The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

The Devil’s Curriculum


The parable of the sower. Learn more about Patristic Nectar Publications.

Ancient faith. Radio and patristic nectarpublications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenem patristic nectarpublications invites our listeners to visit our website for our newest offering, four hundredtexts on love by Saint Maximus the confessor. This offering four hundred texts on loveis the second installment in the PHILOCALIA project and is the most famous ofthe works of Saint Maximus the confessor. Here, Saint Maximus expounds the veryessence of the Christian life, the way of love. He provides soul nourishmentand direction in the imitation of Jesus Christ for both novices and the most experiencedbelievers. This text in the Philocalia has been cherished by believers for over amillennium and is offered with a special introduction by His grace, Bishop Maxim,hierarch of the western American diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an internationally renownedpatristics scholar and maximologist, and now here's father, just sire the name ofthe father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God.You heard brothers and sisters, that magnificent parable of the soler this morning,this fundamental parable that's recorded by all three of the Sonoptic Gospels, Matthew,Mark and Luke. This parable is also explained in great detail by our Savior, and its intention specifically was to address the subject of the Human Heart,to address the question of what we have by way of soil to receive theword of God. And in the parable, as you know, it describes fourtypes of soil, the hard soil, the rocky soil, the thorny soiland the good soil. Only one of the four is a Christian soil. Only one is a fruit bearing soil, and that's the good soil. Godforbid that we have hearts that are hard, that can't hear, orhearts that are shallow, so that we begin to hear, but only alittle bit, because we can't be too bothered by our faith. Or Godforbid thorny hearts that have a lot of dissipated thought, an interest, somefor God, yes, but also some for the world. And therefore thorns, the weeds, grow up and they choke out the good things that Godintense. God give us hearts that are soft soil that's cultivated by thoughtfulness,by prayer, by maybe some tears even. That would water the soil so thatit can receive the word of God and bring forth through. This isa magnificent parable. But what I'd like to focus on this morning in theparable are not the types of soils, but instead one phrase, poignant potentphrase, in the text, which says that the devil came and stole theseed. The devil came and takes away the word so that they may notbelieve and be saved. Brothers and sisters, you know the Soer is the sonof God and his servants and that...

...the seed is his word and thatthe soils are your hearts. But there is another sower in this text.It's not just the Almighty who is sowing his word. He has an enemy, and we do too, the evil one, and he is active sowing. He's not sowing God's words, he's sowing his own words and he's tryingto steal the progress that God allows us to make. It is a factof our life to day and of church life in general, and of thepastorate for sure, that there is a terrible reality that has become very commonand that is that we know, but we do not believe. We know, we've heard, we've received even to some degree, but the word ofGod doesn't have dominance. It hasn't come to rule us, it hasn't cometo define our lives. Maybe we even want it to, but we don'tyet want enough to and therefore, while we know this, we aren't ableto receive it. Unto a believing a practical, believing word, it's workedout in our life and can actually save us from the destruction that comes toa life that does not have the word of God. Whether it's young adultsin improper relationships that they know are wrong and they'll tell you they're wrong,but they can't stop or married people in shameful conflicts that they know are wrong. They know they should stop the anger, they should stop the fighting, butthey can't. Or maybe it's older folks who know that aging and allof its challenges is to be embraced and is to be a time of joyand transition of affections from the Earth to heaven, but bitterness has them andthey can't break free. Whatever it may be, there is no salvation withoutaccepting the word of God, believing it and keeping it. God does notgive us his word to be one of many words in our life. It'sGod's word and therefore it's the word for us. The evil one is anasty but talented catechist. He shows other words that undermine our faith. He'san exceedingly talented pedagogue, he's a master marketer and he has a very thoroughcurriculum. Yesterday I was invited by our bishop to give a lecture to theyoung people at our fall gathering, are the ascess and fall gathering, andthe lecture was on the ISOM's. This is what I was asked to speakon. The ISOM's what I would call the devil's catechism. Those ideas,those thoughts that are not the word of God that, if accept it,undermine the word of God, but are so prevalent they fly through the air. They come to us in books and in media, through our professors.Many of these things are rock solid commitments of major universities in our country.The ISM's Marxism, materialism or consumerism, nominalism, something that is a tremendousthreat to the church. The idea that we can have a Faint Association withChrist and the Church we may be baptized and we may go to church nowand then, and that that makes us...

