Pastoral Patience

The good pastor does not demand conformity before healing has taken place

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It deeply troubles me when I encounter clergy who want to push their parishioners into total conformity and compliance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, without first helping them seek the healing that takes place within the Hospital of the Soul. My spiritual father, Archimandrite Dimitry of blessed memory, counseled against storming at people, before using the tools found within the Church, to bring about the transformation of the soul, and the healing of the nous. Demanding conformity in a host of issues that separate our modern society from the Gospel teachings of the Church, drives people away from the very place that can bring about the transformation we all so desperately need. The pastor must first help those who have come into the Church to enter into an encounter with the Living God, and allow Christ to empower them for change, both morally and spiritually.

Just as a child needs the patience of a good parent to grow into adulthood, so too is there the need for pastors to patiently guide the seeker into an encounter with the Living God, and bring about the purification of the nous (the eye of the soul). Pressuring parishioners into conformity does nothing to help the person mature in the faith, for only the Holy Spirit can transform the heart, and bring the believer into conformity with the Gospel teachings. Everyone needs the Church’s transformational power to make them holy. Demanding holiness before healing has taken place, only serves to drive the seeker from the hospital before they can be made whole. A good priest once said, “Rather than wondering how you’re going to change the Church, wait and see how the Church changes you.”

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photo: The first meeting following the summer break, of the Washington Orthodox Clergy Association, took place at the monastery on Tuesday.

Wednesday September 16, 2015 / September 3, 2015

16th Week after Pentecost. Tone six.
Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Hieromartyr Anthimus, bishop of Nicomedia, and those with him: Martyrs Theophilus deacon, Dorotheos, Mardonius, Migdonius, Peter, Indes, Gorgonius, Zeno, the Virgin Domna, and Euthymius (302).
Venerable Theoctistus (451), fellow-faster with St. Euthymius the Great.
Blessed John “the Hairy,” fool-for-Christ at Rostov (1580).
New Hieromartyr Pimen (Belolikov) bishop of Vernensk and Semirechensk, Sergius, Basil, Philip, Vladimir priests, martyr Meletius (1918).
New Hieromartyrs Basil and Parthenius priests (1919).
New Hieromartyrs Andrew and Theophan priests (1920).
New Hieromartyrs Vladimir amd Michael priests (1921).
New Hieromartyr Nicholas priest (1923).
New Hieromartyr Euthymius priest with 4 martyrs (1924).
New Hieromartyr Romanus priest (1929).
New Hieromartyr Alexis and Elias priests (1937).
New Hieromartyr Peter Deacon (1953).
St. Phoebe, deaconess at Cenchreae near Corinth (1st c.).
Martyr Basilissa of Nicomedia (309).
Hieromartyr Aristion, bishop of Alexandria, in Syria (3rd c.).
St. Ioannicius II, first patriarch of Serbia (1349).
The Pisidia Icon of the Mother of God (608).
New Martyr Polydorus of Cyprus (1794) (Greek).
Emperor Constantine the New (Greek).
Martyrs Chariton and Archontinus (Greek).
St. Remaclus, bishop of Maastricht (677) (Neth.).
St. Aigulphus of Provence (676) (Gaul).
St. Edward, martyr and king of England (978) (Celtic & British).

Scripture Readings

Galatians 6:2-10

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.

Be Generous and Do Good

6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Mark 7:14-24

14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

A Gentile Shows Her Faith

24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you father for this post. I am often troubled when I hear sermons that discuss these very issues that are so troubling in our society especially as they often feel tied in with politics and ultimately feel devisive and judgmental and condemning. While I know full well the Church’s stance on such issues – I feel saddened by the sense of seperation and even lack of love for neighbor that comes across. In respect to your post yesterday I too feel that love above all things for God and neighbor is the most critical tool for healing and unification with the Holy Spirit. Yet I also understand the need to not simply be silent on such matters. What do you feel is the best way to have these issues addressed in a parish community without fostering a sense of “us and them” especially as we do not know the struggles of our fellow faithful? Are they best addressed one on one or simply as a call to prayer for those struggling or for the state of our very fallen world. Thank you so much for our offering each day. I have newly found it and it has brought me much peace, hope and inspiration to follow Christ in all things. With love in Christ. Sasha

