The Past Is the Journey to the Present

When I was in sixth grade, I got glasses. Please picture this: I wore glasses, had braces (with bright green rubber bands because that was my favorite color), and I was also going through a phase where I wore sweatpants every day that I could get away with it. If I had to go back and erase any part of my life, it would probably be that one. Thankfully there isn’t much photographic evidence of this phase; kudos to my mom for knowing that it would probably embarrass me later on!

 

There are parts of everyone’s life that they wish they could erase. I mean, I wouldn’t come out with the above story on a first date when I was trying to put my best foot forward. Yet it remains that the best way to know someone is to hear about their past. That means even the things that they wish hadn’t happened.

 

Sometimes, we want to hide these parts of our past from others. Or even from ourselves. But this means hiding a part of ourselves; perhaps we are even naive enough to think that our past doesn’t affect us anymore, or that it doesn’t affect those around us.

 

I’ve been thinking about my past lately, like what exactly has led me to the point in life that I’m at now. Some of it is so bad and horrible and embarrassing (refer to sixth grade), and I don’t want to think about it. But it has shaped me nonetheless. And where I came from shapes my thoughts, my actions, and my interactions endlessly.

 

Even in those moments when I was not close to God, He was there. I just didn’t notice it. It is the most embarrassing thing to think about: that God has seen all of my transgressions, that He has experienced all of my favorite memories with me, yet I never thanked Him nor acknowledged Him. I don’t really understand how, looking back, but I just seriously did not know that He was there.

 

Don’t I wish that I could take that back now? Absolutely! I wish that I could have known Christ my whole life. I also wish I wouldn’t have put neon green rubber bands on my braces and made bad fashion choices…

 

I think that if I had known Christ then, I would have known that things would get better during the worst of times, because He was present. And that I should have been thankful to Him when things were great, because He was alongside me, sharing in my every happiness.

 

Even though it may seem like on the surface that I should be ashamed of the time in my life when I didn’t know Christ, I now know to be thankful to Him for everything, even my shortfalls. I know that my experiences of doubt and distance from God in the past help me relate to other people who are going through the same thing. I know where I’ve been, and although I never want to go back there, I can be compassionate and patient as others wrestle with their doubts and seek for meaning and truth in their lives.

 

In fact, I’d say my doubt in Christ undoubtedly made me into the person I am today. And if it hadn’t been for others sharing their own struggles, people who went through periods of doubt and just plain old ignorance, I may not have gotten through any of those things and found Christ through them.

 

I thank God that there are people out there who understand me, who are like me. We all might have similar thoughts about wanting to erase our pasts, I’m so glad that we can’t. We can’t be ashamed of where we came from, we can only grow from where we are now. It reminds me of a Darius Rucker song, “This.” Every single thing that has happened to us, as he explains, has made us what we are today.

 

Without my past imperfections (or my braces, sweatpants, and glasses phase) and the grace of God, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

 

If it was only through a period of ignorance that I could come to know Christ, then I am immensely grateful for my ignorance.

 

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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Strength in Weakness

There are times in our lives when following Christ doesn’t come naturally to us. Maybe prayer doesn’t come as easily, or following after our temptations seem more appealing to us than following after Him. In these moments or periods in our life, it’s hard to see anything besides our own weakness and insufficiency. Why not just give up or accept that this being a Christian thing is just too tough in 2016?

 

Because when we are weak, Christ is strong! His grace is sufficient for us. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

But how do we make the connection between intellectually understanding that God is bigger than our problems and our weaknesses and actually believing it? How do we let God make a mosaic of our broken pieces?

 

Here are three things we can do to find strength in our weakness.

 

1. Acceptance

 

Before we can let God into our lives and let Him take care of us, we have to accept the situation at hand. We have to acknowledge what our weakness is, what our current stumbling block is, what cross we are carrying or what thorn is in our flesh (Mark 8:34, 2 Corinthians 12:7). We have to accept what mistakes we have made, what decisions weren’t the best.

 

But acceptance doesn’t mean focusing on the problem.

