There is a beautiful stanza sung in Ode Six during the Great Paraclesis that warrants our focus and study. It states the following:
“The turmoil of this life encircles me like unto bees about a honeycomb, O Virgin, and they have seized and now hold my heart captive, and I am pierced with the stings of afflictions, Maid; yet be, O all-holy one, my defender and helper and rescuer.”
These are perilous times…morally, ethically, spiritually, economically, intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, philosophically, and scientifically. Everything is subject to scrutiny and relativism. We live in a world that is all about “me” and thus a precipitous edge lies before each of us as we contemplate and live out our daily existence.
Truly we can see the turmoil around us that seeks to seize and take hold of our heart. Yet, we also know that when we are focused in our work personally, professionally and as a community, the turmoil around us is of no significant effect. And, as Orthodox Christians, when our attention is on our Lord Jesus Christ, especially during this time as we seek the intercessions of His Mother, the Theotokos, to intercede on our behalf, we experience His abundant love and mercy.
In a few weeks we will begin a new ecclesiastical year and celebrate our Feast day, the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross of our Lord. There is no better time to re-direct our gaze and re-commit our life to our Lord and His Church. Perilous times demand determination, focus, and the strength of our heart and soul. We are blessed as a community to have so many who step forward, who roll up their sleeves and place faith in God above all else. After all, this is the goal of our Orthodox life, to commit to God and live the Gospel message…each moment.
Father Alexander Elchaninov writes in “the Diary of a Russian Priest”: “Our continual mistake is that we do not concentrate upon the present day, the actual hour, of our life; we live in the past or the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special moment when our life will unfold itself in its full significance. And we do no notice that life is flowing like water through our fingers, sifting like precious grain from a loosely fastened bag.
Constantly, each day, each hour, God is sending us people, circumstances, tasks, which should mark the beginning of our renewal; yet we pay them no attention, and thus continually we resist God’s will for us. Indeed, how can God help us? Only by sending us in our daily life certain people, and certain coincidences of circumstance. If we accepted every hour of our life as the hour of God’s will for us, as the decisive, most important, unique hour of our life—what sources of joy, love, strength, as yet hidden from us, would spring from the depths of our soul!
Let us then be serious in our attitude towards each person we meet in our life, towards every opportunity of performing a good deed; be sure that you will then fulfill God’s will for you in these very circumstances, on that very day, in that very hour.” When we are strong spiritually, then our ethical and moral dilemmas dissolve. Psychologically, we remain healthy and strong and our intellect can confront the deceptions of a pluralistic society and successfully stand up to re-visionist efforts and pervasive relativism existing in today’s America.
Saint Paul states in his Second Letter to the Corinthians that… “we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us inAsia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that wedespaired even to life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who deliveredus from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.”
Saint Paul also states earlier in Second Corinthians, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”
Placing our true hope in Christ will never disappoint but will only help us endure to greater faith, from strength to strength. May the new ecclesiastical year be filled with His grace, His strength, His love and abundant mercy for us and our spiritual growth and benefit in overcoming the turmoil around us and combat the piercing sting of afflictions.