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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Quote – Mother Teresa: loving God

‘I cannot, in conscience, love a creature with the love of a woman for a man. I no longer have the right to give that affection to any other creature but God.’

Mother Teresa 1910-1997

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Posted by on Thu 30th Aug 2012 in Quotes

 

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Is celibacy for anyone or just a select few?

Gift of CelibacyAnyone, certainly, but not necessarily everyone.

The New Testament says that spiritual gifts are determined and given by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11).

And yet we are also told to ‘eagerly desire the greater gifts’ (1 Cor. 12:31).

So gifts are given by God, but they are also to be desired and received by us. It’s a two-way operation.

So in that case, all spiritual gifts – healing, prophecy, tongues, intercession … and other gifts too – must surely be for anyone. They’re available to us all, if we so desire them.

I have found myself desiring particular spiritual gifts at different times throughout my Christian life; and then, some when down the line, I’ve been surprised to find that I’m using them! I’m sure God awakes in us the desire for certain gifts and that process is all part of him giving them to us.

It’s similar with the gift of celibacy.

Perhaps we find ourselves longing to give everything for the kingdom of God, longing for a close walk with God, longing to be like some of the celibates that we see around us, longing to be more fruitful. God awakes a longing in our heart for the things which celibacy embodies and – for those that dare – this is all part of receiving the gift. So in that sense, celibacy is for anyone. Although many will not choose it or receive it, it is available, even offered, to all.

Jesus said that only those to whom it had been given could accept that it’s better not to marry; but then he also said in the same breath that some would make themselves eunuchs (choose to stay single) for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:10-12). So there’s a receiving of a gift in celibacy, but there’s also a very definite making of oneself celibate.

It would be wrong to say that celibacy is supposed to be for everyone – the Apostle Paul himself says that it is wrong to forbid people to marry (1 Tim. 4:1-4). However, I think it is right to say that it can be for anyone, whatever their age, race, sexual orientation, abilities or background.

The gift of celibacy is not for some kind of gifted, higher-class elite, but it’s open to be received, and enjoyed, by all.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 
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Posted by on Wed 29th Aug 2012 in FAQ

 

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Quote – John Chrysostom: crucified life

‘The root and flower of celibacy is a crucified life.’

John Chrysostom 344? – 407

 
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Posted by on Tue 28th Aug 2012 in Quotes

 

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Quote – John Chrysostom: the gift

‘God does not refuse it [the gift of celibacy] to anyone who asks Him for it with fervour … this gift is granted to all those who wish for it and who ask for it.’

John Chrysostom 344? – 407

 
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Posted by on Tue 28th Aug 2012 in Quotes

 

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Quote – John Chrysostom: the bridegroom

‘You have a heavenly bridegroom, indeed for whom it is well worth making any sacrifice here on earth.’

John Chrysostom 344? – 407

 
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Posted by on Tue 28th Aug 2012 in Quotes

 

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Celibate Heart: Married to Christ the Lamb

One of a selection of poems written by people in the Jesus Fellowship about celibacy

I have a gift which brings me joy,
Purchase of Jesus’ blood,
My life a sacrifice poured out
To build the church of God.

      A gift the Spirit keeps renewed,
      My soul knows one desire,
      To speak the power of Jesus Christ
      And bring revival fire.

            Always this gift I'll recognise,
            I pledge to Him again,
            My will, my heart, my all is His,
            "Married" to Christ the Lamb.

 New Creation Farm, Northamptonshire. 1994.
 
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Posted by on Fri 24th Aug 2012 in Poetry

 

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A crucified life: John Chrysostom: fourth century celibate leader

Sunset in Istanbul (once Constantinople)

‘God does not refuse it [the gift of celibacy] to anyone who asks Him for it with fervour … this gift is granted to all those who wish for it and who ask for it.’

‘The root and flower of celibacy is a crucified life.’

