The Journey to God begins with the First Step
The spiritual struggle that is required of us can not depend on having a spiritual father. Most Orthodox Christians do not have one, and the average parish priest is not equipped, either with the time, nor the inclination, to take on the role of spiritual father to members of his flock. Just carrying the load as rector, preacher, counselor, confessor, teacher, CEO, and priest, can be an overwhelming burden to the average cleric. Add to the above duties, the obligation a priest has to his wife and family, and you have the potential for burnout. Is it any wonder so many priests get that glazed look on their faces when someone approaches with spiritual questions that would require more time than the average priest is able to give.
Added to this is the fact that most Orthodox seminaries do not teach pastoral psychology, leaving the priest feeling overwhelmed with often troubled parishioners who’s needs are too great for one man. Many of the denominations have rather large staffs, making them better able to help their people with all aspects of their lives, with many lay ministers contributing much to the overall help that these protestant churches are able to offer.
The fact that the Church has guidelines governing the many periods of fasting must often suffice for the parishioner, since the priest may not have the time to be the guide in such matters. The need for discerning one’s spiritual struggle, often without a prayer rule, can compound the struggle for the person who wishes to deepen their spiritual life.
We want to dedicate our lives to God on a full-time basis, but we don’t have the needed guide to keep us on track. Opportunities for service to the Church, whether by serving in the altar, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, or serving on the parish council, can often be the best way we can commit more of our time to living Orthodoxy in a way that is not limited to Sunday services.
What to do? Praying for God to send us a spiritual father or mother can be a good first step in deepening one’s commitment to Christ. We can’t just order up that which God has for us, but we must make sure we are open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Making life around the Church a high priority in our week can serve as a good start. Orthodoxy is by nature a faith that demands full participation and deep commitment, otherwise it becomes just another religion, devoid of salvific, transformational value.
If Orthodoxy is to be something other than mere magic, with the priest as some sort of wizard who performs the right formulas, thus allowing us to feel we’ve done all that is needed, our Orthodoxy will have failed us. Do we read the daily prescribed scripture readings? Do the lives of the saints impact our lives, because we read about them? Are we preparing ourselves for the Saturday night confession by taking note of our sins during the week, and being ready to be accountable before God, with the priest as our witness? Are we holding up the Orthodox standard in our public life, or do we allow ourselves to be lost in the crowd, dismissing our obligations to God during the week?
It is always good to have a spiritual father, but the absence of one can not be an excuse for living our Christianity lite. If we allow our pride to keep us from disclosing our sins in confession, we doom ourselves to mediocrity, and will see no spiritual growth whatsoever. If we feel we need not challenge ourselves to a deeper walk with Christ, because others probably won’t notice, we cheat both God and ourselves.
The spiritual life is an adventure, full of pitfalls AND great heights. If we take this journey as the prime reason for living, the reward will be great. If we try living our life with the Church placed in a secondary roll, we will end our lives as losers, and having lost the battle and the reward. Yes, it is best that we have a spiritual father, and we should pray that God send us such a guide, but the road to paradise must begin with a commitment to make this journey our main priority. We are on a journey, and it begins with that first step. Christ stands with us, ready to lift us up when we fall, and even pull us along when we stumble or grow fainthearted.
With love in Christ,
Tuesday August 20, 2013
9th Week after Pentecost. Tone seven.
Dormition (Theotokos) Fast. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil
Afterfeast of the Transfiguration.
Martyr Dometius of Persia (363) and two disciples.
Translation of the relics (1832) of St. Metrophanes, first bishop of Voronezh (1703).
Venerable Anthony of Optina (1865).
New Hieromartyrs Alexander, Peter, Michael, John, Demetrius and Alexis priests, Elisey deacon and Hieromartyr Athanasius (1937).
New Hieromartyr Basil priest (1938).
Venerable Poemen (Pimen) the Much-ailing of the Kiev Caves (1110).
Venerable Pimen, faster of the Kiev Caves (13th c.).
Venerable Mercurius, bishop of Smolensk (Kiev Caves) (1239).
Martyrs Marinus the Soldier and Asterius the Senator at Caesarea in Palestine (260).
Venerable Hor (Horus) of the Thebaid (390).
Virgin Potamia of Alexandria.
Venerable Dometius of Philotheou, Mt. Athos (16th c.).
St. Theodora of Sihla (18th c.) (Romania).
Holy Ten Thousand Ascetics of Thebes (Greek).
Hieromartyr Narcissus, patriarch of Jerusalem (213) (Greek).
Venerable Hyperechius of The Paradise (Greek).
Venerable Sozon of Nicomedia (Greek).
Venerable Theodosius the New, healer of Peloponnesus (862) (Greek).
Venerable Nicanor, wonderworker of Mt. Callistratus (1519) (Greek).
Martyr Afra of Augsburg (304). You can read the life of the saint in red, by clicking on the name.
THANKS to all of you who have been able to contribute towards the support of the monastery. These difficult times of economic hardship have impacted the monastery, and those of you who have been able to donate, have been our lifeline. May God bless you for your generosity, and kindness.
With love in Christ,
The Scripture Readings for the Day
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Unity and Diversity in One Body
12For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
18“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Marriage and Divorce
19 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.