This coming Thursday (Dec. 20 / Jan. 2) marks the “winter feast” of St John of Kronstadt and the day of his blessed repose. In honor of this great wonderworker of the Russian Church, we offer below a homily delivered earlier this year on the parish feastday of the first church dedicated in his honor, St John of Kronstadt Russian Orthodox Church in Utica, NY. Bishop Luke of Syracuse made his first archpastoral visit to the parish on Oct. 21/ Nov. 3, 2019 and exhorted the faithful with these words on the virtue of patience through which we may attain salvation.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For many, the struggle of St John of Kronstadt seems unattainable. He appears in his life as something supernatural, beyond our reach for emulation. However, in his published diary and especially in the many volumes of self-reflections left unpublished, we see something different – a deeply human and familiar struggle with passions and desires, a striving to obtain the virtues necessary for inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.
One of the most common damaging vices and weaknesses of contemporary man is a lack of patience ... We are too quick to recoil from anything unpleasant.
One contemporary secular author has written that we live in a time that is “After Virtue”; that is, we, and especially children growing up today, are no longer encouraged to develop virtues, to be virtuous. As Orthodox Christians, especially we who venerate St John as our heavenly patron, we cannot ignore this essential spiritual struggle. St Nicholas Cabasilas writes that when we die the angels will examine our souls to determine how much it resembles Christ and the virtues He commands in the Gospel that we obtain in our life.
Are we striving to be humble, meek, long-suffering, chaste, kind to each other? One of the most common, damaging vices and weaknesses of contemporary man is a lack of patience. Any feeling of discomfort, any labor which requires discipline, self-denial, or self-control is avoided. We are too quick to react to anything unpleasant. This is the reason for so many divorces; addictions of all kinds; instability in work, schooling, and friendships; even the inability to say morning and evening prayers or to read serious literature, spiritual or secular. This all requires holy patience but we are not interested in cultivating it.
One desert father wrote, “Give blood and receive the Spirit”1Abba Longinus, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers An ancient Greek philosopher wrote, “Wisdom comes only through suffering.”2 Greek dramatist Aeschylus in Agamemnon Alas! We are too lazy, too impatient, too busy to suffer the labor needed to complete our prayers or to attend church services. To live with another person’s weaknesses, even our own, requires patience so instead of strengthening our relationships in love and strengthening the powers of our souls, we escape into every imaginable pleasure or distraction the internet and the entertainment industry offers us.
St John and our Holy Orthodox Church present us with an answer to such a wasteful and spiritually destructive lifestyle. It is clear from his writings that being a good Christian and saving our soul is difficult labor. No one is demanding from us superhuman feats of asceticism. If we claim to love Christ, His Church, the person we live with or anyone we have a relationship with we can use the words of St Paul in his sermon to the Corinthians on true love as a litmus test to check our progress, our growth. The sermon begins, Love is patient…31 Cor. 13:1–4
We were created for true pleasure, satisfaction, and that which is lawful, blessed, and stable.
Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory was known for not reacting quickly and avoiding hasty decisions. He would often repeating, “Посмотрим” (Rus., “Let’s see”). We can learn here the benefits of slowness, of simply waiting a bit before saying an unkind word, falling into road rage, reaching for a cigarette, a drink, or sensual pleasure; escaping into social media or the latest television series or sports event.
We were created for true pleasure, satisfaction, and that which is lawful, blessed, and stable. However, to obtain this we need to struggle, slow down, and simply wait – not run away from what is truly good for us.
The power and means to achieve this is found in the Body of Christ, the Church, and especially through frequent Communion. If we take one step towards God He will take two steps towards us. Above all be patient, without which, as Christ warns us in His Gospel, we could lose our souls.4cf. Lk. 21:19: In your patience possess ye your souls.
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