Entries with tag prayer .

How Lent Can Guide the Rest of the Year

Whether or not we were ready for it, Great Lent is here! The Church gave us three weeks to prepare, and now we’re well on our way towards Pascha. Like many of the great figures in Scripture, we are given forty days to guide us closer to God. The forty days from Clean Monday through Lazarus Saturday are meant to be a period of change and transformation. What we learn about ourselves, the growth that we make during this period, and the passions that we gain victory over during Lent shouldn’t stop at Pascha. In other words, we shouldn’t be the same people after Pascha as we were before Lent began.

 

But how can we hold on to the growth we make during Lent? How do hold on to that spiritual high that comes at Pascha? Great Lent is a training period for the whole year as it guides us to support each other, to have an increased tolerance for spiritual practices, and to rely on God’s strength.

 

1. Supporting each other

 

Great Lent teaches us to rely on each other and to support one another in our common effort. This was one of the things that most appealed to me when I was first becoming Orthodox as a teen; our spiritual effort is a team effort. The entire Orthodox Church fasts together. We pray the same services throughout Lent and we have the same Holy Week services all over the world. We have one fasting rule, though each person’s personal fasting rule can be adjusted with the help of their Spiritual Father. We share in the one Lord through our one faith and share in one chalice at Holy Communion.

 

We have a shared fasting discipline; each person doesn’t give up something different during Lent. If I were giving up coffee, whereas you were giving up social media, and our mutual friend was giving up chocolate, it’d be hard for us to support each other in our unshared disciplines. So when I get together with my Orthodox friends during Lent, there’s already a mutual understanding of what sort of places we might go to or what food we’ll have at each other’s homes. We don’t have to explain ourselves or worry if we’ll have anything to eat. When we fast together, we can better support each other.

 

This principle of supporting our brothers and sisters in a common effort ought to inform the rest of our year. We all have days where we can barely stand spiritually, and though we know we need to rely on God’s strength, it helps to know we have church friends to help us, too. If I’m sensitive to my friend’s fasting needs during Lent, am I sensitive to what might be going on in their lives? Am I open to my friend’s helping me when they see that I need help? My friends are the hands and feet of Christ; they are reminders that God is just as present with me as they are.

 

2. Increased tolerance in spiritual things

 

The more we accustom ourselves to spiritual practices, the more they become a part of our lives. What we did last year during Lent might not be sufficient for the spiritual growth that has taken place in our lives over the last year. And once I’m used to fasting during Lent, it will feel more natural to keep the fast on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year.

 

This is the principle of tolerance, usually spoken about in the context of addiction. The more a person does something, it takes more of the habit or substance to get the same effect that it once took. In a spiritual context, we can see how Lent can guide us to have an increased tolerance for fasting, prayer, worship, and service. If before Lent, I only prayed once a day but prayed twice a day during Lent, I will be inclined to desire more prayer after Pascha has come and gone.

 

But it doesn’t always happen that way, does it? During Lent, it can feel natural to go to church, to pray more, to fast. And then Pascha comes and so does the temptation to let prayer slip a bit until we’re right back where we were before Lent. What we need is to be more aware of ourselves.

 

Lent helps us to be more watchful of our thoughts so that we can follow the Lord’s command to stay alert (Mark 13:37). St. John Cassian writes, “We are told to fast not only to mortify our body, but also to keep our intellect watchful, so that it will not be obscured because of the amount of food we have eaten and thus be unable to guard its thoughts” (“On the Eight Vices,” The Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 75). The more I’m attentive to my thoughts, the more I spend time reading Scripture and less time on social media during Lent, the more this will begin to feel normal. But in order for this to happen, I have to be watchful during Lent so that I can see when I start to slip back to the way things once were.

 

When we’re watchful, the spiritual progress we make during Great Lent can guide us to a new normal for life after Pascha.

