by Fr. John Oliver
from Touching Heaven
The curtains fill with faint breeze and tease away from the open window, then hang still again. I cannot sleep. In several minutes the clock beside my bed will ring as I have programmed it to do. I hear no sound but the soft rustle of swaying leaves. Time has passed unnoticed. It is night-one hour before the Easter Pascha Liturgy.
I dress, then move quietly through the house. There is nothing to take to the temple but the usual-joy from the astonishing events that will unfold this night, guilt from another Lent of scattered effort, and hope of meeting Christ, who welcomes the eleventh-hour people. Somehow, though, feelings are irrelevant. Indeed, something infinitely more interesting is moving toward center stage. The dark corners in every fold of the universe rumble in anticipation as the priest readies his vestments and the choir arranges the hymns.
I pat my pockets, listening for the familiar jingle of coins and car keys. The money is needed for a meal at an all-night restaurant; the keys for transporting my hungry body there after the Liturgy. I walk through the living room, brushing with my fingertips the wall holding the icon of the Mother of God. Traveling light, I open the front door and step into a humid Florida night. Faint blue-and-white shades of television screens flicker from nearby homes. It is the only evidence of life I can see, and I imagine that they shine upon the bodies of sleeping men and women.
by Fr. Paul Lazor
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. (Sermon of St. John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. St. Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and faith are in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Indeed, without the resurrection there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The disciples of Christ would have remained the broken and hopeless band which the Gospel of John describes as being in hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They went nowhere and preached nothing until they met the risen Christ, the doors being shut (John 20: 19). Then they touched the wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the basis of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): ". . . for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39).
The resurrection reveals Jesus of Nazareth as not only the expected Messiah of Israel, but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . the holy city, new Jerusalem. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:1-4).
In His death and resurrection, Christ defeats the last enemy, death, and thereby fulfills the mandate of His Father to subject all things under His feet (I Cor. 15:24-26).
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5: 12)
by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
In the center of our liturgical life, in the very center of that time which we measure as year, we find the feast of Christ’s Resurrection. What is Resurrection? Resurrection is the appearance in this world, completely dominated by time and therefore by death, of a life that will have no end. The one who rose again from the dead does not die anymore. In this world of ours, not somewhere else, not in a world that we do not know at all, but in our world, there appeared one morning Someone who is beyond death and yet in our time. This meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, this great joy, is the central theme of Christianity and it has been preserved in its purity by the Orthodox Church. There is much truth expressed by those who say that the real central theme of Orthodoxy, the center of all its experience, the frame of reference of everything else, is the Resurrection of Christ.
The center, the day, that gives meaning to all days and therefore to all time, is that yearly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. This is always the end and the beginning. We are always living after Easter, and we are always going toward Easter.
by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
from the Holy Land
Every year during Holy Saturday, for many centuries, there is a most magnificent miracle that continues to take place in Jerusalem since the time we were allowed as Christians to celebrate ceremonies in public.
Pilgrims from all over the world gather in Jerusalem to witness the greatest of all miracles--the Miracle of the Holy Fire. The miracle has turned into a glorious cultural event, but many simply cannot get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre Church. The soldiers, the police, the large crowds, the noise, the drums of the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts anxiously waiting to receive the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ, is a day long adventure. But it always happens at approximately 2 pm on Holy Saturday.
One year, it was a miracle in itself that finally after twenty years waiting, because of the Second Uprising and the height of the violence there was a lack of pilgrims in the Holy Land, I got inside the church myself.
It is an exciting celebration with the sound of many languages at the same time. Representatives of many churches from all over the Holy Land and beyond, come to receive the Holy Fire and carry the flame back in small lanterns to their particular churches for the Midnight Resurrection Service. Special permits must be issued for Christians from Gaza and the West Bank to enter Jerusalem. Furthermore, as an added bureaucracy, you need another ticket/pass to enter the Holy Sepulchre.
by Fr. Stephen Freeman
The phrase, “behind closed doors,” has become synonymous in English with things being done in secret – generally of an unsavory or nefarious sort. Institutions speak of an “open door policy,” and promise “transparency” to those from the outside. Closed doors have always had a sense of secrecy about them. Sometimes the secrecy hides the darkness of evil, other times it protects us from the wonder of the holy.