 

It’s so easy to immediately start to despair when we see something that needs improvement in our lives or think we have to jump up and start on some self-improvement technique. It isn’t our job to fix everything, it isn’t on us to make ourselves perfect or strong. We just have to acknowledge what needs fixing, to accept where our weakness lies instead of pretending it isn’t there, so that God can provide the strength.

 

2. Letting go of the past

 

What’s done is done. We have to accept that, too. But then we have to let go of it. The Church offers us the sacrament of confession as a tool to help us let go of the past and move forward with God’s grace as our strength. Confession goes against everything we think we should do: acknowledging what we’ve done wrong and admitting we can’t fix ourselves. And unlike our natural instinct to keep doing what harms us, confession actually works!

 

One of the most powerful tools to bring others to Christ is giving a witness to a life transformed. Instead of providing an image of a perfect life, the Christian witness is to God’s power in our lives to heal and to transform us. The Church doesn’t need more perfect people, it needs more imperfect people desiring to be made whole.

 

If we are living free from the burden of our past, by letting go by turning to God in confession, others will be drawn to the Church too - they will see weak people becoming strong in Christ.

 

3. Gratitude

 

When we keep focusing on our limitations, it’s hard to see the good already in our lives. The cross is a reminder of how God can take something negative and make it a source of joy. Around the feast of the Cross in September, we hear scripture readings that remind us that Christ is the source of our joy and gratitude. Instead of “folly”, the message of the Cross is the “power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And the hymns of the Church remind us that “through the Cross joy has come into all the world.”

 

So how can we focus on gratitude instead of our current struggle? We can remember the joy of Pascha. We can thank God for the opportunity to be a part of the Church which offers us God’s grace and healing. We can be grateful that we have the rest of the Body of Christ to lean on when we believe the lie that we’re all alone.

 

Gratitude helps reorient our thoughts from only seeing our weakness to seeing how God is already supporting us by His steady hand.

 

*****

 

We’re imperfect people, but God desires to know us anyway. We don’t have to deal with our imperfection alone, we have Christ as our strength and the Church as our fellowship. He can strengthen us in our moments and days of feeling down about ourselves or our ability to live the Christian life. When we accept our need for His help, and by letting go of the past, we can rest in gratitude for what God is already doing in our lives.

 

What are you struggling with today? How can your weakness be an opportunity for God to show His power in your life? What is something you are grateful for today?

 

Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Healing Through the Life Giving Cross

One day a few years back, I went for a walk with my three year-old godson, Antonios, and his five year-old brother Evangelos. We stopped at a busy intersection and waited for the light to change. Thinking this was a teaching moment, I motioned toward the flashing signal and said, “Do you know how to cross?” Without missing a beat, Evangelos said, “Oh yes, Nouna Sarah!” (makes the sign of the cross very boldly and proudly). Ah yes, Evangelos knew how to cross. This sign is one of the most fundamental things we teach our children! Even toddlers understand that the cross is central to who we are, as children of God.

As a hospice chaplain, I spend my days journeying alongside people who are dying and their families. People of all faiths and of no particular faith. All of my patients are aware, on some level, that they are on a journey to the end of earthly life. For those people who have neglected their relationship with God and family, those who intentionally or unintentionally have neglected their spiritual health, this is often a profoundly fearful time. For those who have loved God and neighbor, those whose spiritual eyes are open, those who have meditated on the mystery of death and life, this can be a journey of grace and spiritual healing. I have seen my patients enter into their dying process with astonishing courage. It can become a process of prayer and trust, of lifting one's eyes to the hills, of lifting up one's heart to the Lord, in total hope and total peace.

Ginny, my beautiful patient who died a few months ago, saw “orbs of light” and felt God’s love, a comfort brought by a lifetime of faith. She cried as she said this to me, the day before she died peacefully in her home, surrounded by her children; we sang to her as she took her last breaths. Like Christ in the garden, my patients grieve, and cry, and suffer weakness in body and spirit. Like Christ, they yearn for understanding. Like Christ, they break bread with their loved ones, knowing this may be the last time. Like Christ when he said, “Woman, behold your son,” my patients lovingly entreat their family members to care for each other after they are gone. And like the thief on the cross, they are united with Christ in paradise.

