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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Friday, July 25 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterUse the force

Prior to becoming Eastern Orthodox nine years ago, I had never noticed a teaching of Jesus that is cited repeatedly in the writings of Orthodox saints and elders, a direct quotation from St. Matthew's Gospel (11:12): "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." I probably never noticed it or heard it preached because on its surface it appears incongruent with the general teachings of Jesus, especially earlier in this Gospel in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, about turning the other cheek toward your attackers and loving those who spitefully use you. The violent take the Kingdom of Heaven by force?

What the Orthodox teachers say (and most likely there are many who say it in other communions even if I hadn't noticed it) is this means we wrestle, we fight, against the temptations and snares of the lusts of the flesh and of the eyes and without such encounters there is no salvation, if salvation means attaining the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the kernel of Christ's teachings. This passage is a mainstay of the asceticism of the ancient churches, the turning away from the worldly life to pursue "fulltime" prayer, fasting, and spiritual growth. This is because John the Baptist, whom Jesus cites as the prototype, was the great ascetic of the New Testament (alongside Jesus himself in his 40 days of fasting and communing with His Father in the desert). These are the basis for the whole early development of monastic asceticism (which I define as practices that tame the flesh).

But it's not just about monks and nuns. Anyone who wants to be clothed in garments appropriate to the wedding feast of the church and her bridegroom, is enjoined to use the force. That summer nine years ago, I found myself in the most difficult worship services I'd ever encountered, standing almost all of an hour and a half through a new and intricate liturgy. A simple definition I read early in the course sustained my resolve in those services: "liturgy," in the Greek of the New Testament, means "the work of worship." A new concept: that worship should be work, a giving of one's strength and effort to the glory of God! And over the years it's been dawning, too, that progress in the pursuit of the Kingdom should require similar effort. Even force.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Aphorisms

9. On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key.
10. I don't suffer from stress. I am a carrier.
11. You are slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter.
12. Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, because you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

Thought for today

It's kind of fun to do the impossible.

— Walt Disney

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