The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 6 months ago

Canceling Ourselves - Cultivating Godly Despair


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The Gospel Revealed: An Exposition of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 


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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a new eleven lecture series by FatherJosiah Trennem, entitled The Gospel revealed, an exposition of Saint Paul's epistle tothe Romans. This most famous of all Saint Paul's letters is a majestic proclamationof the Christian Gospel, a Gospel described as the power of God revealed fromHeaven for the salvation of all who believe. The Great Apostle sets forth the direneed of all human beings for God's saving work in Jesus Christ, aswell as the majestic fruits that attend faith in the lives of Christians. Here, in sixteen chapters, Saint Paul expounds many themes that have captured the Christianimagination for twenty centuries, and now the arena with Father Josiah Trennem. Inthe name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.I heard that Beautiful Gospel text just now and was struck especially by the promiseof a single eye, a pure eye, and that is that we will becompletely full of light. Wouldn't you like to be completely, one hundredpercent full of light. This is our destiny. This is our destiny.There's no darkness in paradise. But it's our calling now. It's our callingnow. I've entitled my homily this morning, brothers and sisters, canceling ourselves.Canceling ourselves. I subtitled it learning to cultivate godly despair. Canceling ourselves, learning to cultivate godly despair. It's a terrible grief, is it not, to see the exponentially increasing acrimony in our culture, to witness the grotesqueeruption of so called cancel culture, the culture that is plain nasty, plainnasty, in which great delight is taken in getting someone fired or ruining theirreputation or just mocking them or abusing them verbally. The incredible increase of thisparallels, I think, the decline in faith, the decline in religion andthe fear of God, but the core of which, of course, isa call to be concerned about your own soul, to think about your ownsins and to invest in your own salvation. When you're doing those things, howmuch time do you have left to be obsessed about other people's wrongs?and to spending time in smashing them down and getting bad things to take place. No, this eruption of judgmentalism is the fruit of abandoning repentance and confession. It has a particular expression, and one that, to my mind,is exceedingly dangerous, in something that has been pushed by the likes of KlausSchwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, of whom I spoke solast week or the week before. This is the man behind the great reset. That's the title of his very famous... He's been pushing a formof value lad in capitalism. Unfortunately, it sounds nice, values in capitalism. If there's a weakness in capitalism is that it lacks values and it caneasily become something that is not supportive of moral life. He calls it stakeholdercapitalism and he's been promoting it and it's been become popular with many corporations.He compares it to he opposes it to share holder capitalism, where companies makedecisions to please their shareholders. Now he says no, we should make decisionsas corporations according to values, more to support values. The problem, ofcourse, with that is who is he to decide values? If he hadsaid we need to infuse values into capitalism and therefore we're going to gather thebishops of the Church together and ask their input on what values we, asthe governors of these great corporation, should focus on, then perhaps we mightbe able to applaud but that's not what he means. He means it's timefor us to stop being so patient with those darn religious people who are sucha problem to the world. It's time for us to get the corporate headstogether and to end this kind of blind service to people. Know we aregoing to use our power and our money and our corporations to advance our agenda, an agenda that I think they describe as EESG environmental, social and governors. These are the three areas of moral or value input that Mr Schwab wouldlike companies to folk of focus on. The result of this is now thatcancel culture is spreading into our corporations and beginning to trickle down into the normalperson's life. I'll give you an example. Several years ago I met a youngman, a very talented and inspiring young men, who was born withoutarms and legs. His name is Nick. He served a Serbian Christian Nuke Voyevich. I met him at the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City, where he was a speaker. He has become an incredibly influential speaker aboutChristian faith, about positivity, about overcoming the obstacles of life. Can youimagine this man who has no arms and no legs? Many of you haveseen him. I think I sent a video of him to you all backin the day, I think in two thousand and fifteen. I'm sure youread all of my emails very carefully. HMM. Anyway, I read anarticle this week that was an interview of Nick. Nick was recently canceled byhis bank. Why was he canceled by his bank? Why did his bankremove services from him? Because he had done the terrible, terrible thing ofdeciding that he was going to do more public speaking in behalf of the prolife cause. He would speak in defense of unborn children and put more ofhis attention to this subject. The result is that he was informed that hisbank no longer wanted him. He has since created a board and created anew bank. Fascinating endeavor on his part.