Let us listen carefully to the words of our Lord: “Whosoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) The choices we make, over the course of our lives, and the struggles we bear are our personal crosses. But even more so, to take up one's cross means to prayerfully embrace one's death. To take up one's cross means to see our death in light of the healing offered in the life-giving cross. Venerating the cross on the Feast of the Life-Giving Cross is not merely a remembrance, but an actual partaking in Jesus' passion. Walking up, prostrating down, and lifting our faces to the cross to give thanks and glory. All this liturgical practice is the Church's way of teaching us to live in constant mindfulness. We learn, as do our children, through the blessed repetition found in our liturgy, to see our lives in relation to the cross. We learn to see the cross as the way in which Christ tramples down death by death.

Almost ten years ago, I served my first night as an on-call ICU chaplain. The pager rang at five a.m.; a man named Andrew was about to go into major surgery. The nurse said he was tearful and anxious, and could I go visit him? She said he was Jewish. I entered the ICU, which was silent but for the beeping monitors. Andrew was elderly, with a scraggly beard and tearful eyes. He was on a ventilator and therefore could not speak. I said to him, “Hi Andrew, I'm Sarah the chaplain, and I'm here to stay with you until you leave for surgery. I know this is very difficult for you. I understand you're Jewish,” I said, thinking that I might try to locate a Rabbi. He shook his head, and went like this (weakly attempting to cross himself in what I realized was an Orthodox manner). “Oh!” I said, “You're Orthodox! Actually, so am I!” Apparently, his religious tradition was misunderstood upon admittance. His eyes registered strange surprise and joy. I taped a paper icon on the wall, made the sign of the cross and chanted the Trisagion prayers and a prayer before surgery. As I said Amen, Andrew again weakly made the sign of the cross on his ailing body. The possibility of death lay before him. With this sign, this one gesture, beyond all words, beyond everything and anything I could have said or done, Andrew saw his own death united with Christ's death on the cross.

In the hymn to the Resurrection, we sing: Through the cross, joy has come into the world, let us ever bless the Lord! What is this joy? The joy of the cross is the gift of a new life - the ability to live in peace and to become likened to God. This is referred to in Scripture as becoming a new creation. Healing through the cross brings clarity to our lives and reveals the wonder of the life to come. It replaces fear and bitterness with light and peace; it quenches our earthly thirst with the sweetness of Living Water.

St. Ephraim the Syrian uses a wonderful image to illuminate this. He describes how the Tree of Life – the tree in the Garden of Eden – goes way down into the depths of the earth, and then this wood emerges up out of the ground to form the wood of cross. We sing of this in our funerals: “You are our God, who descended into Hell, and loosed the bonds of those who were there.” The wood of the cross redeems Adam and Eve and everybody else from the grave. And St. Ephraim says the birds hop for joy in Paradise! What an image. The birds hop with the joy found in the resurrection of all creation. “With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of thy servant, where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.” These words from the funeral service confirm that death is not an absurd end, which deprives life of meaning, but a movement towards union with the God who loves us – the return home to God, in whom is all peace, all joy, all light. It is a movement toward Paradise.

When Andrew made the sign of the cross, in this simple act, we had profound fellowship. I knew him as a Christian, as a brother. I recognized him, in the making of the sign of the cross. And we all recognize each other in the sign of the cross. May we never make this sign mindlessly. May this sign, whether it is made by a sweet child at a crosswalk or an elderly man facing death, be a constant, loving reminder of the reality of God's kingdom among us.

 

Sarah Byrne-Martelli is a Board Certified Chaplain. She received her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 2002 and currently serves as staff chaplain with Beacon Hospice in Beverly, MA.  She serves as a mentor for Orthodox women discerning a call to chaplaincy, and regularly offers presentations and workshops for Orthodox churches on end-of-life issues.  She is also a member of the Boston Byzantine Choir. 

