The Arena
The Arena

Episode 563 · 9 months ago

Thoughts | Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, 2022


The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a seven lecture series by Reverend Doctor Kalinique Burgher, entitled the Divine Identity of Christ. The highly esteemed Hiero monk scholar, father Kalinique sets forth the majestic and high Christology of the early church. In these lectures, Father Kaliginique refutes the secular criticisms of Orthodox Christology and reveals that Jesus himself taught his divine identity to his disciples, that the early church both honored and preached this High Christology and that this Christology is codified in the pages of the New Testament and the nicene creed. Along the way, he also reveals the vacuous secular quest for the historical Jesus, unpacks the historical theological witness about Jesus in the pre Nicene Church, through NICEA ephesus and to the fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. Here is a feast of Faith for Christians, sure to illumine our hearts and minds concerning the deity of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. For these and other titles. Please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trenam. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, a blessed Lord's they to you, brothers and sisters. I've entitled my homily this morning thoughts, and I'd like to begin it by calling your attention to that incredible Gospel text from Saint Mark would just left. We just read. It is the third time in three chapters that Jesus reveals to his disciples the unthinkable, something that was completely out of their mental conception of the realm of possibilities. Jesus told them that the son of man will be betrayed into the hands of men. They will scourge him and crucify him and on the third day he'll rise again. He's obviously pressing this thought by repetition. Pedagogically. He's trying to take something that he knows they cannot imagine and he's trying to press it in to their hearts by simply repeating it over and over and over, as mark documents. The first time was a complete catastrophe. Jesus announced this the climax of his ministry, the very reason that the father sent him to die. He announces... The disciples are completely scandalized and Peter Rebukes Christ. Lord this can never be, and it elicited the harshest, the most atrocious word that arsavior ever spoke to anyone. Peter looked at him and said, get behind me, Satan, Peter, the chief of the apostles, you think you've had a bad day having your Lord Call You Satan? This was the first effort in Chapter Eight. The second time wasn't much better. In Chapter Nine, after Jesus announced that he would be betrayed into the hands of men and scourged and crucified. The text reads. They did not understand this statement and they were afraid to ask him about it. Certainly they must have known that this was a serious matter, since Jesus is repeating it exactly to them again. Certainly Peter couldn't have forgotten very quickly being called the devil. This time, they just sat in their confusion. Their thoughts were running nowhere, but running, and instead of having the courage to say, Lord, we can't understand. What does this mean exactly? Could you say that again? Do you mean that figuratively, metaphorically, allegorically what? Or are they really going to kill you? They were too afraid? The third time that you just heard is the most heartbreaking of all. Jesus announces that they're going to be he's going to be betrayed and abused viciously and killed at then, on the third day, rise again, and this time the disciples simply ignored it and launched into a discussion of their ambitious plans for themselves. James and John Approached Jesus and said, Lord, do you think that we could have the most prestigious positions in your kingdom? Okay, Peter is Satan, but I'm John and James, they're not far behind. They're not far behind, really. You're the Lord is announcing his most grievous passion and they're thinking about themselves and their...

