Kamal Hourani is a first year student in the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
On the evening of October 29th, Fr. Stephen Freeman gave a talk at the Speaking to Secular America Conference – hosted by the Orthodox Missions Institute, entitled: “The God You Don’t Believe In – Conversations with a Secular World”.
In his presentation, Fr. Stephen stated, “Every ethic is a suffering ethic.” That is to say every virtue requires some level of sacrifice in its practice. St. Paul mentions Christ’s kenosis in his letter to the Philippians, extolling how Christ emptied himself to become a human being. Of course, on the cross Christ makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world by dying, entering into Hades, and raising all of the dead. All of His saving acts required humble sacrifice, a willful condescension to show us His perfect love and healing. As Christians, we follow in His path which is the path of the cross. Developing virtues in ourselves requires sacrifice, self-emptying, and suffering.
Fr. Stephen juxtaposed this idea in Christian spirituality against the consumerism of modern America. Physical treasures are advertised as objects that improve our lives. We gravitate toward them because we are dissatisfied with our lives, but the reality is that no manufacturer can produce an item that will truly satisfy our longings. Thus, consumerism becomes a cycle of frequent purchases to achieve the latest and greatest technology, but once the novelty of the new tech wears off, we are left more dissatisfied and must seek out a new item. Consumerism creates in us a heart of greed. A heart hardened by such a vice cannot be prepared to empty itself for the other when God calls us to love our neighbor. In an attempt to ease ‘suffering’ in our daily lives, new products have actually just given us more suffering, because we are cut off from a loving communion with God and our neighbors.
We must struggle to fight greed by suffering a little, that is, sacrificing ourselves for the good of the other.
Image Source: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
Speaking to Secular America Conference: How the Church Is Reaching Out to the Non-Religious in Our Society. Hosted by the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity on the campus of Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA from October 28-30, 2015.
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