The stories of Christ’s resurrection are filled with closed doors. It is a common phrase in the resurrection narratives: “the doors being shut for fear of the Jews.” The disciples had lost their leader and teacher and they feared that they themselves would become victims. That fear led them to flee. It led St. Peter to deny that he even knew Christ. It led them all to hide behind closed doors.
Closed doors occur even earlier. The first doors known in the stories of Scripture are the gates of Paradise. Adam and Eve, having broken God’s only commandment to them, are forced to leave Paradise. The gates of the garden are shut and an angel is set at the gate to guard against their re-entry. More than the story of our first parents – it is the story of man.
The gates represent the brokenness of our communion with God. We exist – we have life – but our life is somehow cut off, “shut out” of its right and proper communion: we stand outside the Garden.
Later mystagogical teaching about the use of doors during an Orthodox service echo this estrangement. The priest praying before the closed doors at Vespers is sometimes said to represent Adam weeping before the closed gates of Paradise.
Our own lives are filled with closed doors – places from which we have been evicted – places into which we may not enter – places that represent secrets and broken relationships. Closed doors have gained an infamous character for good reason.
-- St. Gregory the Theologian, Easter Orations
Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.
Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him.
Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him.
Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us ... ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.
Let us become Divine for His sake, since for us He became Man.
He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.
He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.
Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.
We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him. We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him.
A few drops of Blood recreate the whole of creation!
by Fr. Thomas Hopko
from "The Orthodox Faith, Volume I, Doctrine"
And He rose again from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Christ is risen from the dead! This is the main proclamation of the Christian faith. It forms the heart of the Church's preaching, worship and spiritual life. "... if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor 15:14).
In the first sermon ever preached in the history of the Christian Church, the Apostle Peter began his proclamation:
Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attended to you by God with mighty works and signs and wonders which God did to him in your midst, as you yourself know -- this Jesus delivered up according to a definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:22-24).
Jesus had the power to lay down his life and the power to take it up again:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again; this charge I have received from my father (Jn 10:17-18).
by Matushka Ioanna Callinicos Rhodes
There are many customs and traditions that pertain to Pascha world-wide, but the most common one is that of dyeing and decorating eggs. Whether you are from London, Jerusalem, or Moscow, this custom is universal.
Egg dyeing and decorating can be dated back to pagan times. There is evidence of the ancients coloring their eggs in the history of Egypt, Gaul, China, Rome, and Persia. The egg was cherished as a symbol of the universe and represented life as a circle, as eternal life. The golden yolk of yellow represented the Sun God, the white shell the White Goddess, and the whole egg, rebirth. Hence, it was linked to spring, a time of rebirth for the earth after a long cold winter. The earth was reborn in much the same way the egg miraculously brings forth life.
It was customary in ancient times to go and gather different colored eggs from the nests of a variety of birds. Some suggest that may be what gave rise to egg hunts and dyeing of eggs, for people were imitating the tinted eggs of wild birds, and mimicking the colors of spring with its array of pastel flowers and blossoms in bloom. During this time there were many spring festivals where eggs were dyed, using flowers, berries, and other forms of natural vegetation. The dyes came from the rebirth of nature, and it was nature that was represented in the multicolored eggs. These eggs were used as talismans and in ritual eating. During this season these special eggs were also given as gifts.
by Fr. Thomas Hopko,
from "The Orthodox Faith, Volume II, Worship"
A little before midnight on the Blessed Sabbath the Nocturne service is chanted. The celebrant goes to the tomb and removes the winding-sheet. He carries it through the royal doors and places it on the altar table where it remains for forty days until the day of Ascension.
At midnight the Easter procession begins. The people leave the church building singing: The angels in heaven, 0 Christ our Savior, sing of Thy resurrection. Make us on earth also worthy to hymn Thee with a pure heart.
