December 27, 2019
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we gather together for the New Year, many of us are filled with optimism. If you count New Year’s Eve, there will be several weddings this year. We will have numerous baptisms. This is a time of growth and happiness as we draw near for these joyous occasions. In addition to this, we have seen a marked growth in our ministries, in our stewardship, and in our reputation near and far.
But I am not satisfied. I know, I know, your priest asks too much. But I really don’t. Christ set the bar for us and it is the duty of the priest to encourage the flock to meet it. To that end, I mean a sanctified life, both at the parish and at home. My goal has always been for your home to become your little Church and reflect your Christian life.
This can only be done through prayer and spiritual ascetism. We don’t get muscles unless we work out consistently, nor does our nous (the spiritual heart, the eye of the soul), grow unless it is watered with tears and fertilized with prayer.
Tears come from the realization of God’s love and are the truest tokens of understanding when they come down our face. These are not tears of guilt, self hatred, or feelings of worthlessness. They are tears of humility, knowing who and what we are in relation to our God, recognizing our sins and lack of true love, and yet Jesus Christ loves us still! This love wounds us as St. Porphyrios writes in his work, Wounded by Love.
Prayer is done in three ways, and all are necessary. 1st) we must pray together in Church. An organ separated from the main body cannot last long. We are part of the Body of Christ and we must come together. After all “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). We cannot truly experience Christ outside of this, and we encounter Him fully in the Eucharist. 2nd) We pray private prayers that our found in Prayer Books and services that we do by ourselves. 3rd) We pray in our hearts our personal Prayers.
The latter two I wish to address. We have to make our homes conducive to prayer. We must not have lewd images sharing the same walls as the blessed Saints. For that matter, we must adorn our walls with Icons. This is not for artistic pleasure, but to share our home with the Saints as Icons are windows into Paradise.
A few years ago there was a movie that enjoyed some commercial success called “War Room,” which told the story of an evangelical woman whose marriage was struggling. An older woman gave her the advice of going into a private place, a “war room” to do battle/pray. To be completely honest, I did not see the movie, but the premise speaks to us as Orthodox because the place where we pray needs to be “separate.” That is what the word “holy” means. That which is different from this earth. Every home should have a “war room,” or, as we call it, a prayer corner, a Προσκυνητάριον (proskinitarion). It is here that we gather as a family every night and pray together.
Let us begin this New Year on a good start! Let us bless our homes with prayers! Let us call the priest and have him come to sanctify our home. Let us ask him to bring the waters of Theophany to our houses/business so that the blessings of the Lord might shower us.
As your priest, I earnestly want the best things for you and your family. Let us continue to grow as a Church Family and rise from Glory to Glory.
I pray the Best Day of 2019 will be your Worst Day of 2020.
I remain your servant in Christ, Fr. Dimitri Tobias, Proistamenos