 

3. Relying on God’s strength

 

One of the paradoxes of Great Lent is that by learning self-control, we learn to rely not on our own strength but on God’s. The more I learn to say no to meat, the more I can say no to my passions. The more I can say yes to reading Scripture, the more I can say yes to letting Jesus guide my life. What I always have to remind myself of though is that Lent isn’t about being perfect. We do not fast so that we can prove to ourselves, to God, or to anyone else that we’re good at self-mastery.

 

We fast so that we can remember that God is the Lord and Master of our lives; we fast to remember that we are not God.

 

St. John Cassian, when writing on the passion of lust, speaks about the ascetic work one takes and the importance of relying on God instead of on one’s own power. He writes,

 

We should not trust in our own strength and ascetic practice, but in the help of our Master, God. No one ceases to be attacked by this demon until he truly believes that he will be healed and reach the heights of purity not through his own effort and labour, but through the aid and protection of God. For such a victory is beyond man’s natural powers. (“On the Eight Vices,” The Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 75)

 

No spiritual task we undertake during Lent – fasting, prayer, reading Scripture, serving the poor – is done of our own strength nor should it be for our own glory.

 

During the year, we can easily fall back into the habit of relying on our tried and true friend “me, myself, and I”. We can forget that our labor doesn’t put food on our table; God puts food on our table. Anxiety and stress cannot solve a problem; God is the solution to every problem. During Lent, I find it easier to remember God because I’m keeping Him in mind each time I choose my meal and each time I go to church throughout the week. So once I hit the spiritual highs of Holy Week and Pascha, I have to hold on to the good practices I learned during Lent. At the start of each day, I can choose to keep God at the forefront of my mind, and throughout the day, I can remember that I can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5).

 

Then, Lent stops being just a period of days every Spring and becomes a way of life. Lent is a guide to rely on God instead of relying on ourselves.

 

*****

 

Lent is not meant to be a practice disconnected from the rest of our spiritual lives during the year. It is meant to inform our daily practice by teaching us to be ever more attentive to our thoughts and actions. As we fast together and support one another during Lent, we learn to continue to support each other spiritually throughout the year. As we increase our spiritual efforts during Lent, we should raise the bar for ourselves afterwards too. And as we rely on God during Lent to strengthen us in our fast, we should remember to always rely on God.

 

How can you let Lent guide you even after Pascha has come? How have you made spiritual progress since last Lent?

 

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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Remember The Good

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

A.A. Milne,  Winnie-the-Pooh

 

The beginning of a new year always makes me reflect.

 

And I’m not alone.

 

It’s why new year resolutions are so popular: you start to think about all the things you accomplished (or didn’t) in the past year and want to project yourself on a better (or just different) path for the year ahead.  

 

And I love the opportunity to try and set myself up for success and new beginnings.  The new year is a fresh start and a time to be concrete about how you want to improve.  (It’s particularly helpful if you’ve forced everyone to write their resolutions on a poster board in glitter paint.)

 

But it’s more than just a time to look forward; the new year gives us a special opportunity to look back on everything that has happened in our lives.  It’s a great time to see how we want to change, sure, but it’s a perfect time to acknowledge all the blessings we’ve experienced in the past year.  

 

It’s the perfect time to express gratitude to all the people who helped get us through.  

 

That gratitude, rather than regret, helps us lean into the things that are going well in our lives.  Rather than focusing on the mistakes I made last year (there are more than a few) I’m trying to focus on all the things that I’m doing right, and working on offering thanks to those who have helped get me there.  

 

Instead of trying to fight all my terrible habits, I’m going to try and build upon my good ones.  

 

Instead of being disappointed in the difficulties of last year, I’m going to be thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and all the incredible people I’ve encountered.  

 

Because as St Porphyrios said, it’s easier to build our love for Christ rather than to spend our energy fighting against sin. “Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul.  Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.”

 

We can’t spend our lives simply running from sin; that’s incomplete. The more important (not to mention easy and fulfilling) thing is to spend our lives running towards Christ.

 

And an important part of building up my love for Christ is expressing gratitude.

 

I like to think the people I love know how much I love them.  But I also know that, despite my best efforts, I occasionally take them for granted.  It’s easy to fall into a rhythm when someone is there for you all the time.  We come to see their presence in our lives as a guarantee rather than a blessing, and forget to be appreciative of who they are and what they do.