The procession circles the church building and returns to the closed doors of the front of the church. This procession of the Christians on Easter night recalls the original baptismal procession from the darkness and death of this world to the night and the life of the Kingdom of God. It is the procession of the holy passover, from death unto life, from earth unto heaven, from this age to the age to come which will never end. Before the closed doors of the church building, the resurrection of Christ is announced. Sometimes the Gospel is read which tells of the empty tomb. The celebrant intones the blessing to the "holy, consubstantial, life-creating and undivided Trinity." The Easter troparion is sung for the first time, together with the verses of Psalm 68 which will begin all of the Church services during the Easter season.
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face!
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. (Troparion)
This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
The people re-enter the church building and continue the service of Easter Matins which is entirely sung.
Taken from Catechesis 54 of St. Theodore the Studite
Brethren and fathers, the season of Lent, when compared to the whole year, may be likened to a storm-free harbor, in which all who are sailing together enjoy a spiritual calm. For the present season is one of salvation not for monks and nuns only, but also for lay people, for great and small, for rulers and ruled, for emperors and priests, for every race and for every age. For cities and villages reduce their hubbub and bustle, while psalmody and hymns, prayers and entreaties take their place, by which our good God is propitiated and so guides our spirits to peace and pardons our offences, if, with a sincere heart, we will only fall down before him with fear and trembling and weep before him, promising improvement for the future. But let the leaders of the churches speak of what is suitable to lay people, for just as those who run in the stadium need the vocal support of their fellow contestants, so fasters need the encouragement of their teachers. But I, since I have been placed at your head, honored brethren, will also talk to you briefly. Fasting then is a renewal of the soul, for the holy Apostle says, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward is being renewed day by day. And if it is being renewed, clearly it is being made beautiful according to its original beauty; made beautiful in itself it is being drawn lovingly to the one who said, I and the Father will come and make our dwelling with him.
Within the Turkana, there live not only a heartbeat of survival and a foot-stomp of joy, but a soul that takes joy in the risen Lord. Orthodox Christianity is alive and well in the cracked, mystic terrain of northern Kenya. The Turkana, in Turkana, speaking Turkana, proclaim the Trinity with the faith of a child and with the wisdom of an elder. Through the tireless love and effort of local parish priests, the committed involvement of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), and the willingness of many to receive the Gospel, the one, true faith has united over ten communities of believers.
I was accompanied by a team of seven incredible individuals to Kenya. It took no time at all to give ourselves the team name “Turkana Saba” (Saba is “seven” in Swahili). Strangers for but moments, we were a pan-Orthodox melting pot from Washington to California to Virginia to New York to Russia, and a few spots in between. The support and prayers of family and friends brought us together at the OCMC headquarters in St. Augustine, Florida. The passionate, dedicated OCMC staff readied us with lesson plan guidance and enlightened us on the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
THE LETTER OF ST. ATHANASIUS TO MARCELLINUS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS (Part 4)
And herein is yet another strange thing about the Psalms. In the other books of Scripture we read or hear the words of holy men as belonging only to those who spoke them, not at all as though they were our own; and in the same way the doings there narrated are to us material for wonder and examples to be followed, but not in any sense things we have done ourselves. With this book, however, though one does read the prophecies about the Saviour in that way, with reverence and with awe, in the case of all the other Psalms it is as though it were one's own words that one read; and anyone who hears them is moved at heart, as though they voiced for him his deepest thoughts. To make this clear and, like Saint Paul not fearing somewhat to repeat ourselves, let us take some examples. The patriarchs spoke many things, all fitting to themselves; Moses also spoke, and God answered; Elijah