    1. The priest has an obligation to instruct the faithful in the moral teachings of the Church, but it is essential, I believe, to bring healing to the soul before the believer is able to turn his back on worldly knowledge, and embrace the Ancient Wisdom of the Church. For this to happen, the door has to be kept open as the workings of the Holy Spirit enable the transformation of the person.

  2. Father, bless!
    I have been truly enjoying your posts each morning. However I am perplexed by today’s post. Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean by conformity. Could you perhaps clarify this?

    Thank you.

  3. This could not be more true. I am infinitely grateful for the space given to me when I first converted (and over many years, and still now) and those who listened to me with love and not judgment…and said things like, “Well, someone once told me that where my opinions differ from that of the Church is where I need to grow” and left it at that. And, over time, what you say would happen, happened, and is happening, but this change was not forced from without. Force from without might have pushed me away, God forbid, who knows where. I have experienced this first hand.

  4. As a convert from a liberal Protestant tradition, I have been blessed to have a priest who seems to understand this very thing and has been so patient and helpful and has allowed me to discuss anything and everything with him as I learn and grow in my faith. There are still issues I struggle with – in fact, some of the very ones you mentioned in your post – but as you said, the church is the hospital for the soul, and I am allowed to struggle with them there with the aid of my priest, rather than being forced out because I can’t quite yet fully agree with everything the church teaches. I am so grateful for this post – and for all of your posts, Father! Thank you for putting into words something I didn’t fully understand and appreciate until I read it here.

  5. Healing is a process which begins both while being catechized before being received into the church and after. There are greater expectations though following our entry into the Church than before. As there is and should be a difference. The major issues of morality and theology should be understood before being received. That is what catechism is about. Our bishop (now Metropolitan) desires that we have AT LEAST a one year catechism. This provides time in which to begin to embrace Orthodox spirituality (which also includes morality). Individuals as they are experiencing healing should not lobby for practices that are clearly non-Orthodox. Or in their need to be better “understood” – seek to compromise the Faith. Or expect the Church to change or lower her teachings and practices to accommodate us. In short – the reception of the Blessed Sacraments can as the Fathers say be BOTH a blessing and a curse depending upon the state of our heart. As loving pastors it is our responsibility to not only encourage the Faithful to partake and be healed but also to remind the Fathful that the Eucharist is a burning fire that both heals and burns. That we have responsibility to authentically wrestle with our issues and not ignore or down play them. And the priest has responsibility to guard the Blessed Sacraments and not dispense them indiscriminately. From the beginning the Church has established expectations and that is why the Church has boundaries and the canons of the Church provide guidelines as to what they are. I present much of this in my booklet Communion a Family Affair: Why the Orthodox Church Practices Closed Communion. See here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/communion-a-family-affair/

    1. Of course Father James is correct, but we must also consider the large number of our youth, and others for that matter, who are being influenced by the greater culture. We must work with people who are holding to views that are not in sync with the teachings of the Church, and not push them out for not towing the line. Patience is needed, for to push people out when they have bought into the secular views of today, is to lose them forever. The patience of a loving parent must always be there, so we do not leave them to the jackals.

      1. I am concerned for those who, due to the mass message of our age, are struggling with the moral and spiritual teachings of the Church. We must, in our patience, and our pastoral love, help them to grow in the Faith, and therefore let the Church change them, rather than let them attempt to change the Church.

  6. I am not Orthodox yet. But this touched my heart so sweetly. What kindness and gentleness and patience is coming off these words. Truly the Fruits of the Spirit. Thank you Father.

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