In my Family note dated September 16th I asked the following question: How do we keep the embittered political discord of our society from entering the life of the Church? As we learn from the Feast of the Exaltation, the bitter waters of the Israelites’ lives were made sweet when the Wood was tossed into the bitter waters of Marah. (Read Exodus 15:22-27)
The political discord in our society can affect us as Orthodox Christians. How do we continue to live our lives in such a way that we can taste and experience those waters of Marah now made sweet by the wood of the Cross?
It is one thing to smile at each other when we go to church. But those smiles can also be a means to cover up resentment and bitterness we hold in our lives over many things, not just our political viewpoints. It is like wearing a mask to hide what is really going on. This façade is not the new man spoken of by St. Paul in Ephesians 2.
Our Lord speaks to this when He condemns the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26)
The way to clean the inside of the cup is to heed the call that Jesus makes to the rich man in Matthew 18:21: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
This word to the young rich man is a call, by God’s grace, to free ourselves of worldly attachments. Those attachments can involve so many different things. Regarding political discussions, we don’t need to win a debate. We share our thought on an issue, then learn to let it go. We need to engage in the ascetical fight (spiritual exercise) to do violence to our passions. This enables us to “take the Kingdom of Heaven by force” (Matthew 11:12). The Church gives us the medicines of prayer, fasting, confession, and almsgiving to achieve detachment from the fallen world and its problematic influence. To receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is the ultimate defeat of evil in this world. The Eucharist is the realization of the new man in us spoken of by St Paul in Ephesians 2. As we acquire this spirit of detachment, then we can engage the world we live in with a right mind.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul