The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 months ago

Canceling Ourselves - Cultivating Godly Despair

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a new eleven lecture series by Father Josiah Trennem, entitled The Gospel revealed, an exposition of Saint Paul's epistle to the Romans. This most famous of all Saint Paul's letters is a majestic proclamation of the Christian Gospel, a Gospel described as the power of God revealed from Heaven for the salvation of all who believe. The Great Apostle sets forth the dire need of all human beings for God's saving work in Jesus Christ, as well 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 Christian imagination for twenty centuries, and now the arena with Father Josiah Trennem. In the 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 promise of a single eye, a pure eye, and that is that we will be completely full of light. Wouldn't you like to be completely, one hundred percent 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 calling now. 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 grotesque eruption of so called cancel culture, the culture that is plain nasty, plain nasty, in which great delight is taken in getting someone fired or ruining their reputation or just mocking them or abusing them verbally. The incredible increase of this parallels, I think, the decline in faith, the decline in religion and the fear of God, but the core of which, of course, is a call to be concerned about your own soul, to think about your own sins and to invest in your own salvation. When you're doing those things, how much 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 Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, of whom I spoke so last week or the week before. This is the man behind the great reset. That's the title of his very famous...

...book. He's been pushing a form of 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 can easily become something that is not supportive of moral life. He calls it stakeholder capitalism 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 make decisions to please their shareholders. Now he says no, we should make decisions as corporations according to values, more to support values. The problem, of course, with that is who is he to decide values? If he had said we need to infuse values into capitalism and therefore we're going to gather the bishops of the Church together and ask their input on what values we, as the governors of these great corporation, should focus on, then perhaps we might be able to applaud but that's not what he means. He means it's time for us to stop being so patient with those darn religious people who are such a problem to the world. It's time for us to get the corporate heads together and to end this kind of blind service to people. Know we are going 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 would like companies to folk of focus on. The result of this is now that cancel culture is spreading into our corporations and beginning to trickle down into the normal person's life. I'll give you an example. Several years ago I met a young man, a very talented and inspiring young men, who was born without arms 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 about Christian faith, about positivity, about overcoming the obstacles of life. Can you imagine this man who has no arms and no legs? Many of you have seen him. I think I sent a video of him to you all back in the day, I think in two thousand and fifteen. I'm sure you read all of my emails very carefully. HMM. Anyway, I read an article this week that was an interview of Nick. Nick was recently canceled by his bank. Why was he canceled by his bank? Why did his bank remove services from him? Because he had done the terrible, terrible thing of deciding that he was going to do more public speaking in behalf of the pro life cause. He would speak in defense of unborn children and put more of his attention to this subject. The result is that he was informed that his bank no longer wanted him. He has since created a board and created a new bank. Fascinating endeavor on his part.

How do we live in the midst of this cancel? Culture. Well, dear ones, we aren't called to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. For us, we have to avoid being sucked into this fast running 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 the Fox 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 they could avoid it, and he said it's almost impossible because it's built into the form of communication. It's actually built into the structure of twitter. It's very difficult to be on such a platform unless you have incredible intentionality not to let the 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 that mean? I can hear some of you saying really, father, you're actually promoting despair. Yes, not death dealing despair, not the kind of despair that is leading to drug use and suicide across our land. No, godly despair. What is that? What is that? Well, it's what Jesus means in the sermon on the mount when he puts a blessing on us when we mourn. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Remember that the attitudes reveal the essential character of Christians. This is how we live in imitation of Christ and for us, learning to mourn, cultivating the virtue of mourning, is what I mean by developing godly despair. It's what Paul meant in the epistle today. If you heard, I know you were dazzled by that literary masterpiece which was the Epistle from Second Corinthians today, where Paul 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, describing himself sorrowing, but all was rejoicing. This is the way of the apostles this is the way of the Christian to be sorrowing and at the same time all was rejoicing. This is us. St John of Sinai, in the seventh century, in his famous ladder, gave theological expression to this reality of Godly 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, the Greek Word Harmoleipe, joyful sadness, joyful sadness, which he uses to describe the very core of the heart of the Christian it's what we mean by godly despair. St John Develops Jesus is teaching...

