Archive for the ‘Christian Life Skills’ Category

NB: Just one resolution for Great Lent. Fasting and prayer

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Many people make some sort of resolution when they enter Great Lent. Usually it is something we have not done before, or perhaps done poorly. The one who has fasted poorly in the past may decide to keep the fast better – to not eat any meat or animal products, and some may even be zealous to keep the fast from oil and wine and fish. The one who keeps the fasts may be zealous to not eat anything at all for the first three days of Great Lent, or eat only one meal a day, which, according to the strict typikon, is “after the ninth hour” (about 3 in the afternoon).

In my pastoral experience, most people make some sort of fasting related resolution. I applaud their intentions, but sometimes their emphasis on fasting obscures for them the real purpose of the fast (it is not fasting!), and trying something that is beyond their spiritual and physical capabilities sets them up for failure, and sometimes, despair. Even if they succeed in their fasting goal, they miss out on improving themselves in more important ways.  Remember: Nobody is saved because of fasting (but those who are being saved fast).

 

There is only ONE important resolution to make for the Great Fast. It is mentioned (in so many words and images) constantly in our services. We will mention that one in a little bit.

 

It is very important to fast, especially for the one who has rarely fasted, but there are more pressing things. It would be better if a person prayed the Prayer of St Ephrem [1] with attention in the morning and the evening. How many think about fasting, and even buy cool new vegan food from the local yuppie grocery, and do not increase their prayer? This is more important. We need to become more regular at prayer, and pray with more attention. The prayer of St Ephrem is a great place to start.

 

Also, there are extra services in any serious parish during the fast [2], especially in Clean week and Holy week. If you are not in the habit of going to church except on Sunday, or sometimes on Saturday too, it would be better for your soul if you made the effort to change your habits and attend at least one of the extra services each week regularly. This is much more meaningful (and difficult!) for those who are not in the habit of so much “church prayer” than “not eating till 3”, or “trying to not use oil” during the week.

 

Great Lent is a time when we are trying to change the way we think, and act. We are trying to get less selfish.

 

Many people rarely or inconsistently pray for others. This is the perfect time to decide to give our supplications to God for our loved ones (and especially our not loved ones!), our family, friends, and our pastor. Praying for others is demanded in the scriptures. We must do it; we need to get very good at it. Our prayer will not be fruitless, even though it may be distracted and not seem to us to be very effectual. We are in training to not think of ourselves, and to love, truly love, others. Prayer with attention is the greatest expression of love.

 

How do we go about this is we are undisciplined in prayer? We must have two things – real honest desire (which will be shown by our effort) and a little planning and organization.

 

Get a notecard and write a few important names on it. You can also use the prayer list we publish and change frequently- it is here: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn.  

 

Do not try to be eloquent or lengthy. All you need do is pray “Lord have mercy” for (N)”; do this for each person. You may also pray the Jesus prayer for each person. This blog has written at length about intercessory prayer for others: here: “ Christian Life Skills: Praying for others. Praying for enemies. The Jesus Prayer. [3]

 

Of course, we should plan to fast from various foods, but in comparison to our prayer, it certainly must take second place. In fact, the scripture teaches that fasting is in order to increase our prayer [4], so merely fasting without making other changes is nonsensical from a spiritual point of view.

 

The Most important Resolution.

 

Above, it was said that “Great Lent is a time when we are trying to change the way we think, and act.” This should be our “resolution” during the Great Fast. If we need to have an actual resolution, let us have the one St Herman of Alaska [5] has taught us:

 

"For our good, for our happiness," … "at least let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!"

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-02-18-just-one-resolution-for-great-lent-fasting-and-prayer.doc

And on our BLOG

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[2] There are RARE exceptions, when a pastor is unable to support himself without a very inflexible job, and cannot serve services during the week, but for the most part, when you see a church with just weekend services, and even only Sunday services, you would be better off finding another one.