and Elisha, seated on Mount Carmel, called upon the Lord and said, The Lord liveth, before Whom I stand. [ See for Elijah I Kings 18: 15, 19, and for Elisha II Kings 2: 25 and 3: 14.] And the other prophets, while speaking specially about the Saviour, addressed themselves also at times to Israel or to the heathen. Yet no one would ever speak the patriarchs' words as though they were his own, or dare to imitate the utterance of Moses or use the words of Abraham concerning the great Isaac, or about Ishmael and the home-born slave, as though they were his own, even though like necessity oppressed him. Neither, if any man suffer with those that suffer or be gripped with desire of some better thing, would he ever say as Moses said, Show me Thyself, [Ex 33:13] or If Thou remittest their sin; then remit it; but if not, then blot me out of Thy book that Thou hast written. [Ex 32:32]
THE LETTER OF ST. ATHANASIUS TO MARCELLINUS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS (Part 3)
....Moreover, he went on, the opposite is true, to some extent; for, just as the Psalter includes the special subjects of all the other books, so also do they often contain something of the special feature of the Psalter. Moses, for example, writes a song; Isaiah does the same, and Habakkuk offers prayer in form of song. And in the same way in every book we see something alike of prophecy, of law-giving, and of history; for the same Spirit is in all and He, being by nature One and Indivisible, is given whole to each: yet is He diverse in His manifestations to mankind, and each one who is taught by and receives Him ministers the word according to the moment's need. Thus (as I said before) Moses is at times a prophet and a psalmist, and the Prophets on occasion both lay down laws (like Wash you, make you clean. Wash clean your heart from wickedness, Jerusalem [Is 1:16; Jer 4:14]), and also record history, as when Daniel relates the story of Susanna [Dan 12] or Isaiah tells us about the Rab-shakeh and Sennacherib [Is 36-37]. Similarly the Psalter, whose special function is to utter songs, generalizes in song matters that are treated in detail in the other books, as I have shown you. It also even lays down laws at times, such as Leave off from wrath and let go displeasure, incline thine heart from evil and do good. Seek peace and ensue it, as well as telling us the history of Israel's journey and prophesying the coming of the Saviour, as I said just now.
THE LETTER OF ST. ATHANASIUS TO MARCELLINUS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS (Part 2)
You see, then, that all the subjects mentioned in the historical books are mentioned also in one Psalm or another; but when we come to the matters of which the Prophets speak we find that these occur in almost all. Of the coming of the Saviour and how, althought He is God, He yet should dwell among us, Psalm 50 says, God shall come openly, even our God, and He shall not keep silence; and in Psalm 118 we read, Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the House of the Lord. God is the Lord, and He has given us light. That He Who comes is Himself the Father's Word, Psalm 107 thus sings, He sent His Word and healed them, and rescued them out of all their distresses. For the God Who comes is this self-same Word Whom the Father sends, and of this Word Who is the Father's Voice, Whom well he knows to be the Son of God, the Psalmist sings again in 45, My heart is inditing of a good Word; and also in 110, Out of the womb, before the down, have I begotten Thee. Whom else, indeed, should any call God's very Offspring, save His own Word and Wisdom? And he, who knows full well that it was through the Word that God said, Let there be light, Let there be a firmament. Let there be all things, [Gen 1:3 ff] says again in Psalm 33, By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth.
THE LETTER OF ST. ATHANASIUS TO MARCELLINUS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS (Part 1)
My dear Marcellinus, YOUR steadfastness in Christ fills me with admiration. Not only are you bearing well your present trial, with its attendant suffering; you are even living under rule and, so the bearer of your letter tells me, using the leisure necessitated by your recent illness to study the whole body of the Holy Scriptures and especially the Psalms. Of every one of those, he says, you are trying to grasp the inner force and sense. Splendid! I myself am devoted to the Psalms, as indeed to the whole Bible; and I once talked with a certain studious old man, who had bestowed much labour on the Psalter, and discoursed to me about it with great persuasiveness and charm, expressing himself clearly too, and holding a copy of it in his hand the while he spoke. So I am going to write down for you the things he said.
