Anonymous asked: I've always heard the concept that "our identities are rooted in Christ," but does that cancel out the other things about us? Like gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.
Ideally, identity in Christ shouldn’t cancel out anything. Having your identity in Christ doesn’t mean you stop existing as you - or it shouldn’t. Christ isn’t looking for assimilation. We are not robots created to fit some ideal that erases who we are as people. Identity in Christ should mean that we celebrate, grow, and accept who are as a person and embraces those identities which God created in us. We become more fully ourselves in God, not less human.
This is something American evangelical culture has wrong in a lot of ways - we see growing in Christ as giving up parts of ourselves “for the greater good” or whatever. And it does require sacrifice, but, I firmly believe, it doesn’t require sacrificing our identities and who we are as people. Indeed, a God that asks we change the core of who we are is a cruel God indeed.
mercy on me, a sinner!’ — HH Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria (via theorthodoxbritreturns)
God: Experiencing the reality of God
My own experience with God is many fold, with everything from witnessing the healing of illnesses of many people, including my own heart condition (I was on the operating table, awaiting bypass surgery, but was healed), to standing before numerous myrrh streaming icons, watching the myrrh well up. I once witnessed a cross (about 12 inches long), held by a Coptic priest friend, literally pouring myrrh into a bucket. Miracles like this are not easily dismissed when you are watching it happen. Perhaps the most impressive miracles I have witnessed over my thirty some years as a monk, have been the healing of peoples hearts. Previously evil people, totally focused on themselves, and hateful to others, have been miraculously transformed into loving, caring, individuals who have become filled with the desire to serve others.
It is important to remember that our God did not create us as puppets, but rather as persons with the freedom to respond, or not, to His invitation to enter into communion with Him. Just as a loving dad, desiring to help his child take those first steps on his own, will let go of the child’s hands, as the mother reaches out from a few feet away, allowing their child the freedom to move independently, so does our God withdraw our sense of His presence, that we might freely reach out to Him. This is because, just as the child is given freedom to make that first step, so we are given the opportunity to respond to God’s invitation, by our own free will.
I have been able to experience the presence of God because of the freedom I’ve been granted by a loving God Who has reached out to me, with His grace and mercy. I, like everyone, can experience the presence of God through the joyful and awesome encounter with Christ while participating in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. I’ve experienced God while hearing a good confession, and witnessing the results of the outpouring of God’s grace upon the penitent sinner. I experience the presence of God while witnessing the wonder of discovery in the faces of college students who are hearing of the mystical theology of Orthodoxy, for the first time. I experience the presence of God while visiting the old woman who has walked with God her whole life. I experience the presence of the Lord when witnessing the giggle of a child, who is being hugged by his grandmother. I witness the love of God in the face of my confessor, and the fellowship of my brother monks. I experience the love of God while con-celebrating with my archbishop, and my brother priests. I experience God in the early hours of the morning, while I do my cell rule.
I experience God in the sunrise, and in the sunset. I experience God in the freshly picked rose, and the lapping of the water while standing at the sea shore. I experience God as I taste the fresh corn from the stalk. I experience God in the purring sound of our cat, Hammi, while holding him in my arms. Finally, I experience God in the solitude of my heart.
With love in Christ,— Abbot Tryphon (All-Merciful Saviour Orthodox Christian Monastery)
Sometimes I wonder if I really love God. Like, I want to do and try to do my best for His sake, but do I really love God?
I’m afraid this seething lack of love on my part will land me in hell faster than any sin I commit. But at the same time, I’m aware of God’s love for me.