Every wisdom literature of every ancient culture has a form of the wisdom “Know Yourself.” The ancient Hellenic philosophers were all focused on developing that kind of self-knowledge to cultivate ways to live life well. But self-knowledge isn’t very helpful if you don’t have a reference point. What is a healthy person? Is it mere confidence? Is it the ability to get your way? What is this self-knowledge that even the Fathers of the Church encourage us to have?
It is the knowledge that leads to reality. It is the knowledge that leads us to be like Jesus Christ. It is true knowledge that doesn’t stop and being able to describe characteristics but on to disciplining our passions to know God and to truly know ourselves without shame or arrogance. That’s what a Normal Orthodoxy does for a person. Is that what your faith is forming in you?
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Luke 4:22-30:
At that time, the crowd spoke of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.
This mental barrier of watching the Lord grow up in their village, and the familiarity these folks had with the Lord’s extended family, became an easy excuse to ignore the powerful message the Lord proclaimed. They thought they knew Him, but they didn’t even know themselves. His message disturbed them precisely because they hadn’t allowed the wisdom of the Faith to wake them up to God and their own spiritual; needs. They were so disturbed by His words that they actually tried to kill Him. Of course, they did. His message was a direct threat to their self-ignorance!
And what was His message? The Lord proclaimed to His hometown what He had been proclaiming in every place: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent!” But they were so blinded by their “familiarity” that they refused to accept His words. This is the subtle danger of false familiarity: it blinds you to the profound depth of eternal truths. The Lord warned these folks about this danger by revealing the truth that throughout the history of the faith it was the barrier of mere familiarity that kept the very people who had been given this spiritual treasure FIRST from holding this treasure forever. Their very false familiarity with the Faith became a detriment to their ability to experience the joy of the faith.
But it turns out what they called “familiarity” was actually just shallow lip service to the treasure of their faith. They were addicted to repeating old words without actually hearing the wisdom of those words. They were so convinced they knew the Faith, they missed it!
Today, where is shallow false familiarity holding you back? Do you really know Normal Orthodoxy or are you just so comfortable with the trappings of the Faith that you have become numb to the message of the Faith? You may be confronted by this spiritual poverty in a way that disturbs you, but don’t hate that moment. If you have the humility and courage to embrace this momentary discomfort, to discover yourself and know yourself, you may discover a depth of the treasure of your Faith you never really knew existed. And what is merely familiar may become brand new all over again. You just may become Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord, You know Yourself and are at peace eternally. You love me so much, You desire that I know myself as well as You know me. That is why You give me the very often disturbing message of “Repent” to wake me up to Your loving invitation to an honest knowledge of myself SO THAT I will be able to offer my broken places to You for Your healing grace. And You invite me to this hard work with the Promise You will never leave me or abandon me. You give the grace of Yourself to strengthen me for this work of salvation in my life. Help me, Lord, to keep on learning how to repent. Amen