Last night I arrived early at church to prepare for the regular Monday Moleben with Akathist, and to await the arrival of someone for an appointment. We have served a Moleben each week for a long time, with prayer for a long list of names – all of our parish members, our parish “sort of” members, friends from other local parishes and a long list of people on our public prayer list, who have requested prayer.
It is one of the most important things I do. It is also often quite hard to do. This is because of me; anything in which the soul feels heavy and does not want to do something is because of us. Let’s be honest here. We all have weak faith, and the best we can do if we want to eventually have real, warm and perfect faith is to be like the son in the parable who at first said he would not go into the field to work, but later repented, and went to work. Our Lord tells us that he did the will of his father, and not the other son who said he would go, but did not.
This parable has always been a great comfort to me. It tells me that I can receive a blessing even from imperfect obedience, and that the most important part of obedience is not what we say or feel, but what we do. This describes a lot of stuff that I do, or, often, describes the way I start to do things. In the case of the Moleben, which, because of the Akathist and the long list of names repeated three times is a rather long service, when I am tired and sometimes alone in the temple, I am always happy that I prayed after I have begun.
I was born for this – to pray, and show my love for others by praying for them, and doing what they cannot or will not do for themselves. I may be alone, or, as it was this night, with only one other person, or perhaps with as many as 10 or a few more, but I cannot think of a more efficacious use of my time.
I was thinking during the Moleben (it would be better not to be thinking so much, but our thoughts are like the wind, and hard to stop or even catch) that “it was good to be here”, because I was fulfilling one of my most important pastoral duties for my people – praying for them, aloud, but also that these evenings, especially when I am alone or almost alone are very healing to my soul. Sometimes I am like the son who did not want to go, but went, and other times I serve with enthusiasm and zeal from beginning to end, but in every case, I have done something important, and I absolutely know that in some way I have become stronger, better.
My parish needs me to get better. I cannot give what I do not have, and on some level, I feel more strength when I pray alone, or when I am tired. The stronger I get, the more strength I can give to those I love. Of course, it is great when the church is full of those praying with me, but this is very rare on any day except a Sunday.
I try very hard to teach my flock the restorative nature of the services, but many do not seem to “get it”. Sunday is still “the day’ to go to church, with Saturday (my favorite) a far distant second, and the other days of the week not even “on the radar”. I know that job and other responsibilities can cut into attendance, but this does not account for everything. Part of my prayer, as it were, a “groaning” in my heart, is that all of my flock, and the many that I pray for who are not my flock, or are sort of part of the flock will develop a great zeal for prayer and be comforted in everything in their life.
I am a stubborn guy. I know that true happiness only comes from moral change and the increasing
knowledge of our beautiful God that accompanies and assists it. Prayer is a big part of this. I must be honest with myself – if I teach my flock how important it is to pray – I must pray!
I also noticed something as I was lighting the lamps. It had been a difficult day. I had stumbled upon a passive aggressive attack from a person I know but have never known. I was upset that this person would most likely never apologize and most likely go on as in the past, with snarky accusations, and an air of superiority, without direct communication and person to person honesty and compunction. I came to a conclusion. This person has never really acted like a friend, so they are more like an enemy than a friend. We should pray for our enemies. I have promised to pray for this person in my daily prayers. This brings me more peace. I give the advice all the time that we must pray for anyone we have a conflict with, and I follow it myself. There may be incidents in the future, and I am still upset, but I am sure that my opinion will soften and become perfected as I pray. I was looking forward to mentioning this name for the first time in the Moleben.
I also felt a great peace in the quiet church as I lit the lamps. I would wish for all my flock that they come early sometimes, and light the lamps, and take stock of their lives. Really, all that matters is that we gain true peace.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2011. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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