perfect the love, the holier the life." (St. Silouan)
Orthodoxy is neither a culture nor a political system, because it is concerned with our personal salvation ,with the salvation of our souls. … Orthodoxy is not even a religion. Orthodoxy is not a religion like all the other religions. … Orthodoxy is a therapeutic course of treatment that heals the human personality.
A genuine doctor concerns himself with the treatment of anyone who is sick, without exception and without discrimination. ... [He] only notices whether or not the people who come to him are sick. And if they are sick, he … tries to treat them and heal their infirmities. In Orthodox tradition we have something similar to this, but even more so. … [If we wish to be healed] we must go to the Church … to competent people who … possess the curative method of the Orthodox tradition, then we must be obedient to them in order to find healing. (Protopresbyter John Romanides)
Priest Seraphim Holland 2103 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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