SON, all the books of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction [2 Tim 3:16], as it is written; but to those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure. Each book of the Bible has, of course, its own particular message: the Pentateuch, for example, tells of the beginning of the world, the doings of the patriarchs, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and the ordering of the tabernacle and the priesthood; The Triteuch [Joshua, Judges, and Ruth] describes the division of the inheritance, the acts of the judges, and the ancestry of David; Kings and Chronicles record the doings of the kings, Esdras [Ezra] the deliverance from exile, the return of the people, and the building of the temple and the city; the Prophets foretell the coming of the Saviour, put us in mind of the commandments, reprove transgressorts, and for the Gentiles also have a special word. Each of these books, you see, is like a garden which grows one special kind of fruit; by contrast, the Psalter is a garden which, besides its special fruit, grows also some of all the rest.
A recent report issued by the American Psychiatric Association pointed out the importance of family in healing.i Specifically cited were findings released by for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center regarding factors in healing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors of all religious traditions are in a unique position to aid in such treatment, as stated in the chaplain resource material: "chaplain's strengths have been in the offering of care to patients, families and staff, and in building an intuitive sense of the importance of the care they provide.”ii
Care to individuals in the context of their families is central to religious traditions. Speaking in the Buddhist tradition, the Dali Lama has said: “The ultimate source of peace in the family, the country, and the world is altruism.”iii The Bhagavad-Gita (68: 8-9) points out: “They are completely fulfilled by spiritual wisdom and Self-realization . . . . They are equally disposed to family, enemies, and friends, to those who support them and those who are hostile, to the good and the evil alike. Because they are impartial, they rise to great heights.”
by St. Diadochos of Photike, Gnostic Chapters, 17, from Repentance and Confession, by John Chrysavgis
Just as bodily wounds that are not cared for are hardened and do not feel the bitterness of the medicine used by doctors, yet when they are cleansed they begin to feel the effect of the medicine and consequently are healed rapidly, so also with the soul . . . when it begins to be purified with great care, then it feels the fear of God burning it like a lifegiving medicine and it is judged while its [the soul's] passions are burned.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid: Lives of the Saints, February 5
"Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him" (St. John 11:11).
The Lord of life calls death "sleeping." O what an inexpressible comfort that is for us! O what sweet news for the world! Physical death, therefore, does not mean the annihilation of man rather only sleeping from which only He can awaken; He Who awakened the first dust to life by His word.
When the Lord cried out: "Lazarus!" (St. John 11:43), the man awoke and lived. The Lord knows the name of each of us. When Adam knew the names of every creature of God, why would not the Lord know each one of us by name? Not only does He know but He also calls us by name. O, the sweet and life-creating voice of the only Lover of mankind! This voice can create sons of God from stones. Why, then, can He not awaken us out of our sinful sleep?
DEALING WITH THE ASSAULT ON CHRIST’S CHURCH - OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIALi
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. (Ps 132: 1)
Who of us has not become keenly aware by now of the assault on Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church by those under the un-Godly spell of political and social correctness, either those officially in power or those in society who are simply opposed to the teachings of Christ and His Church? Such attacks on our Apostolic Church teachings should be opposed by all orthodox Christians, and, of course, especially by those who are members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom.
At first glance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, seems Christ-like and in conformity with Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 33). After all, the possibility of caring for the physical health of all is certainly demanded by the Corporal Works of Mercy. However, on closer inspection this official legislation is at the expense of the care of the soul, the Spiritual Works of Mercy. For example, a recent analysis of the implementation of the ACA reveals “. . .that many health insurance plans will subsidize abortion-on-demand.”ii
In my Chaplain’s Corner column last month I wrote about the question: “Where has all the trust gone?” This month I want to focus on one powerful weapon in re-establishing trust: integrity. Now integrity implies “an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. . . . moral soundness.”i Two types of integrity come to mind: Physical integrity, for example a sound body or structure, like an airplane or building, and spiritual-moral integrity, making the right decisions and actions as we traverse the vicissitudes of life.
