Dietrich Bonhoeffer on our Intercession

I wanted to share with you a quote from a Protestant pastor who I have fondness for. If any of you are not aware of who Dietrich Bonhoeffer is, he was a pastor/theologian who lived during World War II in Germany. When Hitler and his Third Reich took power, forcing the reformed Church there to become a tool of the government, Dietrich resisted, forming the Confessing Church and standing up for peace, justice, and the dignity of every human life. Later on he was arrested for political subversion and put in a concentration camp in Flossenburg where he died a martyr’s death on April 9th, 1945, like a lamb led to the slaughter. He preached and lived out a life a peace which flowed out of his love for the Word, Jesus, who is the prince of peace. Below is an excerpt from his book Living Together, about Christian community. It regards intercession:

Intercession means no more than to bring our brother into the presence of God, to see him under the Cross of Christ as a poor human being and as a sinner in need of grace. Then everything in him that repels us falls away; we see him in all his destitution and need. His need and his sin become so oppressive that we feel them as our own, and we can do nothing else but pray: Lord, do Thou, Thou alone, deal with him according to Thy severity and Thy goodness. To make intercession means to grant our brother the same right that we have received, namely, to stand before Christ and share in his mercy.

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A New

I do not have too much time to post today, but in honor of a topic that has been weighing on my heart much lately I want to share with you two prayers. The first is from a fool for Christ, St. Francis of Assisi (As the subdeacon at my Church told me recently, “I have a soft spot for him”):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The second is a prayer for peace from the Vancouver Assembly of the World Council of Churches:

For peace in your country
For the victims of violence everywhere
For those struggling for peace and justice
For churches in conflict situations
For a world without war and violence

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth,
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace,
Let peace fill our beings,
our world and our universe. Amen.

St. Maximos on Hatred and Love

I got this quote from over at A Catechumen’s Tale. It comes from St. Maximos’s Four Hundred Texts on Love.

Thanks to Tony-Allen for pointing me to this text:

Do not lightly discard spiritual love: for men there is no other road to salvation.

Because today an assault of the devil has aroused some hatred in you, do not judge as base and wicked a brother whom yesterday you regarded as spiritual and virtuous; but with long-suffering love dwell on the goodness you perceived yesterday and expel today’s hatred from your soul.

Do not condemn today as base and wicked the man whom yesterday you praised as good and commended as virtuous, changing from love to hatred, because he has criticized you; but even though you are still full of resentment, commend him as before, and you will soon recover the same saving love. When talking with other brethren, do not adulterate your usual praise of a brother by surreptitiously introducing censure into the conversation because you still harbor some hidden resentment against him. On the contrary, in the company of others give unmixed praise and pray for him sincerely as if you were praying for yourself; then you will soon be delivered from this destructive hatred.

Do not say, “I do not hate my brother,” when you simply efface the thought of him from your mind. Listen to Moses, who said, “Do not hate your brother in your mind; but reprove him and you will not incur sin through him (Lev. 19:17 LXX).” If a brother happens to be tempted and persists in insulting you, do not be driven out of your state of love, even though the same evil demon troubles your mind. You will not be driven out of that state if, when abused, you bless; when slandered, you praise; and when tricked, you maintain your affection. This is the way of Christ’s philosophy: if you do not follow it you do not share His company. [25-30]

This really speaks to me because I have come to the recent conclusion that I do in fact have enemies. Let me explain now what I mean by this. One of the biggest lies that our post-modern society seems to perpetuate is that we don’t have any enemies unless someone beats us, persecutes us, slanders us, or libels us. Many Christians truly believe that this is true whether consciously or subconsciously. The problem with this is that it stems from a false view of what an enemy is.

An enemy is not external. It is internal. It stems not from “their” view of “me”, but instead from “my” view of “them”. It, just like any other thing opposed to agape love is, to use Augustinian language, a depravation of our true nature in Christ.

An enemy is not someone who hurts us, harms us, or hates us. It is the man at work who I think to myself “I can’t stand him.” It is the person who you perceive to cut you off on the freeway, and think to yourself “Stupid idiot! Watch where you’re driving.” We need to be careful when we profess that we love our enemies because all too often we can falsely say “I have no enemies,” because we have a false view of what an enemy is.

Now, I have recently heard an example of someone who truly did not have enemies which I feel we all need to learn from and who can show us Jesus. On a recent trip to the Holy Land, Father Stephen Freeman where he says he met a monk at Mar Saba monastery which has existed since the time of the Apostles. Here a single monk lives who, having seen all of the violence, hatred, and darkness of the Holy Land, can truly say “I have no enemies.” May we all beg for mercy from the Lord and pray to emulate this monk, who is surely a saint living among us.

I’d like to leave you with this thought by Fr. Freeman on why he believes that this monk can truly say that and why we must seek to believe it, and by believing it make it a part of our very being.

The very difficult task of forgiving our enemies – by the resurrection of Christ as the Church’s hymns sing – is also the very difficult task in believing the resurrection in a manner that is not removed from the world in which we live. Every breath we take, every grain of sand upon which we walk, all that exists – exists solely because of Pascha (Christ’s resurrection). His resurrection is not a footnote in history but the very reason there is any history. I can forgive by the resurrection because it is my very being and the being of everyone around me – even though they may not realize it or act accordingly.

May God grant you Pascha, the resurrection of your soul, peace, and long-suffering in your journey of sanctification towards the union with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is above all names and persons, and before whom every knee will bow and confess “This Man is Lord.”

Glory Be to God for All Things