Sunday, October 31, 2004

Byzantine Orthodox Christianity

From time to time I look in on a low traffic weblog, Summa Contra Mundum, kept by one "Athanasius" whose writing is a fresh delight. Here is someone whose faith is blind, beutiful and uncompromising. When we are walking in light, as our African friends like to say, there is no need to be either apologetic or defensive.
By way of introduction here are two links:

I stumbled across a website recently called Magnatune, a record label that publishes music mostly via the internet. They seem to specialize in early music, but have a variety of other genres as well. I was drawn to the site because of the recordings they have from the Monks and Metropolitan Choirs of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.

Magnatune is neat because they allow you to listen to the music via streaming MP3's or WMA's before you buy. You can listen to the entire album whenever you want, as much as you want, if you have high-speed internet. If you choose to buy the album, you pay them as much as you want to pay them (I paid 8$), half of which goes to the artist. Then you get to download MP3's or CD-quality WAV's or FLAC's. I did that with the Russian Orthodox Chants album, which I burned to a CD I can take in my car.

They have several recordings of Byzantine music; I will probably buy them all. Even if you don't buy them, you can listen. Click here for some beautiful music.

If you haven't yet clicked for the music, do it now. You can listen as you read, and it can go on playing after you leave the blog.

Second, here are words to live by:

I've found out something in my 33 years of life, especially the 14 years in which I've been trying to live a good Christian life. Here it is: Prayer always works against temptation. If you are being severely tempted, to anger, to lust, to despair, to whatever your particular vices are, prayer will always work. Say "Jesus, help me," or "Holy Mother of God, save me" or "St. Michael the Archangel. . ." and God will send help. It's true. It always works.

So, why do I still sin? (And I do still sin.) What happens? I can feel the temptation coming on, coming on like a freight train. I know, intellectually, that if only I begin to pray, the temptation will pass by without harm. But I don't pray. Why? There's some sort of gap between the recognition that prayer will save me, and the actual act of praying. That gap is so small, and yet feels like the Grand Canyon. To go from the state of tempted-not-praying to redeemed-from-temptation-by-praying is the most difficult thing in the world. I could run a marathon easier than I could do this.

Obviously, the answer is never to allow myself to get into the state of not-praying. I must take St. Paul's advice and pray without ceasing. St. John Chrysostom says somewhere that it is impossible to sin while one is praying--I need, therefore, to pray all the time, if I want to be freed from sin.

Please pray that God will teach me how to pray, and will replace my stony heart with a real heart that constantly calls out to God.

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