Thus, integrity is a process under continual construction, repeated in test mode as new situations are encountered over time. A quite notable example of physical integrity failing is the booster rocket “O-ring” problem that tragically brought down the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Examples in the spiritual-moral domain abound. In dealing with the vicissitudes of life, let us consider the warning words of Benjamin Franklin, "Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas."ii Integrity may be considered a spiritual virtue, an internal consistency of heart and mind that leads to honest and truthful words and actions.
by Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
... Saint Maximus writes in the preface to his "400 Chapters on Love", which he addressed to "Elpidius the Presbyter", who, as it appears, asked him for this discourse: "I request that you not be annoyed by anything that is said; I have simply fulfilled an obligation."
At first he clarifies that everything mentioned in this text are not reflections of his intellect, but selections from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, whose words he investigated, and then tells the recipient of this discourse the way it should be studied to be benefited spiritually. While studying it, he will need to look for the benefit which comes from the words, overlooking the style which lacks charm, and to pray for the author. Out of humility he adds that the author of this essay is bereft of spiritual profit. Further, he emphasizes that the study of this essay must not be out of curiosity, but with the fear of God and love, because without the Grace of God one cannot see the depth of what is read to benefit from it.
"Perhaps it might happen that something useful to the soul will be revealed out of them. This will happen completely by the Grace of God to the one who reads with an uncomplicated mind, with the fear of God and with love. But if someone reads this or any other book whatever not for the spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than he, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind."
A truck driver had been driving quite a few hours straight, and was tired and hungry, so he pulled into a truck stop and went into the restaurant to eat. While he was eating, a group of local Hell's Angels motorcyclists came into the restaurant to eat. While waiting for their food to be prepared, the Hell's Angels got bored. They began to harass the truck driver just for entertainment. They called him names, yelled at him, and so on. Then they started throwing rolled-up napkins at him. He just sat and ate quietly and totally ignored them. This upset them – they just couldn't get a rise out of him. So, finally, one of them walked over and dumped a plate of food over the truck driver's head. He still didn't react, other than to take some napkins and clean himself up as well as possible – while the Hell's Angels laughed at him. He paid his bill and quietly left to go back to his truck. The thugs joked around with the waitress after he left, saying, "You know, that fella sure was a wimp. He wasn't much of a man!" The waitress, looking out the window at the parking lot, said, "You know, he's not much of a truck driver, either. He just ran over a bunch of motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot!"
(from Our Daily Bread, February 28, 1990)
We chuckle at how the trucker handled the situation and probably can't help but admire him some, but.... that is not Jesus' way to handle enemies! How did our Lord say to respond to situations where enemies confront us? In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ told us, "Love your enemies." It's natural for us to seek revenge, like the truck driver did – but "natural" isn't always good! As Christians we are called to a higher way of life. The Lord Himself told us about this. As He said in Luke 6: 32–35:
by St. John Chrysostom, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, vol. 5, Letter to the Fallen Theodore, 1.14
For the blessed David also had a fall like that which has now happened to you; and not this only but another also that followed it. I mean that of murder. What then? Did he remain prostrate? Did he not immediately rise up again with energy and place himself in position to fight the enemy? In fact, he wrestled with him so bravely that even after his death he was the protector of his offspring. For when Solomon had perpetrated great iniquity and had deserved countless deaths, God said that he would leave him the kingdom intact, thus speaking: "I will surely rend the kingdom out of your hand and will give it to your servant. Nevertheless, I will not do this in your days." Wherefore? "For David your father's sake, I will take it out of the hand of your son" [I Kings 11:11]. And again when Hezekiah was about to run the greatest possible risk, although he was a righteous man, God said that he would aid him for the sake of this saint, "For I will cast my shield," he says, "over this city to save it for my own sake and for my servant David's sake" [II Kings 19].
Current behavioral research literature has found support for a clinical tool called mindfulness that can be used to break bad habits and troubling emotions. One psychologist, Kabat-Zinn (2003), defined mindfulness as "the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment." The 'patient' can focus on the sensory and physical aspects of the present moment, recognize thought patterns, feelings and physical sensations that are occurring and learn to tell the difference between sensations, thoughts and feelings. The 'patient' then practices making decisions based on the choices they really want and feel right.