Molly Sabourin

Navigation Menu

Blessed are the Meek

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Reflections |

blog anger

 

“Imagine the vanity of thinking that your enemy can do you more damage than your enmity.”

– St. Augustine

 

You know what’s so tragic to me about the current violence tearing jagged, gaping holes in our notion that goodness will always prevail, besides the obvious loss of life, dignity, and innocence of course?  

 

It’s evil’s backdoor sneak attack on our outraged hearts.

 

I have felt it myself, the anger bubbling up like a volcano threatening to erupt into vitriolic speeches against this and that and everything that goes against my personal sense of morality and justice. It sets me on edge, that kind of anger, keeps me poised to pounce.

 

Being so susceptible to arrogance, envy, impatience, resentment, etc, however, the tricky by-product of me “taking a stand” for what I believe in is too often bitterness toward the person or persons opposed to my beliefs. And bitterness and mercy, much less peace of soul,  cannot co-exist.

 

 When mercy is squelched, evil rejoices. 

 

 

Christianity without compassion is only a religion and religion without compassion, as we have seen over and over again in history, and are seeing now in living color on our television sets, gives birth to the greatest of evils.

             - Fr. Antony Hughes

 

It would seem then to respond to evil with love and meekness would be a much more radical and “unearthly” approach, and more in line with Jesus’ response, after being beaten and humiliated on the cross, of “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” His “meekness” in that case did not imply weakness but incredible strength and discipline. To “react” is human,  but to hold one’s tongue and not be shaken is divine. 

 

We must learn to not react. This is just a corollary of “turn the other cheek.” When somebody says something hurtful, or somebody does something hurtful, what is it that’s being hurt? It’s our ego. Nobody can truly hurt us. They might cause some physical pain, or emotional pain. They might even kill our body. But nobody can hurt our true selves. We have to take responsibility for our own reactions.

- Metropolitan Jonah, Do Not Resent, Do Not React, Keep Inner Stillness

 

Christ-fueled kindness, gentleness and self-control stand out amid impulsiveness and hatred like a lighthouse in a storm.  This world, I dare suggest, is starving for hope and empathy. I’d rather dedicate my days to providing healing whenever and wherever I can than to becoming one more impassioned voice in a never ending shouting match in which no minds are changed or spirits softened. 

 

 

Read More

Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in Reflections |

blog within these walls

“Then Christ will say to us, ‘Come you also! Come you drunkards! Come you weaklings! Come you depraved!’ And he will say to us, ‘Vile creatures, you in the image of the beast and you who bear his mark. All the same, you come too!’ And the wise and prudent will say, ‘Lord, why are you welcoming them? And he will say, ‘O wise and prudent, I am welcoming them because not one of them has ever judged himself worthy. And he will stretch out his arms to us, and we shall fall at his feet, and burst into sobs, and then we shall understand everything, everything! Lord, your kingdom come!”

                    – Dostoevsky, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

My sister-in-law let me borrow a book called “Within these Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain.” It’s author, Rev. Carroll Pickett, is an incredible individual. His drive to minister to the “unlovable” is both inspiring and very, very challenging. For fifteen years he daily descended, with fear and trembling, into depths of darkness few of us would or could have the stomach to endure. On a continuous basis throughout that decade and a half he prayed for the strength to squelch his feelings of judgment and outrage for the heinous crimes committed, and battled his internal disdain for the death penalty itself, in order to provide some measure of comfort to a broken human being in his last hours on earth:

 

One recurring thought enabled me to stay the course. Throughout my career as a minister, I held strongly to the belief that a person’s need for comfort is never so great as when he is forced to deal with the realities of death. If, in fact, God had provided me with a gift, it was to help those in their final hours. No one, I had long believed, should face dying alone. Not even a hardened criminal about to be executed.

Weighing the options, I knew that I could not lift my voice to a pitch that would reverse the decision of lawmakers. With or without me, the execution would proceed. Gradually my attitude turned from doubt to resignation, then finally a determination to make whatever positive contribution I could to the process. 

 

 I cannot even imagine how difficult that must have been.

 

Every Sunday before receiving the Eucharist we pray as a congregation, “…neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me O Lord in Thy Kingdom.” Over and over again the Church draws us back to the example of that penitent criminal dying next to Jesus on the cross. It’s a check on my pride,  identifying myself not with saints but a sinner who had nothing to offer but a fragment of raw and desperate hope that Christ might have compassion on even him.

 

The thief on the cross, the Publican, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, this death house chaplain: they all refuse to let me rest on my own default “eye for an eye” suppositions. Christ came and obliterated the rules, controversially doling out mercy where it had never been doled out before, throwing the pharisees in a tizzy with His “first shall be last and last shall be first” way of dealing with sickness and reprobates. He got under the skin of law makers who had grown comfortable with their religious ideologies built on inflexible do’s and don’ts. The message of love Jesus spread to the world was all paradox and mystery, absorbed only by the contrite and the humble.

