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Re: [paradosis] Isolation

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  • Rev Mark Gilstrap
    ... I agree completely with Fr ALexander s sentiments. Earlier I wrote about the deceptive ease of isolation. Do not let it persist! From: msg
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3 2:14 PM
      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.

      In Christ,
      priest Mark Gilstrap
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