The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Curing the Disease of Self-Indulgence

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The Prodigal Son. Learn more about Patristic Nectar Publications.

This is how dangerous self indulgence is. It causes us to be unwilling to be quiet. It reacts violently to anything that would cut off its source of pleasure and especially, it gets very upset and agitated at the thought of aging, suffering and death. The self indulgent Daemon can't bear the fact that there is going to be an end to feeding the pleasures of the flesh that we call death. Ancient Faith Radio and patristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah TRENNA. Father Josiah is the pastor of St Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. For more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah, in the name of the father, their end, of the son and of the Holy Spirit. One God. One is the number of the true God. Two is the number of the natures of our Savior, divine and human, and his mystical incarnation. Three is the number of the most Holy Trinity, the three persons of the God had, father, son and Holy Spirit. For the number of the Divine Gospels recording our salvation. Five, the magnificent books of Moses. Six, the day on which God fashioned manned, the chief of his creation. Seven, the day of perfection in the scripture, the number that is perfect. Eight, the number of the kingdom beyond the created realm. Nine, the ranks of angels. Ten, the Sacred Commandments and the number of children that Presbytera has in her womb. The ten, twenty one weeks along. Oh, you leave me speechless. Father. The wee ones, when they're this big, they love to be so close to their MOMS and their dad's and when they advanced and they graduate from Crib Life and they're not in the little crib anymore and they finally get into a bed, they experienced their freedom. They love to get out and wander about the house, especially in the middle of the night, and come into mom and dad's room to try to get into bed, into the warm spot. Now you know what I'm talking about, because most of you can probably still remember when you did it yourself. This week, Princess Olivia, who has been graduated to this condition for a long time, was making one such trip down the hall, but it was one too many for mom...

...at three o'clock in the morning. So mom asked her, what's wrong, sweetie? She said, I had a bad dream. Well, we had had far too many bad dreams of late, not to doubt her or anything, but mom said it. Well, let's go back to bed, let's the princess go back to the princess bed, and she said, well, okay, I had half a bad dream. Neither President Tara nor myself could resist rewarding that kind of ingenuity, and so in she came. This is how it is with the little ones. If only bad dreams, brothers and sisters, stayed dreams, if only they were fantasies, you know, thrown to us in the night and didn't sometimes become all too particular and horrendous realities. We who loved our parents so much that we could barely sleep a night away from then when we were young. When we become young adults, sometimes we swing full circle. We become intoxicated that, by the power of our own independent will, by our own independently reasoning mind and flush on the drug of over confidence, we don't just rise to the healthy, responsible state of adulthood. Sometimes we go past it. We travel past this beacon into the waters of selfwilled rebellion, traditionless life, more less abandoned, seduced by the world and our own thoughts about it, we find ourselves in a distant land. We find ourselves alienated from our family, from God. Such was the case of this young man in the Gospel parable that we know as the Prodigal Sun. We've been hearing the bells of the church ring now. This is the second week we've heard that Nice, strong toll telling us that we are approaching the most sacred days, the great fast, holy and great lent. We were shaken into this sobriety last Sunday, on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, and we heard from metropolitan collistoes how pleasing it is to God for us to pray from a sense of humility and self dissatisfaction. This is how he described it so beautifully, and how dangerous it is to stand in the House of God with self satisfaction and over confidence. Today we commemorate the second of the Prelintin Sundays, the Sunday of the Prodigal Sun, and this most famous of our Savior's parables offers us a lot of food for thought as we approach the Holy Tithe of the year that we call lent. We stand today amazed and undone at the disposition of the gracious father who loves his sons, who suffers terrible abuse from them, but remains perpetually in a state of overwhelming love and sympathy. His orientation to his son's was this. He had his arms out to them, whether they were returning the embrace, whether they were giving him a punch in the Kisser or whether not he saw the back of their heads running off to some distant land. That was his perpetual condition, his interior disposition of sympathy. He had a heartful of blessings that...

