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The Orthodox Ethos Podcast
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Episode 1
April 7th, 2020

The Distinguishing Characteristic of Being a Christian

In this Episode and Podcast we explore the distinguishing characteristic of being a true Christian: The Orthodox Ethos. This characteristic is revealed in the spirit and mindset of those illumined and regenerated in Christ. In their enlightened faces we come to see the human person and world anew, free of demonic distortion. Through their witness, we are introduced, or reintroduced, to Christ Incarnate, the Diachronic Presence of God, who truly promised that He would be with us unto the end of the world.

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Utilize the Orthodox Ethos Podcast Interactive Transcripts!: https://oe-transcripts.now.sh

For all who would like to economically support the work of The Orthodox Ethos, donations can be made via Paypal at the following link: paypal.me/FrPeterHeers

Share and Subscribe to the OE YOUTUBE CHANNEL: 
https://www.youtube.com/c/OrthodoxEthos

OE WEBSITE: 
https://orthodoxethos.com

UNCUT MOUNTAIN PRESS (UMP) Website:
https://www.uncutmountainpress.com

Publishing: http://uncutmountainpress.com 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frpeterheers 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/frpeterheers
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frpeterheers/ 
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00Y938IQ2 
Postcards from Greece Podcast: https://saintkosmas.com/heers-postcards-from-greece/ 
Academia: https://hts.academia.edu/FrPeterHeersDTh
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/frpeterheers/

Transcript


Utilize the Orthodox Ethos Podcast Interactive Transcripts!: https://oe-transcripts.now.sh

For all who would like to economically support the work of The Orthodox Ethos, donations can be made via Paypal at the following link: paypal.me/FrPeterHeers

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The Distinguishing Characteristic of Being a Christian

Welcome to the Orthodox Ethos podcast. In this podcast we are going to explore and present the defining characteristic of what it means to be a Christian, and that is the Orthodox Ethos.

This characteristic is revealed in the spirit and in the mindset of those who have been purified and illumined by Christ, and through the life in Christ. In their enlightened faces, we come to see the human person and the world anew, free of demonic distortion. And through their witness, we are introduced, or reintroduced, to Christ incarnate, the iconic presence of God in the world, Who truly promised that He would be with us until the end of the world.

It is so good to have you with us today on this journey, this exploration, of the way of being in Christ. My name is Father Peter Heers. I’m an Orthodox priest, author, translator, speaker, and publisher. I’m speaking to you from my home in a Greek mountain village outside of Thessaloniki, where I’ve been living for the last 20 years since coming from America in 1998.

As we said, our interest and our aim here is to focus on the distinguishing characteristic of a true Christian, and that is the Orthodox Ethos. Our gaze with thus, of course, be always on Christ, Who is all in all within his body, the Church.

We will look at reality in a way in which many of you may find new, and challenging, within the light of the resurrected and ascended God-man, as expressed in those made gods by grace, as St. Athanasius the Great says. By becoming devoted disciples of the God illumined, we will all acquire a new perspective on life and death, on history, and eternity. And why not, the wonderful purpose of our very existence?

So many of us toil in vain, for we have not a clear understanding of the end and aim of our Christian life, nor the means and way in which we reach that end.

Let’s go and start with, or look at the acquisition of the Orthodox Ethos with the Great Father of the Desert, Ava Antonio, St. Anthony the Great. He helps us understand how important it is from the outset to understand where you are going, what is your goal, what is the end. And he says, “whoever strikes a lump of iron, first considers the thought of what he intends to make, a sword, and axe, a scythe. So also, we ought to consider what kind of excellence we should pursue, so that we do not toil in vain.” What kind of excellence we should pursue.

At stake here is the very meaning of salvation. What does it mean to be saved? What is the end? What is the point? Why are we in Church on Sunday? Why are we called Orthodox Christians? Why are we seeking Christ? And from what, and how, we are to obtain that end.

