Orthodox America


  Christ In Our Lives


Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

 

Fr. Dimitri DudkoFather Dimitry, living In the midst of the world not only in cares, but in daily persecutions – has a very practical approach to the problem of lay people trying to survive spiritually in the midst of hectic circumstances. The following is an abridged translation of one of his Sunday sermons on the subject of resurrection.

 

Sunday . the day of Resurrection--this is not just a day with a particular name: it is a special day,. a day that reminds us that we must attain our own resurrection from the dead.

Of course, it is our herd Jesus Christ Who raises us from the dead; but we must not remain indifferent. Without us, without our consent, without our will, the Lord wil1 not resurrect us. We, being created in His image and likeness and endowed with a free will, must consciously, one might say creatively, take part in our resurrection from the dead.

ln order to take part creatively one must be aware of this creativity of ours. God is the Creator, and man is also a creator. Atheists say that Christianity diminishes the creative principle in man, but let them hear this: Christianity develops the creative principle in man. Man differs from God in that God creates out of nothing; He makes everything out of nothing, and this man cannot do. Man creates from the material given to him by God. The image and likeness in man point precisely to the creative principle. To become like unto God does not mean to become outwardly like God, for we do not see this external image: rather, it is to develop in oneself spiritual qualities. Be ye perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect. The Church also expresses it in another way: God became man so that man might become a god. Atheists distort this idea and say that man himself is God and that there is neither God. Man is indeed a god, but only when God exists.

See to what heights God raises man!

But let us descend from such dizzying heights and take a look at ourselves. Who in fact are we?

Meanwhile, we are sinners, weak people. mortals, a prey for worms... But this should not be. We must be resurrected!

I.et us look at what means the Church offers us today for our resurrection.

The first thing is that we have participated in the Sunday liturgy. We must take part consciously and creatively. What does this mean? Consciously--this means that our prayer must resurrect our soul. We must therefore pray attentively, with reverence, entering into each word of the service, let us at this moment check ourselves: how have we prayed? Did we concentrate, did we understand the service, or did we just listen to the singing, gazing about, indulging in scattered thoughts? Very likely this is the case. We were present here in our bodies, but our souls were elsewhere. Today we must make a note of this. Prayer--this is our resurrection from the dead. If today during prayer you were distracted, you did not resurrect your soul. But it must be resurrected. How much we must work upon our soul to raise it from the dead! If we count this day as lost, let us redeem It by promising right now that the next time, if the Lord grants us to attend service, we will concentrate, we will pray as we ought. It helps us to pray properly if we understand the Service.

Many of us do not understand the service; in our next talks we will try to explain the service. Meanwhile let us be aware that we must penetrate deeply with our spirit into the service, we must not become distracted. We understand at least something here. Everyone understands that he should pray not only for the physical health of himself and others, but also for spiritual health. For nowadays we are all spiritually ailing. We ourselves are sick as well as those around us. This is why there are so many vices among us, When “Lord, have mercy” is sung, let us understand by these words that the Lord must help us to be delivered from all our vices. Prayer is good when we come here already prepared, “Prepared in what way”? In such a way that we come not for entertainment, but to pray to God. Prayer is the breath of life, as St. John Chrysostom says.

We must prepare ourselves also by making our family a house church. If the family is a house church, then in coming to the church building, we actually come to church. There is a church al home and a church in the church building--this is the normal situation for a Christian.

Of course, here I might be called an idealist, a dreamer. What kind of a house church is possible nowadays, when it's a good thing for even one member of a family to be a believer, but mainly you have unbelievers, drunkards, hooligans...

All the same, there must be a house church! Let us who are in attendance here, make a note to ourselves, that the next time we come to church we will pray that each family be a house church. If there is at least one believer, a true believer, in a family, you can count that within a short time all will become believers.

I will tell of one case observed by a contemporary writer.

He spent time in prison and was then exiled. Among those exiled was one believer. a real one;- At first, of course, there were arguments, quarrels, each had his own opinion; and then the question arose – which is, of course, the chief question--is there life after death, is there resurrection from the dead? Everything else is dust, but what is important is--to rise from the dead. And within two years, thanks to the efforts of one believer, all the rest became believers.

I am speaking of a case which is not invented and which did not take place sometime in the past, but in our own time.

And so, if there is only one true believer in a family, one may say that, given time, all will become believers.

Again someone may object; they laugh at believers, they consider them stupid.

One is not a true believer if he fears mockery. A true believer must know the words of the Apostle: I can do alt things through Christ Who strengthens me. Only we must begin to act.

What do you do? You pray for enlightenment?--this is good, but it is not enough. Prayer means a lot, but how do you yourself act?

If you just pray and at the same time quarrel, you are jealous, you fight, you answer bad words with more bad words, you will not reform your family, but only corrupt it all the more. A Christian must approach everyone with love and kindness... Children should be raised in a Christian spirit; children especially will understand your Christian attitude. Perhaps you won't even have to say anything to them, but simply act towards them in a Christian way. And everything will be fine, especially for chi1dren , their soul, still relatively unspoiled, is sensitive to what is good.

Probably not everyone knows the prayer of the last Optina elders . The Optina eiders --this was a special grace bestowed upon Russia. Perhaps it is due to these Optina eiders that there are still people who believe here on our earth. An elder is not someone who is old in years, but one who is filled with spiritual wisdom.

Here, then, is the prayer which was left to us by the Optina elders. Let us listen carefully: each word comes from spiritual experience.  

O Lord, grant unto me that with Thy peace I may greet all that this day is to bring. Grant unto me grace to surrender myself completely to Thy holy will, in every hour of this day instruct and guide me in all things. Whatever tidings I may receive during this day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly in the firm belief that Thy holy will governs all. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When unforseen things occur, let me not forget that all is sent by Thee, Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to no one. Bestow on me, O Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day and to bear my part in its events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.

 A wonderful prayer. What courage, what understanding are implanted in our souls by such confidence and devotion to God’s will!

Thus we see that the means given , to us today for our resurrection is prayer. In addition we have each day readings from the Gospel and the Lives of Saints. These are also important...

Let us use these means, let us act in such a way that our souls might be resurrected from the dead; that we and those around us might seek the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. All else ends in nothing, but seeking the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and paying heed to the resurrection from the dead--this leads to everlasting joy.

 

Translated from: Nadezhda, #1, pp. 153--162. It is also published as one of the ten "Sunday Talks" published by the St. Job of Pochaev Brotherhood, Montreal; an English translation of the whole book is being prepared for publication in the near future.

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