The normal Orthodox Christian—who is living according to the norms of the Orthodox faith—will be doing the following (this is not an exhaustive list, nor is this in order of priority):
1. Participating in church services as often as possible.
Attendance at every Sunday morning liturgy is a minimal baseline for worship life—in most cases, it is not enough. And participation doesn’t just mean attendance, but engagement, whether silently and attentively, singing along, making the Sign of the Cross, etc.
2. Prayer at home every day.
Ideally, at least morning and evening prayer, as well as prayer over meals. It is especially important for husbands and wives to pray together regularly and for parents to pray with their children. This will include reading Scripture, too, especially Scripture that is prayer, such as the Psalms.
3. Receiving the sacraments.
This isn’t just communion and confession, but also holy unction (when sick), marriage (in the Church, not outside!), baptism and chrismation (for you and your children), and even considering whether you or one of the men of your family should think about ordination.
4. Avoiding immorality.
What we do with our bodies, minds and words has an effect on our salvation. Use them for good, not for evil. Seek to serve rather than to be served.
5. Fasting according to Church tradition.
Your father-confessor will help to apply the fasting traditions of the Church for you and your family. We fast on most Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as during the four major fasting seasons (Great Lent, the Apostles Fast, the Dormition Fast and the Nativity Fast).
The sacrament of confession is critical to our repentance. We should go at least once during each of the four fasting seasons but also whenever there is a need, especially a sin that disrupts your peace.
7. Getting spiritual advice.
This often happens in confession, but your father-confessor is there for you at other times, too. He’s a resource you should utilize frequently.
Giving 10% of your income back to God (it is His gift to you!) is a Biblical standard that Orthodox Christians should embrace. If you’re not ready for 10% yet, choose another percentage and be disciplined about it, working toward 10%. If you’re able to give more than 10%, do so. Don’t “give until it hurts”—give until it feels good! Giving our money to God in worship (not because we need to meet a budget) is one part of what it means to give Him everything about ourselves so that it can be healed. (Is tithing Orthodox? Yes! It’s mentioned in the Fathers many times, but here’s the kicker–the Fathers usually say that Christians should exceed the tithe expected by the Old Covenant.)
This is directly aiding someone in need. It might be monetary, but it also might be with your labor, your encouragement or even just your attitude.
We seek a deeper understanding of our faith not only so that we can know what our piety means but so that we give even our minds to God for His healing and transformation. Our whole intellect should be engaged in Christ—whether through spiritual reading, classes or some other form of education. Knowing and understanding the Scripture should be at the top of our educational efforts.
11. Sharing the faith.
If you’re grateful for the salvation God has given you, you will want to share it with others.
12. Going on pilgrimage.
It’s a journey with a holy purpose. Common destinations include monasteries and important shrines.
Got some ideas yourself? Leave them in the comments!
Thank you Father for these words. I humbly disagree with this point:
– Don’t “give until it hurts”—give until it feels good.
I’m not sure feeling should be part of the equation at all
Yes, and I would agree, ultimately. But when considering the audience I had in mind — namely, Orthodox Christians who consider themselves “normal” but are probably closer to “average” — this piece of rhetoric made sense to me in a pastoral manner. Its point, in any event, was to counter the idea that giving is supposed to “hurt,” an idea which often turns people off from giving altogether. (And I should note that I am actually passing that little quip on from a highly respected Orthodox pastor in my area who has had a lot of success with helping people and parishes to give better than they have.)
God wants a joyful giver!
Indeed, though I suppose some of this turns on what constitutes “feelings.”
“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ” 2 Cor. 9:6-7
We are called to be cheerful givers. Cheerful is a feeling, an attitude, and a way to behave. I think giving in a cheerful attitude can push us toward actually “feeling” or being cheerful. Act it til you know it, was something that was said to me over and over again as I was becoming sober!
Reading (or hearing) the Scriptures seems like something that would fit well here. When most churches celebrated Vespers and Matins daily, this would have been part of those services; now, as literacy and access to Bibles has increased, one can be exposed to these writings on one’s own (or, like prayer, as a family).
As John Chrysostom wrote in his Third Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, “I also always entreat you, and do not cease entreating you, not only to pay attention here to what I say, but also when you are at home, to persevere continually in reading the divine Scriptures. . . . The monks, who are released from the clamor of the marketplace and have fixed their huts in the wilderness, who own nothing in common with anyone, but practice wisdom without fear in the calm of that quiet life, as if resting in a harbor, enjoy great security; but we, as if tossing in the midst of the sea, driven by a multitude of sins, always need the continuous and ceaseless aid of the Scriptures. They rest far from the battle, and so they do not receive many wounds; but you stand continuously in the front rank, and you receive continual blows. So you need more remedies.”
Thank you for this helpful and encouraging post.
Excellent suggestion. I did have Scripture reading in mind, though I didn’t make it explicit. I’ve added it in, though, both in the item on prayer and in the one on education.
I am not so sure that #12 (pilgrimage) is necessary for Orthodox Christians.
I believe that the Orthodox Christians must breathe, eat, sleep, work, marry, have children and grow them in Faith, and enjoy be grateful for the gifts given to them from God in their lives.
I’m not sure that I would describe pilgrimage as “necessary,” either, but of course categories of necessity are not the usual way of parsing things in our theology.
That said, I am defining pilgrimage pretty broadly here. And of course in a world where people routinely go on journeys for plenty of other reasons (vacation, business, etc.), we should include some sanctified journeying, as well.
A wonderful, wonderful reflection! Many thanks, Father!
I would add, in addition to participating in church services as often as possible, also getting to know the people in your parish and participating in the community.
