Entries with tag church .

Running from Life

I’ve never liked running. In fact, I dreaded those fated days in gym class when we’d have to run the mile. I just knew I’d be too slow and afterwards would feel too sick. The same goes for sports. I was too self-conscious to enjoy playing them. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable; I didn’t want to be judged. So I would take the easier route during class and walk the track instead. It was my way of escaping the seemingly inevitable pain of gym class.

 

There’s a lot about life that is painful or uncomfortable. But there’s also a lot that’s beautiful and joyful. I’d just rather skip the pain and move along to the joy. I’d rather not feel the discomfort of disappointment or the pangs of fear or the stress of work that needs to be done. And when I’m not feeling super-connected spiritually, I might even avoid prayer. But the reality is, the more I train myself to run away from the negative in life, the more I run away from Life Himself. When I run, I miss an opportunity to encounter the Lord, and instead believe the lie that I’m alone.

 

So how do we stop this pattern of emotional escapism? How do we stop running from Life?

 

1. See struggle as a potential good

 

There is a certain inevitability about hard times. We are all going to experience the death of a loved one, the stress of a job, the loss of a friendship. Though we might intellectually understand this, we oftentimes aren’t prepared when they come. We’re blindsided and don’t know how to handle it. Being around difficult people can be a challenge, and it’s easier to escape into social media than face reality.

 

Saint John of Kronstadt (+1909) speaks to the instinct to escape struggle:

Do not fear the conflict, do not flee it. Where there is no struggle, there is no virtue; where faith and love are not tempted, it is not possible to be sure whether they are really present. They are proved and revealed in adversity, that is, in difficult and grievous circumstances, both outward and inward - during sickness, sorrow, or privations. (My Life in Christ, p. 375)

Adversity reveals to us the current state of our hearts. How we react to loss and pain shines light on our own ability or inability to trust God and our personal acceptance that we aren’t in control of everything. And we don’t like being out of control. But we have a God mighty in power and able to turn our sorrow into joy.

 

2. Let church be a training ground, not an escape

 

There are a lot of people who see faith as an escape. Either they’re opposed to religion and see it as escapism from the reality of life, or they’re Christians who look for respite from the world. Recently, I read a quote by an atheist that said, “An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death.” There’s this idea that people go to church so that they can ignore their problems and try to pray them away.

 

Saint Maria Skobtsova of Paris (+1945) once wrote:

It would be a great lie to tell searching souls: ‘Go to church, because there you will find peace.’ The opposite is true. The Church tells those who are at peace and asleep: ‘Go to church, because there you will feel real anguish for your sins, for your perdition, for the world’s sins and perdition. There you will feel an unappeasable hunger for Christ’s truth. There, instead of becoming lukewarm, you will be set on fire; instead of pacified, you will become alarmed; instead of learning the wisdom of this world you will become fools for Christ.’ (“Under the Sign of Our Time” p. 113)

This great saint of our times saw the danger that comes from using church as a means of escaping the reality of life. St. Maria did not see worship as a respite from the world, but as an opportunity to encounter the Truth and the truth about ourselves. Worship should lead us to more passionately serve Christ and our neighbor in the world.

 

We find peace in Christ, but not because He takes our problems away. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We find peace in Christ even in the midst of tribulation because in Him we no longer have to face the world alone.

 

3. Remember you are not alone

 

God created us for relationships – with Him and with each other. When we start feeling overwhelmed, when we start to turn to fear and anxiety, we tend to isolate ourselves. We forget that we’re not alone. Sometimes we as Christians can act as if we’re spiritual orphans. We can’t see Christ, so we aren’t sure if He’s actually with us.

 

We run away from something when we are afraid to face it alone. We run from discomfort and problems because we think they’re up to us to solve. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). When we truly know that God is our strength and that the Church is here to support us, we’ll understand that we’re never alone.

 

But it’s still up to us to actually connect to God through prayer and the sacraments and to reach out to the Church by being a part of community.

 

*****

 

When we run from life, when we run from Christ, we miss out on truly living. Life with all its struggles and difficulties is the only reality we have so avoidance isn’t an option. There is no “walk the track” easy way out: we all have to run this race. Instead, we can turn to the Source of our Life, to Christ, as our support and our peace. With Him, we can see how challenges that we face (perhaps we’ll only see this later) can be used for good. And we’ll see the Church not as a place to escape the world, but as a community that trains us to live in the world. Living as a part of this community, connected to one another and to God, we’ll be able to face life’s trials instead of running from them.

