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The Mirror Of Galadriel

June 19, 2013

lotr-2-2817-mirrorIn reading a comment posted to my blog yesterday, I was struck by the observation that our Orthodox Faith never demands a blind obedience. In fact that obedience cannot be blind, because our faith calls us to see.

The call of Jesus to His disciples was, “Come and see.” The call of the apostles, and therefore of the Church is, “Come and see” as well. The call is not to just come and believe, “because I say so, so just do it!” This is a wonderful freedom of this life in Christ that we have in the Church.

But sometimes we lose focus (I should say I lose focus) on what it is we come to Christ and His Church to see. Sometimes the beauty, hymns, prayers and sacraments can feel like “new toys” to a kid, especially for a former Protestant, like myself, with no solid tradition in my upbringing. It is easy to treat them as an end in themselves. It reminds me of Christ addressing the multitudes:

Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft [clothing] are in kings’ houses.

But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. (Matthew 11:7-9)

Many of the Jews who had come out to hear John the Baptists were coming out as if to be entertained. Jesus goes on to say of John:

For this is [he], of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.

And if ye will receive [it], this is Elias, which was for to come.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11: 10-15)

This was the very prophet who was the Forerunner (his official title in the Orthodox Church) of the Messiah of Israel, yet they did not see it. For myself, I know that if I am not careful, I can treat the holy things within the life of the Church in the same way. We can see them the way Sam thought of the Mirror of Galadriel; as a bit of “elf magic.” We see the Church as something of a “magic mirror” that can show us things. For myself, I know that I have learned so much from the Church: history, the ancient teachings, desert fathers, sacraments, icons, prayers, etc. Yet, I see that I can become distracted, not by any fault of the things in the Church, but, like the Jews with John the Baptist, the fault is within myself.

I hope that I am not rambling too much, and making a confused mess of something that seems so clear in my head. Let me try to tie this together…

The comment on my blog, about obedience not being blind, was in the context of stating that Confession compels us to see. It causes us to see, because it bids us to see ourselves. It calls us to see ourselves for what we are. We do look into a mirror, but that mirror is not far-seeing elf-magic, it is the mirror in the face of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. As the Scriptures say:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1Corinthians 13:12)

And again:

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Corinthians 3:18)

The key to this mirror (“glass” in KJV) is that we not only know Him, but ourselves. This knowledge changes us into His image and likeness. In the first Chapter of the Pedagogy of Saint Clement of Alexandria, entitled On The True Beauty, he writes:

It is then, as appears, the greatest of all lessons to know one’s self. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God, not by wearing gold or long robes, but by well-doing, and by requiring as few things as possible.

THIS is the true meaning of all that the Life of Christ in the Church is all about. THIS is what all our obedience and love for Christ is meant to accomplish, to know ourselves, and therefore know God. To be sure, this is not putting down any of the beauty, liturgy, or any other thing we have in the Church. This is just stating what I said above, that they are not ends in and of themselves. It is NOT stating, “You don’t need any of that stuff” as I once thought as a Protestant.

I was reflecting over this in relation to how I react to certain situations. As I was saying my evening prayers, I realized that my frustrations with and reactions to certain people or situations says more about me than the person or situation. And this is what confession should be about. Recognizing something sinful and defective within myself, and boldly bring before the throne of grace, in the presence of my father confessor. Accusing myself, not my fellow man or circumstances. It’s a very humbling endeavor, but one that is, by God’s grace, bringing us “from glory to greater glory.”

So thank you for the comment. I was blessed and edified by reflecting on it throughout the day. I hope that this rambling reflection might do the same for someone else.

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