For many, Christianity is but an ideology, in which you hold certain views, certain ideas, which improve our life here and earn us a spot in paradise after we leave. Having rejected the true nature of the fallen state of man, they have no need of salvation from it. However, even among the right believing Christians, it is thought that it is enough just to hold correct beliefs, as if they are an end in themselves, as if recognizing reality – that’s what our faith is – when we confess it. We are recognizing the reality of who God is and what the world is; as if we are recognizing this reality is equal to an ontological change, as equal to salvation itself. That is not the case.

The commandments are given in order to be put into practice. Just as medicine is given so that we take it and we get better, we get healed. We must put them into practice. We must live by them. When we do we move into another realm, or sphere of living, where the Orthodox Ethos becomes present, becomes tangible. The love and the gratitude of a humble heart, going the extra mile for his neighbor, of giving not only his coat but his cloak as well. He has been freed from the fear and the slavery of this world, and the things of this world.

As an example of this, we hear from St. Paisios of Mount Athos, who speaks often of philotimo. Here is what he says, which is so helpful for us. He says: “Our goal is to live in an Orthodox way, and not simply speak or write about the Orthodox way. Those who have philotimo, because they move within the heavenly sphere of doxology, they joyfully accept their trials, as well as their blessings, and glorify God for them. Thus, they are continuously receiving God’s blessings from everything and are melting eternally, out of gratitude towards God, which they express in every spiritual way possible, like children of God.”

This is the state of one whose reached a point of doxology for everything and anything. This an aspect of acquiring the Orthodox Ethos, without doubt. And he goes on, he says, “unfortunately in our days, words and books have multiplied and experiences have diminished because of the worldly spirit, which pursues all conveniences and avoids all bodily efforts, and influences people drastically.”

Most of us find rest in much reading, but little or no implementation. We simply marvel at the holy athletes of Christ without realizing how much they labored, for we have not toiled, so as to be able to experience and understand their toil, to love them and to struggle out of philotimo, or to imitate them.

We have so many examples throughout Church history, and in our own day of those who have done this, who have struggled and toiled and risked for the sake of Christ and then have these heavenly blessings and acquired the Orthodox Ethos.

One of the greatest examples in the last 50, 60 years of Church history is St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. I want to read to you from a recent post that we made online, which presents an amazing event in the life of St. John, and teaches us the stance of one who has acquired the Orthodox Ethos.

In the slums of Shanghai, there were cases in which dogs would devour baby girls who had been thrown into garbage cans. When the newspapers announced this, Archbishop John told Mrs. Shakhmatova to go and buy two bottles of Chinese Vodka, at which she cringed in horror. But her horror increased when he demanded that she accompany him into those very slums. Where it was common knowledge that grownup people would be murdered. Fearless as ever, the young bishop insisted on going there, walking through dark alleys in the worst neighborhood. She recalled what horror seized her heart when they, in the darkness of night, walked and encountered only drunkards, shady characters, and growling dogs and cats. She held the bottles in her hands, followed him with trepidation. And suddenly, a growl was heard from a darkened, drunken man sitting in a dark doorway, and a faint moan of a baby was heard from a nearby garbage can.

When the bishop hastened towards the cry, the drunkard growled in warning. Then the bishop turned to Mrs. Shakhmatova and said, “hand me a bottle.” Raising the bottle in one hand and pointing to the garbage, the garbage can with the other, blessed John, without words conveyed the message of the proposed sale. The bottle ended up in the hands of the drunkard, and Mrs. Shakhmatova saved the child.

They say that that night he returned to the orphanage with two babies under his arms. This fearlessness, however, had not been acquired without a deep inner struggle. And this last line is the key: without a deep, inner struggle.

This is what St. Paisios was talking about. This deep inner struggle precedes all of the great acts of virtue. This deep inner struggle is a state, a way of life. This deep inner struggle is what we have to all put ourselves through if we are going to make progress in acquiring the Orthodox Ethos, the Orthodox way of being in Christ.