 

What in your life are you afraid of facing? How can the Church be a place you work through your fear?

 

 

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, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

______________

Hearing Our Story in a Parable

When I meet a new person, my immediate impulse is to try to find something familiar in the other, something we share in common. It’s my way of connecting, of identifying a shared experience or interest. It breaks down the awkwardness of, “Who’s this person?” and, “What can we talk about besides the weather?” I do the same thing with a book, TV show, or movie. If I’m going to commit to reading or watching something, I want to enter into the experience as more than just a passive observer. If I’m not active in a relationship, in a book or program, I tend to get bored with it and let it go.

 

I’ve found the same to be true of my reading of Scripture and the prayers of the Church. If I read a passage of the Gospel or a prayer and I don’t seek to identify with the words, it remains just a passive experience. It’s like I’m watching it happen to someone behind a glass wall. But when I let myself wonder, “How do Christ’s words apply to me?” then I know Christ is speaking to me. And when I ask, “When have I felt like King David in this Psalm?” his words become mine.

 

This is especially helpful in reading and understanding the parables of Jesus. In the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, Jesus is speaking about the different ways we might receive His message (Matthew 13:1-9,18-23). You could say this is the whole message of the Gospel: of God’s love for us from the Old Testament, through the New Testament and into today through the life of the Church. Jesus calls his message a seed and those of us who hear His message are one of four types of soil.

 

All of us have or will experience being all four types of soil - the path, on the rocks, among thorns, and good soil. At some point in our life, we will struggle with focusing on our faith and balancing the expectations of the world. See how each type applies or has applied to you in your life.

 

1. On the path

 

The first type that Christ talks about in this parable is the seed that fell on the path but was eaten up by birds. Christ says that this represents those who hear the message but don’t understand it and the evil one snatches the message from their hearts (Matthew 13: 4, 19).

 

The first thing I notice here is that we need to – at least in part – understand the message of the Gospel that has been given to us. There will always be elements of mystery, but we cannot rest at knowing what we know today. If we stop learning, if we give up without understanding our faith, we will be like the seed that fell on the path.

 

Even after seminary, I find that there is so much about our faith that I don’t know or don’t understand. When I discover something I’m not sure of, I can either passively ignore the fact, or I can make the effort to learn more. I can ask my question to someone I trust, or I can seek out the answer by reading Scripture, learning about the saints, and in prayer.

 

So many of us struggle to pay attention when we go to church (especially when we’re younger). But if we don’t ask questions and if we don’t understand what we’re doing in the Liturgy, we aren’t going to feel connected or even get the point in going to church. Sometimes you might learn something about God or the Church, and you will be excited about it, but you don't learn more. Maybe you experienced this at camp, and you came back excited about your week of being spiritually plugged in. Or, maybe you have questions about the faith, but you’re not sure who to ask. In this parable, Christ speaks to us and calls us to learn and to get connected so that we can discover the richness of our faith.

 

2. On the rocks

 

Next, Jesus speaks about the seed that fell on the rocks. Because there was little soil, the plants grew but then withered in the sun. Jesus says these represent those who receive the message with joy, but when their faith is tested by hard times they fall away.

 

There are many things that can challenge our faith. Even those who have a strong faith in Jesus Christ can have a hard time handling the death of loved ones, serious sickness, or the experience of being bullied. It can be difficult to sense the presence of a loving God when one’s experience of life is full of so much injustice and pain.

 

All of us are going to face a moment when our faith is challenged by turmoil. Maybe we had a good connection to our Church community as kids, but we never grew very deep in our faith. We had fun at GOYA, but we never encountered Christ as a person we could rely on. Our challenge today is to make sure we aren’t like the rocky soil, with shallow faith, susceptible to falling away from Christ.

 

The life of Christ, the Panagia, and especially the martyrs shows us that being a Christian doesn’t guarantee an easy life. So how do we live with hope in Christ like the martyrs, instead of losing hope and being like rocky soil? I find courage by reading the lives of the saints; they inspire me not to lose hope in tough times. These readings show us how the martyrs and other saints kept their faith in God and His goodness despite the challenges they encountered. No matter what we may be worried about or what we are facing, God can and will help us get through it.

 

3. Among the Thorns

 

The third place that the seeds fell in Jesus’ parable was a place overtaken by thorns. He says that this represents those of us who are overtaken by the cares of this world. In other words, those who were committed to Christ but who let life get the better of us. Jesus describes this as being choked by the cares of the world.

