What do I need? There is nothing on earth that I need, except that which is most essential. What do I need, what is most essential? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me. On earth, which is the place of my wanderings, my temporary being, there is nothing that is truly mine, everything belongs to God and is temporal, everything serves my needs temporarily. What do I need? I need true and active Christian love; I need a loving heart which takes compassion on its neighbors; I need joy over their prosperity and well-being, and sorrow over their sorrows and illnesses, their sins, failings, disorders, woes, poverty; I need warm and sincere compassion for all the circumstances of their lives, joy for those who are joyous and tears for those who are in tears. Enough of selfishness, egoism, living only for oneself and acquiring everything only for oneself: riches, pleasures, the glory of this world; enough of spiritual dying instead of living, grieving instead of rejoicing, and carrying within oneself the poison of selfishness, for selfishness is a poison that is continuously poured into our hearts by Satan. O, let me cry out with King David: Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart. Grant me, O Lord, true life, dispel the darkness of my passions, disperse their power with Thy strength, for with Thee all things are possible!
is like living in another world, not a particular ethnic world but rather a world that intersects with what we commonly understand as the “world” and yet at its core is very different and directed towards wholly different ends. I’m not sure that a person could understand Orthodoxy in its best sense and not be a little bit, or sometimes a lot, estranged from the everyday world. You are part of a tribe that ultimately belongs elsewhere and your travels have such a remarkably different destination.
To be Orthodox is to always be ill at ease, in the best sense of that phrase, with what’s around you. As you grow in your faith you begin to see the fallacies, the errors in logic, the terrible consequences of live lived without God. By seeing them you become “peculiar” as St. Paul would like to say it. How you process information. How you see and envision the world. How you actually live in the world. All these things begin to happen on different terms and those terms make you irregular in the usual course of things.
To be Orthodox is to wake up from a bad dream, a night vision of a world broken by its mortalities and subject to the unnatural rules of sin. There is more. There is better. There is truth and reality and it’s not where your old dream told you it was but rather where your new vision leads you. It’s why people left civilization for the deserts. It’s why wealthy people gave their riches to the poor. It’s why you feel best when you’re closest to the Holy. You are being transformed from a citizen of earth to a citizen of heaven. New rules apply. Old patterns lose their charm. A new person is being built inside your existing body and one day you, body and soul, will realize its potential.
For now we have to be here. This is okay. There is beauty and truth and love and many good things, shadows of the perfect that cause us both to mourn for Eden past and to know, in part, what good lies ahead. Yet we, if we are true to our faith, will always be a little unsettled while we’re here, involved but not attached, alive but not totally belonging, present but not completely accounted for. There is a great freedom in this and life abundant as we grasp this truth.
How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendor in righteousness, truth in boldness, faith in confidence, continence in holiness: and all these things are submitted to our understanding. What, then, are the things which are being prepared for those who wait for Him? The Creator and Father of the ages, the All-holy One, Himself knows their greatness and beauty. Let us then strive to be found among the number of those that wait, that we may receive a share of the promised gifts.