Patiently Waiting

Southwest Trip 392Christ said, “In patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Orthodoxy presumes patience on our parts. The services take patience – they last a good length of time and without patience your mind will never stop wandering.

Catechumenates can take a while.

Learning many of the things of an Orthodox way of life cannot be rushed. Only time can make a difference.

These are hard words in a culture where time is money and we never seem to have enough of either. But though our culture has changed, human beings have not. We still take 9 months to come to the fullness of time in the womb. We still have to go to sleep for about a third of our life. We still age at about the same rate (the Bible speaks of 3 score years and 10, perhaps 4 score, and our span of life on average still has not reached 4 score).

But grace, this marvelous life of God that is given to us, also accommodates to our life as human beings. We do not receive grace and suddenly become angels. We receive grace, and the whole process of our salvation is a matter of years. My family and I marked 15 years as Orthodox Christians last February. I ran across these quotes from the Elder Sophrony in his book, St. Silouan the Athonite. He mentions a period of 15 years for the assimilation of grace in the lives of great ascetics. It tells me that I am not a great ascetic. It also tells me yet again, “Be patient.”

The history of the Church together with personal contact with many ascetics has led me to the conclusion that the experience of grace in those who have been granted visitations and visions is only assimilated deeply after years of ascetic endeavor; grace then taking the form of spiritual knowledge that I should prefer to define as ‘dogmatic consciousness’ (but not in the academic sense of the term).

The historical experience of the Church, in which I include the Apostles and the holy Fathers both ancient and modern, makes it possible to calculate this period of assimilation as lasting at least fifteen years. Thus St. Paul’s first Epistle (to the Thessalonians) was written some fifteen years after the Lord had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Often the period lasts twenty, twenty-five, even thirty or more years. The Evangelists and other Apostles wrote their testimonies and epistles long after the Lord’s Ascension. Most of the holy Fathers acquainted the world with their visions and experiences only when their ascetic course was nearing its close. More than thirty years elapsed before the Staretz set down in writing, with final and mature dogmatic consciousness, his own experience. The assimilation of grace is a lengthy process.

Comments

  1. Charlie says

    Well, what really hurts,as a catechumen ( an ex-Anglican – before the ‘slippery slope began) is missing Holy Communion. But I’m not only allowed to, but encouraged to join the line -up so I can kiss the foot of the chalice. My priest asked me ‘what did I think about that?’ and I said ‘well, I know Who is in the Chalice’ — so I can be patient. There is an ‘aura’ to the Liturgy so reminiscent of the Mass – well, I guess so! where did the Mass derive from! – anyway, this whole ‘waiting period’ reminds me of people waiting at a bus-stop. There are those whose attitude(like mine) is it’ll come when it comes… but there are others who every 30 seconds stand up, step over the curb into the street and peer ‘way down; as if that will hasten the arrival of the bus.
    Well, maybe, maybe not. My Chrismation will come when my priest thinks I’m ready for it. But in the meantime I come to a Liturgy where I can worship God (instead of being ‘entertained’) – and that in itself is a Mystery.
    The disciplines of prayer and fasting are an added bonus.
    as you say: Glory be2Godforallthings!

  2. George says

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Father, but from the Orthodox perspective, we do not have the goal of getting to heaven. We have no goal. We have an eternal journey of getting closer and closer to God, becoming more and more like Him.