 

And that starts with acknowledging that there are things you couldn’t do without them.  

 

Not only does acknowledging and offering thanks remind those in your life how much you need them, but it also reminds you that there are people who love you enough to offer you their time and energy.  It reminds you that even when you have rough moments in the upcoming year (as I’m sure we all will) there are also incredible things in your life.  Remembering that, and expressing that freely, strengthens your relationships with the people you love.  It helps them know they are wanted and needed.

 

Actually looking someone in the eye and genuinely thanking them for all they have done for you reinforces your relationship and helps you both appreciate each other.  

 

As important as it is to express gratitude to the people in our lives, and show our appreciation for all that is done for us, it is just as important to be grateful in our spiritual lives.  

 

More often than I care to admit, I find myself forgetting to be thankful in my prayer life.  I pray for what I want, and for those who I want God to help, but I forget to also be thankful for all that the Lord has already given us.  

 

While I remember the blessings of my life, and acknowledge them as blessings, I don’t always remember where those blessings are coming from.  And how important it is to express thanks for them in my prayers.  

 

The good things in my life aren’t by accident.  The people who help me every day (for whom I’m incredibly grateful) are a blessing. The opportunities I’m offered (for which I’m incredibly grateful) are a blessing.  And it’s not enough to simply be appreciative, I have to actively express that appreciation.  

 

Expressing our gratitude floods our memories with these blessings and we start to remember more of the good and less of the bad.  Our past year begins to look brighter than it once did, and our outlook on the future improves.

 

And instead of just focusing on the glitter pen resolutions, I can also focus on what how much God has already given me, and how completely He loves me and us all.  

 

 

 

Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM.  Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah where she studied political science at the University of Utah.  She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones.  Charissa currently lives in New York City.   

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Prayer of Saint Philaret

The Orthodox Church places prayer at the core of the Orthodox Christian life. The Church offers us the Book of Psalms, the “Our Father” that Christ taught us, various liturgies, devotional prayer services to various saints, and private prayers written by the saints. All of these prayers guide us closer to Christ by giving us words to say when we can’t quite seem to find them. Over time, these prayers shape the words we use in times of need and inspire the conversation we have with God at all times.

 

In recent years, a prayer written by Saint Philaret the Metropolitan of Moscow (1782 – 1867) has come into popular use as a prayer for the beginning of the day. Here is the prayer in whole:

 

O Lord, grant me to meet the coming day in peace. Help me in all thing to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealing with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.

 

Prayed daily, this prayer helps us reorient our attention from the world’s distractions and passions and towards a focus and trust in God. Saint Philaret calls us to look at our inner world, to align our will with God’s, and to be attentive to how we interact with those around us.

 

1. Serenity and our inner world

 

The first thing this prayer is concerned with is our inner world. We ask in this prayer that God grant us the peace we need for this day. We ask Him for help in treating everything with peace of soul, instead of with anxiety and stress. How often do we wake up anxious, beginning the day already feeling behind schedule and worried? If only we could discover this peace on our own (the right meditation practice or the right quiet place in nature); if only we could fix ourselves! But instead of our peace, we need the peace of God which is beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7), a peace not like what the world can offer, a peace that casts out our fear and calms our troubled hearts (John 14:27).

 

As God calms our anxieties, He also gives us strength when we are not strong enough to stand. In this prayer, we ask God for the strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day. We don’t ask God to strengthen us tomorrow, we just ask for His help today “with all that it shall bring”. This implies we are also willing to trust that God will be with us in whatever situation we might encounter today. We are not alone.

 

We also ask God to guide our thoughts and our feelings. We are so often pulled this way and that by our emotions and thought life, but Saint Philaret reminds us to ask God to be our guide in everything. We even ask God to give us the words to pray. And as this prayer helps us to rely on God, it also calls our attention to His will.

