Here is a reproduction of a fine post - written by Ric Ballard - on the
Eastern Catholic Spiritual Renewal blog.
Ric tackles an issue that I have ranted about in the past: about the sinful misuse of God's Name, which God does not like-- at all! He made this abundantly clear to us in His Second Commandment:
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. [Exodus 20 2-17]
Please, read on!
A voice for spiritual renewal in the Byzantine Catholic Churches.
Posted by Ric Ballard
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2012
When I was about 6 years old I remember my parents telling me not to say, "Oh my God" around my great grandmother. At the time I found myself wondering why this could be wrong and tried my best with no success at stopping myself. Consequently, I said it in front of my grandmother and got in trouble but I found no one to provided an explanation to why it was wrong. After this happened I realized that I just couldn’t stop saying it and had no reason to stop. Furthermore, everyone was saying it and it was like we all had this common syndrome. Later in my life this syndrome went on to evolve to the point where saying God became a means to curse, even to the point of saying God's revealed name "Jesus Christ" as the ultimate curse. As the syndrome developed it seems that what was to be sacred became more and more mundane even beyond this making the name of God as something evil.
As a victim of a sinful culture I understand why I felt the compulsion to treat God the way I did growing up. As a Father I also found it amazing that by the time some of my own kids got through kindergarten they came home saying "OMG!" in excitement, swearing to God just in simple promises, or just "God" out of frustration. However, in their case I was able to equip them with a proper response to why they should not do this. I have taught them that calling upon God is one of our greatest privileges and we should treat it as gift. Also, since He is always ready to respond when we call to him it's important that we don’t take this for granted. Unfortunately, we don’t see this in our culture. In fact, we have gone out of our way to make calling upon God in mundane way as something cool. It seems that the reality that should lead us to God has been transformed into something that ultimately leads us away from God.
In God's mercy he continues to make himself known to us despite our sins. He has even given us the most intimate means to encounter Him by giving us His name. This generous gift that God has given us makes access to divinity possible in the most simple circumstances. We only need to mention Him and we will find that that our activity, experience, or circumstance becomes transformed. As a result, there is never a moment in our life that cant achieve the greatest depths of meaning thanks to the gift of calling upon God. Based on this you could say that God does desire for us to call upon him like we see in our OMG! culture. However, when we do it we must never sever the personal reality of God from the words. As a result, an OMG! from us draws upon all the powers of eternity and renders our earthly experience transfigured by divine grace.
As Christians of the Byzantine tradition calling upon God throughout the day is the normal means of expressing our tradition. This is primarily done by saying The Jesus Prayer, which in my opinion is one of the greatest gifts that we use to bring divine life to the world. When describing this prayer Elder Sophrony said the following in his book His Life is Mine, "For us it is a bridge between ourselves and Him". As a bridge we find the prayer as means to continually bring the experience of God into the world. The Elder also mentions that in this prayer we find an "Activity of God". Based on what the Elder is saying the prayer is never a one way bridge based on our effort. When God gave us His name he gave us more than mere words because His name is linked to the eternal reality of the Divine Nature. He is never separated from His name and to call upon Him in faith makes possible everything that He is.
In one way God has made Himself totally vulnerable to the world. He held nothing of Himself back when He revealed His name to us. As the apostle John teaches , "to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12 KJV)".We have total access to Him and the power to become His children through His name. By calling upon God in faith we have everything that He is. In addition, we become "partakers of the divine nature" through this simple action of intimacy that God makes possible even in our greatest weaknesses. As the Fathers of our Byzantine tradition have taught us: by calling His name the world is changed, demons flee, and we truly become gods by grace.