January-February 2020

His Eminence, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) gave a talk at Holy Cross during my time there. In it, he touched a little bit on the limits of theology, saying that some things about God are simply not knowable. That has not stopped people on occasion speculating about what might or should be true about God. At that point, Metr. Kallistos likened the situa­tion to a train station which had a sign: “Stop. No access be­yond this point. Penalty 50 Pounds.” There were several in­ter­esting things in Metr. Kallistos’s talk, but this one has re­mained with me, although I often think about it in a different context…

There is a book that priests use called The Great Book of Needs. The version I have comes in four volumes, so it’s more like the big books of needs. In those books there are prayers for:

  • Water

  • Food: cheese and eggs, grapes, fragrant herbs

  • Deliverance from drought

  • Deliverance from flood

  • Livestock

  • Bees

  • Aid in learning

  • Travel by land, sea, or air (different prayers!)

  • Children: for conception, at birth, eighth day, and forti­eth day

  • Homes: at laying of the foundation, for blessing a new house, and for the yearly blessing

There are other prayers for other occasions, but it seems this article should be more than a list of occasions for which the Church has a prayer. I have mentioned these because the Church has a prayer for everything that is good and need­ful in life. I think it is important to keep this in mind, because it speaks to the fact that God is indeed everywhere present and filling all things. The Church is there to sanctify all facets of life and ask for God’s help in all kinds of cir­cum­stances.

There are many reasons we can forget that. We tend to wear many hats, and it is easy to have a “God/church” hat that gets put on and ta­ken off at various times. We keep busy in so many ways, that we simply forget to look at God, even as He is ever with us. We are told in subtle and unsubtle ways that faith is a per­son­al thing and should be kept out of the public square, and, consciously or unconsciously we may heed that message. It is easy in these cir­cum­stances to put a sign on parts of our lives to say to God, “Stop. No access beyond this point. Penalty 50 pounds.” Sometimes, we don’t even realize that the sign is up—we simply have not even considered that God may have something to do with a particular part of our lives. This is why it is important to be "Ortho­dox on purpose," as Fr. Barnabas Powell so often says. His blog, Faith Encouraged (https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/faithencouraged/), is a helpful tool in our efforts to remove bar­riers to God from our lives and "commend our­selves and one another and our whole lives to Christ our God." It is my hope that each news­letter provides you with at least one thing that you can use towards that end.

Along that same line, the Christian chal­lenge for this month has to do with prayer cor­ners. Prayer corners are more than a place to say prayers. The icons there also provide us with a helpful environment to stand before God in silence. The practice of silencing our thoughts so that we may hear God’s voice is deep­ly ingrained in Orthodox spirituality. In monasteries, the practice of hesychasm (from the Greek word for silence) has given the Church a number of saints. Our lives in the world are also in need of this silence and, given the constant noise and distraction that sur­round us, we need to give ourselves the best chance we can to achieve it.

So I hope that the above list of all the things the Church blesses can be a help for all of us to remember to allow God in every facet of our lives, and I hope that, if you do not have a pray­er corner, you take the time to set aside a place in your home for one, to pray, to stay in silence before God, and to help you get to know the saints more closely.

With love in Christ,

+Fr. Peter