 

2. God’s will and our will

 

So much of the Christian life is trying to bring our will into alignment with God’s will. Theologians and poets, rich and poor alike, all struggle with accepting God’s will at certain times, especially in times of suffering and difficulties. As Orthodox Christians, we neither believe in a God who can be manipulated by man (if we only pray correctly) nor a God who holds us like puppets on strings (where we have no control over our choices). Instead, we seek to know what God’s will is each day and then strive to live in accordance with that will.

 

Saint Philaret gives us the words to ask God to reveal His will to us and that we will then rely on His will in everything. But in moments of weakness and in moments of distress, we might lose that conviction that God is still with us at all times. So we ask God for the assurance that His will governs all things.

 

Finally, we give up trying to be in control by asking God to direct us and to help us bring our will to match His. We stop trying to run our own show and make a decision to let God be our shepherd and our guide. We give up control over what we cannot control and trust that God will take care of the outcome. As we let go, it opens us up not only to a better relationship with God, but also with our neighbor.

 

3. Our dealings with others

 

Just as we need to be aware of our inner life, and to meditate on the will of God, we also need to be cognizant of how we relate to and treat others. The prayer next asks that God will bless all of our interactions with our neighbor. In the stillness of our morning prayers, we ask God to help us not to forget that everyone in our lives can help us grow closer to God – even the most frustrating person – but how they do so depends on us. This is why we ask God to remind us that all are sent by Him. It changes our perspective from seeing others as pests to agents of God’s will in our lives.

 

It’s easy to be sure of our own “rightness”. We see that all too much today. What’s harder is to let go of being right and to live humbly in relation to others. At times we might need to be firm, but we always need God’s discernment in learning how to speak as God would have us speak. So we ask God that we “act firmly and wisely” but with the important caveat that our relations with others be “without embittering and embarrassing” them. Saint Philaret leads us then to approach our dealings with others with humility instead of with pride.

 

*****

 

When we are anxious and stressed out, when we are pursuing our own will instead of God’s, when we are pitting ourselves against others, we will not have the eyes to see and the ears to hear how God is working in our lives today. The prayer of Saint Philaret, like all of the prayers of our Church, helps us to slow down and to bring attention to this present moment. For it is here and now that we can encounter the living God. Today, we can know the peace of God, we can pursue the will of God, and we can see God at work in our lives through our neighbor.

 

Have you ever incorporated the prayer of Saint Philaret in your morning prayers? How might praying this short prayer help you to see that Christ is present with you, even in the stress of 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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Saving Room for Christ

Every year I look forward to holiday foods. At Thanksgiving, it’s the stuffing and cranberry sauce. At Christmas, it’s the ham. At Pascha, it’s the lamb…and well, anything related to meat or cheese. And as a Southerner, we seem to always have deviled eggs and sweet tea at every important family gathering too.

 

And you better believe I make sure to save room for that food! After all, the thin guy always has to get seconds and thirds or the host isn’t happy.

 

But what would happen if we came to holiday meals already full? The holiday spread would become just…another meal. Just more of the same.

 

During the Advent season, as we are getting closer to Christmas, we are surrounded by Christmas music, Christmas lights, Christmas coffee drinks…we get so filled up with Christmastime that Christmas itself can feel anti-climactic. After weeks of worrying over gifts, planning our holiday schedule, and running here and there, the actual feast of Christmas comes and goes before we know it.

 

We forget to meet Jesus in that quiet cave in Bethlehem. We can get so filled up on Christmas that we forget to leave room for Christ.

 

Here are three things the Church offers to help us to come to the feast prepared and to meet Him this Christmas.

 

1. Fasting

 

We know to skip breakfast before going to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, because we want to make room for the good stuff. Similarly, the Church gives us the practice of fasting so that we can make room for Christ in our lives; or rather so that we can make Him the center of our lives. Instead of filling up on all that the world has to offer us, we are given periods throughout the year to put some limits on ourselves to train us to seek Christ. As we hunger and thirst for food before the Liturgy, we are reminded that Jesus alone can satisfy us. We come to church hungry, and the first thing we taste is Christ.