This can be bringing a dish to the potluck meal after Divine Liturgy, assisting in cleaning up the kitchen and/or refectory, providing transportation to services for elderly parishioners, visiting the sick, participating in church council meetings, helping with administrative tasks, etc. A lot of people don’t realize how much a parish relies on their priests, deacons and their families, and a few volunteers.
Excellent, thought provoking post. It’s so good to have these reminders. Thank you!
Father, I view our feelings in this matter more as ‘points along the road’, as markers to show us where we are in our endeavor as opposed to companion emotions or goals. I thank you profoundly for sharing this beautiful information with us. Blessings…
Thanks for this, Father!
The only thing I would add to my own list would be daily reading of the lives of Saints.
This is a very useful article for discussions with inquirers. Nice and concise!
Thank you for this wonderful yet simple reminder.
Thank you for posting this! Sometimes, having a broader list of “steps” so to speak , is quite helpful. So often, we get caught up over discussion of the grey areas. Though doing that is equally important (in most cases); it is refreshing to see some flat out pointers listed for once. I hope these will assist in my spiritual life. Additionally, I admire your attention to detail in replying to the comment section.
Thank you,Father. I would like to say this: it not only the 12 things that a normal Orthodox Christians is doing, it should be done by every Christian’s that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That why it is so important that every preacher and/or pastor should be teaching the true doctrine , the word of God and the church tradition, just like the early church Fathers did in the early church some two thousand years ago. With God”s Love and Blessings.
I strongly disagree with what is written in point 8 and respectfully ask that it be removed. God does not need our money, nor does He desire any material object we may possess. Associating money with God and the Faith justifies just about everything atheists and other enemies of the Church will say about religions being a business and ministers fooling the faithful to get their hands on their money. Money should never be part of the conversation and means nothing before Almighty God.
It is true that God does not need our money. But we nevertheless need to give. The Lord Himself speaks about money many times in Scripture, as do the prophets and apostles. The Fathers do, too. We may recall, for instance, that the early Christian community far exceeded the traditional tithe and in fact laid everything they had at the Apostles’ feet.
Our giving is not to support any budget, etc., but as part of our worship. What the enemies of the Church may have to say about that I don’t particularly care. “Money should never be part of the conversation” is a departure from the example of the Lord and of the saints. They talked about it many times. We should not be afraid to do so, as well.
God does not need me to give, and His Church does not need me to give. But I need to give. How can I say that I love God when I am willing to hold something back? Shall I invoke the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira upon myself?
No, I won’t be removing point number 8. That it inspires resistance is reason enough for me to keep it there. We should hold back nothing from our God, Who gave us all things.
Thank you, Father, for this instructive article.
There is one thing I struggle with a lot. You say:
“What we do with our bodies, minds and words has an effect on our salvation. Use them for good, not for evil. Seek to serve rather than to be served.”
I fully agree that Christians, and all people, are called to a higher standard of morality. I do not dispute that we should avoid immorality, and I admit I have difficult often and must confess myself a sinner. But I also try very hard to trust that no matter what I do, God forgives those who trust in Him. My salvation does not depend on how good I am, or how often I’m able to avoid immorality (though I should always strive to imitate Christ in His saints), but on my faith in Jesus Christ. I do not believe in the false Protestant doctrine of sola fidei, I believe that all those who do not produce fruit will be cut off. But I think so many Christians, especially us Orthodox who have so much Tradition, and so many traditions, and so many things that we *do*, become confused and think we attain our salvation by being good and following the our Tradition, when really salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
The two are not opposed. Our faith includes what we do. To break faith with someone is not only to think or believe a certain way, but to take action. Thus we keep our faithfulness in order to keep faith. Repentance is also something that we do—without it, salvation is impossible.
We “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). No, salvation does not depend on how “good” we are, but choosing immorality does indeed negatively affect our salvation, because we are turning away from God.
#7: Can you comment on “frequently”? I worry about being burdensome.
Ask your confessor outright what works best!
Thank you, Father… very nice.
Good words. But I am not sure it will be enough in order to be a real Christian.
Indeed, no! Not enough by a long shot.
Concerning pilgrimage: hope the folowing application will be useful https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.OrthodoxPilgrimKiev
An Android application «The Orthodox Christian pilgrim. The Holy monasteries of Kiev» tells about the Orthodox Christian monasteries of Kiev, associated with them Saints and the contact information.
The current release contains two languages:
– the Russian language (12 monasteries)
– the English language (1 monastery – the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra)
The process of translation from Russian into English is in progress and the information about other monasteries will be included in the future releases.
This Protestant, pseudo-Orthodox site is interesting. Normal, average, etc. along with traditional and modern are all new words of Protestant Mentality that are now heard by fake, mostly convert “Orthodox.” No thanks, don’t want your holier than thou, polluted “theology.”
I’d be interested in your connecting the dots here. How are those words “new” and “Protestant Mentality”? Also, what is the measure of being a “fake” Orthodox?
Moderate the truth? Add the word fascist when describing yourself, please. May God save Holy Orthodoxy from people like you! Amin.
Fascism is government control of privately-held property. Would you mind pointing out which specific parts of this post promote fascism? Thanks!
I’m a fan of monastery pilgrimages!
My Parish has two trips a year to St. Paisius Monastery in Arizona (we are in Colorado). The first pilgrimage in just before Great Lent and the second is for our young people in early Summer.
Everyone loves to go to the Monastery!
Many people don’t realize how many monasteries we have across the United States and Canada! You can check online for visiting and which ones have accommodations. You don’t have to go to a monastery in a particular jurisdiction!
Our Parish enjoys helping in the kitchen and with the farm animals and bookstore after a few days of rest.
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