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Rector's Message of July 2014


Why Is This Happening to Us?

Every day those who follow the TV and Internet news hear of more disasters and sorrows. The ominous prospects of poverty, war, epidemics, civil violence, starvation, and totalitarian government have over the past few years become not the subject of warnings from the few, but the constant preoccupation of the many. Why is this happening? .

A fundamental and unwavering principle for the Christian spiritual life is to remember that God arranges everything for our salvation. We see our immediate needs as something very real, while we see our spiritual needs, our eternal destiny, only very dimly, as something not quite real. But God sees everything, and, in particular, His concern is for our eternal destiny. Whether we are temporarily prosperous or poor, healthy or sick, successful or unsuccessful, we are to use every circumstance of life for our salvation. If we are doing well, we glorify God with thanksgiving; if we are doing poorly, we ask Him to help us acquire patience and firm hope in Him.

Therefore, one answer to the question, "Why is this happening to us?" is that God knows this is what we need, at this time in our lives, for our salvation. Through patient endurance and experiencing His help when we feel helpless, we acquire firm hope in His Providence over our lives. Through the experience of losing material goods, we have the opportunity to realize that our real purpose is the acquisition of spiritual goods: repentance, virtue, the grace of God, and ultimately, our eternal salvation.

Another answer as to "Why is this happening to us?" is that God is calling us to repentance. If we were to examine our lives carefully, we would realize that we are guilty of many actual sins and that we are entrapped by various passions and vicious habits. Suffering of various kinds is usually a "wake-up call" from the All-Merciful Lord to examine our consciences, to confess, to prepare for Holy Communion, to re-order the conduct of our lives in accordance with God's priorities and not the world's priorities.

During periods of prosperity, it is a universal tendency, sadly present also among Orthodox Christians, to live as if God did not exist. The "successful" man, secure in his wealth and feeling of wellbeing, becomes arrogant; at least unconsciously he is confirmed in the delusion that he is the source of his own life, and he becomes hardened, insensible, to the awareness both of his finiteness and his sins. God mercifully allows him to fall into various trials and misfortunes to wake him up, to call him to repentance.

Today, however, we notice that many are seeking solace not in repentance but in even more entertainment and ever more frenzied worldly activity. We must put these things aside and pursue active repentance. Every day could be our last chance.

The Importance of Frequent Confession

...whoever confesses frequently, even if he is to commit a mortal sin, immediately enters into the grace of God when he confesses, and as many good works as he does become for him worthy of eternal life. But the one who does not confess frequently, if he happens to commit a mortal sin and does not immediately run to confess it, for as much time as he remains unconfessed, he is not only deprived of the grace of God, but as many good works as he does, whether fasts, or vigils, or prostrations, and the like, are not worthy of any reward or eternal life, for they are bereft of the grace of God, which is the beginning and the foundation of all works unto salvation.

...the one who confesses frequently is more assured that death will find him while in the grace of God and thus be saved. And the devil, who is always accustomed to visiting the dying, not only sinners, but Saints as well, as Basil the Great says, and even the Lord Himself: "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30), and who is present at people's deaths in order to see if he can find anything, will visit the one who frequently confesses but will find nothing, because he made time to confess, and cleared his debts and balanced his register through frequent confession. But the one who does not frequently confess will most likely die unconfessed and thus be eternally damned, because he easily and repeatedly falls into sin and does not confess, and because of the uncertain time of death.

- from the Exomologetarion (Manual of Confession) by St. Nikodemos the Agiorite, whom we celebrate on 14/27 July.

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