The evening prayer rule
My heart is at peace. How wonderful the feeling! The end of September and early October are perfect times to visit Mount Athos. It is a season free from overwhelming heat, much like the end of August in our part of the world.
“Vladimir, let us pray one by one and read the evening prayer rule right here!”
“Pray on the shore? Good idea!”
We stood up on the rocks, facing the east, made the sign of the cross and began to say our prayers.
How wonderful it is to praise the Creator on Mount Athos under the beautiful dome of the night sky as if in a church not made by hand.
For me, the prayer rule had almost turned into a routine. I had become used to reading it almost automatically. But here, at the boundary of the spiritual and material worlds, God sent us these moments of inspired prayer. It felt like going back to the beginning of my church life when God’s grace energised me at every step. I remembered how much I missed these grace-filled days. Elder Silouan of Mount Athos described three spiritual states of a believer: hearing the calling of God’s grace, abandonment by His grace, and finding sanctity in looking for the lost grace. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the quote, but I think I got the overall idea right. He spoke about recovering something that was once lost; something discovered and experienced, the goodness of the Divine love. He meant the resumption of a search for something the gift that was once given, appreciated and experienced. Yet it is an intuitive search with multiple unknowns.
My friend Vladimir distracted me from my deliberations. Like me, he wished this day did not end.
“It must be hard being a priest,” he suggested. I paused.
“It varies. As soon as I am a good priest, I promise to tell you all about it.
“But are you not already a good priest?”
“Only by the grace of my ordination. But there are other priests I know, and I compare my attitude to theirs. I treat them as my models of self-sacrifice and grace. I know that I have not come anywhere close to their standard of the ministry.”
“Good luck with your journey!” he said.
“Thank you, Vladimir! I hope I will succeed sometime. Pray that I will. Oh! My sore throat has stopped – how wonderful! We laughed and walked back slowly to the hotel wing.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
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