I would like to step back to biblical times, when life in general and everyone’s decision regarding their lives revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. And for the Orthodox Church (the Early Church), which is the only Church that Christ founded, life similarly revolved around the teachings of the Church Fathers, on Holy Scriptures, the Divine Liturgy, and Holy Tradition. However, in modern times we notice that no more does the life of a Christian revolve around the teachings of the Church Fathers, Holy Scriptures, the Divine Liturgy and Holy Tradition. However, these things have become very important:
—Gadgets and accessories, including our mobile phones and I Pads, are the things we go to sleep with at night and wake up to in the morning.
—Many of us have become uncontrollable users of Facebook and Whatsapp, and though Christians, our priority has changed to constantly swiping with our fingers over an electronic device rather than turning the pages of Holy Scripture or reading a good spiritual book.
—The stock market, commodities markets, and the real estate market are things that we study more than Holy Scripture.
—Not to mention the amount of media at our fingertips. Almost all the entertainment we crave is in our hands. The kingdom of this world and the kingdom of the devil are also in our hands.
We have become busy, busy, busy. At the same time, we know that most of what we call work is actually not work; and rarely do we stop to think about whether we are really living our lives effectively.
I want us to stop for a moment and realize that we are being invaded. The enemy is invading our souls and is sowing in our hearts weeds that are going to harm our spiritual life. Let me provide a few examples to help all of us. It is quite possible that many of us would fit into one or all of the categories below:
—There was a time when I used to pray with my prayer rope whenever possible and even during the night; it was the only thing that I used to hold onto, and even when I woke up in the morning I had my prayer rope with me. But now, I have my laptop, and the availability of entertainment at my fingertips. Yes, I have argued with my conscience and have told myself that I am not doing anything wrong. I am reaching out to people, I am using my time wisely etc. But the greatest evil is that of not praying. But I keep justifying to myself that it is okay.
—There was also a time when I studied the Holy Scriptures diligently. I also do it now, but not with the intensity with which I used to study it before. What has taken up my time? I spend time reading newspapers or magazines, for example. It is one thing to just glance and choose what to read in a newspaper or magazine, but if it takes up the majority of my reading time, it means that I have started giving more importance to a newspaper than to the Word of God. I easily notice that I can’t remember five good things that I may have read in a newspaper, but I still waste my time in front of it.
—We are all aware of how important the Divine Liturgy or Holy Eucharist is for our lives. But many of us have chosen to have a late night out on Saturday or keep our Sundays so busy that we find a good (lame) excuse to either come very late to church or not to come at all. Is our attitude toward coming to church like that of going to have “a date” with someone important? I am just questioning the motivation behind our actions. I intend to say: where is the desire we once had when we used to frequent the church week after week and were so prepared to meet the Lord? Where is our first love for Christ?
—The worst attitude that we Christians can have is that of being lukewarm. We take the Divine Liturgy for granted, we take the priest for granted, we take the community for granted. We know that the Holy Mysteries are extremely important for our salvation, but we choose to follow Christ from a distance. We stay away from prayer, from the Divine Liturgy for long periods of time.
If we don’t repent and allow our lives to be transformed by God, what do you think will happen to us?
The broad path will only lead us to destruction, and over a period of time, this is what we will become:
—Instead of having spiritual abundance we will become people who will lack happiness in everything.
—Instead of living a lifetime of being grateful to God for all that have received, we will become ungrateful people.
—When we are away from God, there is a 100 percent probability of us becoming failures in all things.
—When we are away from God, it is neither technically nor logically possible for us to progress in anything.
—When we are away from God, we will tend to become people who are scared of the future, we will worry more, and crave satisfaction in people.
—Instead of being clear minded, we would only be confused by the number of choices in this world, and we would find clutter in all things, not being able to make decisions.
—Instead of being connected with everyone and with God, we will become disconnected with people, and disconnected within ourselves.
—When we are away from God, we will lose the sense of who we actually are, and sin and evil will overtake us.
—When we are away from God, we will lose the ability to bear good fruits in our lives, and we will become more discouraged and depressed, finding no confidence in anything, and not being able to endure difficulties.
—When we are away from God, we become procrastinators and people who never do anything good with the time that God has given us; and as a result, we end up becoming helpless, and fail in all the tasks that are set before us.
What does Holy Scripture tell us?
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15: 5-6).
What does St. John of Kronstadt tell us?
“You see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God’s grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, it is impossible for you to change for the better. You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy. Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions. Conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them—that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness. Do not help the devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. ‘For we are laborers together with God’. Be zealous in the fulfillment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive with joy them that trespass against you, as a good son rejoices when he has the chance to fulfill the will of his beloved father” (St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ).
Five Practical Steps of what must we do!
—Start praying the “Jesus Prayer” as often as possible.
—Confess your sins as often as possible to the priest.
—Long for and participate in the Divine Liturgy/Holy Eucharist as often as possible.
—Spend time studying Holy Scripture, memorize Holy Scripture, read the Lives of Church Fathers, and practice them in your own life.
—Try to live in an Orthodox environment or near an Orthodox Church.
And last but not least, I pray for all of you reading this article that Christ live in you, that CHRIST LIVE YOU.
St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church