Eastern Orthodox Priest and Theologian
Eastern Orthodox Priest and Theologian
You cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that.
Pray as you can, not as you want.
Have a keepable rule of prayer that you do by discipline.
Say the Lord’s Prayer several times a day.
Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things.
Eat good foods in moderation.
Spend some time in silence every day.
Do acts of mercy in secret.
Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. Cut them off at the start.
Reveal all your thoughts and feelings regularly to a trusted person.
Read good books a little at a time.
Be polite with everyone.
Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
Live a day, and a part of a day, at a time.
Be totally honest, first of all, with yourself.
Be faithful in little things.
Do your work, and then forget it.
Do the most difficult and painful things first.
Be grateful in all things.
Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
Never bring attention to yourself.
Listen when people talk to you.
Be awake and be attentive.
Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
Speak simply, clearly, firmly and directly.
Flee imagination, analysis, figuring things out.
Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
Don’t complain, mumble, murmur or whine.
Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
Don’t seek or expect praise or pity from anyone.
We don’t judge anyone for anything.
Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
Don’t defend or justify yourself.
Be defined and bound by God alone.
Accept criticism gratefully but test it critically.
Give advice to others only when asked or obligated to do so.
Do nothing for anyone that they can and should do for themselves.
Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
Be merciful with yourself and with others.
Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
Focus exclusively on God and light, not on sin and darkness.
Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness.
When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.
We must labor to do the smallest good and to avoid the smallest sin in the smallest, seemingly most insignificant details of life. We must accept who we are, where we are, when we are and how we are, and struggle to sanctify our real state of existence by the grace of God; resisting the world, the flesh and the devil and gaining the Spirit of God. We must participate in the services and sacraments, be fed on the scriptures and imitate the saints. We must seek out the help of the experienced, and heed their counsel and advice. And we must go to God Himself and say with a pure heart: “Thy will be done! And He will see that we find our vocation and calling in life, and become the saints that he has willed us to be from the beginning.
God has made us who we are. He has put us where we are, even when it is our own self-will that has moved us. He has given us our time and our place. He has given us our specific destiny. We must come to the point when we do not merely resign ourselves to these realities, but when we love them, bless them, give thanks to God for them as the conditions for our self-fulfillment as persons, the means to our sanctity and salvation.
Being faithful where we are is the basic sign that we will God’s will for our lives. The struggle to “blossom where we are planted,” as the saying goes, is the way to discern God’s presence and power in our lives, to hear His voice, to accomplish His purposes, to share His holiness... Those who are not faithful in the little things of life, and thereby fail to accept and to use what God provides, end up losing the little that they have, or – as Jesus says in St. Luke’s gospel – the little that they think that they have, for even that “little” may exist only in their own deluded imaginations.
We must be faithful where we are. Finally, we are taught that to discover God’s will for us, we must be faithful to Him where we are, faithful to and in the conditions in which He has placed us. One of the greatest obstacles to the discovery of one’s vocation in life, which is a clear expression of our disobedience and self-will, is the desire to be someone else, someplace else, sometime else. We have all heard people say that if only they lived in another place, or in another time, or with other people…then they could be holy. Or, if only they were married. Or, if only they were not married. If only this, and if only that! We must come to see how sinful such an attitude is, how crazy and deluded. It is simply blasphemy.
The will to find God’s will is essential. All that is needed to discover the will of God and to do it is the pure desire to see, to hear, to understand and to obey. God does the rest.
All are called to be saints, but each person is called to do so in his or her own unique way. No two persons are the same. Each one is different. All are called to partake of God’s being and life. All are called to love as He loves, know as He knows, serve as He serves, live as He lives. But each will do it in his or her own specific manner, according to the concrete conditions and means that God provides.
We are all made to fulfill ourselves as creatures made in God’s image and likeness for eternal life. And we can do so because God not only creates us with this possibility, and indeed, this command; but because He also does everything in His power to guarantee its accomplishment by sending His Son and His Spirit to the world.
In a word, there is a divine plan and purpose for everyone. There is a “predestination,” not in the sense that God programs His creatures or forces His will upon them against their will, but rather that God knows every person from before the foundation of the world and provides their unique life and the specific conditions of their earthly way which are literally the best possible conditions for them (however unacceptable this may seem to us creatures in our limited and fallen state.) And God works together with each one of us so that, by suffering what we must on this earth, we may attain to life everlasting in the age to come.
Everyone has a vocation. And all vocations are “religious.” This does not mean that everyone is called to serve the church in a professional manner; to be a bishop, priest, deacon, monk, nun, psalm reader or church worker of one sort or another. Obviously not all are called to these specifically ecclesiastical ministries. But everyone is called to serve God and their fellow human beings in some form of life which God Himself wills. This “form of life” is not necessarily a job or profession. For example, some people may be called to suffer on this earth and to bear the results of fallen humanity in the most violent manner; to be victimized by disease, retardation, affliction; to be the objects of other people’s cares, or disdain. This is their vocation, and they are particularly blessed by God and loved by Christ in its acceptance and fulfillment.
God creates every human being in His image and likeness for everlasting life. There are no mistakes and no accidents. As the saying goes, “God makes no junk.” Everyone, or, in Biblical language, the “many” are called. But not all are chosen. Some are rejected not because they have no vocation from God, but because they refuse to accept their calling.
We are here for communion with God who is Love, the One in whose image and likeness each one of us is made. We find this communion by loving as God loves us... The miracle of all miracles is the ability to transform through love the smallest, seemingly insignificant detail of the routine drudgery of everyday existence into paradise; the ability to become ourselves, at each moment, a fresh paradise to those around us, thereby becoming “gods by grace” for those who are “gods” to us. Each person accepts or rejects communion with God in his or her own unique manner... The act of communion comes always as grace. For those who know it, it is not life’s meaning, purpose or goal. It is life itself: God with us making us what God is.