Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday... and reflections on what one is given in various seasons of life

A quiet day for the most part.
Since the time change + other things, we have had a hard time
getting to bed on time.  
Still dealing with some fatigue because of that.
I am ordering take out for dinner to help out with this.
A real blessing to be able to do this.
Construction has continued and was interesting to watch.
Am enjoying Mat. Constantina's book of stories.
Very readable but a lot to digest, as it were.
I really liked her analogy early on of how she had to learn
that the spiritual life is not like baking a cake;
that one does not merely put the ingredients in and voil√†, have a cake! 
I really appreciate and understand Mat Constantina's words on
not judging others, on doing as you know best to do and not
worrying about it and about how it is important to have a 
spiritual father instead of, to put it in my words, have a 
DYI approach to the spiritual life - 
Orthodoxy best lived is not like that - like Mat. Constantina's words
on the spiritual life being like baking a cake - 
but by having input from someone (i.e. a spiritual father or mother) who
can guide you in things.
There is something that is really hard to explain that I have learned 
since moving here:
about spiritual fathers.... I am still learning and trying to figure this out,
but I can tell you what I see at this juncture.
I used to think it was simple:
find a spiritual father, depend on him for everything pertaining the spiritual life
and be saved.  
Finis! Finished! 
In general this IS the best way... 
but there is something in this that must be understood.
It was this book
that helped me understand about this and to understand
what had just happened to me, 
when I was newly married and living in NJ.
I was given so many blessings in this time.
Including an early visit to a small monastery
and words that I still remember,
As I said earlier, I left everything when I married my Husband,
left Ottawa and moved to New Jersey.
This included a lot of my daily patterns and prayer life.
It was rather cataclysmic in a lot of ways.
I could not remember how I even prayed in a lot of ways,
from my life in Ottawa and my new life as a wife.
Added to this, God allowed that I lost my main prayer book
the day that we fly from our honeymoon to our new home together.
Favourite much used prayer book, with bookmarks from my life there,
it was simply gone and I had no way to replace it,
it was out of stock everywhere online, at the time.
(I've since gotten 2 copies of it!).
So the small prayer rule I had, the very book I used was gone.
My Husband had a very different prayer rule and 
I struggled to adopt this and adapt to it.
Even now this has not been fully successful, to be honest.
Anyway, back to what I was trying to say....
I also left my spiritual father, I 
I was really leaving him so that I could get married
to my beloved Husband.
And I will assure you that my spiritual father told me I had 
to leave him, that while some can keep their spiritual father
when they move, that it is not what I was to do.
And my dear beloved spiritual father in Ottawa was 
absolutely right.
He was right that he would not be able to advise me
because he would not know my life here.
He was right because of my new life here is so different that
my old life and ways simply do not fit here.
I can tell you that I do have a new spiritual father and that I am
very blessed.  He's wise, gentle, traditional and very experienced.
But it is not the same and is not as much like what I used to think
of in terms of having a spiritual father.
I am not able to depend on him like I did the one I had in Ottawa.
I confess as the church subscribes and do not have
weekly discussions or talks like I did in Ottawa, not even 5 minutes of such.
But I can tell you that whatever God gives you is *enough*.
It is here that Fr John Krestiankin's letters helped so much.
Basically what I learned is of his advice to many 
that there are simply not a lot (I think he would say even not any) elders
like there were in the days past --
not that there are not living Saints - I know someone who knew 
Fr John Krestiankin himself and said to me recently:
"I think he will be a Saint one day"
-- but what Fr. John was saying is that it is very important to read
Orthodox books and also to be more independent. 
(Of course we are not talking here about independent as in
do what you want, feel free to sin, not at all! many of his letters are
very firm to people, saying even that they have not begun 
to live as a Christian!)
From this I had to learn to trust God in new ways.
And understand that what I was given in Ottawa was a real gift.
That it was for a season.  That it was for my healing.
I can say without a doubt that my Ottawa spiritual father helped me
grow up and be ready to marry my Husband.
I also understand now that not everyone is given
a spiritual father that they 'obey in everything'... and that God 
gives something different to everyone.
I think that this is one of the biggest things I can say right now:
God gives something different to everyone
and that we are saved together but by means that are often ordered by God
for each person according to what they need and are 
able to receive at the given time.
Now, this said, may I be sure to say that this does not 
mean, because one does not have a spiritual father in the way that,
if there were enough of them would be what everyone should have,
that one is exempt from the basics of the spiritual life for an 
Orthodox Christian.
We all need to go to the sacraments of Holy Confession and 
receive Holy Communion.
You do not need a holy elder to have these two things
and in God's mercy He can save us through His means
through the Church.
And I think it is a is good to read books, be aware,
pray that God will lead us... it is good to go to Orthodox Monasteries when 
we can go, it is good to have Lent, to pray and fast as we are able.
The older I get the harder I realize life is. How easy it was when
I was younger to not understand other people's struggles and that
for some just making it to church is a huge victory. 
That God will help us as small and struggling that we are.
That He loves us.  That there is HOPE even 
when we are not at all where we wish we were spiritually or
do not have the resources or life we wish we had.
We can trust that God is still with us, in everything and that even 
when we struggle, like I did recently, with our lives as they are 
at present, that God can use it all and that He is here to pour out 
His mercy.... 
And trust that what God gives us is *enough* and that He will make
way for what is next in His time...
Anyway, there's things I have been pondering for a while!
Thanks again everyone for your encouragement and prayers.
I've received news about my Dad, he has a small broken bone in his leg,
a clean break and basically if you were to break a bone this is how you would want to 
do so!  Please though pray for him as it is hard to be laid up for the time
it will take to heal, with need for the leg to be elevated and such.
Thanks again for your prayers!
I am always inspired by my parents by how they take each day
and seek to trust God in everything! 


