I have had a rather difficult week and a half. It became even more difficult this last Friday. When looking back on my life, it is overwhelming what has brought me to the very difficult position I am now in. Over the last 15 years, when I had moments like this, only to a much lesser degree, it seemed that God would almost talk directly to me through where I happen to be in my Bible readings that day or, more often than not, He would talk to me through the Mass readings and Liturgy of the Hours, particularly the Second Reading in the Office of Readings. Given how the liturgical calendar works and how such readings would not have fallen on any other day of the year, and often not even on that particular day in other years, the consolation such readings gave me was greatly increased.Today the situation is quite different. I have difficulty reading, so I don't spend the minimum half hour, usually over an hour, everyday reading the Bible. I now usually find reading books too difficult to even attempt most days. (This seems so odd since I seem to have little problem writing.) Praying the Liturgy of the Hours was beginning to become too difficult for me, so it was easy for me to switch to only praying the canonical hours in Church. Thus, occasionally I can sing one of the canonical hours if I drive for around 45 minutes to get to Liturgy, as opposed to praying at least four, if not all six canonical hours. Although I was trying to figure out how to establish this in a couple of Roman Catholic parishes, I never got very far in my plans before I started to have difficulties that prevented me from planning further. Thus, the only times I've prayed the canonical hours in Church before following the Eastern tradition was when I was staying with religious communities. (The Carmelites, who are only a half hour drive away, always pray Mid-Morning Prayer before Daily Mass. This was very nice, even though I had to chant very quietly so as not to over power them, particularly since our translations were often different. I think they are using the U.K. version. If I had lived closer, I would have joined them for the other hours every day as well.)
Although my desire to live in a monastic environment is even stronger now than it ever has been over the last 15 years, my desire to care for my sick wife is so strong that it seems to defy human reasoning. It seems to have defied the reasoning of many other persons, and now that it seems to defy my own reasoning, I am completely unable to take any credit for it, so all of the credit can be given to God. If I did not have such a strong desires, which can only be by the grace of God, to continue what I am doing, I know very well where and what I would be doing right now. I don't even mind these two conflicting statements: "Come to the Skete and get some rest." "Come to the Skete. We've got a lot of work for you." In fact, I find them welcoming and attractive.
I woke up this morning exhausted after a very difficult night: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. With even the thought of books being too much, I went to where things seem most easiest for me now: Facebook. It was in my Facebook News Feed that God spoke more directly to me than he has ever spoken to me before. This is what He said to me:
Have you ever thought that everything that touches you touches Me as well? For that which touches you touches the apple of My eye.
You are dear in my eyes, precious, and I have loved you; therefore it is a particular pleasure for Me to educate you.
When temptations arise against you, and the enemy comes like a river, I want you to know—This was from Me.
Your weakness needs My strength, and your safety comes from giving Me the opportunity to fight for you. If you find yourself in difficult circumstances, among people who do not understand you, who do not take what you like into consideration, who alienate you—This was from Me.
I am God, Who arranges circumstances. It was no accident that you find yourself in the place where you are; this is the place I have appointed for you. Did you not ask that I teach you humility? Well, then, look: I have placed you in precisely that place, in that school, where this lesson is learned. Your surroundings and those who live with you are only fulfilling My will. If you find yourself in financial difficulty, if you find it hard to make ends meet—This was from Me.
For I have your material means at my disposal. I want you to call unto me, for you to be dependant upon Me. My reserves are inexhaustible. I want you to be confirmed in fidelity to Me and to My promises. May it not be said to you in your need: You did not believe in the Lord your God.
Are you in a night of suffering? Are you separated from your loved ones and those close to your heart? This was from Me.
I am the Man of suffering, Who has tasted affliction. I have allowed this so that you would turn to Me, so that in Me you would find eternal comfort. If you have been let down by your friend, to someone to whom you opened your heart—This was from Me.
I allowed this disappointment to touch you so that you would know that your best friend is the Lord. I want you to bring everything to Me and to speak to Me.
Has someone slandered you? Give this to me, and bring your soul closer to Me, your Refuge, to hide from the contradiction of the nations. I shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. If your plans have been destroyed, if you are downtrodden in soul and tired—This was from Me.