Orthodox. nominalism, Americanism, agreat temptation to the right, a failure to be able to make a distinctionbetween the church and her universal values and our nation and its values, ablind nationalism instead of an educated Christian patriotism, feminism, cynicism, relativism and itsreligious offspring, acumanism, multi culturalism, which is the veritable religion of civilsociety and discourse today, the idea that every culture is equal in valueand should be equally respected. The Mantra of this ISM is celebrate diversity,and so we're unable even to make moral judgments. And lastly, the onethat I'd like to press home to day and speak a little bit about isthe ISM called scientism. SCIENTISM, this is one of the devil's words.It's an exaggerated belief in science and the notion that the only real access toindisputable truth is through science. This is scientism. This idea drives much ofour current attention culturally. It's why our university curricula have become more and morescience oriented and the humanities have been fenned out if not completely excluded. It'swhy we fund science today at such a frenzied pace. And scientism itself isa manifest falsehood. First, far from being the only indisputable measure of determiningtruth, the greatest things in life, faith, love, reasoning, arenot subject to the scientific method at all. They are beyond science and away fromscience. Even the fundamental presuppositions of science itself, upon which science mustdepend in order to do its work, like the laws of logic, likethe presupposition that the human mind can discover the laws of the world, eventhe presuppositions of science upon which science depends, are not subject to the scientific method. The are presuppositions of faith that reasonable people in every culture have made. The greatest things in life, the most precious like the human soul,is not subject to science. And it's when science attempts to describe through itsmethods, when it oversteps its limited boundaries and tries to describe aspects of lifewhich it has no business trying to describe, like love, that it's foolishness reallybecomes clear. Where we are actually aft to believe that a person,a loves person, be because of some genetic determinism. It's all chemicals weretaught. It's just a matter of mufts and betrayal, no matter how wefeel it in our heart, even though it lays it slow. It hadto take place because the idea of an immortal soul with the freedom of willthat can be used not just for good but to commit terrible betrayals and evilcan't exist in the world of scientism. SCIENTISM is also a manifest falsehood becauseit presupposes a truth about itself which any person with the slightest knowledge of thehistory of science knows to be false. A little bit of the history ofscience unveils the fact that the scientific community... anything but a stable constant,anything but the only way to know the whole truth, and has been subjectto continual revolution of scientific paradigms from as long as we have been recording thehistory of science. Generation after generation discovered that what the previous generation thought wasindisputable scientific fact falls very shortly into the category of disproven theory. The differencebetween traditional science and Scientism, as its being practiced so often today in thepost Christian secular West, is a difference of attitude. Traditional Science sought thetruth it sought to understand the world that God made and in so doing itcollaborated with the church. Modern Science does not seek truth. Modern Science sayswhat is truth. Modern Science seeks control. This is what we're pursuing. Wewant to pursue these things so that we can learn to control the body, so that we can control the processes of death and corruption, of sicknessand other things. How do we escape, brothers and sisters, these ISMs ofthe devil? How do we avoid the Devil's curriculum, these is ems, and I'm just unpacking one of the nine I just mentioned, and there'smore. There's more. These are so popular and are so commonly propagated.How are we in fact to escape being catechized and formed into an image thatbelieves these ISMs? How can we receive the word of God inside of usso that we can actually keep it, believing in it and acting on it, unto salvation, so that we don't end up stock between knowing but reallynot able to believe it? Let me make a suggestion in closing my hommily. Yesterday I had a beautiful interaction with one of our parishioners. We weretalking about our mutual struggles and some temptations that had come and had been toogreat, and this beloved said to me, I'm just not catechized. This isa lifelong Orthodox and I have been hearing this and hearing this and hearingthis. It's true. Sometimes this is how we find ourselves. We're notas established in our faith as we know we need to be in order tomake it through the pressure upon us. These cookie cutter is m's are stabbingus, they're wanting to put us into it their image and we're grasping forour own faith to be able to answer with the word of God, toput these things out of our life, to be able to trust them.And I think that's an honest statement and I would say we all should askourselves that question. Are we educated in the faith? Are We catechized?Have we embraced the word of God and taken it seriously and pursued it?Lately, in confession, maybe for a year now, I have been suggestingtoo many to take their spiritual pathologies as seriously as they would take if they'renot physiologically ill. I've encouraged them to take their spiritual illnesses and the studyof them and the cure of them as serious as they would if they hada particular physical illness. Is it not two brothers and sisters, that whenwe get struck with something serious, we jump on the Internet right away?I'm medical sciences democratize today. There's lots...