When one has the Orthodox Ethos, it’s apparent. The result is not only in good works, or moral behavior, or enlightened ideas. It is not about being a good person; it is much more than that. It is not the acquisition of some or even many virtues, rather it is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit Himself, the grace, the divine energies of God, which regenerate and make holy the whole man, not just one aspect of him.

We have an example in our own day, a great elder who just reposed, Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Arizona. And those who had the blessing to meet him in this life, will testify that the impression that was made upon you was not that he had a wonderful way of speaking, or bright ideas, or he was a very good teacher, or an organizer, or a brilliant anything.

What made an impression on you was everything about him, the whole man had been sanctified: the way he spoke, the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he sat, the way he looked. Everything about him made an impression on you, because it was not just about, he had not just acquired a few of the virtues, but the Holy Spirit had become, had taken up abode in this man of God. And therefore, everything was a sweet aroma. His eyes, and the way he looked at you, his words, everything spoke of heaven.

This is an example that we have in our own days of what all of the saints, who made progress in purification, illumination, and glorification, underwent, and what they became. This is the characteristic of a saint, far beyond what many say today. Many people talk about saints today, and I fear, as we go forward we are going to have many who are not like in this description, be called saints, be called glorified. And under the influence of moralism, legalism, and religiosity, we are going to mistake sanctity for something that is of this world.

So let’s pay attention here. This is not about becoming bright, or becoming moral, or becoming a good person. It is about total transformation, transfiguration, regeneration of every aspect of the human person.

Before we end for this episode, I want to read to you, as another witness to this, from the life of St. Anthony. We can close with St. Anthony’s witness, as we opened with him.

It says in the Gerontikon, the sayings of the fathers, three of the fathers had a custom to visit the blessed Anthony annually. And two of them would ask about distracting thoughts, logismoi, and the salvation of souls, but the one was always silent. He never asked anything. After a long time, Ava Antonio said to him, “behold, so long a time have you been coming, from such a long distance, and yet you don’t ask me anything.” And he answered, saying to him, “it is enough for me to only see you father.”

This is the fruit of the cross. This is the power of crucifixion. The crucifixion of the intellect and passions that transfigures, so that words are not necessary. Simply gazing upon the holy man changes those who see him. It is what St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “acquire the Holy Spirit and a thousand around you will be saved.”

Before Christ and all the saints, all words fall silent. All argumentation ceases. All rationalism falls short.

On the other hand, in lieu of the Orthodox Ethos, the way of being in Christ, the center cannot hold, extremes are reached, the royal path is obscured, and our gaze falls earthward.

Nothing can replace the Orthodox Ethos. It is the distinguishing characteristic of true Christians. It overpowers every enemy, and adversary, and like a magnet, attracts all to itself, according to the Lord’s words, “And I, if I be lifted up, from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

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Utilize the Orthodox Ethos Podcast Interactive Transcripts!: https://oe-transcripts.now.sh

For all who would like to economically support the work of The Orthodox Ethos, donations can be made via Paypal at the following link: paypal.me/FrPeterHeers

Share and Subscribe to the OE YOUTUBE CHANNEL:
https://www.youtube.com/c/OrthodoxEthos

OE WEBSITE:
https://orthodoxethos.com

UNCUT MOUNTAIN PRESS (UMP) Website:
https://www.uncutmountainpress.com

Publishing: http://uncutmountainpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frpeterheers
Twitter: https://twitter.com/frpeterheers
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frpeterheers/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00Y938IQ2
Postcards from Greece Podcast: https://saintkosmas.com/heers-postcards-from-greec…
Academia: https://hts.academia.edu/FrPeterHeersDTh
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/frpeterheers/

Orthodox Ethos is a collective effort of nearly a dozen Orthodox Christians, ordained and lay. Our purpose is to present and support the Orthodox truth, way and life, which is Christ Himself.

Get in touch with us at team@orthodoxethos.com

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