How do we live in the midstof this cancel? Culture. Well, dear ones, we aren't called tobe conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing ofour mind. For us, we have to avoid being sucked into this fastrunning stream of judgmentalism. Especially dangerous is it to have a twitter account.It's almost built into the very structure of twitter to facilitate this kind of thing. I remember a couple years ago when Jordan Peterson was here speaking at theFox theater and at the end I stayed around with a number of people,presutera and I and to have a little question and answer session with them,and someone was asking him about the acrimonious nature of our culture and how theycould avoid it, and he said it's almost impossible because it's built into theform of communication. It's actually built into the structure of twitter. It's verydifficult to be on such a platform unless you have incredible intentionality not to letthe form of the technology, as well as its use, affect you.We believers stay away from this as though it's poison, because it is.judgmentalism is the death of the soul. It's the opposite of the Christian faith. For us, our goal is to cultivate godly despair. What does thatmean? I can hear some of you saying really, father, you're actuallypromoting despair. Yes, not death dealing despair, not the kind of despairthat is leading to drug use and suicide across our land. No, godlydespair. What is that? What is that? Well, it's what Jesusmeans in the sermon on the mount when he puts a blessing on us whenwe mourn. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Rememberthat the attitudes reveal the essential character of Christians. This is how welive in imitation of Christ and for us, learning to mourn, cultivating the virtueof mourning, is what I mean by developing godly despair. It's whatPaul meant in the epistle today. If you heard, I know you weredazzled by that literary masterpiece which was the Epistle from Second Corinthians today, wherePaul of describing his life and the life of the apostles in the world.I particularly loved one of the last phrases where St Paul says this, describinghimself sorrowing, but all was rejoicing. This is the way of the apostlesthis is the way of the Christian to be sorrowing and at the same timeall was rejoicing. This is us. St John of Sinai, in theseventh century, in his famous ladder, gave theological expression to this reality ofGodly despair when he described and made up, as far as we can tell,philology suggests that the word didn't exist before St John of Sinai, theGreek Word Harmoleipe, joyful sadness, joyful sadness, which he uses to describethe very core of the heart of the Christian it's what we mean by godlydespair. St John Develops Jesus is teaching...

...and St Paul's expressions, and noone takes this theme in the history of theology. No one takes this theme, brothers and sisters, of cultivating godly despair, to greater expression than theSaint whose feast we keep on this day. Today, the eleventh of July TwentyTwenty one, is the second time in the history of the Church thatwe have celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Sephroni the Athonite, who was glorifiedNovember twenty seven on the Feast Day of St James The Persian two thousand andnineteen, we have a beautiful icon of Saint Sophroni in the back of thechurch, next to his spiritual father, Saint Silauan, and sat Silauan,who reposed in the Lord in Nineteen Thirty Eight, Saint Sophroni in one thousandnine hundred and ninety three. Sat Silaouan first, and then Saint Sophroni,taking his spiritual father's teaching and developing it further, have expressed the importance ofgodly despair more than anyone. Sat Silauan, of course, is so famous forthis. Call these beautiful words. Quote, keep your mind, I'din Hell and despair, not unquote. Keep your mind in hell and despair. Not. Saint Sophroni developed his spiritual father's statement further. He said standon the brink of despair and when you cannot bear it any longer, stepback and have a cup of tea. A classically English twist there, stepback and have a cup of tea. What is this about? What kindof despair are we supposed to always be on the brink of? Why arewe supposed to be near this sense of sorrow? What a Saint Soulo onand Saint Sophroni. What are they trying to get to? Well, letme just answer that by asking you a question. Do you think it's goodto think about your past sins? Is that a good thing to think aboutyour own sins? Maybe, since you did twenty years ago, thirty yearsago, since that you've confessed, since that God has forgiven, is itgood to think about them? It's not an easily answered question, is it? The answer, I think, is yes and no, yes and no. We know from the Apostle Paul that he constantly thought about his past sins. At the end of his life, writing his pastoral epistles to his spiritualas son, Timothy, the Bishop of Ephesus, he said, this isa trustworthy statement, worthy be of acceptance by everyone, that trife Jesus cameinto the world to save sinners, of whom I am number one. Protosfirst and then he goes on to talk about how he was a persecutor ofthe Church of God. He murdered Stephen, standing right there, providing the moralauthority to those Godless Men who crucified our Proto Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen Paul, was holding their coats, giving them his full support, and then huntedus down. Paul never forgot that the Christ saved a murderer, and thatwas him. And what did it do for him? That remembrance? Thatremembrance kept his feet on the ground, gazing into the hell of his ownabominable heart, kept him connected to reality,...