 

It’s easy to ignore practices like fasting as if they were just the tradition of man, until we remember that Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:1-2) and He said that His disciples were to fast, too (Matthew 9:14-15). The Church has a calendar of feasts and fasts, many of which can be hard to remember, but here’s a simple outline we can follow. Before major feasts, we prepare ourselves by fasting from certain foods and activities to prepare ourselves for the feast. We also fast throughout the year on Wednesdays and Fridays in remembrance of Jesus’ betrayal and death on the cross.   

 

But how can we fast this Advent period? The Nativity Fast lasts for the forty days leading up to Christmas. If you haven’t begun, you can begin today. If you don’t fast on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, perhaps you could begin by fasting from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays during the Nativity Fast. If we are not accustomed to fasting, we should begin by making some step towards the tradition of the Church. As we live in an individualized culture, the temptation is to come up with something unique for ourselves instead of following the tried and true way of the Church. The best thing, though, is that you speak to your parish priest and ask his advice on what might work best for you and your family this year.

 

2. Confession, scripture, and prayer

 

Fasting during the Nativity period helps us to save room for Christ in our lives. Another practice during this period is to go to the sacrament of confession. Jesus desires that all of us who are “heavy laden” with our life’s concerns and worries will come to Him so that He can give us rest in Himself (Matthew 11:28). As we confess and we lay everything at the feet of Christ, we can walk away freer and lightened from those things we keep carrying along with us.

 

And as we are lightened through fasting and confession, we will have room to grow in our relationship with Christ. We can commit to saying some prayers in the morning and at night before going to sleep. We can set aside five to ten minutes each day to read scripture. When was the last time you read the whole of one of the gospels? It can be especially helpful for us to focus on one gospel, like the Gospel of Matthew or Luke during this period. As we read the life and the words of Jesus, we can encounter Him anew each time. And when we come to Liturgy on Christmas, we will be prepared to welcome Him.

 

3. Serving others

 

We worry a lot about presents during Christmastime. Did we get this person what they’d want? We think we’re thinking about people during Christmas, but usually we are just focused on the idea that we have to get everyone something. Is our focus on serving others or just getting them gifts? Are we focused on loving our neighbor? Are we remembering to love our enemy by praying for them?

 

Our Orthodox history is filled with saints who committed their lives to the service of the poor, the needy, the sick, and the fatherless. St. John Chrysostom served the poor in the streets of Antioch and preached the rest of his life about the importance of direct service. St. Basil devoted his life to service and his sermons continue to inspire us today to give back to those who are in need. Modern saints like St. Elizabeth the New Martyr and St. Maria Skobtsova show us that service is something we are all called to do today.

 

We can all find a way to give back to others who are in need today. Have you considered writing letters to those in prison through the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry? How might you assist the work of IOCC or OCMC? How can you serve the Orthodox orphanages like those in Mexico or India? And on a local level, how can you work with local food pantries or social services help a family in need to have a Christmas dinner?

 

*****

 

We might already feel like we’re getting swept up in the preparations for Christmas. The point for us, whether we are starting now, or if we have been preparing all Advent long, is that we commit to growing closer to Christ today. If we are emptying ourselves of our pride and worldly concerns, our hearts will be open to Christ and to the many ways we can serve our neighbor.

 

What is your experience of fasting? Have you been to confession recently? How could you better serve those in need?

 

 

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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Orthodox Christians, Politics, and Life After Election 2016

With every election, there are winners and there are losers. Naturally, we may be frustrated if our candidates lost or if the vote went the other way on issues we supported or were opposed to. We may still struggle to find hope in 2016. We might even need to be reminded of how to respond and to love those who have hurt us.

 

But besides the joy or despair we may feel after last week’s election results, we need to reconsider our personal priorities as being both Orthodox Christians and citizens. How do we balance our Orthodox Christian faith and our political ideals? How can we move on after the results of this year’s election?

 

1. Jesus is Lord

 

“God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us!” we hear every Orthros service. We repeatedly say, “Lord have mercy” during all of our liturgical services, and we receive the Eucharist as the “servant of God (name).” Over and over we remember that "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor 8:6). If Jesus is our Lord, then we are His servants. We can have no other Lord before Him.

