Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts for the New Year - A Time for Renewal

The first day of the New Year is a traditional time we evaluate our past and set new goals for the coming year. Often we couch these as “resolutions.” We commit to losing weight, exercising more, improving our business and so forth. We might even commit ourselves to reading the Scriptures every day or making a commitment to daily prayer or regularly attending church and participating the the fasts and sacraments regularly. These efforts to seek to better our life physically and spiritually are important. Yet there are only a few such resolutions that last more than a few weeks.

Why is this? Simply because we don't set out to make a habit out of what we commit to, making them part of our normal life routine. We are so influenced by our culture that we expect instant results. We are impatient, too used to comfort, and quickly tire of things that require discipline and hard work. But if we truly seek to be an Orthodox Christian we must do both of these. This is what the Orthodox way of life is all about. Our spiritual growth does not come without effort and discipline. This is how the apostle Peter puts it: Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Being an Orthodox Christian is about a way of life. We must seek to live in a way that we become the “aroma of Christ” to our surroundings (2 Cor 2:15). This means that we must develop a presence that influences others by our way of living and acting.

This is a good time to review the following ten principles of an Orthodox Way of life and reflect on our own life style. asking what changes do I need to make to improve my “aroma.”
1. Praying Daily: Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.
2. Worshiping and Participating in Sacraments: Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.
3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle of the Church: Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
4. Using the Jesus Prayer: Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.
5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life: Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.
6. Being Watchful: Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.
7. Taming the Passions: Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.. Putting Others First: Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.
9. Spiritual Fellowship: Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.:
10. Reading the Scriptures and Holy Fathers: Be inspired by the lessons of the Holy Scriptures, the wisdom of the Holy Fathers and the lives of the Saints of the Church.
The starting point is aways prayer coupled with regular participation in the Divine Liturgy and regular preparation and partaking of Holy Communion. Fasting and the practice of the Jesus prayer can help build the necessary discipline and a attitude of repentance where we are constantly asking for God’s mercy and help. We have prepared a 32 page booklet on the ten points listed above that is available free of charge in our bookstore. (Or by emailing Deacon Charles at with your name and address so he can mail you one free of charge.)

If you seek spiritual enrichment in the coming year, then don't let yourself fall into a dull slumber of inattention to what really matters. Engage yourself in your spiritual development and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside out. Don’t seek instant results from God like he was an ATM machine. Seek and thirst after him. Don’t fret about how distant He seems. Commit yourself to live the life He has provided for you through His Church. The Church is given to us for our benefit. It outlines for us how we can become self-disciplined and gain His help to transform our lives so that we truly live in Him and He in us as the Scripture says.

May God enlighten you and bring you many Blessings in the Coming New Year.

Deacon Haralambos (Charles) Joiner
Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Greenville, SC