Archive for October 2nd, 2009

With God’s Help

October 2, 2009

421acbf151ab8-76-1A brother became tired of his community and the behavior of others often annoyed him. He decided, “I will go off somewhere by myself. Then I will neither talk nor listen and shall be at peace. This anger I feel will depart.” He went out into the desert and made his home in a cave.

One day he placed a water jug he had filled on the ground. It rolled over, spilling its content. He filled it again and it fell over again. When this happened the third time, he became enraged, took hold of the jug and smashed it against the rocks.

Calming down, he realized that anger had mocked him. “Here I am by myself and anger has beaten me. I will return to the community. Wherever we live, we need to work at being patient with God’s help.

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This story is not unlike the desert saying: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”

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Our faith is meant to be lived out in community. The calling to be a hermit is extremely rare, and only for those who so carry the life of the community within themselves that their absence only allows them greater time to pray for the community.

The community is also the most common object of our sin and the most common excuse or occasion for our sin. Love, forgiveness, kindness, sincerity – all of the virtues of community are easily the most difficult. It is common to refer to the parish Church as a “hospital.” It is, of course. This common saying can also lead to the mistaken notion that the priest is therefore the doctor and that he has some responsibility to heal us. This is a prescription for a dysfunctional parish.

The priest is a patient as much as any other parishioner. As a patient he has certain responsibilities. He extends medicine and bears witness to our confessions. He prays for our healing and counsels us as best he can. But Christ is the Great Physician. He alone heals. The cause of our disease is the broken state of our communion with Christ. In such a broken state our communion with those around us carries multiple symptoms of our illness.

Thus, we are constantly cautioned in Scripture to be patient with one another; to forgive one another; to bear one another’s burdens; to recognize the true nature of our communion with the body of Christ.

But it is the only hospital God has given us and our healing is there to be found.

The Elder Sophrony’s Prayer

October 2, 2009

A dear friend shared this with me:

Fr Sophrony’s Prayer

IMG_0625O Eternal Lord and Creator of all things, in your inscrutable goodness you have called me into this life and have given me the grace of baptism and the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You have instilled in me the desire to seek your face.  Hear my prayer!

I have no life, no light, no joy, no strength, no wisdom without you, O God.   Because of my unrighteousness, I dare not lift my eyes in your presence.  But I obey you who said:

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  (Mark 11)

Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father He will give it to you in my name.   Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  (John 16)

Therefore I now dare to approach you.  Purify me from all stain of flesh and spirit.  Teach me to pray rightly.  Bless this day which you give to me, your unworthy servant.

By the power of your blessing enable me at all times to speak and to act with a pure spirit to your glory;  with faith, hope and love, humility, patience, gentleness, peace, purity, simplicity, sobriety, courage and wisdom.  Let me always be aware of your presence.

In your boundless goodness, O Lord God, show me your will and grant me to walk in your sight without sin.

O Lord, unto whom all hearts are open, you know what I need and what is necessary for me.  You know my blindness and my ignorance.  You know my infirmity and corruption.  My pain and anguish are not hidden from you.  Therefore I beg you:  Hear my prayer and teach me by the power of your Holy Spirit the way in which I should walk.  And when my perverted will leads me otherwise, O Lord, do not spare me, but force me back to your way.

Grant me, Lord, to hold fast to what is good by the power of your love.  Preserve me from every word and act which corrupts the soul, and from every impulse that is unpleasing in your sight and harmful to the people around me.  Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.  If it be your holy will that I be quiet and make no answer, inspire me to be silent in a peaceful spirit that causes neither harm nor hurt to my fellow human beings.

Establish me in the path of your commandments, and until my last breath do not let me stray from the light of your ordinances.  May your commandments be the sole law of my being in this life and for all eternity.

O Lord, I pray to you:  Have mercy on me.  Spare me in my affliction and misery and hide not the way of salvation from me.

In my foolishness, O God, I plead with you for many and great things.  Yet I am ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.  Have pity on me!  Cast me not away from your presence because of my foolish presumption.  Increase rather in me the right presumption of your grace and grant that I, the worst of people, may love you with all my mind, all my heart, all my soul and all my strength, as you have commanded.

By your Holy Spirit, Lord, teach me good judgment and sound knowledge.  Let me know the truth before I die.  Maintain my life in this world until the end that I may offer worthy repentance.  Do not take me away while my mind is still blind and bound by darkness.  When you are pleased to end my life, give me warning that I may prepare my soul to come before you.  Be with me, Lord, at that awesome hour and assure me by your grace of the joy of my salvation.

Cleanse me from secret faults.  Purify me from hidden iniquities.  Give me a good answer at your dread judgment seat.

Lord of great mercy and measureless love for all people:  Hear my prayer!  Amen.

with editing by Fr. Thomas Hopko