A common theme in the teaching of the church fathers is stillness. This is not a call to idleness but to a task that is very difficult: to quiet our minds. Our minds are too often controlled by our brain and its association with all our bodily needs. It is constantly bombarding us with thoughts, good and bad. It is these thoughts that keep us separated from God and our greatest spiritual challenge is to learn to still the mind so it is able to listen to God. If we are serious about doing God’s will we have to become watchful in all our daily activities.
Saint Basil says,
As far as we are engaged in affairs outside of God, we are not able to make progress in the knowledge of God. Who, anxious about the things of the world and sunk deep in the distractions of the flesh, can be intent on the words of God and be sufficiently accurate in such mighty objects of contemplation? Do you not see that the word which fell among the thorns is choked by the thorns? (Cf. Matt. 13.7, 22)
Seek stillness of your mind and then you will begin to have a rewarding prayer life. Orthodoxy is a way of life. How we live our life will determine how well we are able to become united with God, to become glorified and to be blessed with His grace.
Are you a great representative of your Orthodox Faith and do you live as an Orthodox Christian? I pray and ask God daily, sometimes hourly, to give me the strength as I am a sinner!
On Being Ambassadors for the Faith
It was relatively late in my life when I embraced Orthodoxy. Already forty-one, I’d found myself wandering in a spiritual wasteland, knowing I was drying up, spiritually, and hoping there was something out there that would fill the void. Orthodoxy had not been in my scope, seeming, as it were, to be some exotic, eastern form of a Christian faith that had become stagnant, for me.
I was aware of the Orthodox claims to being the very Church founded by Christ, and I had witnessed the majesty of her divine services. I’d tasted a small portion of the sublime mystical theology that seemed to be intuitive in nature, rather grounded in the logic and reason that had formed much of Western Christianity. I was aware of her ancient history, and the astounding beauty of her temples.
Yet the seemingly splintered nature of American Orthodoxy put me off, what with the myriad of ethnic expressions of a faith that claimed to be the One True Church, and the strong nationalistic nature of some parishes. Yet, as I think back, American Lutheranism was much the same when I was young, with the Norwegians, Germans, Danes, Finns, Swedes, and Latvians, all separated into difference denominations, with independent administrations.
As a man who held religious and politically liberal views, I found the Orthodox Church’s positions to be backward looking, devoid of charity, and downright medieval. Her clergy, at least the ones I’d met, seemed unfriendly and standoffish. Sadly, I made sweeping judgements of the whole of Orthodoxy while standing from the vantage point of looking from the outside. I judged the Orthodox Church after having met but a few of her clergy. This seems particularly sad to me in hindsight, but this seems to be a common observation by many outsiders.
Now that I am within the walls of the Orthodox Church, and a priest myself, I try to be open, friendly, and approachable at all times, lest I, too, be a barrier for others. We clergy are the most visible ambassadors of the faith, and often the first to represent Orthodoxy to outsiders. If we are closed off, aloof, and unapproachable, we will be nothing but an obstacle to others, and they will not come close enough to Orthodoxy to be able to “taste and see”.
If we are unloving and worldly, we will have masked Christ’s Church from view, and others will not be drawn into the Life Giving Faith. As Christ’s priests, we are called to show forth His light in the way we live our lives, and the way we love, all the while ushering the Light of Christ into a darken world that needs Orthodoxy, now more than ever.
Love in Christ,