The Future Orthodox Diaspora Takes Center Stage at HGC

CRETE – Apropos of its international character and the importance of its pastoral dimension, the Holy and Great Council (HGC) devoted a large portion of its deliberations – large parts of three days - to discussions focused on the Orthodox diaspora.

Much of the discussion centered on the recently established Assemblies of Bishops in the countries outside Orthodoxy’s traditional homelands and their dual role as a means of fostering greater cooperation and as a transitional structure leading to more formal and practical unity that will correct the current violation of Church canons which call for each city or region to have only one bishop.

Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and theological consultant in the Office of Inter-Orthodox relations of the GOA, has written extensively on the HGC and the Orthodox Diaspora. He served at the Patriarchate’s spokesman at the HGC, where he spoke with the Orthodox Observer.

 


Fr. John Chrysavgis is at far left during a HGC press briefing. Angela Karagergou, Press Officer for the HGC is at the podium. Photo credit:  Sean Hawkey,


At the outset of the conversation it was noted that most people in the diaspora feel a dual identity. They are Orthodox Christians and they are members of an ethnic group or citizens of particular countries – or both as Greek-Americans would say - and don’t feel that the current structure of the Church is a problem.

Fr. Chryssavgis emphasized that while a situation so anomalous from a canonical perspective cannot he ignored in contexts like the HGC, the essential concern of the hierarchs is not technical but pastoral. The aim of the pre-conciliar preparations and participants in the council was to look closely at the current reality and determine the best way over time to supply the faithful with what is missing when individuals and parishes do not have the experience being part of the Orthodox Church as a whole.

“There is not just the need to work together but to also walk together, and they tend not to do that. They tend to do more on their own and that I think is wrong. We only remember we are one on Sunday of Orthodoxy, or in certain regions in America where some priests, bishops or individual parishes are more sensitive and will meet on a monthly basis.”

He emphasized, however, that “any intermediate transitional stage as the Assembly of Bishops, and even any ultimate solution to the abnormality as it is called in the documents of Geneva would not undermine and certainly would not obliterate that dual distinction people feel is important and are proud of. It would not do away with the national element, the Greek dimension for the Greeks, the Romanian for the Romanians, or the American for the Americans,” he said.

“That element is important, precious, valuable, historical, and sacred,” Fr. Chrysavgis said, and noted that “what the process underway does is put things into perspective from the point of view of the Church in that the national or ethnic dimension should not overrule or do away with basic Church principles. As Orthodox we must remember above and beyond all else that we are one, that we are more one than separate – and we do tend to forget that.”

He also agreed that from the ethnic perspective the process, which entails self and group examination, can lead to a deeper and more substantial appreciation of one’s roots.

When the Church condemns “ethnophyletism,” extreme nationalism is the issue, not ethnic pride or patriotism. As Fr. Chryssavgis noted “There is also an unhealthy form of patriotism that can almost be dysfunctional in the Church.”

“The transitional stage is important because it’s a time also for educating people…they can be informed that the aim is not to get rid of your ethnic background and traditions but to rise above them” – in the context of Church life, and he noted – “the importance of a unified Orthodox church in America which I believe can be much more credible and influential.”

He agreed that it is a voice that other religious groups and participants in the great social and ethical debates of our time, in areas like bio-ethics, the environment, and social justice – welcome.

It was noted that those who feel most strongly about their ethnicity and language are among the more dynamic and generous elements of their parishes, and many feel that those outside the diaspora don’t fully appreciate that parishes simply cannot function without the contributions of time, talent and treasure of the laity given there is no state support for Churches.

That is why “a go slow” approach is best, Fr. Chryssavgis said. “That is what the transitional stage is all about. The explanation that is given in the documents is that it is a transitional stage and we are using the Assembly of Bishops until circumstances mature and they may not mature for a long time in some of the assembly regions.”

The documents do not present a timeframe, and Fr. Chryssavgis admitted that in America the process might take some decades.

