It is Easter. We celebrate the humility of Jesus Christ as he was willing to suffer an excruciating death in order to give his blood for the redemption of humankind.
Those who attempt to follow Christ are to take up their cross and follow his example in love for humanity. Yet today, complacency and selfishness among those who call themselves Christians in the West has become the main reason for many to lose respect for the faith. Many Christians are practicing the very opposite values of what Jesus instructed.
This brings us to the core of what Christian spiritualism really is. Precisely the willingness to give up one's own ego in order to serve a higher cause is the source from which the existential inner peace flows; it is where man finds equilibrium. It is in this position that he may receive profound wisdom from God – Sofia – that guides the spiritual being to love his neighbor and forgive his enemies. Virtues such as humility, self-restraint, generosity, compassion, moderation and selflessness are highly underrated in current-day Western society, which to a shocking degree has taught man to rebel against the order of the spiritual world.
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I am reflecting on this, writing from Istanbul and overlooking the Hagia Sofia, one of the largest churches in the world, which became a Muslim mosque when the Christian East Roman Empire and Constantinople fell to the Islamic conquest in the 1450s. For 900 years, St. Sofia was a church; the next 500 years, it was a mosque. Today, only around 2,000 Greek Orthodox Christians remain in Istanbul, a city of 17 million, it is said. It was to the people who lived in Galatia, in what today is Turkey's Anatolia region, that St. Paul wrote his famous letter.
There are laws in the universe that we simply do not fully understand. Man is too frail to grasp the depth of existence. He cannot even see through a wall. He is not able to grasp the grand scopes of reality that comprises the observable, let alone that which lurks in the darkness and moves in the spiritual world.
We seem not to fully comprehend the power of the mind and the eternal weight of our own choices. You reap what you sow. A culture reaps what it sows. There are consequences for actions. If we grasped this, we would have been much more careful to observe how we act and strive much harder to do that which is right – to quench the ego and search for the wisdom of the Christ. The spiritual laws of cause and effect state that we will suffer from our own choices, and we may only be relieved from this suffering if we do the right thing. Yet, that takes self-discipline, hard work, perseverance and humility.
The church father, St. Augustine, said the road to God is the passing through our own self-awareness. The essence of religion is that, based on your own choices, you will consequently be rewarded or punished. You choose which plants to plant in your own garden, in the life you are in charge of. It is your responsibility to magnify your talents to the best of your abilities and for the benefit of human kind. In Judaism, this is a religious duty. Jews often say that God created the world, but it is imperfect for the time being. It is man's duty to help the Almighty to improve everything. Life should be spent doing just that.
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It is self-evident. If you plant the seed from an apple, you will eventually have an apple tree. If you plant an olive, you will have an olive tree. If you plant wheat, you will not have a field of barley. At the heart of Christianity are valid teachings that may help man choose the right seeds for his garden so that it bears an abundance of fruit. At the center of this is the love of God, who is the giver of power to overcome the destructive forces in the world. Yet the Western hedonist culture now detests its own historical roots.
You reap what you sow. You do not reap what others sow. They reap what they sow, in their own lives. In life, each man chooses how he approaches the world and its difficulties, how he handles injustice, scorn, hatred, love, lust, temptations to do evil toward others. He decides on the qualities that he wishes to pursue, those he hopes will bear good fruit in his life. It is in his hands to decide on infidelity and deceit or – on the opposite scale – face the problems by honoring honesty, loyalty and standing up for what is perseverance and compassion.
In the famous Madison Square Garden Crusade, Billy Graham repeats the Christian verdict by saying that the heart is the seat of a man's conscience and light. Therefore, the Christian message requires that man humble himself and seek repentance under God in order to better himself. "Make peace with yourself, and both heaven and earth will make peace with you," states one of the Eastern Orthodox Church saints, St. Isaac the Syrian. This is the message of Easter, of the humility of Christ as he gave up his life. And we are to do the same.