My husband shared with me a page out of our Daily Vitamins for Spiritual Growth Book (volume three) by Anthony M. Coniaris that he happened to pick up and flip open to.  It was a wonderful reading and I decided to share it with you today.  It’s from p. 147 (May 22nd).  It is titled “DAMAGED ICONS”:

Every one of us is created in the image of God.  And every one of us is like an image of God, an icon of God that has been damaged by sin.  But if I were given an icon damaged by time or circumstances or human hatred, I would treat it with great reverence and tenderness.  I would pay attention not primarily to its being damaged.  I would concentrate on what is left of its beauty.

This is exactly what we must learn to do with people.  Every one of us is a damaged icon.  Who has not been wounded by sin or suffering or hatred or excessive criticism? We must learn to look and look until we come to see by God’s grace the inner beauty of the image of God in each person, however marred it may be.  Only then can we even begin to help that inner beauty to blossom.  For unless we strengthen the image of God in us and encourage it to grow, it will die.  We all need encouragement, and we need it all the time.  We need it for ourselves and we need it for others, especially for our children. For we are all damaged icons in need of repair; damaged icons that need to be brought to the Master Iconographer – Jesus – for renewal and restoration.

For this renewal to take place we need encouragement: the encouragement of God, which we have; the encouragement of the Scriptures, which we have; and the encouragement of God’s people, which we do not always have.  And which we so desperately need.

Isn’t this the way Jesus treated people – people like Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, Peter who denied Him three times, and so many others?  Through His forgiveness He encouraged them to grow and achieve their full potential as children of God. This is how Zacchaeus the dishonest tax collector went on to become the benevolent philanthropist; this is how the adulterous Samaritan woman who had five so-called “husbands” became St. Photini, one of the first evangelists; and this is how the weak, vacillating Peter the Rock, the chief of the apostles.  The encouragement sinners received through Christ’s forgiveness made them new persons.”

I thought this was a wonderful thing to share during Lent.  It’s a wonderful thing to contemplate in our spiritual journey – not only how all of us are created in the image of God and ALL of us are images that have been damaged by sin but that we should treat one another with reverence and tenderness REGARDLESS of the tarnished damage and how we should concentrate on the beauty that is still there.  We must do that with ourselves, our spouses, our children, our mothers and fathers and all of our family, friends and others around us.

We must offer our love even to the people in our lives damaged by sin.  We must reach out and encourage them – point out the beauty given to them by God – show them we believe it’s still there.  For it is… We must encourage. We must love.  We must forgive.  We must pray.

 

Available at the Orthodox Book Store and Light and Life Publishing

 

Other Books by Anthony Coniaris:   Introducing the Orthodox Church: Its Faith and Life, Philokalia: The Bible of Orthodox Spirituality, Daily Vitamins For Spiritual Growth - Volumes I  and II ,   and many more!

 

 

8

Prayer is conversation with God.  Prayer is as necessary to our lives as the cup of coffee people 'need' to rise in the morning or the very air we breathe.

We must, for our inner being - our very souls, turn to God for all things.  We must turn to God in times of happiness and times of sadness and whenever we are in need of anything. We must also rely upon His holy will and wait patiently - though this part can be extremely difficult in trying times.  It's something I've personally struggled with often.  But we must recognize that God alone knows all that we need and also WHEN we need it. We humans often think we know what's best for us and when and how these things should or should not take place in our lives but, realistically, we are merely human and we fall very short in this ability.  God does not fall short.  God knows all.  He knows best.

In those times of personal struggle we need to pray more! Unfortunately, I don't always take my own advice...but am working to resolve this...   Pray for patience, for strength, and for the discernment to know that God does know best and it is wonderful that He is the one in control.

People who are 'slothful' in prayer do harm to their souls - for without prayer you are departing from your relationship to God.

There are basically three types of prayers practiced by Orthodox Christians:

  1. Prayers of Thanksgiving and Praise
  2. Prayers of Petition
  3. Prayers of Penitence

Praise and Thanksgiving prayers are given to God for the roofs over our heads, the food on our plates, the gloves that warm my fingers in these winter months and all of our blessings in which we are grateful.

Petitions are used I times of need, challenge and stress!  With these prayers we are requesting help, guidance and blessings from God.  Orthodox Christians also petition the saints to pray to God for us as well as our own prayers to our Lord much as we petition our friends here on earth to pray for us as well.

Penitential prayers are those in which we are repenting for our wrongs and asking God for His forgiveness.  One such prayer that comes to mind is that of the Publican - short, but to the point -  "God be merciful to me, a sinner".

The Lord's Prayer - often referred to as the "Our Father" is most important to everyone and should be prayed several times a day. The Lord Jesus Christ himself gave this prayer to His disciples when teaching them how to pray.  I will address this prayer in an upcoming post!  Until then, may God's blessings be with you all.

1

Christmas Day may be over but the season is not.  And the reason we celebrate the Holy Day is never gone.

Let us remember the reason of establishing the Feast of the Lord's Birth on December 25th:  In the 4th century, there were heresies being taught.  Followers of Arius were denying that Jesus was God made flesh. In accordance with this teaching, Christians could not celebrate his birth.  In order to fight this error, it was agreed in the Church that the commemoration of the Birth of Jesus, Our Lord, would be separated from the Feast of His Baptism ( Until the 4th century, this Feast was celebrated on January 6 along with the remembrance of Theophany - the Baptism of Our Lord - and was held on the 6th day of the year in relation to the "Sixth Day" when Adam was created because according to ancient tradition, Christ is the "Second Adam").  December 25th was chosen out of several suggestions made at the time as a date for this separate celebration in order to remove temptation from the Christians of that time. The Romans had a pagan festival on this day and it was usually spent in merrymaking and immorality.  Choosing December 25th as the day, therefore, assisted the Church to teach the rejection of pagan ideas and demonstrated that Christ had come to replace those lifeless and immoral teachings.  Most importantly, in choosing a date to separately celebrate the birth of Christ, the Church clearly confessed her faith that God had indeed taken flesh and chose to live here among men.

The sun sets on the night of Christmas Day but the celebration is not over.  There are 12 days of Christmas of course, as I discussed in my previous post on the Russian Orthodox Traditions of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany in which we celebrate the Birth of Our Lord and Savior with family and friends.  And there is the rest of the year to come in which we recall not only the Birth of our Lord, but His life on earth, His teachings, and, most importantly, His suffering, death and RESURRECTION!                  His birth leads to His RESURRECTION - which gives us eternal life.   wpid-IMG_20131210_153127_002.jpg

That can't be over in one day.

Continue the celebration.  Keep the LOVE of CHRIST in your heart..keep the magic in your heart - keep the spirit of wanting to give, wanting to smile, wanting to celebrate Christ alive in your soul not just on Christmas Day, but today, tomorrow and all the days of the rest of your life.  May God grant you many many many years to do so!