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Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Alice] #271672
01/06/08 01:05 AM
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One must be very careful with the concept of holy suffering. It is not easy to understand. Even saints have, at times, gotten it wrong. Biographers (of saints) have often misunderstood it and presented suffering as holy and a virtue.

I am not saying that anyone in these posts has it wrong. But I post this post as a balance to the whole thing. Which balance is often missing from the books of biographies of saints and the saying of some of the early fathers (monastics and ascetics). The reason why I bring this up .. is that many souls called by God .. do go through a period of coming to grips with suffering. There are two extremes, two mistakes, often made on the way. One is to avoid suffering all together (that is a mistake) and the other is to imagine that it has some hidden secret value and to either desire suffering or become in some way entirely passive to it (this is also a mistake).

As I say, even some saints have had it wrong for a time. For example: St. John of the Cross .. after his months of suffering in prison .. realized that not having been able to avoid that suffering .. what he did suffer was instrumental to his spiritual change which began his period of great spiritual enlightenment. For many months (after his release from prison) St John made himself suffer. He would punish his body by whipping his back, and by wearing things under his shirt which caused him pain. {i]However [/i].. .. this period of intentionally embracing suffering only lasted a short time ... because he continued to spiritual mature and finally came to realize that while he could reproduce the suffering that he had while in prison ... suffering itself had no value and was not advancing him in spiritual growth .. and God wanted him to stop. So John of the Cross stopped and never advocated (as a spiritual director) any love of suffering to the nuns he directed. Instead .. he advocated 'no-thing, no-thing, no-thing'. This wonderful maxim also applies to suffering. Neither embrace it (desire it) nor fear it (avoid it at any cost). Yet ... one of the most famous paintings of John of the Cross has him holding a whip with which he used to beat his back and this painting is a fine example of the promotion of this misunderstanding regarding suffering.

Francis of Assisi also went through a season where he punished and abused his body .. but later .. he ceased that nonsense and had regrets for how he had treated his body.

The reason why some saints embraced suffering (for a time) is that at a certain stage of spiritual growth we become aware that our habitual fear of suffering has often caused us to do things against our conscience. These saints came to a realization of the habitual nature of that human fear of suffering ... and tried to counter that habit through the use of seeking suffering and 'embracing' suffering – where they had sought to escape all suffering before.

However ... their method (seeking suffering) was their own method and did not contribute in any way to their sanctification. It may help someone break the human habit of having a fear of suffering ... but that is as far as any spiritual good that may come of it. There is abetter way to break the habit of fear of suffering.

Suffering that is unavoidable because we are following conscience ... should be accepted. It should not be a cause of us avoiding to do what we should (by conscience) do. Providence, is the best doctor .. and we should leave it to Providence.

A priest I knew put it very well one day (a long time ago) ... after a person who was reading many lives of the saints and noticing that some of them suffered greatly and had profound consolations in the form of holy visits etc.. etc.. this person felt he had a desire to become a victim soul. So this person fortified himself .. and began to ask the Lord to accept him as a victim soul. He told the good priest about his desire and the priest responded “No. Don't ask for that. Do not ask for suffering. If you insist .. He may give it to you. Do not tell God how to make you holy. Let God decide for himself when and what you are to suffer. You – abandon yourself to Providence day by day – that is all you do. That is much more difficult than ... suffering.”

Suffering is a tool which God will sometimes use (for a time) to help form us. It is best to let God decided how, when, where, and for how long. We should not take that tool into our own hands. The way we make sure that we do not take it into our own hands .. is that we do all that we reasonably can do .. to avoid it and alleviate it in others and in ourselves. That which we can not change is ordained by God.

We are required ... to do our reasonable best, for ourselves, and for others, to relieve suffering when and where we can. The gospel example to cure the sick and alleviate the suffering of the poor and orphaned ... applies to ourselves also.

Those who are under real and sustained abuse (physical or mental) .. are the victims of injustice, hate, and someone else's psychological problems. The gospel imperative to seek justice for the oppressed .. includes ourselves. There is no holiness in abuse .. neither for the one abusing nor for the one being abused. We are required by the church and even more so by conscience .. to do all that we reasonable can to have justice prevail. If not love .. at least justice.

God may, if He wants to .. God may have some situation in which we suffer ... turn out to our spiritual benefit .. that is God's part. But our part – what is required on us .. is to do our own reasonable best to to avoid suffering and alleviate suffering.

God may have us suffer for a season .. in order to detach us from some attachment or from some fear .. in such cases we will not be able to avoid the suffering. But we are still required to do all we reasonable can to lessen suffering.

The suffering one has within the Dark Night ... is not directly willed by God. God permits and allows it he does not directly desire it. The spiritual suffering is associated with the strength and resistance of our attachments and past habits. Any physical suffering (pain) is part of our human nature and has its good purpose on the level of the function of our body.