...and St Paul's expressions, and no one takes this theme in the history of theology. No one takes this theme, brothers and sisters, of cultivating godly despair, to greater expression than the Saint whose feast we keep on this day. Today, the eleventh of July Twenty Twenty one, is the second time in the history of the Church that we have celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Sephroni the Athonite, who was glorified November twenty seven on the Feast Day of St James The Persian two thousand and nineteen, we have a beautiful icon of Saint Sophroni in the back of the church, next to his spiritual father, Saint Silauan, and sat Silauan, who reposed in the Lord in Nineteen Thirty Eight, Saint Sophroni in one thousand nine 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 of godly despair more than anyone. Sat Silauan, of course, is so famous for this. Call these beautiful words. Quote, keep your mind, I'd in Hell and despair, not unquote. Keep your mind in hell and despair. Not. Saint Sophroni developed his spiritual father's statement further. He said stand on the brink of despair and when you cannot bear it any longer, step back and have a cup of tea. A classically English twist there, step back and have a cup of tea. What is this about? What kind of despair are we supposed to always be on the brink of? Why are we supposed to be near this sense of sorrow? What a Saint Soulo on and Saint Sophroni. What are they trying to get to? Well, let me just answer that by asking you a question. Do you think it's good to think about your past sins? Is that a good thing to think about your own sins? Maybe, since you did twenty years ago, thirty years ago, since that you've confessed, since that God has forgiven, is it good 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 spiritual as son, Timothy, the Bishop of Ephesus, he said, this is a trustworthy statement, worthy be of acceptance by everyone, that trife Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am number one. Protos first and then he goes on to talk about how he was a persecutor of the Church of God. He murdered Stephen, standing right there, providing the moral authority to those Godless Men who crucified our Proto Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen Paul, was holding their coats, giving them his full support, and then hunted us down. Paul never forgot that the Christ saved a murderer, and that was him. And what did it do for him? That remembrance? That remembrance kept his feet on the ground, gazing into the hell of his own abominable heart, kept him connected to reality,...

...who he is apart from God, what God has given him. At the same time, St Paul was able to say something else, describing his own background, his own accomplishments and failures. In his epistle to the Philippians, he said this forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I push on to achieve the high calling, the Great Prize in Christ Jesus. So there's a there's a way in which we have to remember and there's a way in which we have to forget. Exactly what does that mean? This is the very core of St Siloan's and St Sophroni's entheses. I was struck on just how important this is this topic last night in the vespers I wrote down all of the phrases in 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 call Sophroni a luminary of blessed morning. We say that he was led by the wisdom of self condemnation. He was a teacher of repentance. He learned holy humility was the greatest of the virtues. He accepted suffering as a blessing and the surest path to the Kingdom of Heaven. Joyful sorrow flooded him as he practiced his 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 just an exact replication of what St Paul says? sorrowing? Yet all was rejoicing. He had a heart full of tears and Godly denied. He found self hatred 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 in his deep heart by the humility of the lamb and our savior, he acquired self condemnation as his companion. And then this, the climax of it all. Thou didst teach us, Holy Father, to take upon ourselves the false of our brothers. Is there a greater opposite to cancel culture than that, by the spirit of God, we learned to cancel ourselves. We learned to live 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, not pretending 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 called to become, that is completely filled with light, to have a pure eye. These two things we hold together, brothers and sisters. At the same time, we know that godly despair kills a certain kind of hope. That is demonic hope in yourself. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian progress is 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 of God 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, say glory to God, thanks to God. This kind of God, they despair, kills hope in ourself and it secures our hope in God. We will hope in God in as much as we don't hope in ourself. God gives us the energy of Godly despair so that we can acquire a desperation over our own hearts which will lead us to seek God and what he has to give us. Will grasp death, and that's what Saint Silouan and elder sirprony mean 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 it is in our life. We will hold on to Jesus, our Savior, with so much happiness, kiss his feet with so much joy, fear ever letting go of him. If we can only gather the proper despair in the face 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 year when Covid unmathed the fake, sterile deathless, secular coldture, at least deathless in practice, by our studious hiding of it. When covid revealed it, what happened? So much progress in spiritual life, so many people running to the church all across the West and probably the east too, but a lot of my friends aren't there, so I don't hear these stories. Grasping death is 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 go up, and there's no other way up but down. The way to joy 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 one teaches 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 the church, every uniquely awful heresy, we oppose with complete vigor, of course, and we will always do that. The light will always Su fight the darkness. The truth will always oppose lies and error. But the people who hold these things, we will never oppose the people who hold these things we seek. For Goodness Sake, I used...

...to hold these things. If there wasn't for the grace of God, this heretic would be dead and doing nothing for 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 by this presentation offered to you by patristic nectar publications, a non profit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at w w w dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's W W W dot patristic nectar dot org.

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