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:
- Food: cheese and eggs, grapes, fragrant herbs
- Deliverance from drought
- Deliverance from flood
- 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,