The similarities between the trainer and the confessor
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), bartender in a small Irish pub (I’m mostly Scottish), 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 some fourteen years ago, 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,
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Tuesday February 16, 2021 / February 3, 2021
37th Week after Pentecost. Tone three.
Holy and Righteous Symeon the God-receiver and Anna the Prophetess (1st c.).
St. Nicholas, enlightener of Japan (1912).
New Hieromartyr John, Timothy, Adrian priests and Martyrs Vladimir, Michael (1938).
St. Romanus, prince of Uglich (1285).
St. Symeon, first bishop of Tver and Polotsk (1289).
St. Ignatius of Mariupol in Crimea, metropolitan of Gothia and Kafa (1786).
Prophet Azarias (10th c.B.C.).
Martyrs Papias, Diodorus, and Claudianus at Perge in Pamphylia (250).
Martyrs Adrian and Eubulus, at Caesarea in Cappadocia (310).
Martyr Blaise of Caesarea in Cappadocia (3rd c.).
St. Ansgar, bishop of Hamburg, enlightener of Denmark and Sweden (865).
St. Laurence of Canterbury, bishop (619) (Celtic & British).
Venerable Werburga of Chester, abbess (700) (Celtic & British).
St. Ia, virgin of St. Ives.
St. James, archbishop of Serbia (1292) (Serbia).
Martyr Paul the Syrian, who suffered under Diocletian (4th c.).
St. Sviatoslav-Gabriel and his son St. Dimitry of Yuriev (1253).
St. Sabbas of Ioannina (15th c.).
Greek New Martyrs Stamatius and John, brothers, and Nicholas their companion, in Chios (1822).
The Scripture Readings
1 Peter 3:10-22
“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
11 Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Suffering for Right and Wrong
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Christ’s Suffering and Ours
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection?
18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. 22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. 23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.”
1 Peter 2:21-3:9
21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Submission to Husbands
3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merelyoutward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
A Word to Husbands
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Called to Blessing
8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?
13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in Hiswords. 14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”
But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” 16 So they brought it.
And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
And they marveled at Him.