In all things, including suffering, our conscience must be our guide. The person who has spiritual maturity does not lose attention to the guide of his conscience on account of a fear of suffering. But neither does he seek suffering nor become passive to it ... nor does he avoid it as the cost of his conscience.

Suffering is not the path to God .. Providence is the path to God .. but we will have occasion to suffer some on the way.

So it seems to me.

-ray

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: theophan] #271716
01/06/08 02:07 PM
01/06/08 02:07 PM
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Greetings all, and a blessed Christmas and Theophany...

[I apologize if this comment derails the thread, I have no such intention, I personally think it is relevant...]

In light of all that has been stated here, what does one think of the (basically traditional) notion that the Holy Theotokos did not suffer the pains of a natural childbirth?

Personally, I always had a hard time absorbing that. Also, is the opinion that she endured a natural childbirth an acceptable one from either the Catholic or Orthodox viewpoints? I would think so, but I don't know...

Michael


Christ is Born, and has been revealed to us!

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Hesychios] #271817
01/07/08 01:02 AM
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Dear Bob ...

I think my last post here was off target and is hard to read.

Would you delete it please ASAP so that no misunderstandings arise.

I am not sure if any of my late posts are any good smile


Thank you.

-ray


Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Hesychios] #271830
01/07/08 09:03 AM
01/07/08 09:03 AM
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In light of all that has been stated here, what does one think of the (basically traditional) notion that the Holy Theotokos did not suffer the pains of a natural childbirth?


Hesychios:

This thread was started to examine a quote from a monk of the Coptic Orthodox Church and his take on suffering as he viewed it through the prism of Christ's Saving Action. His whole book takes that approach to every topic he discusses. I found it to be something that caused a seismic shift in my own thinking and thought I'd share it with the brethren here and see if it resonated. Viewing EVERYTHING through the prism of how it relates to the new man by Baptism who is now part of Christ and how everything about our suffering helps to do what St. Paul says about "filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ" is headly stuff for me and I'm still working on absorbing and integrating it into my thinking and living. This is simply something that continues to help me understand what it means to be "in Christ."

If the Mother of God suffered no pain in childbirth, this topic is irrevelent to her situation. Is it not? As for the rest of your questions, I simply have never read about these theologumena and have never had these questions cross my mind. So you'll have to find someone more knowledgeable than me to answer this for you.

In Christ,

BOB

Last edited by theophan; 01/07/08 12:39 PM.
Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Ray Kaliss] #271832
01/07/08 09:18 AM
01/07/08 09:18 AM
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Ray,
Thank You for the explanation, that cleared up alot of questions I had about this subject.

God Bless,
Dandelion

Last edited by Dandelion; 01/07/08 09:19 AM.
Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Hesychios] #271844
01/07/08 10:18 AM
01/07/08 10:18 AM
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Dear Hesychios,

The Mother of God experienced NO pain in giving birth to Christ owing to her great holiness and sanctification as the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the God-bearer of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ - as is deeply celebrated in our liturgical prayers.

Her death was also so light and sweet that it is called a 'falling asleep' or a "dormition."

However, she more than made up in the pain department at the Foot of Her Son's Cross . . .

The pain she felt on Calvary is often juxtaposed with her painless birthgiving in the liturgical prayers of the Octoechos especially.

Her birthgiving was above nature and her virginity was in tact before, during and after her birthgiving (signified by the three stars on her head and shoulders respectively). Then again, the Person she gave birth to was Himself simply . . . Divine!

Alex

Last edited by Orthodox Catholic; 01/07/08 10:19 AM.
Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #271846
01/07/08 10:28 AM
01/07/08 10:28 AM
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Dear Bob,

Thank you for sharing your deeply moving thoughts on this important subject!

This was a topic that was also raised by the early Church, especially in the wake of the experience of martyrdom.

The vocation to be a martyr for Christ is just that. Our Lord grants His martyrs the grace to witness to Him as He bestows this calling upon them (which, like all vocations, can be rejected).

We are reminded of the 40 Martyrs of Sebastea in Armenia, one of whom gave up and was taken to a warm bath where he immediately died. Another soldier watching all this said, "There were forty before. Why should there not be forty now?" And he took off his clothing and joined the other 39 on the frozen lake.

In addition, Christ in the Gospels just doesn't go around "asking for it."

When He was struck in the face before the Jewish elders, our Lord immediately turned to the fellow who hit Him and demanded an explanation as to WHY he hit Him, that he wasn't justified etc.

Christ is always the supremely Divine Mystery - we can never predict how He will act at any given time and why. He was both the Man of Peace and Suffering Servant as well as the Man Who cast the money-lenders out of the temple and referred to Herod as "that fox."

As believers, we are called upon to act variously depending on the circumstances, in immitation of our Lord.

There was an abusive fellow I knew against whom I restrained myself.

But I was later told by others that the best thing for him would have probably been a knuckle sandwich from Moi! smile

Cheers, my Mentor!

