Go Forth, New Grasshoppers!

As it happened, on a rather glorious day a young man was tending to his garden and enjoying the radiance of creatures he encountered, both great and small. Suddenly two young grasshoppers appeared to him upon a divine mirror of Creation. They bore such a splendid emerald green-gold color. Though not the most pleasant looking to many, the young man thought they were truly beautiful beings.

“Well hello friends!” exclaimed the young man somewhat startled yet expectantly. “And how may I help you two today?”

The leader of the grasshoppers replied in a scratchy voice, full of affectionate praise: “Holy son! – or shall I address you as holy god? – greetings, greetings! Do not be alarmed. We have come to beseech you on a matter most important!”

“Speak my friends!” replied the young man adoringly.

“Of course. Great god as you see we are small creatures. We grasshoppers are a proud yet dejected people. We are not liked much by others. We feel oppressed. We are often scared of judgment and retribution, for the little ones like to pluck our legs and the bigger ones drive us out as pests. But, dear lord, we only want to be pleasing to God and do good things! So in this wise we have appeared before you on this divine mirror of Creation to ask for your blessing. Pardon us, grand master! You see in us something more than what others see in us. Will you please bless us, holy god of God?”

The young man, quite amazed yet humbled and honored at their request, stepped back to consider all he had heard and reflect carefully on the meaning of such an otherworldly visitation. Then, nodding his head firmly, he addressed the marvelous creatures before him:

“Precious and fraternal compatriots! I am pleased to announce that I will grant your request!”

The grasshoppers stood very still and awaited the pronouncement of blessing.

“O Wise and Eternal and Omniscient God, You see All. You see every creature and You glorify Yourself through them. Send Your Spirit upon these, my grasshopper friends, and bring them to fuller glory that others may climb the Celestial Ladder emanating from the proper thanks Your creatures return to You, their Divine Origin and Maker.

Holiest of fiends! Listen to the exclamatory power: You are awesome grasshoppers! Since the days of Moses, God has bestowed upon you the spirit of plague and justice! You are fearsome yet so small! Always remember: God sends you forth to eat up injustices! To you belongs the great and terrible phenomena of God’s wrath! Insectoid lions! Chomp and roar and devour and consume all that is unholy! Ravish the grain of the rich man who exploits the poor! Do justice upon the earth with your little legs of languish! You are prophetic omens of grain destruction and ancient rebuke! Glorify God in what you are!

Turning solemn and sad, the young man’s face expressed a sudden pain of sorrow:

However, God has this against you: you are often too destructive. And while you bear a stigma of the world, you do not bless those who persecute you. Rather you continue to afflict the poor in your unthinkingness. At times you act merely as pests. But remember, special friends, not all pestilence is from God. Sometimes it is your selfishness, your pride, your degeneracy, your many sins that hurt Creation. Repent, therefore, and do penance, that you may recover your true purpose!”

At these words, the beloved grasshoppers, full of conviction of heart and compunction of sin, let out a squeaky sigh of acknowledgment. They bewailed their sins, for sins keep creatures from their special identity in God. They beseeched the young man, “Holy god, so sorry are we! We have been ungrateful and done wrong in the sight of God! Please have mercy on us! God of Creation, do not crush our spirits!”

The young man, looking lovingly upon God’s beloved grasshoppers, replied: “My friends, you have heard the gospel which Christ told His Apostles to preach to every creature! Your faith has now saved you. Your sins are forgiven. Go! Spring forth! Glorify God with your lives!”

And upon hearing the command to “Spring forth!” the grasshoppers jumped from the mirror of Creation and departed into a new world. There they stayed for a time, and another time, and a time again, until the Divine Culmination of all things in Heaven and Earth was completed.

O, Brother Spider

I’ve left my home, brother spider.
Don’t spin your web and block the way.
For I’m going to my beloved,
and distractions tempt me go astray.
Small yet frightening you are,
and are you poisonous too?
Please don’t block the way brother;
come, let me go through.
I broke your web on accident, oh no:
I am sorry if I scared you.
I too am scared for God I swear
imprisons me in love.
Now since we’re both afraid
let’s think…
Oh yes! I’ve got it: here’s the plan!
We’ll trust in God, in His Holy Plan
and the sacrifice He makes.
For in you I see no enemy, but love,
although perhaps somehow malformed.
Yet I love you nonetheless, dear friend,
like the grace of rain on corn.
So if I ruined your masterful work,
I apologize for all offense.
Even so, we both know
that what God says
is…

O, brother spider.

The Bedroom

It’s a serene place that I like to retreat to;
There are no loud little minions roaming about.
There is a comfy bed that I like to plop onto.
The temperature is just right. 

I look around at the adornments on the walls, and transport to those places.
A school of Athens.
A bouquet of pink roses.
A Japanese geisha.
And of course, pictures of a most beloved wedding day.

