At 01:51 PM 4/3/01 -0700, you wrote:
>I must admit that I have a very different view of isolation with regards to
>being far away from Orthodox Communities and Churches where one can
>regularly receive the Holy Gifts.
>I believe that in almost all cases, it comes to a matter of personal
>choice--not circumstances beyond our control.
>This is a free society and we can choose where we wish to live. And an
>Orthodox Christian should choose to live where there is an Orthodox Church
>of his chosen jurisdiction.
>An Orthodox Christian should always be willing to sacrifice for the Holy
>Faith. If that means relocating oneself to a different area, taking a less
>highly paying job, or being far from one's family or friends, then so be it.
I agree completely with Fr ALexander's sentiments.
Earlier I wrote about the "deceptive ease" of
isolation. Do not let it persist!
From: msg <fr.mark@s...>
Date: Sat Oct 21, 2000 3:54am
Subject: Isolation (was: Come on Lurkers!)
At 05:45 PM 10/20/00 -0700, you wrote:
>If I see something I wish to comment on that is
>positive, don't worry, Il'l jump right in.
>BTW, I belong to the Russian Church Abroad. It is 250
>miles to church, so I don't make it too often.
I see the possibility of a good thread in this.
Last July at the Orthodox Russian Pathfinders Camp
at Vladimirova (Lost Lake) Illinois, Fr Lubomir
from Houston and I spoke for a long while. He was
really quite intrigued at the lengths to which some
(esp converts) will go to attend Church.
We commuted 560 miles (round trip) for over seven
years, and upon being transfered to Cincinnati, 260
miles for another 2+ years. One year, while I was
learning many things for the future, we exceptionally
travelled to St Louis (House Springs) Mo, for more
than 40 liturgies. However most of the time we
travelled only every other week or every third week.
I can speak from experience of the real hardships, but
more importantly about the more critical imagined
impediments put before us by our enemies - our sinful
selves and demons alike. Travelling is a blessing of sorts
since if you overcome the spiritual hinderances, there is
a real victory. Nothing vanishes so quickly as the
uncertainty that travelling is worth it - vanishes
the moment you cross the threshold of the church.
I have a parishioner now who also commutes as far as we
once did. The temptations are similar. I have spoken with
others too. I think there is a shared experience in overcoming
the temptations to not go to church. It may seem more
intense for those who commute long distances, but I believe
that once identified (perhaps by commuting) one can see
the same temptations working on people who have only a
short walk or drive to church.
Only a few times in ten years did we go 4 weeks between
attending Liturgy. Such was sometimes necessary, but
usually it was out of weakness. I can't definitively say
that the cause of the weakness and temptations wasn't also
the cause of the dissipation that arises in those month
long absences, but by trial and error we concluded that
we could not remain on any effective path towards the
One Thing Needful if we didn't commute/commune at least
every three weeks. Others have confirmed this period.
I think that even the canons speak to this same period
in a way.
Not attending a parish Liturgy regularly is a doubly
risky business. Not only do you miss out on the Grace
of the Mysteries, but you avoid the necessity to interact
with others, and [you also] risk becoming self-willed, self-directed,
self-serving, etc... Mutual sacrifice within a family
or marriage may substitute for some of what is lost by not
being a part of a parish community, but it is in no way
sufficient. Christ promised He is present "wherever two or
three..." as may be gathered at a local Reader's service,
but who will argue that this is the same as partaking of the
Mysteries of Repentance and His Body and Blood on a regular
basis together with brethren?
I have a real problem with spiritual fathers who allow
individuals or families to persist in isolation from a
parish community life. I know of people who have gone
literally years without communing after joining a TOC
group. Few there are, even among monastics, who are
blessed to live in isolation from other brethren. E-mail
and phone calls don't substitute. Little "missions without
mysteries" can easily become havens for cultlike behaviour
or at least overly zealous stridency.
I often wonder if the short patience displayed on this
list isn't in part an artifact of the lack of practice in
suffering one another - a result of living in isolation
from fellow fallen orthodox strugglers.
My spiritual father required us to figure out how to move
closer to a church - at first - but when he saw that our
frequent travel was making us closer to Church and in fact
putting us in Church more frequently than some of those who
lived in the neighborhood (and that it was an ascesis which
was helpful), we were allowed to live where we were in
obedience to our circumstances until circumstances made it
impossible to ignore the impact of distance.
We were blessed: I had a cush university job with 7+ weeks
of vacation, plus holidays on top of that. Or maybe we
were victims: Think of all that might have been accomplished
if we had moved immediately into a parish environment and
not wasted resources for so many years.
I am not suggesting that anyone should be swayed by what we
did, or expect that it is even possible for others to travel
as we did (looking back, it now seems impossible) but God
provides. I think the more prudent cure for isolation is
to move immediately rather than to travel. But I have boldly
said for years and years, it must be one or the other - 1) move
or 2) travel so frequently that you are not isolated. Do not
remain in the deceptive ease of isolation, even if you must
remain far apart.
I just wanted to open the subject for discussion and offer
support and understanding to all those of you who are
vexed by isolation and the necessity to travel. If I can
encourage you as my spirtual father encouraged me to
eventually give up my will and move to where there is a
viable community, then, well... at least think about that,
or redouble yuor efforts to build a viable community where
you find yourself. Pray to St Xenia of Petersburg for help
in finding a parish home, to St Nicholas for safekeeping
while you travel, and to St John of San Francisco who
understands this wierd 20th century life.
priest Mark Gilstrap