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#74 Six Ways to Deepen Your Love for Christ

Summary:

Living Orthodoxy is about love.  Here are six ways you can deepen your love for Christ.  Are you ready to start?

Questions:

As you watch the episode, consider:

1. Is loving Christ simply based on emotions?

2. What are the six ways one can deepen their love for Christ?  What role does discipline play in this?  

3. Does the role of a spiritual father seem pointless?  How would you respond to someone when they say all you need is God?

4. How do things like fasting help us to be more appreciative of things?  What should always go hand-in-hand with fasting (multiple answers)?

5. Where do all of these steps ultimately lead to?  Which sacrament is the completion of all of this?

Check out these model lesson plans / retreat sessions for JOY and GOYA!

Links:

And here are some articles you may find to be helpful:

1. Bible Gateway, Matthew 25:40

2. Bible Gateway, Galatians 2:20

3. Father Thomas Hopko, 55 Maxims of the Christian Life

4. Orthodox Prayer, Prayer in the Orthodox Church

Script:

Hey everybody this is Steve and Christianity is about love.  We were really excited to get a message a few days ago from Christy, asking us what we can do to deepen our love for Christ.  This is a great question because it really gets to the heart of what living Orthodoxy is all about.  So today let's keep things practical and focus on six things you can start doing right now to deepen your love for Christ.  Though keep in mind this isn't simply a checklist of good things to do, it's not magic, it's advice that comes from the wisdom and lived experience of the Church, advice that needs to be applied to your life in a way that's going to be most beneficial for you.  Which leads us to

Step 1: find a spiritual father.  The spiritual life is really difficult, full of traps and potential mistakes.  The bottom line is we can't stay spiritually healthy on our own, any more than we can stay physically healthy without a doctor.  We need somebody to help us figure out where we are, what we're struggling with, and how we can best overcome it.  Even the greatest of saints, the most holy people you can think of, still relied on the guidance of a spiritual father.  Because it's really hard to overcome pride when you spend your time listening to yourself and doing what you think is best.  And we aren't always honest with ourselves, we don't always confront our own faults as honestly as we should.  That's why it's important to have someone we trust standing by our side, patiently and without judgment, as we become honest about our mistakes and our weaknesses.  Someone who knows us and can offer us the guidance that is best for us.  Someone to stand by our side and guide us through a really underappreciated sacrament, confession, where we offer our mistakes and weaknesses and sins to Christ and He gives us the strength that we need. 

Step 2 is to have, and stick to, a prayer rule.  We've done some episodes on prayer before, and how overwhelming it can be to open a prayer book and see all those pages.  Rather than psych ourselves out we should follow the advice of Fr Thomas Hopko, who used to say that we should pray as we can, not as we think we must.  Here's a great way that a spiritual father helps us. If we set our own prayer rule, we can be tempted to be too easy on ourselves, and set a lazy rule, which won't help us very much.  Or we may be too hard on ourselves, and set an overly strict rule, which could lead us to get discouraged and stop praying altogether. 

Once we're given a prayer rule, we should keep it, so that our prayer isn't simply guided by our emotions, by when we feel like praying.  So we don't simply pray when we need something.  Our relationship with Christ is a real relationship with a real person, but it's not real if it's only something we approach on our terms, when there's something we need.  And by the way, as you'll discuss with your spiritual father, prayer isn't simply about words.  In fact, it's really helpful to set aside time each day, as part of our prayer rule, for silence, for allowing ourselves to set aside distractions and simply be in God's presence. 

Step 3 is to fast.  We've done a bunch of episodes on fasting, as you can see.  But maybe my favorite episode is this one, "The Discipline of Fasting."  Fasting is about small choices, like making the choice not to eat meat for 40 days before Pascha.  But making those small choices, choosing our, say, love of Christ over our love of cheeseburgers, helps us develop the discipline to make big choices.  The Church gives us lots of opportunities for this: we have two 40 days fasts, before Pascha and Christmas; we have a 15 day fast before the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 15th; we have a fast between Pentecost and the Feast of the Apostles on June 29th, and basically every Wednesday and Friday of the year.  Every fast is an opportunity to look inward, to see whether it's Christ that's at the center of our lives or something else, like our stomach or our desire for comfort and pleasure.  Every fast is an opportunity to take small steps, to put our relationship with Christ back at the center, where it belongs. 

Step 4 is to give alms.  There's always been a close connection between fasting and philanthropy.  When we fast we generally eat less, and eat more simply, which saves money.  And part of fasting is to give that money to those who need it most.  It's no coincidence that, just like we should fast throughout the year, we should be giving alms throughout the year. 

But that doesn't simply mean throwing money at problems.  Giving alms is about listening, being aware of the needs and the pain of others, and doing what we can to comfort them.  That may mean buying a sandwich for someone who's hungry, or spending time with someone who's alone.  As Christ Himself said, what we do for the poor and the needy is what we do for Christ.  Keeping our eyes open for ways we can help people, helps us to really be the bee, and see Christ in everyone we meet. 

Step 5 is to read the Scripture.  The Church sets aside every day for a saint or a feast, and has certain readings from the Bible set aside for every day, too.  It's pretty easy to do those readings. If you have a smartphone, for instance, you can simply download the Daily Readings app and have them on your phone everyday.  Or, if you want to read the entire Bible, cover to cover, you can join our reading plan which we tweet every day @GOA_YoungAdults.  Reading the Bible opens up for us the story of salvation, from the creation of the world, through the Old Testament figures, down through the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and the first steps of the early Church.  And better understanding the story of salvation helps us to better understand our place in it, a story which begins in nothingness and ends in the eternal Kingdom of God.  Engaging with the word of God helps us develop a better relationship with the Word of God, Christ is Himself. 

And this leads us to the next step: Step 6 is to attend the services.  The more you read the Scripture the more you'll recognize all the Bible quotes that make up our services.  Not just the obvious readings from the Gospel and the Epistle but all the quotes and references that are in virtually every prayer we read, and every hymn we chant.  It is in Church that we become the Church, it is in the services that we become true members of Christ's Body.  In the supplication services and matins and vespers and most of all, in the Divine Liturgy.  Love isn't simply an emotion, it's a choice: the choice of union instead of division, of sacrifice instead of selfishness, of you and us instead of I and me.

So loving Christ isn't simply an emotional reaction, though that can be a part of it.  But on a deeper level it's about the steps we take to unite ourselves to Christ, so it's no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us.  And all those steps lead to the chalice.  Every Divine Liturgy Christ invites us to draw near in awe, faith, and love, so that we can receive His very Body and Blood and be united to Him in perfect love.

So let's Be the Bee, and deepen our love for Christ.  Be the Bee, and Live Orthodoxy.  Remember to like, subscribe, and share.  I'll see you all next week.

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