I think that each of us, regardless of age and spiritual experience, needs words of strengthening. Because a person is struggling during his life; and it happens that some word he overheard somewhere gives him strength. I would like my word to serve as a strengthening for at least someone as well…
We all understand that it is very important to live an inner life, but sometimes this inner life is very poor, and in such a situation, even external efforts, it seems to me, give a result. When a person is struggling, but for the sake of Christ, he forces himself (for example he limits himself in something, stands in the service, even though he hears almost nothing, but he stands for the sake of Christ), I think that even in this case the Lord will definitely console him.
I want to tell you one incident that happened to me. Like many brothers and sisters of our sisterhood, I used to go to a boarding home. We visited departments where there were people who needed help. We came there, prayed with them, gave them holy water, took them to service. And once I had to go to the department as always. It was a dull gray day, I trudged there with my last ounce of strength, and only one thought was in my head: “Why am I doing this?” I felt then my complete helplessness and powerlessness, it seemed to me that even if I came, I would be no good to anyone there. And it was so convincing that there was nothing to oppose. But I continued going anyway, because I was scared not to go, I felt that I had to go. I came up to the door that led to the department, and about fifty people sat in the corridor behind it, in completely different state. Among them were those who responded to prayer sometimes even with joy, for the sake of these people we tried to do at least something …
I stood outside the door and heard their voices. Pressing the bell button, I waited for the door to be opened. And in our department, there was one resident who was especially happy when we came (usually it was at the same time), and he always said: “God has come!”
And now I’m standing, completely incinerated by my weakness, and I hear the same voice that is shouting to the paramedic: “Open it! God has come!” The paramedic responds with displeasure: “What a nonsense! What are you saying!” Then this resident came up close to the door from that side and asked in a crack: “God, is that you?” I felt a jolt go through my back, I did not know what to say, and after a few seconds I said: “Yes, it’s me.” And the resident walked away from the door and happily said to the paramedic: “Well, I told you, it is God!”
The door was opened, and I felt that God really came to the department with me that moment. And He came not only to those who lived there, but also touched me with a little piece…
And I thought that you should always continue to do what you do no matter what. The Lord will definitely come and touch our life.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
These kind of sharing are very important. Everyone struggles in and with Life……some more than others…….especially those who serve God. I/we have, many times, received totally unanticipated, but desperately needed consolation. Friends In High Places is all that has kept us going, in the long-run. When I, for many years, worked as a licensed service plumber, most of the week I wore a plumber’s uniform. However, it was not unusual, walking down the street, that a perfect stranger would see me, in passing, & call out: “Good morning, Father!!” Or I would be greeted at the door of customer’s houses (& whom I had never before met), & either immediately, or soon after enteting their home, would say: “You’re not just a plumber, are you?! Are you some kind of priest or minister?!” Then I’d explain, & they’d say: “Yep. I knew it………etc.” Such things often came when I felt down, struggling, wondering what was I doing, & did it make any difference?
As I’ve said & written elsewhere, our entry into Orthodoxy, while on mission in England, was extremely difficult. Again, the Russian Orthodox were warm & welcoming, & helped as much as they could, within Church parameters. Some, w/ ROCOR, were kind of crazy, but they still helped us. The Greek Orthodox, there & then, were extremely hostile, condescending, contemptuous, unhelpful & unwelcoming. It’s only the intercession of the Theotokos that, many years later, over here, convinced me it was okay to work w/ Greeks. Our local Greeks here are, overall, tremendous, loving, warm people. (Doxa Theou!). The Greeks I encountered in England didn’t think the Russian Orthodox were actually, really Orthodox, when I ID”d myself/ourselves as Russian Orthodox.
Calling the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan HQ in London, explaining our Journey & struggle, & asking for help, I was told: “We are NOT interested. Go talk to the Rusdians!” So we did. …….. At one point, totally depressed w/ all this, & beginning to think we’d made a HUGE mistake in becoming Orthodox, I went, again, to visit St. John the Baptist Monadtety. What I experienced at Vespers that night was so utterly powerful, real, overwhelming & Heavenly, that the doubts & fears & regrets were washed away. Not long after that, our way into Orthodoxy began to get easier. I’m not prepared to fully share that experience hete, just yet, though I have shared it a bit w/ a couple of trusted bishops & hieromons.. Once burned, twice shy. Many times burned, many times shy.
I will, however, share something that became more widely known (again, only because of my Bulgarian bishop).
1n 1999, my family made a visit to Georgia (w/ the blessing of our bishop at the time), to answer a call by folks there for another mission to be started, 70 or so miles north of Atlanta. We went, met folks, found work, found a house, made an accepted offer…….everything seemed to be a go. Then we returned to Indianapolis. Then everything changed & shifted, all those plans unravelled. It seemed to center around an icon in our home that was exuding Myron, quite without “rhyme or reason.,”
This was a photograph of a miraculous icon that was a Crucifix w/ Christ crucified in it. The large original had been, before becoming miraculous, in a Carpatho-Russian church that decided to get rid of it for something newer & fancier. So they gave this one to a poorer Carpatho-Russian church in Michigan City, IN. In that 2nd church is where it started exuding massive amounts of miraculous Myron. It caused an uproar. People came from all over the US & the world to see, to venerate, to be blessed. The stress of it all was so much, the parish priest ended up in the hospital. We heard about it after the initial furor subsided, & went to visit & venerate. People were still coming from all over to venerate, & I was pressed into service to bless those pilgrims w/ the holy oil. We were given a phographic copy of the icon, in a stand-up plastic display holder, which we gratefully took home.
So, we found, not long after returning from Georgia, that our copy of the icon was also exuding Myron. We were shocked, amazed, astounded. Us? In our home? In the middle of all our messes, muddles, challenges, difficulties. failings???!!! REALLY??!!
Our bishop came to see it, when next in town, & asked if we would please place it on the shrine of the Theotokos in the church. We did, for awhile. It wasn’t well received by many of the people there. & then a certain mentally-challenged lady tore off a corner of it. We then took it back home, where it remains. Before it went to the church, we had a visiting group of Orthodox youth in town, who came to our house to venetate, & receive a blessing w/ the oil. Our dog at the time, also got in line for a blessing. She used to regularly come to me for blessings, both before & after this event. Word got out to a few believers, who asked for me to bring the icon & bless them. 3 things happened thru this, all miraculous, in my view.
1) A baby of friends was in hospital w/ life-threatening water-on-the-brain. Following the blessing, full & speedy recovery occurred.
2) A friend w/ a cancerous obstruction of the bowel asked for help. Following the blessing, the obstruction completely disappeared, no cancer.
3) Someone who was suicidal asked for help. After the blessing, healing & soundness of mind & spirit happened.
So…….Glory be to God!, Who is so incredibly kind & merciful. That I/we am/are not worthy of such tbings is so blatantly obvious, as to really not even need to be mentioned. But there we are. We can only say THANK YOU to the One who has never let us down, & Who has always looked after us! Amen