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Envy and Prosphora Baking

Saturn Devouring One of His Children by Goya

Most people find this painting by Goya to be disturbing, as well they ought to. While it is based on the mythological Greek tale of Saturn and his penchant for murdering his own children, this picture reveals something of the chaos of the fallen world. Old Saturn didn't want any competition, and so he destroyed the very fruit of his life. Maybe also Saturn resented the youth and vitality that his children shown forth, which cast light on his own decrepitude. In any case, he preferred to be isolated than face the challenge of others who could possibly reveal his own inadequacies.

So, what does this have to do with baking you ask? Well, I believe that the same envy that drove Saturn to eat his children is at work in those who make participation in the Church (not to mention joining it to begin with) a near impossibility. Please allow me a moment to explain.

Envy is a terrible passion, and some of the Fathers see it as the chief sin. Wisdom 2:24 says: "Through the envy of the devil death entered into the world." Envy is the hatred of others for having something one cannot have, then setting out to act destructively against the owner and the object desired. Envy always results in destructive behavior aimed at whoever is deemed as having something good.

There are some who are envious of your desire to bake prosphora. You might not have the experience or talent, but your willingness to learn and take risks scares them. These people will whisper in your ear about how hard baking prosphora is. Others still will try to burden you with complex rituals to make "truly holy" prosphora, since a priest's blessing is "not enough" to make prosphora acceptable to God. Maybe the devil himself will tempt you into thinking that you don't have the talent for baking, or get you to dwell on past mistakes.

My beloved friends, don't fall for this envious slander for a second! People with little natural talent have been baking bread from before the days of recorded history. You can bake prosphora with the right recipe and enough practice. The envious don't want you to bake because they know how much it pleases God and they know how little they do. They would rather keep you inactive than have you outshine what little light they have. These envious liars will try to make you do everything short of standing on your head to get you to stop baking, knowing that the burdens they lay on your shoulders will slow you down if not stop you entirely from this God-pleasing ministry.

These are the same whisperers who make joining the Church a difficult thing. They speak harshly to inquirers from other religions, and never cease to lecture others on the correctness of their own personal "activities." They put on phony airs of false piety, knowing that the weak will be scared off and others shamed by their "fine examples" of "True Orthodoxy." Worse yet, those drawn to their outward pretensions will be required to all sorts of strange contortions of personality and behavior just to curry favor with the "elect." These malevolent, self-appointed ambassadors of Orthodox Christianity do not seek converts to Christ but to make clones of themselves that they might not have any rivals.  Like Saturn, they consume those who come after them so that no "threats" are left.  They hurry to exclude others around them for being less than perfect, so that they alone can "possess" the Perfect Church.

I exhort you to not fall victim to those urge you not to bake.  Don't fall into dispair because of their unrealistic requirements and lofty sentimentalism.  Read the Scriptures and you won't see any of that.  Jonah goes about doing the will of God with constant grumbling and complaining, yet the Lord loves him.  The son who refuses to go into the field but relents does his Father's will despite his 'bad attitude.'  The challenge of prosphora baking is not in the right prayers or psalms, nor is it in the perfect loaf: spiritual growth in the prosphora baker is achieved by constant striving and willingness to learn.  If you remain faithful to the task, the task will change you.  Baking will change you.  So, in whatever spiritual state you are in, with whatever means you have at your disposal, be satisfied with what you have and begin there.  Once you begin, God will add to you whatever is necessary.  Trust Him!  He will provide.

It is just this growth that the envious seek to deprive you of.  Don't let the devil and his malicious servants have the victory.  Don't be consumed by the envy of others.  If you feel the desire to bake prosphora, then do it to the glory of God!