You made plans, and brought them to Me, so that I would bless them. But I want you to leave Me in charge of the circumstances of your life, and then responsibility for everything will be Mine, for this is too difficult for you; by yourself you can not manage them, for you are only an instrument, and not the actor. If unanticipated problems of life have visited you, and if despondency has seized your heart, then know—This was from Me.
For I want your heart and your soul to be always aflame before My eyes; to conquer faint-heartedness of the soul in My name. If you do not hear from your dear ones and friends for a long time, and in your faint-heartedness fall into despondency and grumbling, know—This was from Me.
By this anguish in your spirit, I test the strength of your faith in the surity of My promise and the strength of your boldness in prayer for these dear ones of yours. Was it not you who entrusted them to the Protection of My All-Pure Mother? Was it not you who once entrusted their care to My providential love? If serious illness, either temporary or incurable, has visited you, and has confined to your bed, then know—This was from Me.
For I want you to know Me even more deeply in you bodily infirmities, so that you would not grumble over this trial sent to you, that you would not try to penetrate My plans through different means for the salvation of peoples souls, but that you would uncomplainingly and submissively bow you neck under My goodness towards you. If you have dreamed of performing some special deed for Me, and instead haven fallen onto a bed of sickness and weakness—This was from Me.
Then you would have been immersed in your activities, and I would not have been able to attract your thoughts to Me, for I want to teach you My deepest thoughts and lessons, so that you would be in My service. I want to teach you to recognize that you are nothing. Some of My best co-workers are those who have been cut off from vital activity, that they would learn to wield the weapon of unceasing prayer.
Have you unexpectedly been called to occupy a difficult and responsible position? Go, place it on Me. I entrust these difficulties to you so that the Lord God would bless you for this in all your deeds, on all your paths, in everything that will done by your hands. On this day I put into your hands a vessel of holy oil. Use it generously, My children! Every difficulty that arises, every word that insults you, every obstacle to your work that could elicit in you a feeling of annoyance, every revelation of your weakness and inability, shall be anointed with this oil.
Remember that every obstacle is a Divine instruction. Every sting will be dulled when you learn to see Me in everything that touches you. Therefore place the word I have declared to you today in your heart: This was from Me. For this is not an empty matter for you—this is your life.
Translator’s note: Inasmuch as the above text was distributed for from hand-to-hand in samizdat form for several decades, printed versions include competing explanations of its authorship and origin. The most common attribution is to St Seraphim of Viritsa, who was said to have written it in 1937 to a certain bishop, his spiritual son, who was at the time in prison. It is almost entirely certain, however, that the author is in fact Metropolitan Manuel (Lemeshevsky) of Kuibyshev and Syzran (1884-1968). It is known that St Seraphim of Viritsa and Metropolitan Manuel were acquainted, and therefore it could be speculated that this meditation represents the latter’s record of the saint’s spiritual teaching.
Translated from the original Russian by Hierodeacon Samuel, Monastery of St Job of Pochaev, Munich, Germany, for the Orthodox Christian Information Center. Posted on 3/6/2008.
Every one of these points concerns the three battles I am presently fighting, in addition to my health difficulties. It has been difficult, but I'm beginning to learn from past experience that I shouldn't worry about actually doing any of the fighting. I may have to do a little bit, but someOne far more powerful than me has been doing everything else. That was rather obvious with the cancer, so I never even attempted to fight that battle. (I have another check up in a couple of day. I assume these tests will also show that I am healthier in this regard than the average person who has never had cancer. "Thank you, O my most benign protector, Doctor Subtilis; the love with which you assist those who have recourse to you is truly great...")
From what I have learned from other persons who have recovered, or are recovering, from what I am presently recovering from, I should begin to start feeling better around next Christmas. It will likely be another four years from now before I have recovered, but it sometimes takes more than nine years to recover. This is the most incredible education I could ever ask for. Although I've been asking for such an education since around the age of 13 years, I doubt I would have ever asked if I knew what it entailed.
How do you say "Deo grátias" in Greek or Church Slavonic?