He reiterated that “even though the Church knows what is the right thing, it is a pastoral Church, and so it is not going to do things that will harm its parishes or its peoples’ confidence in it.”

It appears to still be early in the process, but It is possible to talk about what Orthodox unity in a region like the United States might look like. “It is not that Astoria would suddenly have a Russian bishop. Where there is a predominance of a particular ethnic group, that’s exactly where they would need their own bishop,” he said.

One could imagine that there would be a Metropolitan in a given region with auxiliary bishops to serve the different ethnic groups across the whole area. “I don’t know if that has been discussed at the Council but it has been discussed at the Assembly of Bishops” and a proposal like that appears on its web site, www.assemblyofbishops.org, he said.

Given that relatively few people know about the Assemblies and what is being discussed at the Council, when it concludes there will be an opportunity for more outreach.

“I would like to see that,” Fr. Chryssavgis said, “and It would be the right thing to do, because after any Council and its decisions, the process of adopting those decisions, what is called ‘the reception process,’ is equally as important as the council itself…it is part and parcel of the council process. Without that, the council decisions have no meaning,” he explained.

“It is the conscience of the faithful, the mind of the people of God, clergy and laity, not just the bishops, not just the primates and not just the churches that didn’t come, that decide... It’s the conscience of the whole Church that gradually – and it does take time – will adopt the decisions of the council and accept them if it recognizes them as being in the authentic continuity of the previous councils of the Church.”

 “The reception process is important and I very much hope that in our Archdiocese in America, where in many ways we are a pioneering Archdiocese, that we can encourage this education and process of reception on all the decisions,” he said.

Asked for his thoughts about the absence of the churches of Antioch, Moscow, Bulgaria, and Georgia, which have big stakes in diaspora matters, Fr. Chryssavgis first pointed to what they were missing.

“If I walk into the sessions of the council now, I will see a great deal of common sense, civil conversation, respectful debate, sincere dialogue even on thorny subjects” so that “I would almost be tempted to say ‘I don’t know why they are not here,’ although I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say I respect the reasons they give. Beyond that I would say that they clearly agonized in their churches about their decision and are struggling with the issues being discussed.”

He gave as an example the recent meeting between the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and the Pope in Cuba.

When he returned to Russia he encountered great upheaval. “There was protest, criticism, and a threat of schism,” Fr. Chryssavgis said.

Disagreements are part of the reason for holding councils

Fr. Chryssavgis emphasized that “Part of the reason for a council like this is that not all churches are on the same page. Because we are each moving at a different pace; a council can at least establish fundamental guidelines and principles,” though not directives, for the Churches.

He said that regarding relations with non-Orthodox Churches, the text the HGC adopts probably won’t accurately reflect the views of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “but it is a text that reflects conciliarity. It won’t, for instance, affect the Patriarch’s relationship with the Pope, but hopefully it will bring Georgia a little closer to where we are…That’s part of the council’s function.”

It is also important to note that many of these churches either recently emerged from totalitarian rule or are under siege in Turkey and the Middle East. “Under pressure, people tend to clam up, not open up; so it would be nice to gradually inform people of the power of dialogue for good as opposed to the dangers” that they fear.  Dialogues are opportunities to witness to Orthodoxy outside its usual circles.

“If this Council becomes the norm, and there are more councils, then it becomes easier to talk. Maybe the next one will have even more churches in attendance than we have here,” he said.

Making Home a Little Church

It’s all too easy to separate our lives into “Church stuff” and “worldly stuff”, into “Church friends” and “school friends”, into “we can talk about God here but not there.” This inclination towards compartmentalizing life in our modern age can lead us to think that we only learn about our faith at church, sort of like how we only learn about math when we’re at school. We go to church to pray, we go to church to learn during the sermon. But what about when we go home?

 

According to Saint John Chrysostom, the home is a “little church.” It’s where we continue to encounter Christ by seeking Him through prayer and study and where we struggle to acquire the virtues of the Christian life. By bringing our experience of the Church into the home, we more fully recognize and appreciate what it means to be the Church when we gather during the Liturgy.