 

[4]  “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” 1 Corinthians 7:5

 

“But I, when they troubled me, put on sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer shall return to my own bosom.” (Psalm 34 , Brenton Septuagint)

 

“And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek him diligently by prayer and supplications, with fastings and sackcloth. “(Daniel 9:3  , Brenton Septuagint)

 

Share

Christian Life Skills: Praying for others. Praying for enemies. The Jesus Prayer.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

 

Abstract: A critical “Christian Life Skill” is to pray for others. This is an expression of love. We must also especially pray for our enemies or those who have wronged us, to root out any vestiges of bitterness. Here are simple, practical ideas to add prayer for others to your way of life, cutting through excuses, lack of time, confusion, fatigue, and distraction.

 

Christian Life Skills: Praying for others

Praying for enemies

The Jesus Prayer

To pray for someone more diligently

 

 

 

 

A difficult to learn Christian life skill is to pray consistently for others. As in all spiritual and even temporal things, we cannot succeed without God’s grace helping us, but this knowledge should not stop us from, as my dad has said: “using our noodle!” A little practical organization in this area goes a long way, if combined with zeal and resolute purpose.

 

We all have people we care about, but when we start to pray, the memory of all their names may be elusive. Prayer with attention is hard. If we are struggling to remember names, our attention may be divided, and we may get fatigued.

 

Keep a list.

 

The solution is simple! Have a moderate list of people you want to pray for. Note cards are good – they can fit in your prayer book or pocket. Some (like me) prefer to keep a list on the computer and print it out periodically. I have even created a template of “note cards [1]”, four to a side, which is useful for this purpose. After printing, fold the paper in half, and cut or rip the halves. Then do it again, and you have four equal sized note cards.

 

Keep a small list.

 

When I was younger, I had huge lists of people – just about everybody I knew, subdivided into all kinds of categories. It was too big for me, and I fell into the trap of not praying for anybody at all on some days when the idea of reading that huge list fatigued me before I started. Remember: “It is better to do a little thing than fail to do a large thing”.

 

Either keep a small list, with family, friends, your pastor, and your enemies or those who have offended you or disturb your soul in some way. It should not be book size. Some will make a list for Monday and another for Tuesday, etc. If you are that organized, I salute and admire you. The important thing is to have a manageable list of people for each day.

 

I like lists, because even though I know all my parishioner’s names by heart, it gets very fatiguing to call to mind all their names. I use my diptychs [2] for this purpose.

 

Have a set time.

 

If you have a set time to pray for others, you will pray for others. Some suggested times: after morning (better) or evening prayers and during your commute in the car, bus or train (but don’t forget the off days!)  When I was in an office I would go outside and walk on some railroad tracks and pray for people. It was a great break from work

 

Pray for your enemies.

 

This seems obvious, since our Lord commanded us:

 

“… Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44)

 

In my experience as a pastor, this idea does not always occur to us, or we are resistant to it.  

 

It is IMPERATIVE that you pray for your enemies, or those of whom you have any bitterness, towards, remember wrongs, etc. You know the people of whom your soul feels darker and colder and angry when you think of them or encounter them. Listen to your soul! Sometimes this coldness is disguised from us, but if you are attentive to yourself, you will feel when your peace is disturbed by the thought of or interaction with someone. This is always your fault! There is no keeping score here – it does not matter if “he/she/they” were at fault too. You should not dare to disobey a direct commandment of the Lord.

 

We cannot love as God loves without learning to forgive our enemies. Don’t think of an enemy as only someone that you might come to blows with or are in some kind of open conflict with. Learn to feel the chilling darkness from that dark shadow that blocks out the warmth of the sun from your soul.

 

It is more important to pray for your enemies, those who curse you, and hate you than yourself or your loved ones. God hears our prayer when it is pure. Bad feelings about others make us impure. It is as simple as that, and besides, the Lord commanded us.

 

Just do it; make a list of people you have problems with. Don’t write a novel – there is no need to include biographical information!

 

Pray for these people everyday, simply, resolutely, and even if your prayer is accompanied with anger and clenched teeth.

 

It is MUCH better to pray and fight against anger than to be angry and not pray. You need to fight off the anger, and the only way is to forgive, and the best way to forgive is to pray.

 

Do not let yourself be fooled – the snake in the grass that we see is less dangerous than the one we do not see. Just because we do not feel anger when we do not think of someone does not prove anything! Just try thinking of those certain people in your life, and see if you feel any darkness. And then try praying for them – any anger or any kind of darkening of the soul during this time is a sure sign that you must pray for them – for your sake as well as theirs.