...who he is apart from God,what God has given him. At the same time, St Paul wasable to say something else, describing his own background, his own accomplishments andfailures. In his epistle to the Philippians, he said this forgetting what lies behindand reaching forward to what lies ahead, I push on to achieve the highcalling, the Great Prize in Christ Jesus. So there's a there's away in which we have to remember and there's a way in which we haveto forget. Exactly what does that mean? This is the very core of StSiloan's and St Sophroni's entheses. I was struck on just how important thisis this topic last night in the vespers I wrote down all of the phrasesin the hinnity for St Sophroni left night that relates to our theme this morning. You'll be amazed listen to this. In the text for vespers and Orthros, some of which we just chanted, we say these words. We callSophroni a luminary of blessed morning. We say that he was led by thewisdom of self condemnation. He was a teacher of repentance. He learned holyhumility was the greatest of the virtues. He accepted suffering as a blessing andthe surest path to the Kingdom of Heaven. Joyful sorrow flooded him as he practicedhis spiritual father's words. KEEP THY mind in hell and despair not.He had a heart full of tears and Godly Delight. Is that not justan exact replication of what St Paul says? sorrowing? Yet all was rejoicing.He had a heart full of tears and Godly denied. He found selfhatred as the only sure way to pleasing God. Did you hear that?He found self hatred as the only sure way to pleasing God. Wounded inhis deep heart by the humility of the lamb and our savior, he acquiredself condemnation as his companion. And then this, the climax of it all. Thou didst teach us, Holy Father, to take upon ourselves the false ofour brothers. Is there a greater opposite to cancel culture than that,by the spirit of God, we learned to cancel ourselves. We learned tolive in the truth of who we are, apart from the love of God,never pretending that we aren't justified by our faith in Christ Jesus, notpretending that the Lord hasn't provided everything. We need to be cleansed, forgiven, washed, defied, but never thinking that that's us, by ourselves,holding those two things together. Who we are, by our own choices,apart from the grace of God, and what we have become and are calledto become, that is completely filled with light, to have a pure eye. These two things we hold together, brothers and sisters. At the sametime, we know that godly despair kills a certain kind of hope. Thatis demonic hope in yourself. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian progressis over confidence in your own power,...

...which, forgive me, doesn't exist. We attribute many things to ourself only because we don't acknowledge the grace ofGod in our life, which undergird's every good fought, every good motion,which is why the saints always teach us, whenever anything has been accomplished, sayglory to God, thanks to God. This kind of God, they despair, kills hope in ourself and it secures our hope in God. Wewill hope in God in as much as we don't hope in ourself. Godgives us the energy of Godly despair so that we can acquire a desperation overour own hearts which will lead us to seek God and what he has togive us. Will grasp death, and that's what Saint Silouan and elder sirpronymean when they talk about gazing into the deaths. Will take death seriously,will see death as the fruit of our hearts, the wages of sin.It's death. When we look hard, inspired by the energy of Godly despair, will understand how horrible death really is and that it is completely from us, and that Godly Despair will make the Gospel appear the radiant diamond that itis in our life. We will hold on to Jesus, our Savior,with so much happiness, kiss his feet with so much joy, fear everletting go of him. If we can only gather the proper despair in theface of death. This is why, you know, in some small measure, we've had such an increase in the progress of the Gospel this last yearwhen Covid unmathed the fake, sterile deathless, secular coldture, at least deathless inpractice, by our studious hiding of it. When covid revealed it,what happened? So much progress in spiritual life, so many people running tothe church all across the West and probably the east too, but a lotof my friends aren't there, so I don't hear these stories. Grasping deathis how we grasps the Gospel. Seeing our sins is how we gain repentance, because the way up is first down. You go down and then you goup, and there's no other way up but down. The way tojoy is to embrace sorrow. The way of humility is the way to glory. The embrace of suffering is the path to a stable peace. No oneteaches us that more than Saint Sephroni the Ath nite and his spiritual father's Saint, Silauan. May God help us to cancel ourselves, brothers and sisters,so that we don't cancel anyone else you know, every aggressive opponent of thechurch, every uniquely awful heresy, we oppose with complete vigor, of course, and we will always do that. The light will always Su fight thedarkness. The truth will always oppose lies and error. But the people whohold these things, we will never oppose the people who hold these things weseek. For Goodness Sake, I used... hold these things. If therewasn't for the grace of God, this heretic would be dead and doing nothingfor the Kingdom of God. And how about you? How about you?We're not trying to cancel anyone, we're just trying to cancel the Devil's works. Happy Feiste. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified bythis presentation offered to you by patristic nectar publications, a non profit organization committedto nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. Ifyou are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information onpatristic nectar publications, please visit our website at w w w dot patristic nectardot org. Again, that's W W W dot patristic nectar dot org.

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