To celibates: ‘You have a heavenly bridegroom, indeed for whom it is well worth making any sacrifice here on earth.’

John Chrysostom 344? – 407

Soon after his death this celebrated leader of the eastern church gained the virtue name Chrysostom, meaning ‘golden mouth’, due to his great eloquence and ability to preach the gospel in a way that everyone could understand.

John Chrysostom was born in Antioch, Syria, and his father, Secundus, was chief commander of the imperial troops there. Secundus died young and the care of his young family was left to his wife, Anthusa, who was only twenty. She was a devoted Christian and never remarried. One of John’s pagan tutors, on seeing her courage in widowhood commented, ‘God, what women these Christians have!’

Around the year 374, John retired to the mountains near Antioch and for four years lived with some monks who lived in community there. Describing the experience he says, ‘The cold words mine and thine were banished … no one possessed anything as his own and the quality of life there was as different from the world as the security of a peaceful harbour is from the most tempestuous ocean.’ Later he lived as a hermit in a cave but ill health caused him to return to the city.

In 381 John became a deacon, in 384 he was ordained a priest and in 398 he was appointed, against his will, Archbishop of Constantinople but, from the start, his no-compromise stance and his powerful and controversial preaching made him enemies as well as friends. The previous bishop of Constantinople had lived at great expense but John lived very frugally and gave all excess money to the poor and sick of the city. Not only did he sell the luxurious furniture belonging to his extravagant predecessor, he even smelted down some sacred church vessels and gave the proceeds to the poor. He started many hospitals in the city which were staffed by priests whom, he insisted, had to be not only of holy character but full of tenderness, compassion and wisdom too.

John reformed the priesthood and with his eloquent, fiery, persuasive preaching, fearlessly attacked unholiness in the church. Yet, underlying this, was a tender and passionate love for his flock. He could describe himself as their ‘slave’ and said that same slavery was his delight. Particularly knowing his special care and oversight were a very devoted group of celibate women belonging to his flock led by a certain woman, Nicareta, and in his preaching he never tired of recommending that celibacy chosen for God’s sake was the better way, for those who were called to it. He wrote:

God does not refuse it [the gift of celibacy] to anyone who asks Him for it with fervour … this gift is granted to all those who wish for it and who ask for it.”

John was a man of action, sending missionaries abroad and serving the underprivileged in his home city, Constantinople. Yet, undergirding his powerful ministry and great productiveness was a heart which loved quietness, contemplation and prayer.

John Chrysostom wrote a good deal, and included amongst his writings are three small works, entitled: ‘On Virginity,’ ‘To a Young Widow’ and ‘Single Marriage’. In these he sets out his views on the single life. For him celibacy was not so much about abstinence but about giving oneself wholesale to purity and finding a special consecration to Christ.  It is not an easy way, he writes, for ‘one must walk on burning coals without being

a crucified life

scorched, on a naked sword without being wounded, since lust is as overpowering as fire and steel.’ But these temptations, writes John, can be overcome and the rewards one finds in the celibate call are beyond any price. Indeed, through the power of the Spirit the gift of celibacy can have a transforming effect on human beings. ‘The root and flower of celibacy is a crucified life,’ John writes to celibates and yet, ‘You have a heavenly Bridegroom, indeed for Whom it is well worth making any sacrifice here on earth.’

John’s outspokenness against the city’s vices won him enemies, not least the Empress, Eudoxia, who secured his banishment from Constantinople on two occasions. The second time he was exiled he was dispatched to the far reaches of the empire where the inhospitable climate caused his weakening strength to finally fail. If he had had a thousand lives he would be ready to lay them all down for his flock, he had said at his first banishment and now, on the eve of his death he had a vision of a former martyr standing before him saying: “Be of good courage, brother John; tomorrow we shall be together.”

And so he died, greatly venerated; his remains were eventually taken in honour first to Constantinople and then to Rome.

 
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Posted by on Thu 23rd Aug 2012 in Historical

 

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