Let’s face it, grammar wasn’t my best subject in school! I’ve always been impatient with the rules, wanting to get to the end without having to mess with all that “process” nonsense! And yes, that is a problem because the process is part of the solution! A bit of wisdom that has cost me quite a lot in my life! Now, having studied other languages, I have a growing appreciation (if not a full implementation) of grammar. Take for instance antonyms. Antonyms are words that mean the exact opposite of another word – decent vs.indecent, able vs. unable, and so on. The use of antonyms in any language is a powerful way to communicate.
This is especially true when it comes to the wisdom of the faith. The Orthodox Christian Faith is primarily a paradox – to save your life, you have to lose it; to be rich; you must become poor; to live, you have to die. You know, all the wisdom that still confuses us today!
Just look at our Gospel Lesson in Luke 6:24-30:
The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.”
Our Lord Jesus had just declared the Beatitudes earlier in this chapter, you know the “blessed are the poor…” And now He is declaring woes! Woes are the opposites of blessings. So if the hungry are blessed and will be filled then woe to the full because they will end up hungry! Woe to those who think they have it all and are actually poor in spirit. Woe to those who “laugh now” because they will weep later. Turns out the dangers of the fantasy of illusion is terrible indeed!
So, how do we avoid the woes and embrace the blessings? By doing the opposite of what the “conventional wisdom” suggests. The conventional wisdom says to hate those who hate you. The conventional wisdom says possessions equals prosperity. The conventional wisdom says being popular equals being good. The conventional wisdom isn’t wisdom at all. In fact, conventional “wisdom” is actually foolishness! So much so that the Lord paradoxically calls us to do the opposite: Love our enemies! Do good to those who mistreat you! Do not return physical violence! If someone takes something from you, give them more (why does this make me think of the IRS?) Why is this the best way to live? Because this way of living frees you from the caustic temptations of revenge, hatred, greed, and self-centeredness. If this is your attitude in life, you are blessed by freedom and joy! And you are free from the poverty of both flattery and insult! Sounds great!
Today, are you gripped in places in your life by woes? Are you tempted by the false illusion of prosperity to be content with mere things? This path only leads to sorrow and disappointment. Why not embrace the paradox of the Faith and dare to entrust your daily living to the wisdom of eternal truth and discover blessings where the blind world only sees poverty? Why not choose to be Orthodox on Purpose?