The similarities between the trainer and the spiritual father
Just after my graduation from college I moved to Portland, Oregon, where I worked at various jobs, including waiting tables in an upscale restaurant (to this day, I’m a good tipper), a bartender in a small Irish pub (I’m mostly Scotish), and working as an orderly in a trauma center. All these jobs contributed in important ways to my ultimate vocation as a priest and a monk. (I’ll leave it to my readers to figure this one out.)
Shortly after my move to Portland, I decided that I wanted to work out at a local weight lifting gym (what young man doesn’t want to be buff?). After asking around, I discovered Laprinzi’s Gym, a Portland institution to this day. Laprinzi’s has always been known for having some of the best trainers, and I knew that success at weightlifting would require professional help and direction.
Being a skinny college grad, I felt somewhat intimidated as I walked into a gym filled with Olympic style weightlifters, but I was soon made to feel at ease after one of the trainers approached me, offering to help me get started. Grateful for the direction, I began what was to be a mainstay of my physical exercise for years to come. I didn’t stop weight lifting until I’d become a monk, and have regretted the decision to stop until this very day. Long distance running was my other passion, leading ultimately to hip replacement surgery, at least according to my surgeon.
The very day I walked into Laprinzi’s Gym, another young man walked in for his first try at weightlifting. But, unlike myself, he was too prideful to accept direction from anyone. He stupidly turned down the offer of a trainer, and proceeded to weight lift without professional guidance. Some six months later, my trainer quietly pointed to the other young man, saying, “David, do you notice the difference between your body and his? Since he has been his own trainer, he sees only his front side, so his muscle development is concentrated in his upper arms and chest. His back muscles and legs are underdeveloped, so he looks like a skinny ape”.
I share this story because of the saying in Orthodoxy, “The man who is his own spiritual director, becomes the disciple of a fool.” When we embark on the spiritual path, we need the direction and foresight of someone who is experienced, for there are all sorts of traps ahead, including pride. In choosing a spiritual father or mother as our guide, we are directed on the path to Christ by someone who knows us, and is able to point out those traps that would snare us. This guide, like the trainer described above, sees us from a perspective that is otherwise hidden from us, and like the weightlifter who desires to look buff, the man on a quest for spiritual transformation, needs a spiritual father who can point to those sins and omissions that need our attention.
“A priest is a spiritual physician. Show your wounds to him without shame, sincerely, openly, trusting and confiding in him as his son; for the confessor is your spiritual father, who should love you more than your own father and mother; for Christ’s love is higher than any natural love. He must give an answer to God for you (Saint John of Kronstadt, ‘My Life in Christ’).”
With love in Christ,
Monday February 17, 2020 / February 4, 2020
Week of the Prodigal Son. Tone two.
Venerable Isidore of Pelusium, monk (436-440).
St. George, prince of Vladimir (1238).
Venerable Cyril, abbot, wonderworker of New Lake (Novgorod) (1532).
New Hieromartyr Methodius bishop of Petropavlovsk (1921).
New Hieromartyrs Eustaphius, John, Alexander, Sergius, John, Theodora, Aleksander, Nicholas, Alexis, Nicholas, Alexis, Alexander, Arcadius, Boris, Michael, Nicholas, Alexis, Andrew, Demetrius, John, Peter priests, Martyr Seraphim, Virgin-martyrs Rafaila, Anna, Catherine, and Martyrs John, Basil, Demetrius, Theodore, and Demetrius (1938).
Venerable Abraham and St. Coprius, monks, of Pechenga (Vologda) (15th c.).
Martyrs Jadorus and Isidore who suffered under Decius (249-251).
Hieromartyr Abramius, bishop of Arbela in Assyria (ca. 344-347).
Venerable Nicholas the Confessor, abbot of the Studion (868).
St. John, of Irenopolis (325).
Venerable Aldate, hieromartyr of Gloucester, England (6th c.) (Celtic & British).
St. Modan, abbot of Stirling and Falkirk.
Martyr Theoctistus (1686) (Greek).
St. Jasim the Wonderwoker (1686) (Greek).
New Martyr Joseph of Aleppo (1686) (Greek).
Hieromartyr Phileas, bishop of Thmuis and martyr Philoromus the Magistrate (303).
St. Evagrius, fellow-ascetic of St. Shio of Mgvime (6th c.) (Georgia).
The Scripture Readings
1 John 2:18-3:10
Deceptions of the Last Hour
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
Let Truth Abide in You
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
The Children of God
28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
The Command to Love
3 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Sin and the Child of God
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
The Imperative of Love
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
The Triumphal Entry
11 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; 2 and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 3 And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”
4 So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. 5 But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”
6 And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”
11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.