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Time to fast from complaining, this advent?

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St. Philip the Apostle will have us do so.

As did His Lord Christ, before his second-last ‘advent’ (coming): His resurrection. (His strongest and last act is yet to come.)

Our Lord Christ, as a matter of fact, took – and quite literally – great pains to teach us the rules of complaining, which include the very limited conditions when it is ‘licit’. He did so in his sacred Agony in Gethsemane — arguably his last doctrine given to his disciples before all was consummated on the Cross.

What are the rules? And why are they so important that The Master gives them in his final lesson?

The first question is easy to answer, the rules being a mere four.

The second question involves the mystery of the Christian’s acceptance of suffering, for the sake of the reign of Christ in his heart. It is thus better taken up in a second post.

This post is offered in honor of St. Philip the Apostle, whose feast day today on the Western Roman calendar (yesterday on the Eastern) traditionally marks the first day of advent — which season in the East it is still referred to as “St. Philip’s Fast”.

What are the rules? They are to be distilled as it were from the very words of Our Lord Christ as recorded in the sacred Account of His blessed Passion. Here, I list them as imperatives, since when The Master has taught anything He does so with authority.

1. Complain only about grave matter/s. “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.” (Mt. xxvi, 38) Death, as they say, is about as grave as anything gets. For it is a serious matter indeed whenever even the appearance is given of taking away what The Lord, Who is The Giver of Life, the Holy Ghost, Alone can give and take. Particularly when Life Himself is threatened with death. His humility then in the face of such unthinkable offense is commendably imitated.

2. Complain in few words only. Our Lord’s words in this case were reduced to a mere seven (in English). Enough said.

3. Complain only to one’s intimates. Christ did not complain at the time to all Twelve, but only to his closest Disciples: the three ‘favorites’, Peter, James and John.

4. Take the complaint to God, in prayer.

And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Mt. xxvi, 39-40

“The mercy of God is hidden in sufferings not of our choice; and if we accept such sufferings patiently, they bring us to repentance and deliver us from everlasting punishment.”

(St. Mark the Ascetic, no. 139 of On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works: Two Hundred and Twenty Six Texts, taken from The Philokalia, vol. i, p. 136, The Complete Text compiled by St. Nikodemus of the Holy Mountain and St. Macarios of Corinth; translated from the Greek and edited by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard & Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber, London, 1979.)

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