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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hut Burning for God

In the Orthodox Church a fool for Christ is no jester or attention seeker, quite the reverse. Such a person feigns madness so that the curious and the flatterers will not poison the soul with self regard. The interior life of that person is far from
insanity. Radical Christian living has showered the soul with proven spiritual gifts of healing, good counsel and prophecy. Mostly these gifts remain hidden until God brings them out into the open for the benefit of others. Even so, such “fools” are disturbing people to have around. Amidst the insanity of the world one is forced to ask in the presence of such people:- “What is normal?”

Consider for example a 17 year old youth who becomes a “hut burner.” No this is not another lamentable example of anarchy and pyromania! Introducing St. Maximos Kavsokalyvia who died on the monastic holy mountain of Athos at the ripe old age of 95 in 1365 AD ... but not before he had burnt down quite a few of the rudimentary poor huts that he built, destroyed and rebuilt for himself. They thought him mad of course. “There goes that old fool the hut-burner” they would say; so much so that he became known as Maximos the Hut Burner (Kavsokalyvia, feast 13th January). Of course this was part feigned madness, part straight forward sanity only appearing as madness. It is this last aspect that interests me.

Jesus said:- "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matthew 8:20) Our Lord wasn’t complaining. This was his choice, not to be encumbered by even the ordinary good things of this world, most would say basic necessities. Why? So he could single-mindedly do the Father’s will.

The minute we can become attached to anything it lays claim on us. Subtly at first and then with great momentum we let “things” come between God and us. It’s more comfortable that way of course. We like security, absence of want, the ability to plan and rely on those plans. But what, if like Job, all these are snatched away? What then? What will save us when we have lost everything?

Some people choose to lose everything to gain Christ, to throw away even the roof over their heads in order to put him first. This is madness to the world of course but radical Christians like St. Maximos remind us that the world is not saved by conventional living but only by costly personal self sacrifice.

Each Christian has quite a lot of “hut burning” to do. Ask yourself, ‘what matters to me most?’ If you can lay that aside for God you have burned a hut. You will warm yourself by its embers for a while but then there will be another hut to be consigned to the flames: and so it goes on until there is only God and a radiant life.













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