Climbing Together

Priest Vladimir Anderson | 30 January 2014

(Adapted from a sermon delivered by Fr. Vladimir Anderson at the marriage of his daughter)

Life is an uphill struggle; the path is narrow and difficult. There are many obstacles, precipices and steep cliff faces along the way. Progress is often slow and seemingly unnoticeable. Like a thick mist, the spirit of the world envelopes the climbers who, losing sight of their goal, turn their thoughts to the easy life in the valley below. Is there any point in all this exertion, they wonder. It is especially difficult for those who climb alone not to become sidetracked or utterly discouraged. For this reason the One Who calls us to the top of the mountain has given to most of us a companion, a fellow-climber, that together we might more easily ascend God’s holy mountain,

This after all, is  the primary purpose of a Christian marriage. At the very outset of their journey together, husband and wife must agree mutually to help one another and their children to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. While it is easy to acknowledge this as the goal, in actual practice it is a very difficult and never ending labor.

People of today are surrounded by the allure of the world and the enticements of the devil to an extent far exceeding that of years past. At times the so-called logic of the world confuses the mind as to the path one must take. It is as though the signposts along the way have been twisted: good is labeled evil, and evil is called good. Many people look to the morality of their contemporaries rather than to the law of God–and this causes them to deviate from the true path.

The devil is the prince of this world, and he uses the transitory things of this world–a nice home, a shiny саr, stylish clothes, respect in the eyes of our fellow men–as bait to draw us away from God. These things are like a spider web: one strand is unable to hold a fly, yet when a fly touches one strand of the web, his struggles tie him to more and more strands until eventually the fly is completely entrapped by the seemingly weak and easily breakable filaments. So it is with the things of the world. Each strand tying us to the world is of itself weak, but as soon as one bond is formed, others quickly follow, thus ensnaring us and tying us to this world, rather than the one to come.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33)

We must always have a loose hold on the temporal goods and honors of this world, which weigh us down on our journey like so much extra and unwanted baggage. How many marital problems arise from the seeking after the things of this world, from trying to follow the life-style of today’s pagan society which vainly attempts to satisfy the soul’s desires with material possessions and earthly pleasures. As Christians we have been called to ascend the mountain, and we shall never be satisfied with life in the valley.

To be successful, a climbing team must observe certain rules: their thoughts and actions must be carefully coordinated. Teamwork is an acquired skill which demands patience, practice and understanding. Similarly, husband and wife must strive to live in peace and harmony; each must be willing to bend for the sake of love in those matters which do not affect their relationship with God. How unimportant and forgettable are the things that create arguments and quarrels. Long after the cause of the incident is forgotten, the anger and sting of the fight remain, wounding and scarring the peace and love of the marriage.

Arguments are a senseless waste of precious energy. It is already a great exertion to have to fight the evil one and the spirit of the world. In our struggle to climb the mountain of salvation we cannot afford to expend any energy in fighting one another. It  does happen, however, that arguments arise. When this occurs always remember the great power contained in the simple words: “For give me.” Elder Macarius of Optina likewise said that there is great force in the joint prayer of husband and wife. Never forget this.

Lead your married life in such a manner that if one should suddenly die, the survivor would have no regrets for anything done or said, or for anything left undone or unsaid. Lead the best possible life together in order that there be peace between you at all times.

One of the most spiritual and meaningful sermons I ever heard was delivered in a small home church in Sacramento, California, by an elderly Russian priest, Father John Volkoff. Father John was hindered by his limited knowledge of English, but managed nevertheless to put his point across in an unforgettable manner. Delivered in his very earnest voice, his sermon could basically be summed up in the following words: “Mother and father, love each other. Children, love each other. Parents and children, love each other; and all love God above all.”

How simple and short, yet how powerful. Here are the surest and safest directions for climbing together the mountain of salvation. Keep this before you at all times, no matter what comes up that might attempt to disturb this love. For if you truly love one another, everything you do throughout your life will be devoted to helping each other and your children attain the summit, which is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Source: Orthodox America

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