 

How to pray for others.

 

 

God knows the needs of all of us. In general, it is best to pray simply.  You could say “Lord have mercy on (name) for each person, or use the Jesus prayer:

 

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on (name) .”

 

Some may want to mention particular needs, but it is best to keep it simple. The intercessory prayers of the church are a good guide. The more specific you get, the more you think, and the less you pray, and there is always a danger that you will sin by judging others.

 

If you want to pray more intensely for someone, you can use a prayer rope to count prayers, and say, for example, 10 prayers per person. Anything that is easy to count with the rope is a good number. Some ropes are divided into tens; others have a large bead every 25 small beads.

 

Another way to pray more intensely for someone is to use the prayer used on the “Old Believer” prayer book (online here):

 

 

To pray for someone more diligently: [3]

 

Save, O Lord, and have mercy on Thy servant(s) ________, [bow] [4]

 

Deliver him (her, them) from every tribulation, wrath and need [bow],

 

From every sickness of soul and body, [bow]

 

Forgive him (her, them) every transgression, voluntary and involuntary, [bow]

 

And do whatever is profitable for our souls. [bow].

 

 

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-12-09-christian-life-skills-praying-for-others+the-jesus-prayer+to-pray-for-someone-more-diligently+praying-for-enemies.html

& http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-12-09-christian-life-skills-praying-for-others+the-jesus-prayer+to-pray-for-someone-more-diligently+praying-for-enemies.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[2] “Diptych” means list. All priests have one, and they use it to commemorate the living and the dead in the “Proskimidie” or “Preparation service” before the Divine Liturgy, by taking out a small piece and putting it on the diskos (the round plate on a small stand that is used with the chalice) for each name. This bread is latter added to the chalice after the faithful are communed, with the prayer “By thy precious Blood, O Lord, wash away the sins of those here commemorated, through the intercessions of Thy saints” Only the Orthodox are commemorated in this way (since only the Orthodox may have Holy Communion), but most priests are like me and have many non Orthodox in their diptychs that they pray for without taking out particles of bread.

 

[4] A "Bow", also known as a "poklon" is performed by making the sign of the cross, and simultaneously bowing the head and bending from the waist.

Share

Christian Life Skills. The Jesus prayer Pray without ceasing. New Testament Challenge and the Jesus Prayer Challenge

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Christian Life Skills: The Jesus prayer

Pray without ceasing

New Testament Challenge and theJesus Prayer Challenge

Nov 11/24 25th Tuesday after Pentecost[U1] 

 

Recently, on various blogs I fail miserably in keeping up with, the “ New Testament Challenge” has been proposed. This is a suggestion to read the entire NT during the Nativity Fast. This is a good idea, and it works for some – as a pastor, I am in favor of almost anything that will get the dust off the bible in the home.

 

This got me to thinking, and I thought of another challenge – the “Jesus Prayer Challenge”. I am not trying to be gimmicky, because I hate that stuff, but as they say, I am “serious as a heart attack”. This is a longstanding COMMAND (read, not an optional “challenge”), and the church knows it is possible:

 

“Rejoice evermore.  (17)   Pray without ceasing.  (18)   In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1Th 5:16-18)

 

How do we attain this? It is very simple: become holy (simple does not mean easy). We are called to holiness, so this MUST be our goal:

 

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)

 

The holy are always praying, or even something above this, which our Savior does not call prayer, because they have no passions which send their mind away from God, and are always with Him.

 

We will not be able to do this by next week, so we must become practical, and do what we are able to do now, so that we will become able to do what we are cannot  do.

 

Perhaps a slight rewording of the Apostle’s command will help us to make a practical application to his words:

 

“Pray whenever you are able to pray; search for opportunities to pray.”

 

 

The church has always understood the “Jesus prayer” to be uniquely suited to this endeavor. Anybody can pray this pray, as often as they want, if they put their mind to it, and plan to do it.

 

When we are waiting for a bus, or early to an appointment, or driving our car, or folding laundry, we CAN say: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” We can also teach ourselves to pray this prayer when we are getting ready to speak to someone about a difficult thing, or feeling anger rise up within us because of this or that thing.

 

We may not be able to pray each prayer with attention, but we can try; how can we learn to be attentive without long periods of struggling against inattention?