...glory. And the text goes on. It wasn't just them then. The other ten, it says, became indignant because they were hoping for those spots. They wanted those spots. No one was listening. Everyone's minds were a buzz, tyrannized by their own passions, their own fogus thoughts, and our Lord, in his patients pulled them aside, it says, and he said, you know, the great men of the Gentiles Exercise Authority and the rulers rule over them, but it is not so among us. Another way of understanding what he was saying. He was saying, sons, my disciples, have you been with me so long and you still haven't learned to esteem what is really valuable amongst men, what true leadership is, what it really means to rule not other people, yourself and others as your master's others, as those that you would steam more highly than yourself? Haven't you learned that the greatest dignity? Haven't I modeled for you that greatness is shown by humility, that the way up is down and that, if you want to be magnificent, serve everybody as your superior? What a text, what our tests. It shows us how much of the battle is waged between these two ears. Thoughts determine everything. How you think is where you go. I want to apply that a little bit from the feast from last week Saint John of Sona, and a little bit from the Feast to day Saint Mary of Egypt, both of whom have so much to say about the thoughts but I'll start by sharing a word from one of the Great Patriarchs of Constantinople. His name is John. He was known and is known to by the Church as Saint John the faster, because even as patriarch he didn't even drink water every day, let alone eat. He was a great healer of souls and he left the Church thirty five precious soul saving cannons that have been life and wisdom and guidance to spiritual fathers for the last fifteen hundred years. He died in nineteen,... I guess just a little more than fourteen hundred years. These cannons. There's just thirty five of them. These cannons focus and build upon a foundation of the thoughts. The first cannon is simply an apology and a defense of his approach, because one of the things he did he took the spiritual guidance of the great father's, like saying Basil, the great who taught us to evaluate sins and the gravity of sins by the length of time that you would have to be away from communion in repentance in order to cure yourself of that sin. Set John the faster altered the approach. He took the that standard and he said, look, there's many other ways that you can evaluate the gravity of sin and how to heal it besides the simple, the single measure of how long to be away from communion. And he speaks about such things as making prostrations, of saying prayers, special prayers, etc, of charitable acts, and so he makes a defense of his reducing the length of time that saying Basil articulates for particular sins to be away from communion if the repentance is engaged in concert with other things like service to others and prayers, etc. That's that's his first cannon. And then and cannon too, he makes this shocking statement. He says the first thing we have to know is that an assault of a thought that wounds your heart is one hundred percent sinless and has no penance associated with it. This is the first thing that he says. This is very important and many Christians don't understand this and it it terrorizes them because an evil thought appears in your mind. Saint John is saying when you get assaulted, there's no responsibility that comes to you for that. He's saying that that is often a completely innocent act now, of course it can be something that you've drawn to yourself because of meditate, previous meditations, etc. He's not saying it always, is he? But he's saying just objectively, the appearance of a thought in your mind, there's no sin and therefore there's no penance. The next thing he says is that coupling with the thought, accepting the thought, playing with the thought, contemplating the thought, this is the beginning of sin and thus the beginning of penance. This is a very important distinction. Sometimes the most atrocious thoughts simply appear in our minds and...

...if you're a novice, you can be scandalized and think, oh my gosh, that's me, and that's exactly what the demon wants you to think. A terrible, grotesque thought appears and if you don't know this, that there is, that does not mean it's from you. It's very easy to be tricked and then you accuse yourself and you put your focus on that which is not worthy of attention whatsoever, the appearance of the thought. We have nasty enemies. They're constantly a pause, Paul says, lit lobbing at us, fiery darts, grotesque things. They just appear. We're fallen people and we have serious enemies. The real issue is, what do you do when it shows up, when you see the thought, do you entertain it? Do you, in his words, couple with it? The next cannon says struggle is worthy of a can, of a crown. Struggle is worthy of a crown or of a punishment. This is the next thing he says. The thought comes up, don't make a judgment about it that is from you. Instead, decide right then and there, if it's something that's not pleasing, obviously, if it's repulsive to you, that is evidence it's out that it's not from you. If it was from you and you find it repulsive, you wouldn't be meditating upon it you, it wouldn't. You wouldn't have been bringing into your realm of perception. So the first thing to do is make no judgment that's from yourself. The second is not to couple with it, but instead to struggle, and he says if you do struggle, if you make just a small effort to start up struggle, it's worthy of a crown. Taking custody of your thoughts, being serious about your thoughts, is something that is blessed something that God supports one hundred percent and will reward you for at then, lastly, and can in fife, he says consent. Consent is the cause of all penances and of all sins. Consent to thoughts. You see how important thoughts are. All sins follow this. What happens here when that thought appears, determines everything. This is why the cultivation of beautiful thoughts is so important. This is why Jesus was working hard to implant into his disciples minds the truth about the beauty of his cross and the resurrection, because he knew if they didn't get this, they're never going to understand anything about his ministry and their life. And so he repeated it and he repeated... and he repeated it. You know, last week we were discussing the spiritual life from St John of Sinai. It was his Sunday, the latter, and I want to mention him again because on our subject of the thoughts, there's no one who's better than Saint John of Sini. You know, in his thirty steps he addresses a lot about how to love God, a lot about how to love people. To be sanctified, he dedicates numerous steps to a wide variety of virtues. He gives a page to avarice, hot to ver overcome the love of money. He gives two pages to the value of bodily vigil why using your body to repent is so important. He gives four pages to the cultivation of meekness. He gives three and a half pages to dispassion, how to become passion less. He gives eight and a half pages to holy and blessed prayer, eight and a half hole pages. He gives two and half pages to the depths of repentance. And then he turns in Chapter Twenty six to the discernment of Thoughts, and he writes thirty six and a half pages to the subject of thoughts. What does that tell you about the importance of thoughts in the spiritual life? He says the guarding of the thoughts is the one thing. It is the one thing, and the custody of the mind that's another. As far as the East is from the West, so much higher is the latter than the former. It starts with guarding and it leads to a life of custody, practicing watching your Thart thoughts, guarding your mind, not giving end to every thought that appears is the path to actually be a person who actually controls thoughts. And if you can control thoughts, you can control actions and you can become the Christian you want to be. There's no other way except through the gate of thoughts. Now let me end by mentioning how this relates to our theme today, which is St Mary of Egypt. If you listen carefully on Wednesday, and what a blessed evening that was and always is, listening to this magnificent woman who has who became in her life against every odd and every thought of man, listening to this woman who has made the strongest of monks feel like a little girl.

