Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

When You Receive no Answers


silenceNot giving an answer is actually something that Christ does all the time. In the Gospel, the woman came after him pleading – my daughter has a demon and we are miserable – Son of David – Messiah – Christ – heal her and save us. What did Christ do? He did not answer her.

What did you we do when someone doesn’t answer us?

The woman asked the Saints: Apostles of the Son of David, entreat him for me. Pray to Christ for me. What did the Saints do? They entreated Christ for her, as they always always will. “Lord, send her away.” which is to say not ‘throw her out’ but rather “Grant her request, and so make her go away, because she is crying after us incessantly.” Read it yourself. That’s what it says. And what did Christ do? He said no. “It is not proper to take away the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Would any of us do that, if your dogs were whining around the dinner table? Would we grab our children’s plates and give them to the animals?

Are we amazed that he called her a dog? He isn’t done yet. This is a liturgical act. He hasn’t turned away. He hasn’t left her. He knows every miracle he will perform, what is in the heart of each person, what NEEDS to be in their heart, and how to help the one who asks without ceasing. He is waiting for her response.

“Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs from around the master’s table.” In other words, even the dogs can eat what overflows from the children’s abundance.

What did this woman do? She changed. The movement of her heart was toward humility. To quote our prayers, “have made myself like cattle, yea even lower than cattle, but like the beasts….” She moved into humility. The correct liturgical response to silence and to ‘no’.

The Lord knows exactly what we need, and knows that sometimes we need humility more than we need the thing we’re asking for.

Imagine a self that’s humble the way a St. Seraphim or St. Silouan is humble. Imagine being humble like the woman. “All shall be saved, and I alone shall perish.”, “It is my fault.”, “I don’t know who the sheep are, God knows, but I know I am one of the goats.” this is our tradition of prayer. Do I pray like this? The woman did. “Lord I am a dog and not a child, a goat and no sheep, a tare and not the wheat, the condemned not the saved, last of all, worst of all, least of all, the chief of sinners. I ask only that in such rich abundance for the children, overflowing, you let me have but one crumb. That will save me. Just the hem of Thy garment, O Christ. I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.” All the miracles of Christ in response to prayer begin with humility and depravity. “Mine eyes are weighed down by my transgressions,” we sing, “and I cannot lift them up”.

And how does Christ respond to humility. Humility is the gift. Humility is the reward. Humility IS the FAITH of the Orthodox. St. Seraphim, “Acquire the Spirit of Peace, acquire humility, and you will save yourself and thousands around you will be saved.”

Do we want to ‘plant’ a mission? Let us plant it in our own hearts, first. If it does not grow there, it will be a den of demons. Christ blesses humility. The woman was deprived, so was the paralytic, the Centurian, the man born blind… deprived, lacking, missing something… but Christ blessed humility – faith. How does he respond to the woman’s humility? He equates it with Faith/The Faith itself:

“O Woman. Your Faith has saved you. Let it be as you ask.”

Do we have horror stories to tell of “ethnic problems” or other sins committed by our brethren? Our chief problems are not ethnic problems, or others, but the absence of the Faith in our hearts. We want to tell the sins of others. But what does Orthodoxy teach us? Apply economy to others, and strictness to ourselves, in such things. Or in Christ’s words: “Beware for that standard by which you judge will judge you. But judge yourself, and you will escape judgment.”

Humility. Without it no man can be saved. Without it, all churches are wrong, and the best things are delusions wrought by our passions and the demons. Without humility, we are without hope, and Death possesses us, and the passions control us and blind our eyes. But to the Blind, say the beatitudes, he will grant Wisdom. It cries aloud in the market place, looking for a hearer.

These things the fathers have taught us, and faithful priests and bishops, and Orthodox faithful. This is based on a recent homily given in a local church.

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February 24, 2008 - Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Issues | , , , ,

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