Juliana said...

A nice reflection on the state of things. I think one thing that has been difficult for me living where we do, so far away from the parish as we are, is the lack of steady pastoral guidance. I have to take confession when I can get it (which isn't nearly often enough!) nor do I get to as many services as would be good for me. I miss the regular confession and guidance of my younger years, when I could go to services on Saturday nights and stick around for a leisurely confession afterward, or meet up with the priest in the middle of the week if something was going on. What a luxury! I realize that a lot of that is the season of my life, but Lord, it does seem never-ending!

It was hard for me to adapt to Fr's prayer rule at the beginning as well--his was much more extensive than mine when we met, and it was difficult to find a happy medium. It is an ongoing process, especially with the kids in the mix now. I am also different now, and in a different place spiritually, so there is that. I realize as I get older how much we change as we age. I used to think people were kind of static throughout their lives, because the older people in my life always seemed that way (not in a bad way, just that they didn't seem to be having personal upheavals or going off in all different directions all the time), but I think that was a misimpression on my part. How much to learn still!

I'm glad to hear your Dad didn't have a serious break, but sorry that he has a broken bone! What a pain. I pray it will heal quickly and he'll be back on his feet soon.

Helensmum said...

Hello Elizabeth,so interesting and so much I can relate to here.Reconciliation and communion,yes cornerstones of the faith life.
I'm not looking forward to bathroom renovations tomorrow,just the end result.
I am relieved your Father has had a "good" break;I did so with my little finger but oh,the inconvenience,left hand break for a left handed person.
Your spirit sounds stronger,

Warm wishes,
Ann Marie

Rosemary said...

Prayers for your father!

I haven't been commenting much lately but I have been reading your blog and thinking of/praying for you. Your thoughts on spiritual fathers really hit home for me. At a time in my life when I really, really needed him I had a regular confessor who saw my heart clearly and helped me a great deal. He is an incredibly holy priest. I wanted him to become my regular spiritual director, but because of health issues etc he couldn't.

Now I still feel the need for a spiritual director, but I trust that if and when God wants me to have one he will bring one into my life ... in the meantime I find that God has placed many books that I needed to read in my hands exactly when I needed them. And in the meantime the sacrament of confession and the Eucharist provide all the grace I need, even when grace is working in ways that I cannot see.

elizabeth said...

Ann Marie, Hi! thanks! renovations are very time and energy consuming, from what I understand! All the best with that! :) I often find that just writing here about struggles (well ones that are blog worthy!) really helps me get to the other side of it, so yes, a bit more centred here at present, thanks!

elizabeth said...


Yes, sounds like we have very similar paths in this. It's hard but we have to trust God that HE will provide what we need when we need it; I think also for me, there are seasons and one must realize also what one can handle; one's spiritual father is not always the one that another needs, etc. It's so *wonderful* how God puts books in our life to help us!!! I agree also about the sacraments and that it is often invisible work that God is doing in us...

elizabeth said...

Rosemary, oh! forgot to say *thank you so much* for your prayers!!!!

karen said...

the older I get the more reflective I become and think more thoughts some of them are deep. I don't remember thinking this much when I was 20. My faith continues to evolve and I feel blessed knowing that I have it and it is all thanks to my mother who made it her number one job.

elizabeth said...

Karen, what a blessing of a Mother you had! yes, we grow a lot as we age don't we!