Word from the Pastor-Dec. 2018

Dec 5, 2018 by

A word from the pastor….

The early monastic teachers defined passions differently than we do today. Today, by “passion,” we mean someone or something we love greatly, or an activity we love to do or feel called to do. But the Egyptian monastics defined passions as “habits of seeing, feeling, thinking, and acting that characteristically blind us to who we ourselves, our neighbors, and God really are so that we are not able to respond appropriately, rationally, and lovingly.” Passions, as they defined them, distort everything and are destructive of love.1 One of these passions is the love of praise, or vainglory. When we need to be praised so much that our actions are determined by that need that is vainglory. Those among the early monastics who suffered from love of praise were those who needed to be conspicuous through their prayers or their ascetic practices. The goal of their lives became getting that praise for success, rather than love of God and others.2 When caught in the grips of this passion, we can do an enormous amount of work in order to seek approval through our work. But this comes at the cost of not living out of one’s true self and can lead to a lot of self-deception and blindness.

If little children are repeatedly given the message that they are mainly valued for what they do, for how well they perform tasks, they can learn to suspend their emotions in order to focus on earning the status that will guarantee them love.3 They will learn to work hard, to be leaders, to succeed and to win, because they believe only winners are worthy of love. But in the process, they can lose a vital connection to their own inner life. They can change into the valued achievers of whatever group they belong to, and without realizing it, may come to believe they are whatever image it is that is being valued, be it a banker, an actor, or an athlete, etc..4 They can forget that their true value lies in who they are, not in what they do.

Who they are, and who we all are, is beloved children of God. God came to us in the form of a child, Jesus, as Emmanuel, God with Us, to show us this true identity. The Christ child was not born in a palace, or among those considered the most successful of his time, but rather in a feed trough in a barn. Yet he drew to himself both lowly shepherds and worldly kings, who needed to hear the good news he brought to all people: God loves us all dearly enough to die for us and to show us the path to eternal life, and nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Regular times of prayer and silent meditation, while held in God’s love, can help all people, but especially sufferers of vainglory, reconnect with their own emotions, feel their way through them, and come to be more honest with themselves about who they truly are; not merely a hollow image of success, but a real human being, with inherent worth, and capable of an authentic, loving life.

Wishing you all Advent and Christmas Blessings,

Betsy Caudill

1 Roberta C. Bondi, To Pray & to Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), pp. 34-35.
1 Bondi, To Love as God Loves: Conversations with the Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), p. 75.
1 Helen Palmer, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life (HarperSanFrancisco: HarperCollins, 1988), p. 135.
1 Palmer, p. 136.

 

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