I reminisce about these dreams.
As I ponder, I reflect on these places.
These people.
These things.

They’re all inviting me to swim from one to another,
Jumping from travel to adventured travel,
Amidst the muted and matte lovely green walls.
I dip and dive and let my mind wander.

My husband works quietly at his desk in the corner.
His lookout is a window to the street,
Staring at trees and neighboring houses 
and letting the sunlight shine in.

“The clouds are sexy today,” my love says, smiling at me. 
And like an inside joke, he reminds me of a quote 
All so familiar from an Asian philosopher
That once again makes nature too, familiar.

“Indeed,” I respond, smiling back.

Then, as I’m staring at a golden Christ on a brown wooden crucifix,
I hear cries of the baby and screams of the toddler in the next room over.

I come out of my dreams.

And at last I’m back to reality.
Because although the walls are a muted green color,
This bedroom does all but mute the sounds
Of the nearby reality of my duty to go and love the children.

A prayer of combustion

Praise be to you, my Lord, through Brother Fire.
He illuminates the night with joy;
his beauty is robust and strong.

I see embers on wood combust into fire
by breath and wind of life.

Divine Master,
have mercy on me.

I see embers of my heart combust into fire
by breath and wind of prayer.

Divine Master,
have mercy on me.


Now, my heart is aflame
with the unceasing prayer
of mercy.

Divine Master,
have mercy on me.


In emptying myself,
inflame me with Your Peace;
in giving this peace away,
give me an increase of You;
and when my ego seeks to rule me,
let the prayer of combustion turn me to penance,
to return me to the channel of peace, the fire of Your love.

Divine Master,
have mercy on me.

Attention Daydreams Disorder

“God, I have a castle in there,” I thought as I roamed the corridors of my interior heart. 

If anyone ever asked me what I liked to do in my free time, I would say “Oh you know, exploring.” They would nod in agreement, encouragingly, and in their assumption ask “Where do you like to go? I know of quite a few local travels in the area that are great for a hike.” I would look at them, lovingly, and with somewhat of a mystified stare in my eyes respond “Oh no, I don’t usually go outdoors for that.” 

With a furrow in their brows and a perplexed look on their face they would wonder, intently, what I was talking about. Then I would continue and reveal to them that my secret location for adventuring was not only usually done indoors, but also and actually within.

It may seem to an onlooker that when I go exploring, that I am really going “internal.” Indeed, I am. I am going internal to a grand mansion at the center of my mind. It has been under construction for years; there are even some structures that seem to have been artistically designed and erected.

Other places look as if they are in shambles, but those ruins are some of the best habits of exploration. Only knights and dragons are the kind who dare pursue these paths, perhaps in hope of finding some dear maiden. 

There are yet other lands among the terrain, in need of cultivation still. Forests that need more trees planted, meadows that will grow more wild flowers. Beyond the castle wall looks like a dark abyss, but any astronaut would know otherwise. Space travels into the starry heavens are another way to get lost for hours on end.

Fellow travelers unite for this common cause of adventure and space exploration, yet unless they have their attention on daydreams, they will not understand the map of disorder. Otherwise, no one else knows where I go when I go to escape, for hours upon hours on end.

The Secret of True Power

What is true strength and true power? A man thinks it is the ability to overpower any other man with ruthless and unreserved displays of strength to make it known that he is not to be trifled with. A woman thinks it is in her cunning that allows her to obtain anything she wants, whether through flattery or the use of her body. What difference is there between these and drooling, four-footed beasts? Any animal can react according to its instincts, bearing its fangs and lashing out when angry, gorging itself past satiety when hungry, or finding anything to mate with when impassioned. One who acts according to his base emotions is no better than such an animal — he is a weak creature, a slave to his swaying and unsteady passions. These voluptuaries cannot help but succumb to every whim of their god, hedonism, that throws them to and fro like a paper boat caught in the ocean’s mighty currents; the ultimate result: dissolution within the miry waters.

True strength is that which breaks free from these innate and carnal desires.

True power allows one to disobey these desires.

Men of all ages have sought ceaselessly to obtain this power. The late 3rd century holy Hieromartyr Cyprian of Nicomedia, for example, was once a prominent pagan priest educated in philosophy and the sorcerer’s craft and served Satan, the Prince of Darkness, in his attempt to know this power. Similarly, the mid-3rd century holy Martyr Christopher of Lycia sought to serve the greatest and most powerful king in the world when he, too, found himself under the rule of Satan, the Prince of the Worldly Powers, after realizing that the king he served feared Satan. However, upon encountering the Lord Jesus Christ, both men departed from the devil’s reign after witnessing how Satan could only tremble in the face of Christ’s power, and for this reason, they vowed to serve Christ as their Lord for the remainder of their lives. This fearsome and wondrous power we see Our Lord exhibit in certain passages of the scriptures, such as in Luke’s gospel where he casts a demon out of a man with a simple command. The observers were amazed: “What a word this is?” they exclaimed. “For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out” (Lk 4:36). Cyprian and Christopher were graced by Christ to have this same power imbued into them, and with it, they and countless others endured fierce beatings and horrible deaths for the gain of sainthood and the glory of Our Lord’s Name.