 

There are so many things in our lives that compete for our time and many of them will try to draw our attention away from God. We worry about school, work, family, social events, social status, money. On Sundays, we have conflicts with work and sports, with studying and extracurricular activities. Sunday might even be the one day we get to sleep in during a busy week. “There’s just SO MUCH to do!”

 

“Let us lay aside all earthly cares…,” we hear during the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy. We hear it every Sunday because letting go of all of the noise around us doesn’t come naturally or easily. We have to be reminded to let go of things for an hour or two on Sunday, to just be in the presence of God and not be swallowed up by our to-do list.

 

So many of us today fall into this category of being sown among the thorns. “Life is just so busy,” is so true that it not only keeps us from Church on Sunday, but also keeps us from reading Scripture and from prayer. Eventually, it stops being true and starts to be our excuse from staying away (though we can’t quite remember the reason). We get so burnt out by life that we see Church as just another thing on our to-do list, and we can’t handle anything more. Instead, our faith is truly the one thing that helps keep us afloat, with a clear mind and proper perspective to handle the “cares of this world”.

 

4. The Good Soil

 

The last and ideal situation Christ describes as being good soil where the plant bears a great harvest. The seed didn’t just grow and develop into a good plant, but produced even more seed. The Christian who becomes the good soil is the one who allows the message of Christ to take root in their heart and cultivates a love for and relationship with Christ.

 

Each person is different, and faith and even relationships don’t come as naturally to each person. So while one person might understand the Christian message from a young age, it might take others until they’re a young adult or a parent for it to sink in. The point isn’t when we become this good soil for the Gospel but that we allow God to work in our lives to become that good soil today.

 

To continue with Jesus’ gardening metaphor a moment, it takes a bit of work for some soil to become good soil. If an area is rocky or if there’s hard dirt, you’re going to have to till it up, remove the stones, add fresh soil, and then it will be ready for planting. The same is true for us; there may be things we need to let go of, we may need to have our hardness of heart challenged and our hearts softened as we let God work in our lives.

 

I need to pray each day to remember that I’m not in charge of my life. I need to read Scripture to remember the great depth of God’s love for me. I need to attend the Liturgy to see the rest of Christ’s Body in the faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ and to receive Him in the Eucharist. I’m not good soil on my own. I have to be worked on, and Jesus does that work on me in and through the Church. And the more this is a way of life for me, the more this will naturally bear fruit in all of my relationships.

 

*****

 

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed is a message to all of us to be aware of how we are cultivating a relationship with Christ today. We aren’t perfect, and even as good soil, we are still going to make mistakes. Our goal today is to do our best to live a life that is pleasing to God.

 

When we bring our faith into our daily lives instead of just going to church on Sunday, we see how much God can do when we let Him. We start to ask questions, to be able to endure hard times, to not let life overwhelm us, and to have a peace of mind we cannot have on our own.

 

How have you experienced being these four types of soil? Which of these do you most identify with today? What is something simple you can do each day to make your faith more active?

 

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, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

______________

A Church for Healing

We are imperfect people living in a broken world. There are times when we all feel like St. Paul when he said that he did what he didn’t want to do and struggled to do what he wished (Romans 7:15). We are like the crowds of sick and afflicted who came to Christ for His healing, yearning to draw near to the only one that can make us whole. We look at the world and struggling not to despair, we cry out with the early Church, “Maranatha! Oh Lord come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

 

We desire healing, wholeness – as individuals, as a community, as a country, as a world – we seek something better than what we have now.

 

And besides this desire to be made better, we have a desire to be with others who want the same thing. We yearn for honest community, a community of people who see the good in the world yet also recognize its need for transformation. We desire an escape from the culture wars of society, a place to retreat from the battle and to recover from the assaults just outside.

 

Glory to God, He gave us the Church – not as an escape from the world, but as a source of healing to do His will in the world. We come to the Church, which offers us Christ as the source of healing and then reveals us to be members of His Body in this world.

 

1. Our Source of healing

 

Many of us see our need for Jesus but are often so tired out by what the world tells us Jesus is all about. We hear it said that we are sinners because we have broken rules, and we need Jesus on our side to pardon us at some cosmic courtroom. But these words about guilt and forgiveness don’t satisfy our need to have our emptiness filled, our wounds healed.  

 

The Jesus we encounter in Scripture and in the Church is a healer, not a lawyer. He lifts up those who are bent over in guilt and shame; he wipes away the tears of the brokenhearted.

