Moments of Clarity. Many feelings. The importance of evening services. The easy way to be an Evangelist. We need quantity in order to obtain quality.

June 21/ July 4 2009. 4th Saturday after Pentecost


Harsh is death, yet, when thou didst unite Thyself to it, having become divinely hypostatic though the Virgin, Thou didst destroy it. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our Fathers. (Sunday, Tone 3, Matins Canon to the Theotokos, Ode 7, Sticheron 2)

 

 

Almost every service, and especially at vigil, I hear something that I have heard many times before, as if for the first time. Vespers and Matins especially among our many beautiful services, have this marvelous way of restating the truths and dogmas of our faith in new and poetic ways, and sometimes there is a blessed moment, when my poor soul feels completely invigorated, as the body does when it passes from drowsiness to full alertness, and I hear something that has truth in it that is too beautiful for words. My soul knows that however beautiful the poetry is, it is just an approximation of the things to come, because, after all, our poetry is attempting to speak with unspeakable words[1].

 

For some reason, these moments mostly come in the last half of vigil. I think this is because we need to put time and effort into prayers, and only after the body is a little tired, and the mind has been removed from the clamor of the world for a good while, is the soul the most receptive to hearing and understanding holy things.

 

This is one of the reasons I insist on serving vigil. I do not know how I could be saved if I did not serve it, because I need as many moments of spiritual clarity as possible, to enlighten my darkness. As a pastor, I know that I am not so very different than my flock, and they all need these moments too. If I serve, than perhaps I will be enlightened by degrees, and in turn pass something useful to my flock, and some of my flock, if they develop the good habit of standing in vigils, will have these moments without any intervention on my part except for making the service available. It goes without saying that if we did not serve matins this evening, nobody would have had any chance to have a clarifying and purifying moment from the hymns of matins on this 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Tone 3, 2009.

 

I have many thoughts that go through my mind when something in the service touches me. Sometimes I wish that I could turn some of them off, but I am a pastor, and am always thinking of my flock. I also think these multiple thoughts are related to my unhealed as of yet passions. The more holy we become, the more simple our thoughts are. My thoughts are rarely simple!

 

1. I feel great joy and as if I am being overwhelmed by a great, warm wave of hope. The beauty sometimes seems so exquisite that I long to stop the service right then and there and just think for a little while, and try to hold onto this wonderful feeling of clarity and purpose. Sometimes, even after the moment passes, there is a residual feeling of great joy that follows me intangibly for a long while.

 

2. Immediately, a strong desire wells up within me to shout out the truth I just felt, even though I cannot think of any words to shout! I have learned something beautiful, and profound, and want to share it with everyone, like the best news I have every heard. Sometimes I wish that there could be some way that our minds could be linked, and I could share the full meaning of this moment with my loved ones.

 

3. Then I feel great sadness, because I am unable to share this moment. I do not have the competence needed to put my feelings into words (although I have tried on many occasions). I also feel a deep sadness that so few heard this good news. The vast majority of Orthodox churches serve only Vespers and a significant portion have no Saturday services, and the majority of Orthodox Christians attend evening services sporadically or rarely. A great event just occurred, and hardly anybody noticed it! A great tree fell in the forest, and its mighty sound was not heard by those who were not there to witness it.

 

4. Throughout these distracting sad feelings, I feel great hope. It only takes one verse, one moment to change a person permanently. We do not know when the moment will come. Perhaps I will be changed by this moment. Perhaps I will, with some power not my own, be able to transmit something of this change to my loved ones, my flock. Certainly God will not abandon us, and there will be other moments, for myself and my loved ones, in which the prayer we hear will strengthen our souls, making them more steadfast, more zealous, more compunctionate and resolute, and less proud and sleepy.

 

I am also convinced that although one moment can change a person (like Mary of Egypt, for example), the usual course for us sleepy ones is hear thousands of prayers  in order for a few to seep though in a special way, and these moments prepare us for life-changing moments. We need quantity because our prayer is of low quality! I fret because too many of my loved ones, in the course of their lives, will miss thousands upon thousands of prayers that I feel they need.

 

There is always a chance that I will be counted as an Evangelist, merely by serving the service, because someone heard something that permanently changed them for the better. This is my prayer for all of my flock at every service.

 

How does one put into words that which cannot be spoken?

 

This sticheron seems to me to brilliantly illumine the intimate connection between our weak flesh, and the uncreated Godhead. God became man! We cannot meditate upon this enough.

 

Tonight, my flesh feels much stronger because I know that Jesus Christ completely assumed the same flesh I have, and changed it. I live with the certain knowledge that indeed, “harsh is death”, and I feel this “sting of death” daily as I witness my flesh doing things I don’t want it to do, and unable to do things I want it to do. I feel profound weakness, but this will be overcome, because of Christ’s complete subsuming of my flesh and His subsequent complete uniting of Himself to death, then destroying it, making a way for my flesh to defeat death.

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-07-04.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-07-04.doc

 

 

 

 

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[1] 2Co 12:2-4 KJV  I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  (3)  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)  (4)  How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

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One Response to “Moments of Clarity. Many feelings. The importance of evening services. The easy way to be an Evangelist. We need quantity in order to obtain quality.”

  1. Deborah says:

    Father, Bless,

    I think those transcendent moments that we cannot express in words are indeed communicated to others, often without our realizing it. It may not be a visible glow as Moses had shining from his face when he returned from speaking with God, but I think in subtler ways our encounter with the Truth and Beauty of the Lord is translated and passed on to others through our seemingly ordinary interactions with them.

    Truth is translated into Love and the Grace we receive is most assuredly passed on to those we serve.

    Please Bless and Pray for,

    Deborah

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