Wednesday, March 18, 2015

T-H-A-N-K-S

T - Theosis
H - Hesychasm
A - Asceticism
N - Nepsis
K - Katharsis
S - Synergy

Thanks in the Greek is "Eucharist". Thanksgiving is the same. In Holy Communion(1 Cor. 10:14-17) there is a real participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. The Greek word for "Communion" is "Koinonia". The word Koinonia is saying that something "actual" is taking place when believers partake of the Body(bread) and Blood(cup of blessing) of Christ. This moment of "Communion" is the apex of Divine Worship established by Jesus Himself(Matt. 26:17-29; Luke 22:19,20; 1 Cor. 11:23,24) in the "Divine Liturgy". It is at this point where the believer is sanctified mystically through the physical elements of the bread and cup.

There are several "spiritual" practices that are a part of our "walk in the Spirit"(Gal. 5:16-24) that lead us to "Communion with God". These are spelled out in the acrostic: T-H-A-N-K-S.

T is for "Theosis". Theosis is Greek and means "becoming God" or "becoming like God", or "Godlike". 2 Peter 1:2-4 instructs us that we are to be "partakers of His divine nature"(v. 4), that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness"(v. 3). Our ultimate "thanksgiving" for this amazing gift of salvation(sharing in God's divine nature) is celebrated in the Eucharist/Holy Communion. Theosis prepares us to receive the Eucharist, and the Eucharist causes us to experience Theosis in a very special way instituted by Jesus Himself.

H is for "Hesychasm". Hesychasm is Greek and means "the practice of silence". Hesychia is defined as quietness, stillness, tranquility. The goal of hesychia, inner stillness, is NOT mystical silence, but rather listening for the voice of God. Christian stillness is a silence not of emptiness, but of fulness. The ultimate aim is a mystical union with God within a context of silence. The art and heart of Eastern Orthodox prayer teaches that body and mind are brought to solitude and
quietness in order to experience the peace and silence that surround the presence of God(Col. 3:15-17). Note what is written in these three verses carefully: We are called "in one body", the church.  When the church gathers we can "let the peace of God rule in our hearts" as we practice stillness; we take in the "Word of Christ" richly(through the hundreds of scriptures that fill the Divine Liturgy; we "teach and admonish one another(corporate context) with Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs"; and finally we offer up "thanks"(the Eucharist) to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus.

A is for "Askesis". Askesis is struggle, discipline. We get the word "asceticism" and "ascetic" from "askesis". Christians are to be "ascetics", and we are to practice "asceticism" which is the various methods used to fight the passions and evil habits, to overcome temptation. Askesis is exercise, it is likened to the athletic training of Olympic athletes(1 Tim. 4:7,8; 1 Cor. 9:24-27). "the Apostles inherited the entire life of Christ, they were eyewitnesses and partakers of His works and acts. They inherited the lengthy fasts...they inherited night-long prayers, and agony in prayer. "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray(Luke 22:44-46)..."if they persecuted me they will persecute you(John 15:20)...They inherited agony, suffering, and crucifixion..."The cup that I will drink you will drink"(Mk 10:39). (Matthew the Poor from "Communion of Love"). The whole of Christianity is the life of askesis. It is a way of life, a lifestyle. It is exercising your will to focus on spiritual growth. It is to "study" the scriptures, to practice humility, to exhibit chastity and fidelity, to fast and pray, to counter-speak with the Word of God against every thought contrary to the will of God(2 Cor. 10:3-5), to struggle against sin. Jesus taught "the narrow gate"(Mt. 7:13,14). Jesus taught that his Father is the vinedresser who prunes us(John 15:1-8). Frank Schaeffer, son of the famed Evangelical Scholar Francis Schaeffer and convert to Orthodoxy, had this to say about, "A Christianity Without Asceticism": "The American 'God' loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but he does not want you to have to struggle to realize it...it is the illusion of crucifixion without nails, of salvation through self-realization, of worship as entertainment, not the faith of the Fathers believed in by all Orthodox Christians everywhere since the beginning."(Letter to Aristotle by Frank Schaeffer). But always remember that askesis is a means to an end, all the disciplines are so that we can be deified, experience theosis, acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit, know union with God.

