Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More on the Default Position

Sometimes it seems as though the human default position, so to speak, is to treat life as if it consists primarily of a combination of fulfilling (more or less) various duties, and then rewarding oneself in various ways for having more-or-less fulfilled them. Or reversing the process by rewarding oneself in advance, and then plodding through the duties. Or (my personal favorite!) rewarding oneself on both ends of the process!

But ultimately, that's so empty.

This post-communion prayer (0f St. Simon Metaphrases) presents the alternative:

"Freely Thou hast given me Thy Body for my food, O Thou art a fire consuming the unworthy. Consume me not, O my Creator, but instead enter into my members, my veins, my heart. Consume the thorns of my transgressions. Cleanse my soul and sanctify my reasonings. Make firm my knees and body. Illumine my five senses. Nail me to the fear of Thee. Always protect, guard, and keep me from soul-destroying words and deeds. Cleanse me, purify me, and adorn me. Give me understanding and illumination. Show me to be a temple of Thy One Spirit, and not the home of many sins. May every evil thing, every carnal passion, flee from me as from a fire as I become Thy tabernacle through communion..."

Not duty and the rewards which are really self-induced anesthesia, but instead, fire.

By now everyone that would be remotely likely to read this blog has encountered this story from the writings of the desert fathers, but I'll place it here anyway:

"Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'"

And St. John Chrysostom wrote,

"Let us clothe ourselves with spiritual fire, let us gird ourselves with its flame. No man who bears flame fears those who meet him; be it wild beast, be it man, be it snares innumerable, so long as he is armed with fire, all things stand out of his way, all things retire. The flame is intolerable, the fire can not be endured, it consumes all. With this fire let us clothe ourselves, offering up glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and ever and world without end. Amen."

This last one seems rather odd--is he saying we are supposed to go around burning people up? The fire he speaks of can't be anything other than holy love, so it wouldn't be destructive--I think he means that we don't need to be afraid of anyone or anything. Of communion, he also wrote: "Let us come away from that table like fire-breathing lions of which the devil is afraid."

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