...he hoped to bestow, even if he couldn't always do it. He had his eyes fixed in hope on the road that his prodigal so untraveled and departing from his father's embrace, and he leaves us dazzled, especially at his complete acceptance of his son when his son comes back, his willingness to return his son to his own paternal bosom, without a single word of reproach, without any demand for recompense, no reservation and at all of affection, no insistence that the son somehow prove his reestablished loyalty. Well, I'll let you back, son, but you can to sleep outside and then, after a year or two of proving yourself that you really are come back, then I'll let you in. Not at all. Despite having squandered his father's inheritance, having shamed his family name, having trampled on his father's heart, there is in fact only complete embrace, unceasing and rejoicing and celebration and tears of happiness flowing with the wine at the party that his father insisted on immediately. The love brothers and sisters that we see in God, in this parable is so outrageous, it's so atrocious that honestly, we usually don't believe it at all. We deny it. Some of the reason is because we don't have that same love ourself. We admire it from a distance, but we often don't experience it, we don't have it, we often haven't been shown it by our own parents at least sometimes, and those two contributors lead off to be people who are not willing or have a hard time accepting this truth. This is why, say Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, the great but anastic teacher, especially on the subject of confession, he says that the number one goal of the confessor in confession is to protect the confessee from discouragement and despair. This is the number one goal when you hear confessions, just to drive out of the heart the doubt about the love of God and his willingness to embrace a person in repentance. So hard a task it is for us who live in this broken world to actually believe that this is a true picture of God. We ask this question. I hear it constantly. I heard it last evening. Will God really forgive me? To that question, the Church says yes, he will, just like this. It is true that the love that he has for us and his willingness to embrace us in our repentance is this outragees, this atrocious, this high, broad and deep. Sat Paul says, it's so great no human mind can wrap itself around it. It's past human comprehension. We also stand amazed and undone at the tragedy of the upper but judgmental son, the son who never left his father's presence, who witnessed the departure and the return of his wayward brother but did so with grief, who didn't have the heart of his dad, who was deeply offended at his father's magnanimity. He's the ultimate tragic figure in the parable the righteous son, the lawful son, the son who was always in church. How dangerous is...

...an external obedience that isn't resting on a bed of humility? That kind of strong morality is frightful and can lead someone straight to this condition, if it's not rifting with selfknowledge. This son, to everyone else's eyes, was a dutiful son, was a true image of his father. He remained near him, but there was no mutual heartbeat, no similarity of interior disposition, nothing of the sort. In fact, I think it's true to say that the son who remained so dutifully next to his dad was actually more covered in pig slop and filth than his brother, who had gone and spent his entire inheritance on Harlot's and was literally eating the pods in the pig pen who's really most filthy. The message of this text, of this beautiful parable, is that the worst condition to possibly be in is to be a self righteous, judgmental moralist like the son who never left his father, curielison. Such is the tragedy of empty morality, born not out of a deep desire to unite our hearts to God, but of a desire perhaps to feel good about ourselves. We know the temptation this upright, but Judgmentelsen did not live in the reality of grace. He was near his father, but he didn't consider that to be a gracious thing, that was something he deserved, because how he lived, this is how he thought. He was kept from those terrible things that his brother was doing. But he wasn't thinking the whole time that he was kept like Saint Paul Thought, except by the grace of God. So go I. He didn't have that beautiful thought. He didn't live in the Gospel. He thought he was doing it by himself. We stand also amazed and undone to day at the foolishness of the prodigal son and at his beautiful repentance. He had a lot of sins. We could do good to Meditine on many of them. He was ungrateful for his father's presence, he was discontent, he was disobedient, was an out of control youth, he was greedy, he was sexually immoral. We could go on and on many more, but I want to point out to you in the life of the Prodigal Son, his predominant sin, because this sin is so exposed, it so permeates life to day, where we live, that we benefit from looking at it, and that's the Sin of self indulgence. Self Indulgence or the love of pleasure, dominating our society to the highest degree. The father say that this sin is the mother of the passions. You can trace all the passions back and there you find at the top, the passion of self indulgence. Pleasure is the motivating power that directs our persons, are souls, and depending upon where that orientation is, if it's to the natural pleasure that God infuses in man or to fallen pleasure, passions that lead to death, this that will determine what we seek in life. Where the prodigals on his passions, is seeking of pleasure moved in an unnatural direction, because the natural pleasure of the soul, if to be near the father say maximal, says this. He says the natural pleasure that God gives is for the marriage between the word and...