 

Remember, moral outrage is a form of confession. Because we hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves. Moral grief is not moral outrage. Moral grief is an expression of co-suffering love. Not howling, shrieking, screaming, waving arms and dancing around a stage, spewing hate and malice, as if in the name of God.

            – Archbishop Lazar

 

“Comfortable” is what I should never feel. Christ-like love, if pursued purely, will pinch and burn, and blow minds with its omnipresence. It will madden some with its stubborn lack of boundaries, and bring others to their knees in gratitude and awe. I will never understand it, but I believe it is possible to move mountains with it, to become utterly transformed by it. When in doubt on how to proceed, I must pray and pray and pray for humility, then lavish upon my neighbor the same degree of mercy I ache for God to lavish on me. 

 

I would so much rather be wrong than unmerciful.

              – Fr. Antony

 

Read More

Arising from sleep

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in Reflections |

blog prayer for enemies

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

- Romans 13:11-12

 

At 4:00 am thoughts of Christians in Iraq being slaughtered disrupt my sleep. The horror of it all overwhelms me – it’s more than I can digest. From the safety of my bed, I flinch at the descriptions I’ve read and heard of atrocities being carried out on men, women, children. I long to mentally and emotionally turn away from this harsh reality, but how can I when Iraqi Christians, and so many others around the world, have no reprieve from terror and violence? I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane preparing for his crucifixion, sweating blood, asking His disciples to at least just stay awake with Him.

 

So I get up and pray, “God have mercy on us!” I pray for the wherewithal to remain mindful of my afflicted brothers and sisters, and alert. I pray that I might not be paralyzed by despair but driven to action – to become more compassionate, more patient, more long-suffering, more and more and still more determined to be and spread light in the face of darkness and evil. Ever soften my heart, Oh Lord, lest it become hardened by anger!  Be near to those who are hurting and scared! Bless us, save us, and grant us eternal life! Amen. 

 

In 1941, with the German occupation of Yugoslavia, Bishop Nikolai, together with Patriarch Gabriel Dozhich, was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment in the infamous Dachau Prison Camp in Germany. He spent two years in Dachau, witnessing and suffering some of the cruelest torture of human beings the world has known.

 

Prayer for Enemies

by St. Nicholas Velimirovich

 

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were small.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life,they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.

But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen

Read More

Just a step at a time

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Reflections |

girls gone great super heroes

“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Courage to you who are standing at the edge of a great unknown – to you who are growing and stretching and becoming stronger, more merciful, by way of bravely putting one foot in front of the other! Peace to you as you struggle onward, discovering within yourself resilience you never knew you had! Go forth in faith and be fruitful!

Read More

The Practice of Salvation

Posted by on Aug 6, 2014 in Reflections |

Copyright © 2013 Molly Sabourin

“We must take time, take pains, have a plan, form spiritual habits, if we are to keep our souls alive; and now is the time to begin. A man to whom religion is a reality, and who knows what is meant by “the practice of salvation,” keeps his balance, because the living center of his life is spiritual. He cannot be upset, not shaken. The same hard knocks come to him as to others, but he reacts to them by the central law of his life. He suffers deeply, but he does not sour. He knows frustration, but he goes right on in his kindness and faith. He sees his own shortcomings but he does not give up, because a power rises up from his spiritual center and urges him to the best,

          – Joseph Fort Newton

I’m hardly a poster child for piety. I struggle like most everyone else with laziness, selfishness and doubts. I struggle to pray, to fast, to attend services, and when I do attend Church services I struggle to reign in my wandering thoughts. I struggle with consistency and discipline. I struggle with pride and despair. I struggle, but I do not quit.

I do not quit because my feeble efforts to live the life of the Church Christ, in His mercy, transforms into inner peace, despite what chaos is swirling up all around me. I keep picking myself back up and moving forward down the narrow path of ancient Orthodox Christianity because the Orthodox faith contains a treasure trove of tools to help me seek first the Kingdom of God.

I risk everything, including comfort and my reputation, to remain unashamedly in Christ’s presence because only when I am attentively in His presence can he override my laziness, selfishness and doubts, and fill me instead with compassion, patience, perseverance, and a sense of unshakable rootedness in something holy and eternal. 

Spiritual habits do indeed keep my soul alive, and they keep my eyes peeled for redemption and beauty in everything and everyone.  I work, and work, and continuously work out my salvation because the purifying work of salvation is what makes living, and struggling, and loving on this earth so very worthwhile.  

 

Read More