 

Here are some things we can all do to make our home a little church.

 

1. Pray, study scripture, and talk about the spiritual life

 

One of the results of living in a secular world is that we tend to see the spiritual life as the job description of “professional Christians.” It’s for the monks, nuns, and priests to read the Bible all the time, to pray for the world, and to sit and talk about God and the saints. Interestingly enough, that must have been a common thought even during the life of St John Chrysostom, because this is how he talked about reading the Bible: "Do not say, 'Bible reading is for monks; am I turning my child into a monk?' No! It isn't for them to be a monk. Make them into a Christian! Why are you afraid of something so good? It is necessary for everyone to know Scriptural teachings, and this is especially true for children.”

 

St John also spoke about how a husband and wife should discuss scripture and the prayers that they heard during the Liturgy when they get home. He encouraged his parishioners to read Scripture and to discuss it amongst themselves. This shows us that studying God’s Word and encountering Christ through prayer isn’t reserved for seminarians; this is the way of life of every Orthodox Christian.

 

2. Practice hospitality

 

With the recent canonization of Mother Teresa by the Roman Catholic Church, the world is a buzz with her life’s work of serving the poor and marginalized of Kolkata, India. We hear all that she did for the poor and the sick and assume there’s nothing really that we can do. We figure it best to leave it to holy people like Mother Teresa, Mother Gavrilia, or Saint Maria Skobtsova to do this ministry.

 

But again, Saint John Chrysostom has something to say about the ministry that each one of us has in relation to the poor. He goes as far as to call it our special priesthood! “Consider to whom you are giving drink, and tremble. Consider, you have become a priest of Christ, giving with your own hand, not [Christ’s] flesh but bread, and not [His] blood, but a cup of cold water.” The service that we have is so important because it is Christ Himself whom we serve. “This altar [in the church] is but a stone by nature, but it becomes holy because it receives Christ’s Body; but that one [the poor man] is holy because it is itself Christ’s Body. So that this beside which you, the layman, stand, is more awesome than that.”

 

So one way that we can make our home a little church is to practice hospitality and serve our neighbor throughout the week. This might mean giving some dignity to the homeless man you pass on your way to work, or inviting a friend over for dinner when you’d rather just relax. And when we try to see Christ in everyone around us, eventually we realize that our encounter with Him doesn’t stop at the Chalice.

 

3. Encourage and correct one another

 

Both Saint Paul and Saint John Chrysostom call us to encourage and correct one another: in short, to be an authentic community.

 

“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another”(Hebrews 10:24-25). “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Since the Church is a family, our gathering should be an opportunity both to be encouraged and at times to be challenged.

 

Saint John Chrysostom says that this role of encouraging church attendance applies to everyone in the family. “Let them incite and urge one another to the assembly here—the father his son, the son his father, the husbands their wives, and the wives their husbands." Friends too need to encourage one another, and to be brought back onto the right path when we see them veering away from the Church.

 

No one likes to feel like they’re being told what to do, or to feel judged. That’s why it’s important that we speak from our own experience and from a place of love rather than judgment. Knowing when to speak up takes discernment and prayer; we should always pray about a situation before bringing our concerns to a friend. Sometimes our friends can see things in our lives that we don’t see clearly on our own. It also helps if we trust our friends and are open to their advice. Then even our friendships will help us bring the Church into our home.

 

*****

 

When we remember to encourage, and even to correct one another, we’re remembering that we don’t stop being the Church when the Liturgy is finished. When we serve the poor or practice hospitality, we’re reminded that Jesus Christ cannot be contained by the walls of our sanctuaries. And when we pray, study scripture, and discuss the spiritual life at home, we see that the spiritual life isn’t reserved for Sunday.

 

What keeps you from discussing your faith outside of Sundays? Do you struggle with serving the poor or giving money to those in need? Do you have good mentors and friends whom you trust to keep you on track?

 

Want more from Y2AMSubscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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