Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Achieving the American Dream Will Bring Us to Ruin

The Holy Elder Paisios of Mount Athos (+1994) makes this abundantly clear in a story he once told:

 . . .

Once there came here a well-known doctor to talk. His wife was a doctor also, both religious people. He complained that his children were living worldly lives and not only did not follow the family traditions of the Church, but also saw them as ironic.

They characterized Christians as mentally deficient, close-minded, dishonest, hypocritical and rascals, because their life, they would say, was not consistent with their words and their deeds were not Christian.

Even at Holy Unction, which the parents would have done once a year in their home with their children, when they were young they participated, but now were reacting and not to be found.

The doctor seemed very tired and desperate for the spiritual regeneration of his children. And he thought that all efforts, his own and that of his wife, were wasted; they were not captured nor were the children touched.

At some point the doctor, putting his head within his two hands, as if to cover his face with shame, told me: “I am afraid that the big money has done us harm.”

I asked him to tell me what he meant, and he very frankly admitted that they had strayed from their path and had acquired assets that were completely unnecessary. “We have three large houses,” he said, “one for us and one for each child. Also, two cottages, four expensive cars, a boat, deposits, and many material things.”

He continued: “The children became spoiled and now we are accused by them of causing this. Also, they tell us that we have married beautifully wealth with Christianity.” He then asked me to tell him what to do to get back peace and unity in the family.

I told him to give all to the poor and keep only one house, a cottage and their salaries. Frightened, he changed color, got scared, and was disappointed by the reply I gave.

He left and never returned. He was tied to the here, not to the Above. That is why the children looked for other ways of life different from that which their parents had suggested.

When I hear that there is great poverty and misery, I hurt a lot and I can not pray.

I’m not saying when you have two tunics to give one. This is unusual and difficult for most. But if you want to be called Christian and have the good things of God, why sweat and fight for the above mentioned and not do charity and good works? They are building their foundation on sand, whoever has a lot of money and manages it selfishly, oblivious to the poverty and misery of his fellows. Did you ever see grave clothes with pockets? All stays here. Only good works go to heaven. You know why there are wars? For the money. Because the rich can not put a bridle on greed and the poor do not wish to acquire the necessary, but envy the riches and glory of the rich.

Your pockets should always be open to allow the money to leave towards philanthropies. It is scandalous that there are pockets full of money and for them to be stitched.

Source:  ‘Ease of Life and Christianity Do Not Go Together’, http://www.pravmir.com/ease-of-life-and-christianity-do-not-go-together/, posted 28 Dec. 2015, accessed 5 Jan. 2016

As always, the lives of the Saints give us a better pattern to follow than the dominant Western/American one.  Consider the life of St Melania the Younger:

She was born in 383 in Rome, to a very wealthy family with large estates in Italy, Africa, Spain and even Britain. She was the grand- daughter of St Melania the Elder (June 8) and a pious disciple of Christ from a young age. She was married against her will at the age of fourteen, to a relative named Ninian. They had two children, both of whom died in early childhood. Henceforth Melania and her husband dedicated themselves entirely to God. They had both dreamt of a high wall that they would have to climb before they could pass through the narrow gate that leads to life, and soon began to take measures to dispose of their wealth. This aroused opposition from some of the Senate, who were concerned that the selling off of such huge holdings would disrupt the economy of the State itself. 

  With the support of the Empress, though, Melania was able to free 8000 of her slaves and give each a gift of three gold pieces to begin life as freedmen. She employed agents to help fund the establishment of churches and monasteries throughout the Empire, donated many estates to the Church, and sold many more, giving the proceeds as alms. When Rome fell to the Goths under Alaric in 410, Melania and Ninian moved to Sicily, then to Africa, where they completed the sale of their propery, donating the proceeds to monasteries and to aiding victims of the barbarians.

  In Africa Melania, now aged about thirty, took up a life of the strictest asceticism: she kept a total fast on weekdays, only eating on Saturday and Sunday; she slept two hours a night, giving the rest of the night to vigil and prayer. Her days were spent in charitable works, using the remainder of her wealth to relieve the poor and benefit the Church. After seven years in Africa, Melania, her mother and her husband left on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There they founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives, which grew to a community of ninety nuns. Melania'smother died in 431, then her husband and spiritual brother Pinian; she buried them side by side.

  Save for one visit to Constantinople, Melania continued to live in reclusion in a small cave on the Mount of Olives; she became an advisor to the Empress Eudocia, who sought her expert counsel on her gifts to churches and monasteries.

  Melania fell ill keeping the Vigil of Nativity in 439, and fell asleep in the Lord six days later; her last words were 'As it has pleased the Lord, so it has come to pass.' Her monastery was destroyed in 614 by the Persians, but her cave hermitage on the Mount of Olives is still a place of pilgrimage and veneration.

Source:  John Brady, entry for 31 December at http://www.abbamoses.com/months/december.html, accessed 1 Dec. 2015

Also worthy of heed is the life St Juliana of Lazarevskoye (+1604) (see entry for 2 January at http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html) and this short recording by Fr Michael Gillis on our Lord’s warning against covetousness: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/prayingintherain/take_heed_part_two.

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