Word Magazine January 1959 Page 6
A FRIENDLY LETTER TO A
CANDIDATE FOR THE
As written by the late Serbian Bishop
You are young, and as such are exposed to many worldly temptations. But be steadfast, and know that the Lord has chosen you “from the womb of thy mother” and dedicated you to His service.
What are the chief temptations of our time, which may disturb your mind?
1. Lucrativeness. Some of your high school colleagues will have a lucrative position, either as the high state officials or prosperous businessmen, journalists or army generals, with a big income or salaries. Your salary, however, never shall be more than modest, perhaps less than that of a great number of your parishioners. But think, who of them can forgive sins in the name of God, who but you alone? And when those wealthy ones lay on death beds, what then? Both are mutually despising each other: the man and his wealth; the dying man despising his unnecessary wealth, and his wealth, as it were, despising its owner. Cynical and helpless to each other. In this agonical hour none of your colleagues of lucrative and world famous position will ask any banker or diplomat to help him but you. Seeing that everything has left him and that he is leaving everything, like a drowning man looking for a rope, he looks only to you to save his soul. Now, compare all the temporal lucrativeness and world glory with the God given authority to forgive sins and save the souls for the life eternal, the authority which God delegated only to you. Therefore, be superior to this temptation of lucrativeness.
2. Fear for tomorrow. But you have a wife – matushka – (Khourie, Ed.) and children. What about their sustenance, education, insurance; the world is merciless? Well listen what the seer says: “I have been young and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Ps. 37, 25). And you know what your Lord said (MT. 6, 31). What salary did Jesus have? And what insurance his apostles? The history of the Church for nineteen hundred years testifies that never a Christ’s priest died of hunger nor his children begging for bread (of course, excepting the time of persecution and martyrdom, where not only priests but all kind of Christian people were tortured for Christ’s sake). And I can assure you from my long experience, that I saw several millionaires broken and begging their friends for bread and shelter, but never a priest. God is protecting His faithful servants. Don’t worry about means and insurances.
3. Insignificance. But the Orthodox Church nowadays is playing an insignificant part in the world’s drama and in Christendom. Who told you that? Don’t be ashamed of the chains in which are now held nearly 200,000,000 of your brethren for Christ’s sake, nor of their poverty, their suffocated silence and their apostolic sufferings (Read II COR. 6, 3-10). Look, our Orthodox Church is apostolic not only in doctrine but in suffering too. The Orthodox people are highly honored “not only to believe Him (Christ) but also to suffer for His sake” (PHILIP 1, 29). Flee the inferiority complex, beholding how St. Paul proudly and jubilantly speaks of the persecution of the church under Emperor Nero (a suicide), and compare it with the present persecution of your Orthodox Church. The persecuted Church is the true Church, “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every one whom He receiveth” (HEB. 12, 6). The Lord rejoices in a Church which in peace-time is making for a civilization in His glory, but He rejoices much more in a Church suffering for Him. Remember this and think of this. And think also of the world-resonant effect of the suffering of the Church of your forefathers. The erstwhile empty churches in America and elsewhere are now filled to capacity. There is a revival of religion all over the world because of your suffering church at home. When the free people in peace and abundance are not satisfied with Christ, then the Lord God shows to them how it is without Christ. Confession, horrors, crimes, darkness and hell. The world never believes before it sees. Therefore once again the Son of man has been lifted up as Moses lifted up the healing serpent in the wilderness. And this time, as always before, when He is lifted up, He is drawing all men unto Him (John 3, 14; 12, 32). Don’t you see how nations are being drawn unto Him by looking at Him on the cross in Russia, Serbia and other Orthodox countries, and how they are being healed from atheism and antichristianism? The suffering of an innocent person arouses always in human hearts a great sympathy. How much more the suffering of the innocent Son of God in the body of His Church! Therefore, rejoice, for the whole world is becoming better on account of your suffering Church. Suffering at home, she is now the greatest missionary of Christ abroad.