Alex

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Ray Kaliss] #271877
01/07/08 12:43 PM
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Dear Bob ...

I think my last post here was off target and is hard to read.

Would you delete it please ASAP so that no misunderstandings arise.

I am not sure if any of my late posts are any good


Thank you.

-ray


Ray:

I don't think that's the case. You have made something clear for one other of our brethren on this board and so, with your kind permission, I won't delete your post. I may need some clarification, but I admit to NOT being the sharpest tool in the shed. laugh biggrin

In Christ,

BOB

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: theophan] #271886
01/07/08 01:28 PM
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Dear Bob,

I also agree with you and would also like to hear the difference between suffering and abuse clarified in church during a homily. I think it would help immensely.

Thank you again,

Dandelion

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Dandelion] #271906
01/07/08 04:38 PM
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Dandelion:

I think it's rather simple. Abuse can cause suffering in another. It is but one form of suffering. We can suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically.

The point that is being made from an Eastern Christian perspective--and I do not want anyone to think I am making a statement that this is either exhaustive or official--that suffering by one who is injured can be of eternal value when viewed through the prism of Christ's Saving Actions--Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, Second Coming. Both of the sources I cited sketch this out and then avoid being specific as to cases. That seems to be the Eastern approach: being comfortable with mystery and ambiguity, trusting to the Lord in all things.

I am still working on absorbing and integrating this concept because it seems to be a bigger perspective than the one I have been formed to see. While traditional Western approaches want to define, pigeon-hole, dissect, and understand every detail and define all possible cases, this approach seems to ask us to take a broad, eternal view that is radically Christocentric and calls for a radical leap of faith.

This is not to say that either Western or Eastern approach is wrong or needs to correct the other. The Mystery of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is bigger than all of our expressions of it. We approach it from different perspectives. But the cover of the first book cited, The Communion of Love, contains a commentary by a Western theologian who makes the point of this radical Christocentric approach that will leave modern Western Christians with something to think about. We tend to like to fill in the faith gaps with psychology and our own pop culture. The works cited leave no room for anything but Christ and a profound faith leap toward and with Him.

As far as clarification of the abusive situation, while it is not tolerable, the authors seem to imply that the abused one must forgive the abuser, even though one is not required to stay and take more. The thrust is that in all things we must put on the Mind of Christ and forgive in all situations the wrongs done to us no matter how difficult this may be, using His example as He was lead to the Cross. To cite the authors again, we will be forgiven in the same measure that we forgive. So we are always called to pray

Forgive, O Lord, Lover of the souls of men, those who hate us and those who maltreat us, and cause not one of them to be lost because of me a sinner, but let all be saved by Thy Grace and Great Mercy.

And, trust me, this is not easy, though I've repeated this prayer dozens of times over the course of my life.

In Christ,

BOB

Last edited by theophan; 01/08/08 08:39 AM. Reason: spelling
Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #272259
01/09/08 12:09 PM
01/09/08 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
Dear Hesychios,

The Mother of God experienced NO pain in giving birth to Christ owing to her great holiness and sanctification as the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the God-bearer of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ - as is deeply celebrated in our liturgical prayers.

Her death was also so light and sweet that it is called a 'falling asleep' or a "dormition."

However, she more than made up in the pain department at the Foot of Her Son's Cross . . .

The pain she felt on Calvary is often juxtaposed with her painless birthgiving in the liturgical prayers of the Octoechos especially.

Her birthgiving was above nature and her virginity was in tact before, during and after her birthgiving (signified by the three stars on her head and shoulders respectively). Then again, the Person she gave birth to was Himself simply . . . Divine!

Alex
Dear Alex,

Thank you for your opinion.

Michael

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #272362
01/09/08 07:43 PM
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There was an abusive fellow I knew against whom I restrained myself.

But I was later told by others that the best thing for him would have probably been a knuckle sandwich from Moi!

Cheers, my Mentor!

Alex


ALEX:

I bow to your greater experience.

I remember reading that martyrdom can be either "red" (blood) or "white" (the endurance of a prolonged experience of great and/or small experiences of injustice).

In Christ,

BOB

Last edited by theophan; 01/10/08 08:14 PM.
Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: theophan] #272574
01/10/08 08:11 PM
01/10/08 08:11 PM
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Very informative posts Bob.

-ray

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: Ray Kaliss] #273304
01/15/08 04:05 PM
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Way of the Ascetics
By Tito Colliander

THE weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain: thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark hours, days and weeks. They say then that "God has left them" in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good.
The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.
On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: Haste thee, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth (Psalm 88:8), and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head: now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you the strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself, and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks.

Re: Suffering is our path to glory [Re: JGC] #273309
01/15/08 04:25 PM
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JGC:

Fabulous. Another great addition to the perspectives of how Christians ought to deal with, endure, persevere in, and find God's Providential Hand in suffering.

Thank God for your addition and thank you.

In Christ,

BOB

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