There is a great story about St. Paisios dealing with some folks who were scandalized by this or that event or behavior in the Church. He then tells the story of the honeybee and the fly:
I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?” it will say, “I don’t know about flowers, but over there in that heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want.” And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to.
Now, if you ask a honeybee, “Have you seen any unclean things in this area?” it will reply, “Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers.” And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow.
You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or hyacinth is.
Look at our lesson today in Titus 1:15-16; 2:1-10:
TITUS, my son, to the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.
But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine. Bid the older men be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderous or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited. Likewise urge the younger men to control themselves. Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say to us. Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
St. Paul tells his spiritual son, Titus, that it’s really clear who is pure and who isn’t. To the pure, all they see is pure, but to those who are always looking for the darkness, they also always seem to find it!
Paul then goes on to counsel Titus and us, that it’s in “sound doctrine” that we develop a love for beauty, purity, and love. By embracing the exacting and challenging work of becoming a serious disciple, we set ourselves free from dwelling on those “rubbish” parts of life that distort our vision and attitudes. When we focus our best efforts on learning the Faith, practicing the Faith, and sharing the Faith, we reorient our vision to see God everywhere instead of focusing on who’s our “enemy” or who’s “wrong” or who’s “bad.” In fact, we end up being blind to the faults of others because we are so focused on rooting out all the darkness in ourselves! Amazing how that works!
Of course the rest of Paul’s advice to the older men, the older women, the young women, and the young men are only possible if we first choose to discipline ourselves to see God and the good! Rooting out wrongdoing is exhausting. It’s only in pursuit of the beautiful that energizes our labors and motivates us for the marathon of becoming by grace what Christ is by nature! We simply won’t have the stamina to stomp out all the wrong everywhere. But God gives us the grace and strength to search out the beauty everywhere!
Today, are you the honeybee or the fly? Do you seek out the rubbish or the nectar? You were made for beauty and joy, my dearest; not scrounging around in the trash pile.And when you embrace the better work of focusing on beauty and purity, you are going to be surprised at how easy it gets to see that in everyone around you! And how easy it will be to spend so much time clearing out the darkness in your own soul, you won’t have the time to see any in anyone else. It’s a beautiful life being Orthodox on Purpose!
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