On lack of faith

Lack of faith, fear for the future and forgetting about the good providence of God often lead to acts, which later on we must regret much.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council

“…That they be one, even as We are…”

Dear brothers and sisters!

How much meaning is in these words of the Lord! Praying for His disciples, for His Church, God the Son asks God the Father that we, Orthodox Christians, members of the Body of Christ, be one even as the Holy Trinity is one. Let us note that the Lord does not say ones, but specifically one, that is one whole and not many that are whole.

Oneness is a quality of the Most Holy Trinity, our God. Oneness with God and with the Church is a quality of every Saint. Oneness is a quality that is seen less and less frequently in us and our contemporaries.

The enemy of the race of men, the enemy of the Church of Christ, has fought against the unity of the faithful since the beginning of time. Yet in all the history of mankind he did not reach such progress as in our days. Never before, as it is now, have nations, and even families been stripped of their unity.

Armed with pluralism, individualism, and pretended freedom of self-expression, we have severed our spiritual oneness with the Holy Church, and thus, with God. While masses of people unite for the achievement of political or economical goals, the spiritual oneness and unity is subjected to criticism and mockery everywhere.

From the billboards to the TV screens, from all sides we are called to indulge our uniqueness one more time, to proceed according to our own understanding one more time, to attain our own personal goal with no regard for the established customs of the surrounding society one more time. Simultaneously, any inclination to follow the advice of the old days, in the best of cases, is seen as old-fashioned, and in the worst, as the weakness of character or even retardation.

All of this makes a person appear more and more like a mad animal which by its own intent separates from the flock, and being alone, perishes in the paws of a predator.

Yes, man is not a herd animal; man is created in the image and likeness of God. The oneness and unity of the Church is not at all a mindless crowd. As such, it would not hold up even at the first attack of the enemy. The personal free will of its members is not crushed in the oneness and unity of the Church. The oneness and unity of the Church are the life in Christ, the union with God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, how shall we attempt to live in Christ, if we have torn within ourselves the spiritual unity with His Church: with each other?

May the words of the Lord be fulfilled in all of us! May we all be one, for our God – the Most Holy Trinity – is One. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

“…This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting…”

These words of the Lord again encourage us on the fourth Sunday of Great lent. At times we forget, or completely fail to see, the reasons why the Church calls us to the feat of temperance. Regrettably, sometime in our understanding lent has only a dietary value, and the prayers and chants of the Great lent – capable of warming our cold hearts – are understood by us only as a variety of the church’s repertoire.

That is why it is necessary to pay careful attention to the message of this Sunday’s Gospel. Having heard that His disciples were unable to free the pitiable young man, the Lord chastises the father of the sufferer for unbelief. “All things are possible for him, who believes,” says the Lord and – as an answer to the cry of the father: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” – He heals the one, who was tormented by the unclean spirit since childhood.

From the question of the disciples “why couldn’t we…” one can see that they believed in the Lord. But He, by His mercy, did not leave them without saving instruction. Having pointed the father to faith as the necessary means of healing, the Lord points the disciples to the perfection of the faith, setting forth prayer and fasting as the means of achieving perfection.

Thus, the Lord teaches that it is necessary to have faith, and not only to have it, but also to perfect it by fasting and prayer. We always need faith, whether we ask the Lord on behalf of others or for ourselves. It is also very important that it not be like that of demons: they believe and tremble, but do not repent. The true fruit of fasting and prayer is a heart that is broken and humbled.

Let us, therefore, break our hearts by fasting and prayer, and humbly cry out: “I believe, O Lord, help my unbelief!” So that we, by the mercy of God and by temperance according to our strength, may be delivered from passions and unclean spirits which destroy us, and may meet the radiant resurrection of the Lord with joy. Amen.

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

About enmity

…The Lord commanded us to love our enemies. Any offense or enmity hinders us from serving God and the Church. Our strife afflicts the Church…

About temptations

…Without temptations no one can be saved…

Much can be said about someone based on his reaction to temptation. Some murmur quietly, some judge the offender, some make a loud fuss, and some altogether become enraged and seek vengeance; rarely, some quietly, with tears thank God for correction, offer Him a heart that is broken and humbled, which He will not despise.