 

What is stopping us? There are external things – the TV being on (a brick will fix that), listening to the radio in the car, the busyness of life, lack of planning. There are internal things – our passions and the noise in our head, laziness, desire for entertainment, mindlessness. We cannot fix the latter without doing something about the former.

 

We need to plan in order to pray. Focus on one time during the day when you are not so occupied that you cannot pray – for instance, when you are driving, or doing the dishes, or folding laundry. It must be some task that does not take a lot of mental effort; you will have difficulty saying the prayer when you are doing your math homework or balancing the checkbook!

 

Say the prayer, silently, or aloud, slowly, and with as much attention as you can muster. You may pray for yourself, or others. If you pray for yourself, say

 

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

 

When we pray for someone else, we should leave the last part and say:

 

 “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on (name).”

 

 

It is really useful to have a prayer rope (chotki, komouskini) to count prayers. It does not matter how many we say, but it is very helpful to hold the rope and advance one bead with each prayer, to have a set amount per person, or even just to keep a sense of rhythm.

 

I have a prayer rope and use it in the car (it should be small, and held in such a way that you can drop it immediately if you need to steer out of a road hazard). This is a perfect time to pray for my family and parish. I find the simplicity of the prayer comforting and it is easier to pray with attention. I never have been one to try to remember what everybody needs and mention everything. God knows, and asking for mercy, that is His help in all things, really covers everything!

 

Some people need to mention things – sickness, or protection during travel, etc. That’s ok, but a little bit dangerous, because we are simultaneously attempting to pray and judge at the same time. Perhaps we feel a person needs something, and our judgment is wrong? Or perhaps we are so busy thinking of the next thing to say instead of just praying with attention? I remember those long lapses in the “In Jesus Name” prayers that are so common in the Protestant tradition so many years ago. They were very jarring. Do everything you can to pray without making a huge mental effort in thinking (prayer is not done with the brain, it is an expression of the soul), or you will tire. Everyone’s limitations in this regard are different. My simple mind needs quiet, and simplicity, otherwise, there is too much distraction in my head. You need to find what suits you.

 

Praying in the car is a wonderful way to “redeem the time” [1], and also to train ourselves in the discipline of prayer. What else do we really need to do when we drive? We certainly do not need the radio on – most of the information is useless, vapid and stupid, and it steals from us the opportunity to pray.

 

I have not always been equal to the task. After a long day at work, my passions want time to “veg” out on my drive home. We are tired, and maybe a little cranky after a long day, and starting to pray instead of giving into laziness actually sucks more energy out of us, but after prayer, this energy returns with a bonus.

 

Try praying in the car instead of listening to the radio, or “vegging out”. If you have a long drive, try a set period of time that includes part of the drive, if the whole time seems too daunting to you. It is better to accomplish a little thing, rather than not do a big thing! You cannot get better at something without starting to do it.

 

You might want to have a list of family and others (including your pastor) whom you care about, and in whose lives you may have some influence. You could have a list of the sick, those in prison, or undergoing some trial. God knows all the particulars. You could pray some set number of prayers for each person, say 10 (many prayer ropes are divided by a large bead into tens) or 25 or some other number that is easy to count on your prayer rope.

 

Unlike the “New Testament Challenge” there is no end point in the command to pray without ceasing, accept, of course, our death. After that, if we have not cultivated the virtues and the desire AND action of prayer, where will we learn it?  

 

This command is possible, but only if we apply effort, planning, and prayer to it. May God help us.

 

One more thing. This is important. The “Jesus prayer” is the most simple and complex prayer. Christians have reached exalted states practicing this prayer, and also fallen headlong into hell by attempting to find mystical experiences in it before they changed enough morally. The “prayer of the heart” has been accomplished by those practicing the “Jesus prayer”, but except for exceptions as rare as hen’s teeth, these people were under strict obedience to an elder. There are very few “checks and balances” for a lay person who tries to copy what he sees in the Philokalia or other places, and achieve the “prayer of the heart”.

 

Don’t look for mystical experiences. Worry about praying in the way described above in every possible moment; this will take you a long time. The fruits of prayer, if accomplished with the following of the commandments and true humility, will lead to holiness, and your prayer will lead you towards the prayer of the heart. But first things first! Pray a lot, don’t waste time, and see where that takes you.

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-24-christian-life-skills-jesus-prayer+pray-without-ceasing+new-testament-challenge+jesus-prayer-challenge.doc

It is also on our BLOG

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our Redeeming the Time BLOG:

 http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  (16)  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16 KJV)


 [U1]<title>Christian Life Skills: The Jesus prayer. Pray without ceasing. New Testament Challenge and the Jesus Prayer Challenge</title>

<meta name=’Description’ content=’Christian Life Skills: The Jesus prayer. Pray without ceasing. New Testament Challenge and the Jesus Prayer Challenge. Nov 11/24 25th Tuesday after Pentecost’ />

<meta name=’Keywords’ content=’christian life skills,jesus prayer,NT challenge,pray without ceasing’ />

 

Share

Christian Life Skills – The Four Bows. Give the first fruits of your day to the Lord

Monday, October 19th, 2009

October 6/19 20th Holy Apostle Thomas, 20th Monday after Pentecost

  A long time ago( probably 1980), Matushka Marina and Priest Seraphim in college. This picture is in his bible which he carried around everywhere at that time. Our custom to this day is to have a heart shaped cake on Valentine's day like this. i-love-you-with-the-love-of-my-lord.jpg

I did not know much about life skills back then, but I got one right at least!

At college, about 1980, on Valentine’s Day. This picture is still in my bible from back then.

 

Lets us be perfectly honest with one-another; we do not pray enough. There are many reasons for this, with of course the primary reason being that we do not love God enough and our passions interfere with everything holy.

 

Okay, we know the problem, what is the solution?

 

Another life skill which I will eventually write about can be summed up: “Do what you can do, so that eventually you will be able to do what you cannot do”. When applied to prayer, this means we must pray now, as much as we can, even though we do not pray very well, or consistently.

 

Let’s start with what we CAN DO. We can be more consistent. It takes some planning and effort, but it is “doable” to be more consistent in prayer.

 

This is where the “four bows” come in. I have taught these to just about everybody for years now (the originals article that has been one the web for years is here (http://www.orthodox.net/articles/fourbows.html) ) and they have had a profound effect on those who have listened. They are a “little thing”, but like so many “little things” they lead to big things.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, we should lament our inattention to God, our weak and inconstant prayer, our false priorities, and the time we waste on things that are not effectual for our salvation. We are weak creatures, driven by habit, and many of these habits are sinful and destructive. So many of our activities are thieves – they steal time from prayer.

 

There is a superb article, from an old "Nicodemus" publication (which later became "Orthodox America") which provided the seed for this instruction. In the article, a bishop was instructing a group of children. I will try to reproduce the gist of his words here.

 

Our hearts are like coal, which is cold, but may be lit with persistent effort. Coal lights very slowly, and much care must be taken to tend it, even when it is burning. Our prayer is like blowing on the coal, which gradually becomes warmer, and eventually a hot fire, but only after much persistence on our part. The key is persistence, and not to lose heart. Even a small effort is rewarded by God, if we are persistent.

 

The bishop then went on to instruct the children to do three bows in the morning, IMMEDIATELY after they got out of bed. I added one more bow to the list, and have told almost everyone in confession or another time about this rule.

 

This rule follows, and I beg all of you to follow it with all your strength.

 

The Four Bows

 

Upon arising in the morning, before anything else, direct your heart and mind towards God, and face your icons, or face east and with compunction, and without haste, make four bows [1], or better, four prostrations [2].

 

Do this with hope in God, and the sure belief that He will receive your prayer, as He received the widow’s two mites, and protect you during the day, even if you fall into inattention and these prayers are the last you will say for the entire day.

 

Making the sign of the cross, with a bow of prostration during each prayer say:

 

1.Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.


2.Most Holy Theotokos, save us.


3.Holy Saint ______ (your patron saint), pray to God for me.


4.Holy Angel of God, my guardian, pray to God for me.

 

After these prayers, it is best to continue with your morning prayers, and then turn your attentions to the cares of the day. Even if the weakness of the flesh compels us to abandon our prayer and rush into our day, perhaps not to return to our morning prayer, at least we have begun the by giving our "first fruits" to God.

 

Let us do these "few things": four short prayers that take under a minute, so that in time, our heart will become aflame with the love of God, and our Lord will say to us:

 

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Mat 25:21)

 

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-19-christian-life-skills-the-four-bows-give-the-first-fruits-of-your-day-to-the-lord.html

&

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-19-christian-life-skills-the-four-bows-give-the-first-fruits-of-your-day-to-the-lord.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] A Bow, also known as a “reverence” or “Poklon” is when the sign of the cross is made, while simultaneously bowing the head by bending at the waist. Some bow deeply and touch the ground with their right hand, and other make very shallow bows. It really does not matter as long as the movement is done with attention.  (taken from the Prayer of St Ephrem, ( http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/o-lord-and-master-of-my-life-prayer-of-st-ephrem-01.html)

 

[2] A Prostration is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated essentially “fall” forward to the ground  with their knees and hands touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the familiar gym class “burpee”.(from the same source as note 1)

 

Something NOT TO DO: No “waving at the air”. Some do prostrations and bows quickly or carelessly, and the sign of the cross they make looks like they are shooing away a fly. “Let all things be done in good order”.

 

 

Share

Christian Life Skills – Being on time

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Oct 1/Oct 14 2009 19th Wednesday after Pentecost.

Protection of the Theotokos


I am starting a series of articles on “Life Skills”. This term is used regarding simple and necessary skills needed to succeed in modern life, raise a baby, etc. For instance, young mothers may be taught to not put their baby to bed with a bottle (since this will almost surely cause serious ear infections and is a choking danger). Most of these skills are simple building blocks for an effective life. Another example is teaching a person to balance a checkbook, or about how to use (or not use) credit wisely.

 

There are many Christian “Life Skills”, and these are also simple building blocks – towards eternal life.

 

We all should have a humble view of ourselves, and consider ourselves simple and in need of improvement. Even the simple stuff has a place in the most experienced Christian’s life. St Paul even mentions this; when I get the time I will add in the scripture reference.

 

Big Ben http://www.freefoto.com/images/31/07/31_07_23---Ten-O-clock--Big-Ben--The-Houses-of-Parliament--London_web.jpg The first life skill is: being on time to church.

 

Like many things in life, this is a habit. Habits must be formed by long repetition. It is impossible to get into the really important good habits, such as consistent daily prayer, and the controlling of our thoughts and actions in a Christian way, if we do not do the smaller things.

 

It is very important for many personal and corporate reasons for a Christian to be a little early to church services.

 

When I was a layman, I always arrived early, because I could not come right off the street and concentrate. I still come early, even as a priest, because I do not want to be rushed (the preparation for liturgy takes about an hour, so I arrive at least a half hour before that).

Imagine running up the stairs to a business meeting. You are not ready to do your best at the meeting; your heart is beating fast, you are nervous from worry about being late, and you have trouble marshalling your thoughts. It is the same way with prayer. Arrive a little early, venerate the icons, and get yourself ready to pray. We need this time, because we are not always in a prayerful state.  

 

This is especially important when you have young children. They need time to calm down, and who is going to teach them if it is not their parents?

If you do this all the time, you will find the liturgy and all services to be much more meaningful and you will improve as a human being.

 

That is the point, isn’t it?

 

We should go to the liturgy and every service, but especially the liturgy, in order to gain something. We come to be changed. We should always go away richer than we were before. It takes concentration and effort to achieve this change. If you arrive after the liturgy starts, you rob yourself of the preparation period so necessary for the soul.

Being on time to anything is an indication that we value it. We would rush to be in our seats before the kickoff or before a movie starts, because we do not wish to miss anything. We would not think to be late to an office meeting with our boss. By establishing the habit of being on time or better, early to services we are stating, as much to ourselves as everyone else that we value the holy services and do not want to miss anything.

 

My earnest pastoral advice to everyone is that they come on time and even a little early to the liturgy especially and all the services. As in all Christian asceticism (yes, this IS asceticism!) is that it takes time to see results. Be on time and be patient with the passage of time, and you will see that this habit is very salvific for you.

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-14_life-skills+being-on-time.html

&

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-14_life-skills+being-on-time.doc

 

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

Share