From the editor: November 1, 2013

Saint Peter and Saint Paul by El Greco
Saint Peter and Saint Paul
by El Greco

The World of All Saints

Today, All Saints Day in the West, I begin by suggesting that you consider ordering our 2014 Calendar, full of saints listings, including such "big ones" as Peter and Paul (June 29).

That said, I encourage you to think about what it means to be a "saint." Christians are addressed in the New Testament as "saints," which means "holy ones," those set apart from the world for God.

That is how we are supposed to think, feel, and live as Christians. But it's not easy, and it wasn't a cakewalk for either Peter or Paul. In what way can we meaningfully consider ourselves, who live "in the world," to be "not of the world" and thus "set apart" from the world? Everyone become monastics? Of course not.

David Fagerberg, in his wonderful new book, Liturgical Asceticism, helpfully answers the question of how we are to view the world:

When the ascetical masters spoke of hating the world, they were speaking a different language game than the dualist. The dualist meant he was disgusted with the world; the Christian ascetic meant he hated any obstacle that enslaved the spirit, including an excessive attachment to the world or to himself. [Athanasius] Pekar claims the phrase "hate the world" is a Semitic expression that means "to love less," which means an attitude to adopt when the world is ranked above God. [Paul] Evdokimov summarizes: "Thus, to hate means to oppose an obstacle, an excessive attachment to life here below or a fear of death—all of which makes the spirit captive." The passions are disordered love, love that lacks appropriate hierarchy. This disorder is not only disastrous, it is idolatrous for loving something with the love that should be reserved for God alone. To be righteous, the lover must come to love the right object with the right measure. That means, for all of us, loving some things less than we love them now, and loving God more than we love him now....

This means that the negative act of hating the world is but the flip side of the positive act of loving God more... Creation does not contain its own end, and to treat creation as if it does changes the world into the "world" about which Scripture warns us. When this happens, nothing in the world has changed, but everything about the world is different for us. Things are not wrong, but we have wronged things by loving them in the wrong measure.

It's a matter of loving God first. Work on that (with his help and grace) and everything else will follow. A morning prayer I use includes the petition: "Do not let me be deceived by the corruption delights of this world, but rather strengthen in me the desire to attain to the treasures of the world to come. For You are blessed and praised in all Your saints..." If we desire fellowship with Christ above all else, we shall be in good company.

—James M. Kushiner


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