CWN - In his 4th Lenten Sermon of the year, on Friday, March 27, Father Raniero Cantalamessa concluded a series of talks that compared Eastern and Western Christian approaches to spirituality.

Preaching in the Redemptoris Mater chapel to Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia, the preacher to the pontifical household observed: “The goal of life for Greek Christians is divinization, and for Christians in the West, the attainment of holiness.” Putting the matter differently, he said that “the East has assimilated the positive aspect of salvation: the deification of man and the restoration of the image of God. The West has assimilated the negative aspect: freedom from sin.”

Christians in the West could profit from reflection on the Eastern understanding, the papal preacher said. He remarked that in the West, “if one asks an average Christian what it means to be ‘in the grace of God’ or to live ‘in grace,’ the answer is almost certainly ‘to live without mortal sin on one’s conscience.’” In the East, the answer would more likely involve a reference to new life in Christ.

The problem is complicated, Father Cantalamessa said, by the tendency in the West to separate theology from spirituality and mysticism. Fortunately, he said, in the past century the charismatic renewal has challenged that separation. The papal preacher said that this renewal is one of the gifts of the Holy spirit. “It is not a question of belonging to this movement, or to any movement,” he said, “but of opening oneself to the action of the Holy Spirit in whatever state one finds oneself.”

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Teachings of Christ

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV)

Holy Forefathers

Through faith, O Christ, you justified the Forefathers, * betrothing through them in advance the Church of the gentiles. * The Saints exult in glory, * for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: * she who gave birth to You without seed. * Through their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us. (Troparion, Tone 2)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You did not honor a hand-depicted image, O thrice-blessed ones, * but defended by the undepicted Being you were glorified in a trial by fire. * And, standing in the midst of unbearable flame, you called upon God: * “Hasten, O Compassionate One, and speed to our help, * for You are merciful and You can do whatever you will.” (Kontakion, Tone 6)

(Second Sunday Before Christmas)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:28 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky