God’s Word: How Is a Priest Supposed to Preach It?

Fr. Sergius Nezhbort

One day, I thought to myself, “What should I preach about in church today?” But then, I had another thought, “What I want to preach is one thing. What does God want to tell us?”

Human words can be good or bad but they never offer the vivacity and inspiration that God’s word brings. You can utter thousands of nice words but they won’t change anything. Or you can utter just one word… When the Lord appeared to St. Silouan the Athonite, the only phrase that He uttered was, “Keep thy mind in hell and don’t despair.” And it changed St. Silouan’s life dramatically. A theologian would have lectured that poor monk on methods of getting saved and what kinds of actions he was to take in order to achieve salvation but his words would have amounted to nothing.

Similarly, each one of us needs a word from God, which would support and help us, inspire and direct us. That’s exactly what we come to church for – to have a personal encounter with God. It’s great if that personal encounter happens during a confession, e.g., when the Lord supports or instructs us via a priest. Sometimes, we hear God’s words when we listen to the Gospel, and sometimes, they come through to us when we talk with another person. Above all else, we’ve got to be looking for that encounter and that living word. Otherwise, our faith and our church attendance turn into a good yet shallow tradition, which lacks real depth.

Lately, our Icon Painting Studio has been busy painting a fresco for a certain church. It is really exhausting and time-consuming: we paint a small portion daily, and little by little, the whole picture is being constructed out of those small pieces. When we were almost done with that fresco, we covered it with a special solution but it didn’t react well with the chemicals we had used for painting the fresco, and the whole fresco was ruined. Likewise, we can keep doing something for a very long time, e.g., go to church and do our best to live in accordance to the rules of our faith but if we make just a single careless and neglectful move, we’ll ruin everything. That’s why we’ve got to think carefully before we do anything. We’ve got to be discreet. We believe that we’ll come up with a way of reverting the damage that we’ve done to our fresco. Similarly, there are no dead-ends in our lives. Just keep going forward.

January 24, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent

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