 

It is this Christ whom we meet, alive, in the sacraments. It is this Jesus who says, “Go, sin no more” who washes our wounds and restores our relationship with Him in confession (John 8:11). It is this Jesus who heals soul and body in holy unction. It is this Jesus who gives us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist for the remission of sins and life eternal. The very same Jesus who healed the paralytic and the woman with the issue of blood, the same Jesus who raised Lazarus and the widow’s son, this same Jesus continues to heal His people even today.

 

He transforms us not simply from bad people to good people, but from broken to whole, from obscured image to restored work of His hands. We receive this healing in and through the Church, not as a gathering of perfect individuals, but as a community of people seeking healing together.

 

2. A community of healing

 

The Church is a community of people being transformed, a place to put to use the gifts that God gives to each of us. We bring our unique talents to the table – some to be teachers, some administrators, others healers – to be individual members of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:27-31). But we become a community of healing as each one of us is striving towards and is committed to the same goal of being united to Jesus Christ.

 

As we strive to know God’s will and to follow it, we start to seek ways of being of service to one another – both in our church community and in the community around us. Whether we are married or single, doctors or lawyers, teachers or carpenters, we can serve God and neighbor by bringing the peace and acceptance that God offers us into all of our relationships. This is our liturgy after the Divine Liturgy: to bring to the world the gift that we first received from God.

 

Being a community of healing means being a prayerful community. When we pray for one another, we get out of our isolation and remember that we are connected to others. As we pray for our family, friends, and enemies, we begin to see relationships heal and resentments fall away. As we ask the saints to pray for us, we learn that they help to bring Christ’s healing to us too.

 

*****

 

We may live in a broken and fallen world, but it is a world that God yearns to heal. In the Church, we can begin by seeking our own healing. There, we will meet others hoping for the same, and together we can be a community of healing.

 

How do you need healing in your life? Has the Church been a place of healing for you? How can you better be a source of God’s healing in the world around you?

 

 

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

______________

Why I’m an Orthodox Christian

“Why are you an Orthodox Christian?”

 

Over the years, I’d say I’ve gotten that question asked of me in about every possible way. The person might mean, why are “YOU” Orthodox…since I’m not Greek or Russian. Or they might have wondered why I remain an Orthodox Christian in spite of this or that issue or conflict. But besides that, most people simply want to know why I’m an Orthodox Christian specifically and not Roman Catholic, Eastern Rite Catholic, or one of the varying Protestant denominations.

 

And when I studied abroad, my Muslim friends were curious how I could know as much about Islam and still not choose their faith. This curiosity as to how one can know intellectually about a religion and chose to reject it has often stumped me as well. How can my non-Orthodox friends come to church with me, experience our worship, hear our history, and still not embrace our faith?

 

Instead of giving a purely intellectual apology of the Orthodox Christian faith, I’d like to provide my own reflections on not only some of the reasons why I chose to become Orthodox, but why I have remained Orthodox and choose to be Orthodox today. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but I hope some of you can identify with this reflection.

 

1. Prayer is physical & mystical

 

The first time I heard Orthodox worship, I was sixteen years old. I had just stepped into the foyer at Sts. Constantine and Helen in Richmond, Virginia, and my first thoughts were, “that sounds like the call to prayer!” I had nothing else to compare it to. It sounded completely different from what I knew, and it was at once jarring and captivating….so I kept coming back.

 

As a kid, prayer seemed either something intellectual or something emotional. Prayer was something someone says in their thoughts or as a somehow private conversation had out loud. My experience of Orthodox prayer is that while it can be emotional – that is it stirs me, my heart stirs and I might get teary-eyed - but it is especially physical and yet somehow otherworldly.

 

We light candles, we cross ourselves, we are blessed with a priest’s hand in the sign of the cross, we venerate the cross and icons, we bow and prostrate, we use prayer ropes, we pray more when we fast. And incredibly, it is through the physical motions of prayer that we reach out and grasp at something mystical, completely non-physical, that surpasses emotion and intellect. Perhaps the most striking example is the Liturgy itself. In Liturgy, the prayers of the Church connect all of us regardless of where we are at that moment. I’m just as united with my friend in Pittsburgh when I share in the Eucharist as I am with the person next to me in the Liturgy. There is one Body that is broken for us and one Blood shed for the remission of sins. And that precious gift, a gift surpassing all physical boundaries comes to us from a very physical cup and we taste Jesus as we receive Him.

 

This connection between the physical and mystical is something we all seem to crave. We’re told our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we crave to give our bodies back to Christ in prayer. But we also know that life is more than just this physical world, and our Orthodox prayer connects us not only to our God but to the rest of His Body in a mystical way.

