According to tradition, we welcome the new year with the morning prayer service and Holy Communion. There is a deep meaning in both. We thank God for the past year and ask Him for His help in keeping our souls and minds free from sin.
Sometimes, even a close family cannot find understanding. As everyone is sticking to their own perspectives, this often gives rise to a lot of disputes. Sometimes, a person takes offence at you, and you cannot realise why this happened: "But I have not said or done anything that was offensive or bad!" Sometimes, people come to me and exclaim: "You told me this and this!" But I know that I simply do not use these words in my speech. How should I respond? Should I humble myself and accept the charge, or declare proudly: "I never said this!" My reply will be: "If you have heard this, this must have been so. Please forgive me, that was my fault." We should always ask for forgiveness. When I approach someone and begin to criticise him, he will respond, and a dispute will start. But if someone says instead: "Thank you, father, for being honest about who I am. In fact, I am worse thank you thought," there will not be any conflict. God gives that person His Grace and teaches me an important lesson. One and the same situation may end in a dispute or may turn out to be a healing experience for one's soul.
We need love and we need God to make sense of our life circumstances. We should have peace in our hearts. We should learn not to make hasty and rash decisions and give up the habit of pushing our rights... For what sort of rights do we have in the first place? All we have is duties. Let us learn to say "O Lord, glory to You!" in every situation. "O, Lord! Glory to You!" Did I lose my job? "Glory to You, O Lord! It was not a summary dismissal for some wrongdoing. Am I ill? Others have more serious conditions and stay bedridden for years. With this kind of attitude and good intentions, we will not be crushed by any adversity." Any situation can be resolved by turning to God.
What if we could all start our day with these words: "Glory to You, O Lord for letting us see the light!" A day that began like that would certainly be very different. And what if we added to this some prayers, remembering our dead and asking for the health of our loved ones... Can you imagine how much power and spiritual energy that could give us for the rest of the day? Enough to redress any of our errors or missteps that may happen. People nowadays find it very difficult to stand before God and to give thanks to God. Instead, we complain that our plans are messed up and our expectations are not met. Why do we ever expect that?
Today's Scripture readings tell us how Jesus healed a crippled woman on a Sabbath and how this was received by the self-righteous leaders of the synagogue, who professed to know the truth, which they wanted everyone to follow. Even now, you may encounter this kind of people when you go to Church. These days, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to do in my young days. Back then, there was a handful of people who were devout Christians and regular churchgoers at a time when few people were attending church services. However, they were often a very zealous lot: if a woman came to the church in trousers or with her hair uncovered, they would be among the first to rebuke her, although the fact that she came to church was very good news and reason for rejoicing. So that woman may not come to church again. Admittedly, their zeal was not based on knowledge. I am not blaming them. I always liked these old people. Some of them are no longer with us. When I came to church, they did not scold me since I had long hair and a long beard and was wearing sandals on my feet. They were very comfortable with the way I looked. Some of them even passed the hat around to put some money together for a pair of boots. But when I came with a baby in my arms, they were somewhat disappointed. Perhaps they had been thinking that I was a monk. This is what things were like back then. Today, they are very different. In essence, however, they are still the same: we come to church to meet God, to struggle for the good of our spirits; we come to participate in the prayer services and not to evaluate and judge the people around us. This is not our job since God will be our judge.
There are many conflicts nowadays among the sisters of our sisterhood. You see, these are unnecessary conflicts because they come from pride. People are too self-confident. They do not care to choose their words carefully and anticipate how they might be perceived. So I will be dealing with one conflict today and another tomorrow. They should not have happened in the first place and would not have happened if people had realised that they were in the service of God and if their thinking had been less shallow and more sophisticated. We cannot afford to take a shallow attitude to our lives. As Father Sophronius (Sakharov) used to say, we should ask of the Great God the greatest things - a life eternal, or salvation of our eternal souls. What are some worldly and finite things such as a pay rise or a new flat compared to that? My wish is to have the Holy Spirit reside in me so I can love all people and see God's beauty. I wish to learn how to understand God and how to live with God. All these things are of ultimate importance for all of us. Acquire a peaceful spirit, and then thousands around you will be saved.
Pedagogy teaches us about the education and formation of children. But how does God educate and form our characters? With love. "Accept my body and my blood, and you will become a saint!” "No, I am not ready yet. This is too scary!" "Just do it! I love you, and I want you to feel how good it is to give, and not to take, to love and to forgive and to live with a peaceful spirit!" But we do not listen and begin to bargain instead. "How can I live comfortably if I keep giving without taking? I wish to take more, and give less..." This kind of bargaining takes a great part of our lifetimes, but there is no way for us to outsmart God. We must humble ourselves and obey His will. Glory to God for all things, for our joys and our sorrows alike.
Let me offer you, brothers and sisters, my warm and sincere greetings this Sunday and wish you a lot of energy and spiritual empowerment. I wish that you bring to your families the joy and light of this prayer service so that you can say to your loved ones as you enter your door: "I love you. I have missed you so much!" I wish that you learn to direct yourselves, your speech and your thoughts towards God so that they remain constructive, not destructive. This is a difficult art to master, but the future of our world and planet depends on it. This is because the end of this world is the time when love will end when people will be hating and tormenting one another and life will no longer have any meaning. Right now, let us all embrace God's love in our hearts and let it grow, and let us share this love generously with our friends and family.
O, Lord! Glory to You! O, Lord! Glory to You! O, Lord! Glory to You!
Apostle Paul gives an apt description of the inner struggle that many of us will have experienced: "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do I do". These words are very true, but in reality, our dilemma lies even deeper.
There is so little and so much that is expected of us: to meet with patience and humility the things and people we may not fully like. By leading their lives in prayer, fasting and hard work, the great saints attained the glory of God.