Come with Me to Mount Athos. Part 60

Part 59

The ways we choose

Vladimir Georgievich opened the conversation:

“An acquaintance of mine, from Moscow, has been planning to visit your church. I encouraged him a lot, but something has keept him from coming.”

“I am not surprised,” I replied. “Making up one’s mind to change something is always difficult and full of obstacles.”

“You are right. He is still deciding. I bought him an icon and want to give him a good book. But here is what I have meant to ask you about this man. He is a family man. He has a grown-up son, but his marriage does not seem to be working out.”

“Not working out? I need details.”

“Oh, that is a long story. It is hard to tell who is right and who is wrong. They rarely sleep together, but when they do, it always ends in a scandal. They argue all the time. He dreads coming home in the evening. He thinks he does not have a family and is considering a divorce. He is still not too old. Maybe he still has time to try his luck with somebody else?”

“Wait a minute. Are we trying to fix his life for him?”

“Well, it would not make any sense, in the sense that…” Vladimir rambled. Then he pulled himself together and continued: “But problems in the family happen all the time. But what should people do if all their hopes of happy marriage have been shattered, and all their efforts to piece their families together make their situations worse.” 

“Perhaps we should look at the origins of the relationship? As one wise priest said to me (and I was referring to Archpriest VladimirVasily Ermakov), remember where you met – in the garden or at a dancing party.”

 “Good question,” – remarked my friend. I continued:

“That leads us to another question: where did these hapless newly-weds get their ideas about married life? One does not need to dig deep to have the answer. Perhaps they put too much faith in the slogan, “How proud the word rings – Man!’ There was probably no one around to show these young people the way to God or teach them humility and mutual forgiveness. A high mountain peak is always covered with snow, and it is always alone.”

 “Sounds right!”

“But is divorce always a good solution? As Father Vasily liked to say, “Chewing on a second piece before swallowing the first can make you choke!” Fixing our broken lives may be beyond our human abilities, but God can do it. We rarely give ourselves the trouble to reflect on the meaning of our lives, our faith, and our Creator when things are going well. Someone came to me once to complain about his broken home, his reticent wife and his understanding mistress. I asked him one question: “And are you prepared to leave your wife and marry a woman who goes out with a married man?” He stopped and thought for a moment and said: “I got your point, Father.” He went back to his family, took responsibility for its future and his sins and bore it with humility. His family life is getting better and hopefully will improve more. The Lord will help, as He always helps those who ask Him and is looking for Him.”

After a moment of silence, Vladimir sighed:

“It all depends on the circumstances, does not it?”

“You are right. No doctor will prescribe the same medicines or doses to two different patients, even with the same disease. There is nothing to argue about here. The key question is whether Christ is present in our lives, and our answer gives meaning to all we do. If two people marry voluntarily without a mercenary motive, they should fight for their marriage to the end, and hopefully, both will find salvation.”

“The family is a small church, and keeping it together is like accomplishing the feat of a confessor.” I stopped and had my moment of introspection.

“But do not take me too seriously,” I said to my friend.” Keeping the family together has not been an easy task, and I am still in a bitter struggle with my own passions. If I succeed, I will willingly share with you my recipes for family well-being. But I know very well that it is not good to save others at the expense of one’s own family. How can I continue to serve as a priest if my marriage is on the rocks?”

“How long have you been married?”

“Not very long. Only 25 years. But we have a lot more time to look forward to!”

Silently, we admired the stars in the clear sky and listened to the sound of the sea.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

All chapters are here

Catalogue of St. Elisabeth Convent

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