 

2. The Church as both the Living and the Dead

 

The Church is the Body of Christ, a community founded by the Holy Spirit - one which each one of us chooses to be part of - a community that is based on a common confession of faith, a shared baptism, and a shared Eucharist. The Orthodox Church is united throughout the world and breaks down boundaries of nationalities, languages, and politics.

 

The Orthodox Church also gets to one of life’s most fundamental questions of what happens to us when we leave this life. What about our loved ones who have passed away? Various faiths have pondered this same question, resulting in beliefs as varied as purgatory in the Roman Catholic Church to baptism for the dead in the Latter Day Saint (Mormon) movement. In the Orthodox Church, our hope is in Christ to whose Body all baptized Orthodox Christians have been united. Even when a Christian has passed from this life, they remain connected to the Body and are alive in Christ. This forms our entire vision of the saints and of the dead in Christ. We ask holy members of Christ’s Body (the saints) to pray for us, and we pray for our loved ones that they find rest in Christ. To us, this is just as natural and clear as if they were in front of us.

 

The Orthodox Church doesn’t see life quite as static as the world tells us it is. I’m not alone in my struggle to follow Christ; I’m connected to all members of His Body from the holy ones of the Old Testament through the saints and the members of the Church today. And the dead in Christ are alive.

 

That brings us to the topic of holiness and what it means to live an Orthodox Christian life.

 

3. A Life Transfigured

 

The Christian life is about bringing to Christ all of our life and allowing Him to transfigure it. The saints were broken people like you and me who let Jesus work in their lives, who let Him carry their sins away and give them strength to trust in Him. The saints were imperfect people who chose Christ more than they chose themselves.

 

The Orthodox Christian life is about striving to know Christ today, to follow His will today, and to see and venerate Him in our neighbor. And if we remember that the Church isn’t limited to those who are alive in this life but embraces those who have gone before us, then we will see that our relationship with Christ continues to grow and flourish even after death and in the Kingdom of God. The Orthodox Church has a Church calendar, a cycle of feasts and fasts, a liturgical day, and times of prayer throughout the day. So even time becomes sanctified. Not only our bodies and our lives are transfigured, but even something as seemingly mundane as time can become holy to God.

 

Every day that I struggle, every moment I turn away from Christ is an opportunity for repentance. Instead of wallowing in guilt or shame, the Orthodox Church points me to Jesus and guides me to be grateful for this moment to grow closer to Him. So today, as an Orthodox Christian, I don’t have to feel guilty for my imperfections; I can offer them to Christ and allow His power to be made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). All of us come to Christ as imperfect people, as we are, but we don’t stay that way. He transfigures us to be more like Him the longer we stay close to Him.

 

*****

 

I can’t say that these are the only three reasons why I’m an Orthodox Christian, but I can say that these are part of what informs my daily experience of being an Orthodox Christian. The Orthodox Church provides me with a guide of how to worship God physically and mystically. Through the prayers of the Church, I’m reminded that I am always connected to all Orthodox Christians throughout time and into the present. The Church shows me that God can enter and transfigure all aspects of my life, from my brokenness, to the food I eat, to the time that I chose to set apart for Him in prayer.

 

And regardless of whether I was raised an Orthodox Christian or if I chose to enter the Church, I have a choice to live Orthodoxy or not, today. It’s working for me so far, so I think I’ll give it a shot again today.

 

Why are you choosing to be Orthodox? What aspects of the Orthodox Church do you most appreciate? If there is something that you struggle with that the Church teaches, have you spoken about this with a priest or someone you trust?

 

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

______________


 

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

______________

— 5 Items per Page
Showing 1 - 5 of 18 results.
Sam Williams
Posts: 59
Stars: 0
Date: 6/7/17
Steven Christoforou
Posts: 23
Stars: 0
Date: 6/3/17
Maria Pappas
Posts: 25
Stars: 0
Date: 5/12/17
Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
Posts: 23
Stars: 10
Date: 5/2/17
Andrew Romanov
Posts: 8
Stars: 0
Date: 4/27/17
Anthony Constantine Balouris
Posts: 8
Stars: 0
Date: 4/19/17
Rev. Dr. Tony Vrame
Posts: 21
Stars: 1
Date: 2/23/17
Christian Gonzalez
Posts: 73
Stars: 8
Date: 2/7/17
Andrew Calivas
Posts: 2
Stars: 0
Date: 2/1/17
Constantine Sirigos
Posts: 9
Stars: 0
Date: 12/3/16