 

Jesus Himself was condemned in part because His authority as Lord threatened the worldly authorities. Early Christians were a threat to the Roman Empire because they refused to adore and worship the Roman Emperor as their Lord. These Christians were killed for their faith and are the martyrs we commemorate nearly every day.

 

Our faith is built upon the witness of these martyrs, whose very witness to Jesus Christ as Lord helped to spread our faith. The martyrs lived their lives (and gave of their lives) with this in mind: no earthly authority is the Lord of a Christian. So how do we live today? Is our trust in our government or in the Lord? Do we have more passion when speaking about an election or about Jesus?

 

2. Obedience to & prayer for political leaders

 

Once we are firmly established in living our lives in obedience to our one Lord, Jesus Christ, our second role as Orthodox Christians is to be obedient to our earthly leaders. Both Scripture and the divine services of our Church direct us to be obedient to and pray for our leaders.

 

If our Lord is risen from the dead and reigns at the right hand of the Father, then our “Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Until we go to be with our Lord in the Kingdom, we are to live lives that honor God and yet to “trust not in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3). In other words, we are to be good citizens, not giving dishonor to the community or to God, and yet not living as if this world is our focus. We are but pilgrims and exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

 

St. Paul directs us to be obedient to our political leaders. "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God...Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Romans 13:1,7). St. Paul goes on to say “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Titus 3:1-2).

 

In addition to being obedient, St. Paul urges "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Tim 2:1-2). During the Divine Liturgy, the priest says, "Again we offer You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and for those living pure and reverent lives. For civil authorities and our armed forces, grant that they may govern in peace, Lord, so that in their tranquility we, too, may live calm and serene lives, in all piety and virtue." At another point, we hear this petition: “For our country, for the president, and for all in public service, let us pray to the Lord.

 

We are to be obedient to those in authority over us, and to pray for them both in personal prayer and as a community. Do our lives reflect a trust that we are only passing through, or do our political discussions reveal that our hearts are more concerned with this world than the Kingdom of God? Do we pray for our leaders in our personal prayers as much as we do for our family?

 

3. Living out our faith

 

During the election campaign, we heard a lot about people who feel forgotten or who are suffering either economically or socially in our country today. What are we doing to reach out to those who are hurting? "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27).

 

If our Church – and indeed the Gospel – teaches that life is sacred from conception to natural death (and beyond), how does this inform our daily living? If we do not support abortion, what are our communities doing to support single mothers? Do we visit prisoners on death row? And closer to home, we know many people today are scared about the future. They’re anxious and worried what the USA will look like for their children. As a consequence of the presidential election results, some are scared they are no longer safe.

 

As Christians, it is not our place to argue whether someone’s emotions are legitimate or not. This isn’t our role. Our role is to bring Christ’s loving presence into the lives of those around us. We are to bring His peace into moments of tribulation, to be a listening ear to those who need to share what is on their hearts, even to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). The time of arguments over this election have passed, but the period of figuring out what this means to people will take some time. We Christians need to provide the space for our friends, family, and for our fellow citizens to mourn and to voice their concerns. We need to live out our faith after the election.

 

*****

 

We know that God will provide, but that knowledge does not take away people’s fears or anxieties. We know that Christ is risen, but we must first experience Him risen in our hearts and live our lives with this hope before we can expect others to understand the same in their time of isolation.

 

If we are happy about the results of the election, it is not our place to gloat or assume that any one man or party will be our saving grace. If we are in shock and mourning, we will have to navigate these emotions too. But either way, we have one Savior, and His name is Jesus Christ. No election can change this. As Orthodox Christians, we are called to be obedient to our government and to pray for our leaders. We can live out our faith by reaching out to those in need, and by being a silent witness to the peace and joy of Christ.

 

How does your life reflect a faith that Jesus is Lord? Do you pray for our president and our president elect? How are you bringing the presence of Christ to those around you after Election 2016?

 

 

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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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