Becoming Virtuous through Enduring Patience

Sermon on the Feast of St John of Kronstadt

Bishop Luke of Syracuse

At St John of Kronstadt Church in Utica, Bishop Luke delivered a sermon on patience as a key virtue in Christian life.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. 

Icon of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. By enduring all things in patience we may "possess our souls."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”1 An ancient Greek philoso­pher wrote, “Wis­dom comes only through suf­fer­ing.”2 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…3

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. 

This is all pos­si­ble by mak­ing slow but sure steps, recov­er­ing from the ill­ness cre­at­ed by the poi­son fed us by our con­tem­po­rary civ­i­liza­tion and our own self-indulgence. 

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.4


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