Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lent and the Seven Deadly Sins: Anger

Today, we come to a third of the Seven Capital Sins: Anger. Anger has also been  called Wrath, Rage, Malice or Hatred.  Anger is a basic human experience, a natural reaction to certain situations that are or seem threats. And all anger is not bad. In Ephesians 4:26, the Apostle Paul quotes Psalm 4, "Be angry but sin not." There are certain evils which bring righteous anger to the Lord.

Unfortunately,fallen human beings are not often like the Lord. Most of the time any righteous aspect in our anger is mixed with and overwhelmed by our pride, self-centeredness, envy. etc. In this case, anger really becomes malice. Even when we start from a righteous anger, our anger tends to go too far and become destructive for us, for others, for our relationship with God. As Proverbs 29:22 says, "...an angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgressions." As our Lord warns in St. Matthew 5:22, ".. everyone.who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" (ESV).

What then are we to do? Anger is natural, and at times seems unavoidable. It may even arise from good motives. Yet, human anger rarely remains pure for long. In light of these realities, let us consider three helpful steps. First, we should learn to acknowledge our anger to ourselves. We must not pretend that we are never angry. Some of us may experience anger more frequently than others, but all of us do experience it. To deny our anger is to delude ourselves and lower our defenses to its dangers.
Secondly, in acknowledging anger, we should learn to analyze its components. We need to work and pray for personal insight. Both reason and spiritual insight can help us have a better understanding of the ways we may be both just and sinful in our anger. And when we see our mistakes, we need to seek divine pardon, and in certain situations, human forgiveness.
Thirdly, we must seek divine aid to reduce the frequency and intensity of anger. With God's help and spiritual discipline, we can develop more self-control and patience. With grace, we can grow in charity and patience. Charity and patience limit the bad expressions of anger and increases the good responses to people and situations.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lent and the Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

In the last post, I discussed a little about a capital or chief sin: Pride. Now let us consider a second vice: Envy. Envy is unhappiness about or resentment of another person's real or perceived good fortune. When envy is directed more personally toward the other person, it is often called jealousy. Envy is an outgrowth from pride and a longing for personal superiority over others. Envy and covetousness may involve almost any aspect of life: another person's material goods, family, health, personality, intellect, popularity, or even virtue.

Envy frequently leads to other sins. As the Epistle of James tells us, "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (3:16). Envy and its results such as distrust, slander, theft, false witness, adultery, murder, etc. are very disruptive to human relationships. Envy also disrupts the envious person's relationship with God. Aside from specific sins already mentioned, envy may distort a person's perceptions of God. It may lead to a kind of religious paranoia, a feeling that God is not just. Thus, envy can lead to spiritual rebellion and abandonment of the Christian life. As Psalm 37:1 warns, "Fret not thyself because of the ungodly, neither be thou envious against the evil doers."

There are two great defenses against envy. The first defence is trust in divine Providence. If we really believe that all things work for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28), then the good fortune of others should not lead us to resentment. Secondly, as I Corinthians 13:4b says, "Charity envieth not." The more Christ-like love fills our souls, the less likely we are to envy others. If we trust Providence and love God and neighbor, then envy is restrained by the virtue of kindness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lent and the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

Lent is a season for stressing examination of conscience and repentance from sin. Sin is a complicated phenomenon which appears in many forms. On way to consider these manifestations is to look at the Ten Commandments. Another way is to consider the list developed in Christian moral theology, the traditional list of Seven Deadly or Capital Sins. These chief or notable sins are fairly easy to remember, and since there are seven, they can be conveniently highlighted on each Wednesday in Lent.
The list has biblical roots and sevens to have developed in the third and fourth centuries. A common traditional list comes from the sixth century Bishop of Rome, Gregory the Great. His list includes Pride, Envy, Anger, Avarice/Greed, Gluttony, Lust,and Sloth. Pride is often placed either first or last on the list. In this consideration, we start with Pride.

The word "pride" has many connotations and applications. Among the ancient Greeks and in modern politics and popular psychology, pride is often seen as a positive term- a reasonable awareness of human potential. However, in the Holy Scriptures and Christian Tradition, pride is generally a negative term for excessive self-assessment and self-assertion. For example, Proverbs 16:5 says, "Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."  I John 2:16 says, "the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world."

Such pride is the root of many sins, and it is involved in all deliberate sin. It is the basic rebellion of the soul or spirit against God. God is dethroned, and self is set up in His place. The divine will is pushed aside, and the will of the created being is exalted.

Pride may be manifested in many ways. It may be manifested in presumption or exaggerated self-sufficiency. It may appear as inordinate or unbounded ambition. Pride may appear as vanity or a desire for praise. Sometimes, it may even appear as false or hypocritical humility. The great danger of pride , especially in religious matters is its subtlety. It often hides among legitimate traits and desires. Ironically, a person may even be proud of not being proud.

So during this Lent, let us seek to be more aware of our tendency toward pride. And let us look for the only cure: dependence upon God and cultivation of Christ-like humility.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Saint Agatha of Sicily- February 5

The feast day of St. Agatha has ancient roots and was retained as a black-letter day or minor commemoration on the calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Agatha was a young Christian woman from Sicily persecuted for her faith and for her commitment to celibacy during persecutions under the Roman emperor Decius in 251 A.D. Although some of the later stories of her life may be exaggerated, it seems that she was tortured, imprisoned, and eventually died in prison as a faithful witness to her Christian convictions. Thanks be to God for all His witnesses.

Monday, February 01, 2016

St. Ignatius of Antioch- February 1

February 1 is the traditional date in the Western Church for commemorating St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (On some recent calendars, Antiochian practice of observing October 17 has been followed).  Besides being third bishop of Antioch, Ignatius was a writer, an apostolic father, martyred in Rome around 107 A.D. Although perhaps a little too zealous about martyrdom, the example of Ignatius and his writings provide a strong witness to faith in the redemptive work of Christ and to the importance of the Eucharist.

He also speaks of bishops as the leaders in the catholic churches. Of course, when speaking of bishops, Ignatius is not referring to the administrative system which developed long after his time. Ignatius views bishops as chief pastors who exercise apostolic authority over assistants (the presbyters or priests and deacons). The pastoral authority of the bishop in doctrine and sacrament is a bulwark against tendencies toward schism. Ignatius does not give blanket approval to the pretensions of all who have claimed the episcopal title, but he does assert that pastoral oversight is an apostolic gift needed by the Church.

So today we remember Ignatius as a faithful Christian and as an important early witness on the Eucharist, the catholic faith, and the episcopate. Let us join in giving thanks for this faithful bishop, pastor, teacher, and martyr.