Spiritual view of the lockdown

Abbot’s Message

Father Prodromos, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Saint John

We are living in difficult times, people are growing despondent with the current world situation with its many uncertainties.

We have become very logical in our approach to difficulties, we have forgotten our Church history, what our ancestors have been through, we are all clinging to the hope of change; however, we ourselves are not willing to change. Our homes have become our prison, we have filled them with many material conveniences, yet have we made room for God?

Is our house a little church? Does it resemble a small chapel? Do we smell the scent of incense in our home? Do we adorn our house with Holy icons? Are our prayer books worn through and falling apart from constant use?

What has our house become? Is it a house and a home for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Have we welcomed Christ into our homes?

The reality is, slowly, slowly, we as Orthodox Christians have taken to this new world and all its “conveniences”. When we design our houses, do we take any thought to where we will worship our true God? In most cases, the emphasis is a beautiful kitchen and an area to entertain or to watch cinema. The home has become an extension of who we are, our personalities and our beliefs. We put so much emphasis into designing where we will eat or entertain, yet we have put little thought into where we will worship our Triune God. In many cases, when designing or setting up our homes, Christ is an after thought. Many times we place Christ in some cupboard or corner of our homes, He is tucked away out of sight, yet “convenient”. Our homes have been designed only to service the body and the mind, however unfortunately they are contrary to servicing the soul and our spiritual life.

Is our home conducive to prayer? In fact, is there any prayer in our home? To pray to God is to welcome Him into our lives, to experience Him and to have a relationship with Him.

Half of Australia has spent many months confined to their homes. For some, it has been an opportunity to increase their prayers for the world and to place all hope in their living God. For others, it has become very difficult because the external entertainment and all the material “conveniences” have not given anything to strengthen them. The home has become a prison because Christ, Who is all freedom and peace, has been left outside.

To be Christian isn’t a routine, a weekly Sunday service; to be a Christian is a way of life. It’s having Christ as our center. To have Christ in our hearts, to pray to Him many times a day to be reminded of Him on a continual basis. Christ is the center of our existence here, and He will continue to be in the next, eternal life.

There was a lady living in Thessaloniki who lived in an apartment complex. She used to visit St Paisios and be instructed when he would go to Souroti Monastery. She would gather the residents of the complex and they would pray the supplicatory canon to the Theotokos (paraklesis) every day, they would even take turns to hold different services in each other’s appartment. This way not only did they sanctify their homes, but they also sanctified the whole neighbourhood with their prayer.

We as Christians have forgotten how to pray, we have neglected to sanctify our homes with prayer, to invite Christ into our hearts and into our homes.

Do we own a prayer book or the book of hours (Horologion)? Praying is not only for priests and monks, praying is for ALL Christians. Many ask about the Jesus prayer; we buy a nice prayer rope and we try to squeeze a few rounds on the bus or walking home. However, as soon as we get home a world of distractions opens up to us: apart from the daily routine of essential cooking and cleaning, we are bombarded by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, computer games, movies, youtube etc. The day and the night pass and yet the name of Christ or a dialogue with Christ has passed us by. Our homes become worldly and material, our relationships with our spouse and children become disconnected and fall apart. The result? A spiritual tragedy.

Do we want to make our homes a little church? We should try to find a central location for the worship of Christ, to be proud to be Christians. If we begin to have Christ physically at the centre of our home, in time, spiritually He will become the centre of our heart.

Each day, try to do one or two services of the daily cycle of the church; this could be the morning prayers and vespers or paraklesis and small compline. Adorn your house with the Holy icons of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Panagia (Mary, the Mother of God), and the Saints. Incense your home, starting from your iconostasis (prayer stand) in your prayer room and through to all the house, censing icons and members of your family. Bring home from church Holy water and antidoro (blessed bread) and partake with your family on a regular basis (if you cannot attend church more regularly).

Have your house blessed at least once a year by your Priest, and if possible ask your priest to conduct a Holy unction service if you have anyone in your family who is ill.

These are just the basic things we can train to do as Orthodox Christians. Start with a little yet persistent daily program and build from there, make your home a little church and God will bless you, your family and the entire world.

“Acquire the Grace of God and thousands around you will be saved.” Saint Seraphim of Sarov.

Be certain that some members of your family may not understand or be inclined to participate as this hasn’t been a part of their life until now and they may find it strange at the beginning. Do not force them, however try to educate them with a few words and then lead them by example.

Once, there was a boy who used to live a very worldly life. He used to come home at all hours of the morning, when he would enter his home from a night out. As he approached his room, he would see his mother with her back turned to him, on her knees praying in front of her icons. This was the last image this boy had in his mind as he went to bed – it was worth more than any long winded conversation. This mother, in her silence, talking to God about her son and asking the Saints to protect him from his late night adventures made such an impression on this boy that later he decided to become a monk and dedicate his life to worship the true God whom his mother introduced to him through her example.

In making our home a little church it is also important that we participate in the Holy sacraments of the church, especially confession and Holy Communion, which heals and completes us in our faith. With God’s help we should  seek and find a spiritual Father, who will benefit us and guide us to build a little Christ-centered church at home.