She reveals the centrality of this of thoughts when Sosima first comes to see her and in the interaction that happens when he first discovers her in the desert. Focuses on thoughts and she carries that theme about thoughts all the way through their conversation to the end. She tells Zosima, who was himself completely traumatized when he saw her praying about eighteen inches off the ground. He said his heat describes his thoughts as just spinning, yet no idea what to think, and then she tells him about her life. She said, when I recall all the dangers which I overcame in the desert and all the violent thoughts which confused me, I am afraid that they will take pet take possession of me again. How does she sum up her forty seven years in the desert when she first meets Sosima? She describes it as a war of thoughts that she still, even when she's eighteen inches off the ground in prayer, terribly afraid will return to her. Look at how important the war of thoughts is in the mind of same merry of Egypt. She also shows us that there's no time in this life, while you're in the flesh, that you're ever going to be free of your great concern about this. You're never going to be free. You're going to be free of that at the resurrection. That's what's coming. But now our life is to engage in this. And then she describes what tormented her. I was tormented by the thoughts of the food of Egypt and the fine wine which I loved so much. And then she goes into great details about the thoughts of lust that assaulted her because she had made so many horrible memories over her life. The food, the wine, the sex of Egypt, they all tormented her. And then she said to him, something shocking, she said. But then, in my thoughts, I returned to the icon of the mother of God. She chose to turn her thoughts from the remembrance of her passive, terrible deeds and all of the temptations. She chose to turn her thoughts to the beautiful things that God had done in her life. Brothers and sisters, meditating upon the beautiful things that God has done in our life and never forgetting them, never letting them go out of our minds, is absolutely key to winning the war. You have to keep a mental record, maybe a written record that can stimulate your mental record of all the wonderful things that God have done and is doing in your life.

This is what she's modeling for us. I implored the mother of God to chase away the thoughts and, after weeping, I used to see the light in my mind at last. Yes, she wasn't completely fear, free of the fear, but her mind had become light. Through weeping and struggle of trying to control her thoughts, the light of God appeared and she received Consolation Por Zosima. There's lots of references to his minds, to all his thoughts, which were absolute torment. But this is the encouragement, dear ones, this is the encouragement. We have to pray that the Lord God would deliver us from bad thoughts. We have to contradict them when they appear. We have to be resolved not to play with them, but to struggle against them so that we get a crown. We have to refuse to couple with them. No making them your friends, no deciding to set the thought in your mind and then kind of walk around it and look at it. I tell the catechuments every year doing that is like getting carried away with a big piece of bubble gum. Your chiing it and the next thing you know you're pulling it out like this, you're stretching it this way and that way and if you're not careful, next thing you know it's all over your fingers. It might be popped as a bubble right on your face and then you're sitting there trying to pick it up. This is exactly what happens when we we let thoughts, bad thoughts, come in. If we let a thought come in, then we have to chaste it around inside of us and it's very hard to get it out. Sometimes you can only get half of it out and the other half still stinks. It still smells where that that Ding thought went. Now we have to learn not to play with thoughts, despise them, disregard them, ignore them. Don't let yourself be upset when a terrible, horrible, grotesque thought appears in your mind. Remember what Saint John says. There is no sin and Penance in the appearance or the assault of a thought. It's one hundred percent what we decide to do with that thought. God be our champion and crush evil thoughts and help us instead to turn our minds to the beautiful things that God has done for us, so that his light at last like coming to our minds on him. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Necktar Publication Us, a nonprofit 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 www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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