So, how might one obtain this same power? It may disappoint you to learn that it is unobtainable through purely human efforts. Rather, it is only in Jesus Christ, who is not merely human but theanthropic, through which it can be attained. Only those who have united themselves to him through Holy Baptism are freed from the carnality that enslaves our minds, bodies, and souls and chains them to the fetters that are our passions. With Christ living mystically within the newly baptized, they are then adopted as sons (and daughters) of God by the seal of his Holy Spirit given in the holy sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation). Through this mystical union with Christ, we are given the strength and ability necessary to deny our carnal passions and make the about-face turn from the way of sin that leads to death, to the Way of Life that is accompanied by, and leads to, Christ.

Exemplifying this perfectly is St. Mary of Egypt, a 4th century ascetic who is commemorated in Eastern Christian traditions on the fifth Sunday of Great Lent. She is celebrated for what she accomplished centuries ago through the grace and love of Christ and the power that he bestowed on her. St. Mary received this power when she confessed her sins to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by her holy intercessions to her Son, our God, she was gifted with the strength to live a life of total repentance, turning from a life of debauchery and overindulgence to one of probity, abstemiousness, and holiness. St. Mary’s former life was characterized by the most libertine indulgence as she did all that pleased her body; beginning at the age of twelve, after forsaking and abandoning her parents, in her own words, she for seventeen years “unrestrainedly and insatiably gave [herself] up to sensuality.”i She did so, not “for the sake of gain,” as she tells us, but “so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain [her], doing free of charge what gave [her] pleasure.” Indeed, she made even prostitutes appear prudish. “I lived by begging,” she says, “often by spinning flax, but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth. This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life. That is how I lived.” In her retelling of the story of how she approached her encounter with the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross and Our Blessed Mother, she finds herself unable to describe to Abba Zosimas, her sole attender, the acts she committed and now regarded as so terrible and atrocious:

How shall I relate to you what happened after
this? Whose tongue can tell, whose ears can take in all that took
place on the boat during that voyage! And to all this I frequently
forced those miserable youths even against their own will. There is
no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their
teacher. I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness, how
the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not
swallow me alive, when I had entangled in my net so many souls.

Yet, although not a single soul in the world may have had any hope for her, God continued to hope in her, which she realized after her miraculous conversion: “But I think God was seeking my repentance,” she recounts. “For He does not desire the death of a sinner but magnanimously awaits his return to Him.” And return she did. By the grace of Christ and with the power he imparted to her, she repented and dwelled for decades in what monks of all ages have labored and strained for intensely, only to receive a mere taste. She became violent towards her own carnal nature and destroyed the powers that once held her so miserably captive, fulfilling the words of Our Lord that “the violent take [the kingdom of heaven] by force” (Matt 11:12). In conquering her former slavemasters that were her passions and overcoming worldly desires, she has made herself ruler, becoming a pillar in the temple of God and having his Name and the Name of his Holy City written upon her (Rev 3:12). One indication of true power (and true strength) is illustrated in St. Mary of Egypt’s 47-year struggle to live a holy life in the desert. For St. Mary of Egypt, true power (and true strength) was the protection of the Omnipotent Word of God.

At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost, and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion. I struggled with many terrible temptations. But from that time till now the power of God in numerous ways had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body. When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me I have imperishable food for hope of salvation. I am fed and clothed by the all-powerful Word of God, the Lord of all. For it is not by bread alone that man lives. And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rock” (Job 24; Heb 11:38).

O holy saints Cyprian, Christopher, and Mary who now stand in the immediate presence and glory of God in all His power, please pray for us sinners that we, too, may become by grace what God is by nature.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philip 4:13)

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insult, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)

José Luis Sáenz is a graduate student studying nutrition and dietetics at the University of Texas-San Antonio. For the last four years or so he has sought to serve Christ and currently finds himself a catechumen within the Russian Orthodox Church. Although no expert, he enjoys playing the guitar as well as viewing art and reading poetry.

REFERENCES

i cf. Sandiopoulos, John (2017). “Life of our Holy Mother Mary of Egypt (St. Sophronios of Jerusalem).” (Retrieved from https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/, fall 2019). Note: all other direct quotes in this post about St. Mary of Egypt were taken from this source.

*All scriptural quotations taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).