Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Greatest Generation is Slipping Away – Our Response

Yesterday I had the honor to visit and pray with an 89 year old World War II veteran in Lansing. She fought against Nazi Germany on the Soviet side. Her name is Yelena, she is an Orthodox Christian, and she is dying. Like the rest of this generation, for whom heroism was not something remarkable but something obvious and unquestionable, she did not assume that someone else would do what needed to be done. She did what needed to be done. This is true of those who fought on the American side and the Soviet side as well – heroism was not rare – it was the order of the day. Please pray for the handmaiden of God Yelena. She has lived a good, long life. But that life is ending. It is our responsibility to pray for those who are dying and those who have died. In the few days she has left on this earth let us be sure to fulfill this Christian obligation for her.

While we are praying for Yelena there is something else we should pray about too, and that is peace on this earth. We have been given this place by the merciful Lord so that we can work out our salvation here. Peace helps to facilitate the working out of that salvation. Conflict makes working out our salvation more difficult. And this is why we pray for peace at each Divine Service – so that we can better work out our salvation. It seems to me that we sometimes are quite good at critiquing the media, the government, and everything else that we have very little control over and which is external to us. But we seem to forget that prayer is something very powerful, and something that we, as Orthodox Christians, are not only supposed to do, but something we WANT to do. Something that is HELPFUL both for ourselves and for those for whom we pray. Prayer is powerful - but we often forget to invoke God's help in our daily struggle. We forget about the power of prayer...

We live in a free country where we can critique politicians, the media, and just about anyone and anything else. That is our right as citizens of this republic. But as Orthodox Christians we have to ask
ourselves a more important question: is this helpful for our salvation? Especially if we engage in this immoderately? Just because we CAN do this, SHOULD we? St. Seraphim of Sarov said that at the last judgment there will be few who will repent for having spoken too little. Although few of us are likely to be in that camp, perhaps this is something we should strive for? Less talk and more prayer? That is not to say we should not speak out against evil. Of course we should. And I am hardly saying here that we are not allowed to critique our politicians and/or political institutions (including the media). Of course we are. I am just asking the question: is this continual critique helpful for our salvation? Or would it be better to critique less and pray more? Are we being distracted by the craziness of the world to such an extent that we are letting our Christian duties slip? I think this is a good and frankly essential question to consider – and I hope you will spend some time doing that over the upcoming long holiday weekend. And praying for Yelena. May God help her leave this life peacefully and find a place in His Heavenly Kingdom!

Fr. Gregory