N is for "Nepsis". Nepsis is a Greek word which means vigilance, watchfulness, alertness, attentiveness. Nepsis is "Inner Attention", "Holding Vigil", "Being Mindful". Nepsis is based on the words of Jesus, "Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour the Lord is coming(Matt. 24:42). "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when He comes, shall find watching(Luke 12:37). "Watch! What I say to you, I say to all: Watch(Mark 13:33,37). "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation(Matt. 26:40-45). Watchfulness is our conscious effort to not be sleepy, to remain alert, awake(Eph. 5:14-16; Rom. 13:11-14). We are not to let our minds drift, instead, we are to "Think on these things..."(Phil. 4:8). To think, by definition, is to intentionally engage your mind, to put it into gear, and not remain in neutral, drifting wherever. And when we successfully "Set our minds on the things above, and not on the things on earth"(Col. 3:2) we experience what is written in the "Song of Songs", "Though I sleep, my heart keeps awake"(5:2). We practice "nepsis" with our "daily prayer rule", keeping the hours of prayer as best we can. We are "mindful" to read and study Holy Scripture. We stay "alert" through fasting, and controlling our appetites. And we practice "nepsis", "inner attention" during worship.

K is for "Katharsis". Katharsis is Greek and means "cleansing the heart". God cannot be known unless the heart is purified through tears of repentance, this is katharsis. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God"(Matt. 5:8). "Purify your hearts, you double minded"(James 4:8). "And everyone who has this hope in Him, purifies himself, even as He is pure(1 John 3:3). We purify our hearts through repentance, through the "gift of tears". Penthos, a Greek word for "penitential sorrow", means "a broken and contrite heart,
being filled with godly sorrow". St Paul instructs, "Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation"(2 Cor. 7:10). St John teaches that the joy of fellowship with God is restored through repentance and confession(1 John 1:1-2:2). The Church Fathers call this "repentance", this "turning of the heart", "joy-creating sorrow". The Gospel teaching of "Jesus and the Sinful Woman"(Luke7:36-50) shows us "the gift of tears"
washing the feet of Jesus resulting in the woman being forgiven and saved. St Peter "wept bitterly" over his denial of Christ and was restored to his apostleship. King David said to God, "I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches." And, "I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with tears." And finally the "Repentant King" said, "...Put thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in your book?"(Ps. 63:6; 6:6; 56:8). God sees your tears, and those tears are a gift that washes you clean of your sins. And to show how precious are the tears you cry in repentance, he bottles them, and records them in His book!!!

S is for "Synergy". "Synergy" is a New Testament Greek word, from "syn" meaning "with", and "ergon" meaning "work". "The word synergy expresses the Biblical teaching that God does not force His grace upon us, but guides and strengthens us when we submit to His will. Synergy is derived from the word synergoi, fellow workers with God, used by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:9"(Philokalia p. 197 by Anthony Conairis). The Scriptures are filled with this truth: "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it..."(Ps 127:1). Paul says that he "laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me"(1 Cor. 15:10). We do the planting and the watering and God is the one who gives the growth(1 Cor. 3:6,7). "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"(Phil. 4:13). In the Great Commission of Mark
16:15-20 we see, "the Lord working with them and confirming the Word with signs following". Phil. 2:12,13 is telling us that when "we work out our salvation" we are not earning it, but we are allowing it to be alive in us daily. And Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you"(Mt. 11:28-30). A yoke binds two oxen to share the work load, working in concert. The challenge is for us to carry our burden through hesychia, nepsis, askesis, katharsis, and synergy and allow Jesus to complete the work of theosis in us!!!

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