Monday, August 4, 2014

Sunday Message: What to Pray For

This morning I heard a most excellent sermon, a rarity in the Orthodox church, where our preaching skills require improvement.   The essential point of the sermon was that we should pray for deliverance from temptations and spiritual illnesses; God grants jobs, housing, cars, and material benefits even to atheists.   God will provide for us the basic necessities of life; however, by praying for healing of our spiritual infirmities: our arrogance, cruelty, lust, intemperance, intransigence, and all vices, we can become transfigured, as was, for example, St. Moses the Black, who rose from being a murderer and adulterer to one of the great Desert Fathers.

This is a powerful message, and I was strongly reminded of the similar promise of St. Seraphim of Sarov: acquire inner peace, and thousands around you will be saved.   There is a fundamental truth for this.    In a few weeks time, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, and it seems apt, in preparation for that feast, to begin to contemplate the process of personal transfiguration, that has the potential to lead us out of the depraved worldly existence, and into an exalted spiritual existence; by humbling ourselves, and admitting of our spiritual faults to God, we might obtain deliverance from them, and having obtained such deliverance, we ourselves might be transfigured.  When one looks upon the beautiful face of an elderly hierarch or monastic, one cannot help but see a certain luminous radiance emanating from them, and this alone is powerful enough to draw people to salvation in the Church.  

This essential transfiguration also provides us with the spiritual strength to endure without complaint the horrible travails imposed by the world, the ceaseless assaults of Satan, in the form of temptations or outright mocking, which those who advance in the hierarchy of the Church experience in increasing intensity (one might recall the physical violence suffered by St. Anthony at the hands of the devil); not only is the transfigured human able to withstand these assaults, but also to repel them, through serving the Church.  It is through this transfiguration that one can acquire the strength necessary for the Priesthood, or to serve in other mission fields and vocations.   Let us therefore consider how to acquire this transfiguration in our own life, by praying that our Lord might illumine us as to our own spiritual faults, that we might know what to pray for, so that as we approach the great feast, we might dare to approach that gladsome light of Tabor in our own lives.