Yes, all of us are familiar with temptations: illness, betrayal, offence, undeserved – seemingly – accusations, various break downs… It is difficult to describe everything that can happen with us on life’s journey. St. Anthony the Great has the following words: “Everyone can steer the ship during good weather, a true seaman is revealed during the time of a storm.”

The tempests of temptations are a certain God’s x-ray, which reveals to us the passions hiding deep within our souls. If there were no temptations, we would have never found out how week and helpless we are without God. If there were no temptations, we would never come to know how far we are from perfection, to which we are called by God.

Once, I asked an acquaintance if he plays tennis. He told me that he never lost a match to anyone in his life, for which I admired him greatly… then he added that he never played… My admiration vanished without a trace.

Each temptation is a spiritual battle, a combat that shows us our true spiritual state. Winning, we obtain God’s grace and move forward to the next battle, yet even when we lose, we should not become despondent, our spirit should not be cast down. If a temptation should overcome us, let us not give the enemy any cause for joy and let us turn our failure into a weapon against him by sincere repentance and humility.

Much in our life depends on our attitude: if in at all times and in all things we thank the Lord, then no temptation will be able to crush our faith, but if we grumble and seek an easy life, if we wish to pass through the wide gates, then every – even the most minute and insignificant – temptation will be a torment for us. Therefore, let us thank the Lord for every temptation and let us protect our souls from all harm by humility and meekness. Being tempted, let us be discerning and let us not proudly seek temptations, because hotheaded imprudence never served anyone for good. In contrition of heart let us always remember the words of the Lord’s prayer: “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Amen.

Appendicitis

There lived a boy.  Each summer, much like other children of his age, he spent at his grandmother’s place.  He spent entire days playing with friends, running through the streets, riding a bike, playing soccer, playing hide and seek, playing war; he came home only to eat, to grab some candy to take outside, and toward evening, to sleep.

A few days in a row his right side was hurting.  The pain was getting worse slowly and finally got so bad that, when he woke up one morning, he was moving from the bed to the couch and back from the couch to the bed to get some relief.  The pain didn’t go away and when his grandmother came home for lunch, he barely ate a tip of the spoon’s worth of mashed potatos and begged to go back to bed.

– Is it your appendix?  – asked the grandmother.  – I don’t know.  – It hurts terribly.  – The boy was looking at his grandmother while she approached the phone.  – Should I call an ambulance?  – No…  – Can a person die from an appendicitis?  – Yes, if it ruptures.  – Then, call an ambulance.  The fear of death outweighed the fear of the examination by a doctor.

The ambulance was quick.  The male nurse felt the boy’s stomach and said that he should be examined by a surgeon.  With tears the grandmother sent the boy to the hospital and went to ask to leave early from work in order to follow her grandson.  At the hospital, after a short examination, the surgeon said:  “Immediately into surgery”.

The grandmother’s call saved the boys life.  His appendix started rupturing shortly before the surgery.  Later on, the doctor said that the next day would have been too late.

Epilogue

There are moments in life when it is critical to ask for help in time.  One may have an “appendicitis” in one’s soul, an “appendicitis” that has to be properly cleaned, or entirely removed, in order to avoid spiritual death.

Unrepented sins contaminate the soul, make it dark, unhappy, restless, deprived of inner peace.  Remembering of wrongs, envy, anger, avarice, lust, moral downfalls, lies, laziness, pride, self-love, self-will, and other sins and passions poison the heart, make it hard, cold, cruel, unable to love.

The one, who has experienced a serious illness, values good health above money and worldly goods.  Let us, therefore, before all else take proper care for the well-being of our soul.  Let us cleanse our hearts with sincere repentance.  Let us forgive our offenders and enemies.  Let us abandon excessive anxiety about the coming day.  Then, we will come to know how invaluable the spiritual health is.