...of avenues for us and we alldo it when we're sick or someone that we really love has a sickness.All of a sudden I hear US using science speak. We're talking about thiskind of sarcoma and this kind of cancer and what it does and how itresponds to this and how it responds to this and how this treatment is insufficient. But this has some possibility, because the tests say forty percent of everyonewho does this has some positive effect. All of a sudden we get seriousbecause we know it is serious, and so we study the diseases, wefind out what we can do. We also go and we look for thephysicians and we look for the hospitals that can really treat this, those ofreputation, those of not, and we pursue them. How about, inthe case of the far more important diseases of the soul that are actually threateningnot just to kill our bodies but to destroy our entire life in Hell.How about those these things, brothers and sisters, we ought take seriously.For instance, if we are slaves to the disease of anger, it's notsufficient just to confess that over and over and over. That's not sufficient.If it was a physical disease that was threatening you, you wouldn't just betaking to aspirin when it afflicted you. You would take it seriously and youwould study it, and we ought study the word of God on how tocure the passion of anger. You know, the majority of our spiritual works,the writings of the fathers in the church. The majority of the materialis dedicated to the development of the spiritual life and to overcoming passions. Thereis practical advice that the fathers, the divine doctors of our souls, giveus, and we ought pursue them, ought we not, in an aggressiveway, to know what our own pathologies are, how they're described by thechurch, what the causes are, what inflames them, what Tams them,and how to get the grace of God to eradicate them? We ought catechizeourselves specifically about our own diseases and take the word of God that seriously.To The cure of our life isn't in our common wish? I think itis. I think it is is in our common wish. We all havesome collection. We all have some collection of three, four, five issues. We all have usually one that's really big and we can't escape, butthen we have a few others that we know that that's just us. Whenwe make mistakes and when we commit sins, this is usually in the areas thatit is. We're not all afflicted by everything. Don't we have?I think this is true, that we have a desire to be done withthem one by one. You know, maybe spend we spend a couple yearson this and then we get on top of it this idea that somehow wejust are going to have to be its slave until our last day and theonly hope for us is in the resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Thesaints on our walls bear witness to that fact, that that is not true. There is potential, by the grace of God, to make progress,and I think we should say this. We should say look, not beingoverwhelmed by who we are or by our weaknesses, to take one at atime, to study them, to make concerted effort to reduce their influence inour life, if not eradicate their influence from our life, and then establishourselves for a year or two in some sort of stable life without giving intothem, and then move on to the next so that it's reasonable, whenthe gray hair comes out, that you have a life of virtue to proveit. This is, I think, a natural desire of the Christian heartand what we ought do. We ought catechised ourselves, we ought take ourpathology seriously and here some very practical things.

Read. Yes, I know,I know, it's the priestly mantra. Read, listen to the scriptures andgodly preaching. If you have an iphone or a smart phone, downloadthe ancient faith radio APP. It's free. Put It on your phone in thecar when you're driving. You'll have an option of something like eighty differentpodcast that's a pretty rich garden. That's a pretty rich garden. Pick something, listen to it, put it onto your computer. Mom's get an IPODand put it in your ears while you're cooking and listen. Listen to somethingwhile you're while you're cooking, while you're driving to work. Utilize our bookstore here you know, we have a fantastic bookstore for an Orthodox church.We have visions for it, really visions of grandeur for it in the future, if God blesses, but what it is right now is already something.We have a lot of treasure, a lot of gems. Utilize our bookstore. Always have something on your night table next to your bed. Alwayshave something there so that if you wake up and you can't sleep, youcan grab it. If you have a few minutes waiting for your beloved tocome to bed and the kids are driving you crazy, take the book andread. Come to class. You don't have the best teacher in the OrthodoxChurch in America, but at least you have a zealous one. There arealways classes going on, not just for adults but for juniors, and theclasses are not for the chairs. We have a lot of folks coming toclass. I'm very happy we've had about a hundred this this current class.I think that's wonderful. But you might have heard me recently tell you thatwe have five hundred and fifty active parishioners. That's twenty percent. Now I knowall of those are not adults. Well, about three hundred of themadults, but still only thirty three percent. That's an F in my book.What I'm getting right now, that's an F. I would like toget a little higher grade. Go through catechism yourself. You know, wehave a nice catechetical class. We have twenty six catechumens. They're very nicepeople. God has sent us some very beautiful people and it's catechism is notjust for them. You are invited. If you say to yourself what ourparishioner said to me yesterday, I'm not catechized like I want to be,get catechized. Come to the class, get an overview of your faith andif you were catechized and you forgot, this is what happens to us.Relearn it. As St Peter says, to write to you the same thingsas no trouble for me and it is a safeguard for you. relearning byrepetition is very good. And lastly, consult the educated brothers and sisters.You have a lot of Nice folks in this parish who are even we evenhave some very talented lay catechists who serve on our catechetical team and take thecatechumans out on those Sundays when we pray for them and we dismiss them.Ask these people what should I be reading? What have you read lately? Couldyou give me a book recommendation? Ask Your questions to them. Justbecause you can't always get me or ask me, ask someone else. There'sa lot of educated Orthodox Christians in our parish and we can help each other, we can fertilize each other. If we do this, we will receivethe word of God unto believing and Salvation, and we won't find ourselves like oneof those soils that only have a shallow apprehension of the word of Godand really we get overcome by the ISMS,... the catechism of the devil.Let's leave his nonsense for him and for his demons, and they canmourn the fact that they propagated these things for all eternity. But for us, human beings made in the image of God, the Children of God,let's just take the word of God as our authority and belief on them.We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered toyou by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirstywith the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. Until next time,.

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