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    The Yoga of the Sacraments

    by

    Abbot George Burke

    (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)

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    Contents

    Chapter One: YogaChapter Two: Apostolic Succession: The River of Life

    Chapter Three: BaptismChapter Four: ConfirmationChapter Five: Mass and CommunionChapter Six: Confession and AbsolutionChapter Seven: Anointing of the SickChapter Eight: Holy OrdersChapter Nine: The Inner Sacrament

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    Chapter One: Yoga

    What is yoga (union)? It is union with God. For Christians it is union withGod through Jesus Christ who said: I am come that they might have life, and thatthey might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

    Original ChristianityWriting in the beginning of the third century, Origen was the most renowned

    Christian writer of the early church, often declared to be the greatest teacher sincethe original twelve apostles. He wrote over a thousand books and essays whichwere widely read, and was considered by many of the early Church Fathers to be asaint. Pope Saint Damasus I of Rome in the fourth century decreed that those whoaspired to the priesthood must study all of Origens works in preparation.

    Origen begins his book On the First Principles (De Principiis) with the statementthat despite the proliferation of doctrines and wranglings over them, the holy

    Apostles taught in a straightforward and unphilosophical manner only a handful ofteachings, and that anything else was personal opinion which held no bindingauthority on another. Further he urged that only those apostolic teachings shouldbe considered essential to Christian belief and adherence. Those teachingsin theorder he lists themare, simply expressed:

    1) There is one God, the source of all things, who from the beginning interactedwith mankind.

    2) Eventually, having announced him through various prophets, He sent theLord Jesus Christ to call all the world to spiritual regeneration.

    3) To accomplish this, the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit,suffered, died, rose again and ascended into heaven.

    4) Although it was not precisely defined or explained by the apostles, our Lordtaught that God was Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    5) The Holy Spirit is the inspirer and sanctifier of the saints.6) Each human being has an immortal spirit that lives on after death and

    undergoes the consequences of its actions. (Later in De Principiis Origen expoundsboth reincarnation and the ultimate perfection of all men.)

    7) Every person possesses free will and choice, and decides his course of life,whether good or ill, even though he can be influenced in his decision by others.

    8) There are good and evil bodiless powers, including angels and demons, whichcan influence human beings, but who cannot violate their freedom of will.

    9) The world was created at a point in time and shall eventually be dissolved.10) The holy scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit and have not only

    meanings that are obvious, but also hidden, spiritual meanings that most readerscannot see or understand. This is because the scriptures are the outward forms ofcertain mysteries and the images of divine things, and known only to those whoare gifted with the grace of the Holy Spirit in the word of wisdom and knowledge.

    In conclusion he said that each person is to formulate his understanding withinthe broad framework he has given.

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    Why did the apostles of Jesusand therefore Jesus himselfteach such a fewsimple doctrines and leave their understanding (and the understanding of thescriptures which at that time had not been collected into the Bible) to eachindividuals capacity? Obviously because Jesus and his original disciples consideredthose beliefs and scriptures merely a framework within which each Christian shoulddevelop his own insight, that it was the life in Christ which constituted true Christianityand not dogma. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians

    2:10). I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it moreabundantly (John 10:10). For we are made partakers of Christ (Hebrews 3:14).Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things (Psalms 119:18). Thisis why Jesus told the apostles regarding the Holy Spirit: He dwelleth with you, andshall be in you (John 14:17), that God shall dwell in each Christian just as He didin Jesus. (For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily Colossians2:9.)

    Saint Paul was speaking completely literally when he wrote: Know ye not thatye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (ICorinthians 3:16). Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will

    dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be mypeople (II Corinthians 6:16). Ye also are builded together for an habitation of Godthrough the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).

    Even more, Jesus said that when the Comforter is come, whom I will send untoyou from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, heshall testify of me (John 15:26)not an external church authority. Each trueChristian is intended to attain communion with God directly. For Jesus further said:When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shallnot speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he willshew you things to come (John 16:13).

    What contemporary orthodox church teaches this? Not one. Rather, it wouldbe considered outrageous heresy. No wonder Jesus asked the apostles: When theSon of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8). That is how farChristians have strayed from Christ.

    The Holy Spiritthe Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truthis the intermediarybetween man and Christ, working for their deification and revelation as sons ofGod. So it was only natural that Jesus and the apostles had but little regard fortheological concepts. Their focus was on the life of Christ in the Holy Spirit withinevery individual Christianand needing no supervision or authorization by anexternal religio-political structure called a Church. The Churchthe Ecclesia, thecalled-forth onesof Christ is the living body of his disciples, living in and by the

    Holy Spirit.And how do Jesus disciples live in and by the Holy Spirit? Through the life-

    giving and life-sustaining Sacraments of Christ. The Christian life is a sacramentallife, a life in Christ dependent on none but Christ and the good will of the disciple.

    The Sacraments themselves are original Christianity: Christian discipleship. TheLord Jesus came to earth to bring Life through the Sacraments. Those who live thatlife constitute his living Church. As Saint Peter assures us: Ye also, as lively[living]stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up

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    spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ I Peter 2:5). This is theChurch of Christ.

    Abiding PresenceThe Lord Jesus told his disciplesand through them all of us: Lo, I am with you

    alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). This is not meant in anabstract way, but in a very concrete manner. He accomplishes this through the

    divine Sacraments, the rituals by means of which he infuses his Life andConsciousness into us as the leaven of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:33). Forhe is speaking literally when he says: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyman hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him,and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne,even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in histhrone. (Revelation 3:20, 21). And: I will love him, and will manifest myself tohimand my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abodewith him (John 14:21, 23), so that it can be said of us as it was said of him: Inhim dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). This is an

    ideal far beyond present-day orthodox Christianity, so much so that theydenounce it as heresy and of the devil. But it is nonetheless the ideal andintention of Christ Jesus for us. No wonder that Saint Paul wrote: Eye hath notseen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things whichGod hath prepared for them that love him (I Corinthians 2:9).

    Purpose and power of the SacramentsBecause the authentic teachings of Jesus in their original integrity have been

    progressively either lost or deliberately rejected by state-supported churches overthe last eighteen centuries, the Sacraments of Christ have been reduced tomysteries that must be approached only by faith and devotion. But thisapproach cannot be supported by the apostolic teaching. Here is the originalteaching regarding the purpose and power (effects) of the Sacraments:

    The Sacraments recreate us, not merely purify or make us somehow acceptable to God .Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away;behold, all things are become new (II Corinthians 5:17). For in Christ Jesusneither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a newcreature (Galatians 6:15). Ktisis, the word translated creature, in modern Englishshould be creation.

    The Sacraments are intended to transmute us from human into the sons of God,as the previous citation from Romans indicates. This is what it means to be a new

    creation. This cannot be done by faith, obedience, or anything on our side. OnlyGod does this by means of the Sacraments when they are rightly administered byt