Friday, March 16, 2012
Post #213 - Middle of Lent
This comes from St. John Chrysostom (or “golden-mouth,” so named because of his famed oratorical abilities); it concerns proper observance of Great Lent:
“And so I desire to fix three precepts in your mind so that you may accomplish them during the fast: to speak ill of no one, to hold no one for an enemy, and to expel from your mouth altogether the evil habit of swearing. ... if we make this rule for ourselves and ...commit them to the safe custody of good habit, we shall proceed with greater ease to the rest, and by this means attain to the summit of spiritual wisdom. ... God grant, we may all be found worthy .... Amen.” (Daily Readings from the Writings of St. John Chrysostom, pg. 3)
Think about the words “hold no one for an enemy.” St. John ties it to the holiest season of the liturgical year – the Lenten fast, the Passion of Jesus Christ, culminating in Pascha (Easter) and the Holy Resurrection. It seems by far the most difficult of the three behavioral recommendations he makes. One can see giving up swearing for a period of time, even holding our tongues about others’ shortcomings, but this demand affects us both outwardly and inwardly. We are not to consider another living human being as our antagonist or adversary. That means, I suppose, that if everyone kept this rule, every Lent would be a period of cease-fires and armistice. For forty days, at least, no shots would be fired in anger, no knives unsheathed. No new widows would be created, and no fresh graves dug.
May we pass this time not only holding our fire, but finding ways to wet our tinder, so that we can make it to Pascha and beyond without starting a war with Iran.
But I know that John Chrysostom asks more of me – I also have to try to expunge ugly feelings that I have about those with different perspectives. People who are prepared to drop as many bombs as it takes for them to feel secure. People who believe that our nation is well-served by making others fear us. People who have never liked other faith traditions, or who have a particular problem with Islam. People who remember a different Iran and want to turn back the clock by promoting the disestablishment (by violence, if necessary) of the Islamic Republic. All these I am to treat as brothers and sisters. I cannot “speak ill of them.” I can’t even swear when I am challenged or thwarted – even under my breath.
God asks much of us. But, He gives so much more.