Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Terms Every Orthodox Christian Should Know

Orthodox living requires a basic understanding of how we work out our salvation. It is about our journey closer to God.

The word fortitude is tossed about so casually I don't think it means what most people think it means. The epistles teach us that we need to approach our discipleship with fortitude. is is not to be confused with a mere stubbornness or a spoken intent to consistently associate oneself with Christ or to agree to a philosophical ideal.

Fortitude an inner determination and external committment which require strength, courage, loyalty, dedication, and endurance to remain steadfast in difficult and painful circumstances. It is the willingness to participate fully in the vocation of Christian discipleship, as a slave or bond servant. Like our Savior who set the standard for Christian fortitude he submitted to the savagery, scorn and torture of the Cross. It is a forfeiture of ease for the way of the Cross.

Now endurance is another term that has been so secularized that it has lost its intent also. Endurance speaks to the very core, constitution or construct of a person, not “desire” necessarily, to push through and to bear hardship. It refers in many ways to the tolerance for prolonged exertion pain and hardship. It refers to the ability and willingness of the individual to survive despite the personal cost or liability. It is the manner in which one accepts and manages the ravages of commitment and circumstance. This acceptance to endure what must occur is also demonstrated by our Lord on His way to Golgotha. The Via Dolorosa is a perfect and whole example of how we must endure every humiliation, every trial, every pain and get up even when we fall. I would also humbly point out that it must have pained our Lord perhaps even more so, to endure when He accepted the absolute the confines of flesh during the Incarnation.

Stamina describes a type of strength, energy or resistance to discomfort. It may be equately with grace which can be multiplied. By increasing one’s willingness to endure we are graced with a higher threashold before discomfort begins, before fatigue or exertion wreaks havoc and this is stamina.  Unlike endurance, stamina refers to an abiding aptitude and energy an enduring persistence or talent.

W can increase our talents by increasing stamina. This innate tolerance and regeneration is what creates the ease and grace in which some can do extraordinary feats. There is a perpetual and simultaneous rejuvenation for those who are endowed with a healthy generous dose of stamina. We capitalize on our stamina with effort with consistency seeking to expend effort on improving endurance and fortitude which is character building.

Refer yet again to our Lord and Savior who was arguably endowed by His very nature, the duality and perfect synergy of His two natures to have the greatest ‘amount’ of innate ability and stamina. Yet he too in His humanity had to indure anquish as He sweat blood on the eve of His arrest and prayed for His disciples and all who believe. Our Lord demonstrated perfectly the synergy of stamina, fortitude and endurance to tolerate prolonged hardship, pain, disappointment, temptation and torture whether in the desert or on the Cross for us all.

On the road to salvation there is an inseparable integration of these terms and characteristics. They are inseparable because of the interplay and interdependence of one with the other. They should not be conflated or confused and I pray I haven't done so here because of my own lacking and ignorance. We are each given a talent an amount and it varies that can be equated with stamina but we are all called to increase our talent and not to bury or squander it.
While actively studying Karate the motto was simple “Hard work beats talent when talent quits working hard”. I think it speaks well to this point. When building one’s increase it is uncomfortable and takes ‘sweat equity’ or labor. When we stretch beyond our former limits we establish new thresholds new horizons and create a more complete reality for ourselves. Our ability to mitigate strife and difficulty improves and therefore our endurance is elongated and extended. These positive outcomes often are the very stepping stones which were once stumbling blocks. They influence our thinking, feeling and belief. Our fortitude is thereby exponentially increased.

Orthodoxy, correct living, in this context is a pragmatic extension of the lessons of Saint Paul that we are essentially and in reality forging our salvation despite our iniquity but in the furnace of purification. It is a furnace the climate and environment is not hospitable. We may lament our turmoil the injustice the shame but we move forward amputating or pruning what is not useful or hurtful and making room in our lives for the blessings and holiness of God. Our Lord in Chapter 17 of the Gospel According to John states that he does not wish us to be taken out of the world but that we should be kept from evil. We are here to work out our salvation move through our journey in this life time. Remember also that we are already in eternity.

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