...the human being. The delight of the news of the heart of man is to raft in God and to be near God and to have his life, to enjoy the good things of his presence, purity and love and service and sacrifice to demonstrate virtue. We know that doing those things actually produce a potent pleasure. We feel so delighted to put ourselves at the service of others, don't we? How many times have I seen parishioners come from visiting the sick or feeding the homeless and they have a smile, a natural smile, on their face. They can't deny how they feel when they have this natural pleasure from God. In the opposite way, there's an unnatural, perverse seeking of pleasure. God, the Holy Spirit, encourages the one and the demon encourages the other. This negative, opposite pleasure is one that nourishes sensual or selfish pleasure, and it's the source this self indulgence is the source of all human pain and it can take expression not just in bodily desires, like you heard in the epistle lesson where Saint Paul said the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord. He wasn't saying get rid of the body, he was saying have your body turned in the right direction. Don't degrade your body by sensual passions immorality. Instead, devote your body to the service of God. Use your body as a sacred temple what God has consecrated it to be, and then you'll find a pleasure that leads to everlasting life. But it's not just bodily desires, it's not just the self indulgence of the flesh. This self indulgence also shows itself in thinking. Sometimes we get pleasure by our thoughts. They dreaming. At the root of a lot of day dreaming is this desire for self indulgence, self indulgence of the mind. In fantasy. It can be this way in speaking. As well as indulging our desires and appetites of the flesh, for food or sex, the self indulgent person can't endure any hardship or reproach and is angry because when the beast of sensual pleasure demands feeding and when it doesn't get what it wants, it roars like a loud lion. These are the words of sat dorotheels of Gaza. He says anger. It's caused by many things, but mostly by the love of pleasure. This is how dangerous self indulgence is. It causes us to be unwilling to be quiet. It reacts violently to anything that would cut off its source of pleasure, and especially, it gets very upset and agitated at the thought of aging, suffering and death. The self indulgent demon can't bear the fact that there is going to be an end to feeding the pleasures of the flesh that we call death. The Prodigal son was a slave to this indulgence and it had ruined him. It left him completely undone. But notice he was cured. And let me end my homily by telling You the cure to self indulgence. There is a medicine, a powerful antidote to this disease of the soul. And that antidote, that medicine that works a miracle the ultimate miracle...

...drug, is suffering. Saint Maximo says, he wrote so much on pleasure, a whole treatise on pleasure. He says suffering is the death of sensual pleasure, and this is exactly how the Prodigal Sun was set. Was Saved? He couldn't be saved when he had his money in his pocket. He couldn't be saved when he was eating well, he couldn't be saved when he was in the bed with Harlot after Harlot. He didn't get saved until he lost his money, he lost his friends, his party friends, he lost his job, he lost even the necessities of life. And it was the pain of having to work with the pigs, and especially the movement of his stomach, which was literally empty. It was that pain that brought to him clarity and truth and led to his salvation. It was in the midst of that suffering that he remembered who he was, that he remembered who his father was, and he remembered that all the things that glitter and Glam in the world offered him Zippo in the long run. This is why God, brothers and sisters, allows us to suffer in his providence. Every one of us is infected to various degrees with this disease of self indulgence, and there is only one way to get it out. This is it, the one and only way to expunge self indulgence from ourselves is to suffering God's Providence. This is why we can accept what comes to us in God's loving plan. We know that what comes to us is for our is salvation, it's for our deliverance from the passions which are trying to destroy us. This is why we can go through our life with open hands, not like this. We can go through our life with open hands, believing that all the difficulties, the car accidents, the physical injuries, the betrayals, the losses of jobs, we know behind all of that is the gracious hand of our savior orchestrating everything for our glory forever. We believe this. This is how we get cured and it's also why, brothers and sisters, we do what we do in lent. This deep conviction that suffering is a providential cure to passions doesn't just let us accept providence and the suffering that God gives us, but also it's why we voluntarily take it on in a small measure through ascetical life, through struggle, through effort. It's why we try to fast a little bit. It's why we try to have a little bit of hunger, a littill a bit of pain. It's why we stand up in services until our legs get a little bit tired. It's why we sometimes go to extra services, it's why we resist sleep when we're trying to read, and we accept the pain that we have in our eyes, at least a little bit, because we believe deeply that this is the only way to get the poison out. It has a positive goal. It's called the reorientation of desire. We actually believe that through this, through the embrace of the suffering, and even through the voluntary life of asceticism that we have in the church, which sets US apart from all Christianity and the United States of America, we believe that these two things bring grace to our life, and this is why we approach them so positively, with enthusiasm and without complaining. No benefit, none can come to...

...us in our goal of getting rid of these unnatural passions and reorienting ourselves to desire the beautiful things, to seek first the Kingdom of God in his righteousness. None can be done if we don't want it done, and if we want it done, then we won't complain about it, will encourage each other and we'll say we're going to make it through this. We're going to be okay. We're going to trough the Lord through this, we're going to come out on the other side and we're going to find what he wanted for us, what beautiful treasure he wants to give to us. And we say the same about the lent we don't say, Oh, too bad, we can't have our ice cream. We might say that as a joke. We might say that as a joke, but let's encourage each other to get the good things that God intends to give to us so that we can join the Prodigal in a repentance that leads to the father's embrace, the Purple Robe, to the ring and to the fatted calf. Amen, 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. Until next time,.

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