Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: How do you do This Thing Called Christianity?

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By Nicholas Damascus

How do you do this thing called Christianity?

The Prologue

John 15:5 reads  “I am the vine; you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit;  for without Me you can do nothing.”

Known and practiced for nearly 2,000 years in the Orthodox Christian faith is the Jesus prayer, a hesychastic practice of acquiring an inner stillness and peace, by ignoring the senses and descending with the mind into the center of consciousness — the heart — where one encounters the intimate union with Christ our God. 

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner]” and in the Greek “Kýrie Isoú Christé eléi̱son i̱más.”

When one internally repetitively recites this prayer, often, anytime, and anywhere, one finds themselves beckoning the presence of God to dwell in their heart and mind to assist and strengthen them in their daily temptations of the evil one.  One should recite this prayer until the temptation passes.

Our thoughts do determine our lives, and if we can replace those thoughts that are unwanted and detrimental, then one can become even more than what they presently are.

Why Would You want to become a Christian?

One primary reason why one might want to become a Christian has to do with the will of God and His unconditional love for all of mankind.  His will is for us to become more like Him by His grace and mercy for us to be able to receive all that He wants to give us, that being, all that He is. 

His unconditional love for us does not change nor is it affected by any sins we’ve committed.  Whether we are on our back in a brothel or on our knees in a church praying, His love for us remains constant and precisely the same.  Why would anyone not want to benefit from this kind of a relationship with their creator?

How Do You Do This Thing Called Christianity?

The Christian fathers provide some guidance as to how one can proceed with these major applications in finding the way of becoming a Christian.

John 14:6 “I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life…..” 

Luke 9:23  “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

So I am here to tell that your ego needs to be prepared for a little bruising and suppression.  Here are those three essential applications of great benefit to be utilized in one’s everyday encounters no matter how insignificant or mundane the event might be.  

“Don’t react, don’t resent, and always keep your peace.”

Don’t react

In a sense, we have two natures, our real self (who you really are) and the false self, the ego (an illusionary sense of who you are, or want to be prideful self-image, an identification with something that is not actually you). 

To demonstrate this interaction, let’s say an individual was to call me stupid.   I may react to those comments in a defensive and aggressive posture.  First my “real self” would initially retreat.  Then my ego (my false self) would emerge and defend me in expressions like the following.  “You can’t call me that” or “you’re just as stupid” and on and on attempting to shield and defend one’s real self from any harm or insults of the aggressive individual comments.

Other than physical harm, no one can hurt you or gain control over you unless you give them the power to do so.   The devil made me do it is a cop out.   What is it in your reaction that you are attempting to defend? 

So given this same scenario situation what might one do to “respond” to this potential aggressive on slot of personal attacks? The whole purpose of this event Is not to lose control and begin reacting, but to stay in control by responding or not. 

A few examples responses might be an attempt to diffuse the situation like, “You know, I have thought a lot about that lately, and you might be right.”  Or you might say “I see your point” or might say nothing at all.  Whoever the aggressor might be they are waiting for you to fall into their trap by your reaction.  Call on God’s strength and presence to aid you.  Don’t fall into Satan’s first trap.  Stay in control and don’t react!

Don’t resent

If you did react, your real self has probably withdrawn, and your ego or your false self has now emerged, building a case in your defense to justify the created injustice or harm (imagined or real) that was caused to you by the aggressor.  Resenting is Satan’s second trap.

Regardless of who or what is at fault, you are now the victim, and as a result, you may feel that you have lost something or have been harmed in such a way that you are compelled to reset this perceived imbalance. 

Resentment usually accompanied by anger becomes self-destructive.  It deprives you of “living in the present” if your thoughts are engaged in events in the past.   You can’t live in the past and be in the present.  So don’t resent, stay here, not there, and you will live. 

Always keep your peace

John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; NOT as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The peace from God is a peace that is beyond all understanding.  It is freedom from fear, not passive or static, but a dynamic force that is personally transformative.  Often people find themselves asking the question “How is it that I am experiencing calmness in the face of my crisis?”

Saint Paul says, “For it is not I who live, but Christ our God who lives in me.”  When we submit to the will and presence of God within us, we acquire the gift of the Spirit.  This gift is love and not fear, illumination and understanding and not foolishness and self-centeredness, and is infinite in blessings and comfort. 

By choosing NOT to react and NOT to resent we begin to experience self-control and the strength that comes from that peace of God.   A simple example of how I frequently practice these three above mentioned applications is when I am driving to work.   

When I am alone in my vehicle, I am unimpaired as to how I behave.  I would wager to say that I would not have kind words for the car that is tailgating me or the car that just cut me off on the freeway.   When another driver violates “your ego’s created false space” you tend to react and then resent and then begin to lose patience and most of all of your peace. 

You now have become angry, and maybe you are looking for some retribution for your imaginary harm or injury to your prideful ego.  You now have fallen into Satan’s third trap.  How does it feel to be entirely manipulated by your false self (ego) who uses pride and false imagery to give the appearance that you have been harmed and violated?  

Christ says that He has come to free us, not to enslave us.  In the use of these applications, although opposite of the worldly impulses, we receive their transforming effects that brings salvation to ourselves and many of those around us. 

It is only when our hearts are open that we can receive and benefit of His gifts of encouragement, endurance, intuition, illumination, understanding, joy, love, and peace.  Be confident and begin this exercise with baby steps; this is how you begin to do this thing called Christianity, and receive that peace beyond all understanding. 

In addition, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware talks about that “Peace from Above.”

Nicholas Damascus

About Nicholas Damascus

Nick Damascus is one who seeks to discover and apply the proverbial question of what is truth and wisdom, to fill that gaping hole, to become complete and to become realistically and synergistically functional. In an attempt to live the Christian life, which he says is a definite work in progress, he has discovered that he's created the Christ that fits his lifestyle and agrees with his ego (and boy what an ego, he says), carefully avoiding what God intended him to be.

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