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Monday, March 21, 2016

Cultivate Communion with the Saints

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a gem.
Flannery & I read this book last week.  It was great! 

On Facebook, a friend of mine had posted a video of Father Thomas Hopko's 55 maxims for Christian living.  I googled the podcast transcript and was just completely overwhelmed by the wisdom in this little list that an Orthodox priest (who died 1 year ago yesterday, May his memory be eternal.) had written.

Here is just a tiny snippet of his list of maxims:

4.  Say the Lord's Prayer several times a day.
5.  Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied.
7.  Eat good foods in moderation.
8.  Practice silence, inner and outer. Just sit for a few minutes everyday in total silence.
9.  Do acts of mercy in secret.
16.  Read good books, a little at a time.
17.  Cultivate communion with the saints.
18.  Be an ordinary person.  Try to be like others as much as you can.
19.  Be polite with everyone--first of all, the members of your own family.
20.  Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.

There is so much here!

But what struck me most was #17 - to cultivate communion with the saints.  I've talked about this before on this blog, about how helpful it is for me to "consider the saints" and learn about them, so that I can be encouraged in this life on earth, which can really be tough.  The saints that went before us faced the same problems we do, and worse.  Yet they managed to rise above them.  They weren't  superhuman.  They were just people like us.  

For example, Flannery and I read last week about Saint Patrick.  I didn't know that he was captured from Britain as a child and taken to Ireland as a slave.  After six years as a slave shepherd, he escaped and tried to get away on a ship.  The ship was full of hunting hounds, and the story goes that when Patrick tried to board the ship, the captain didn't want him there because he suspected he was an escaped slave.  But the hounds howled and barked each time Patrick stepped away from them and quieted when Patrick was near, so eventually the captain agreed to take him home.  And even though he made it home to his family, Patrick felt called to leave them to share the word of God with the people of Ireland (who had earlier enslaved him!).  He went back and started a church in a barn in Ireland.  And now he is Ireland's patron saint.  I mean, I may have a stressful life sometimes, but I've never had to go try to teach my former captors about love and forgiveness.

So today, as I look ahead at a week crammed with too many evaluation reports to write and too many meetings to hold and too many meals to plan and too many birthday presents to buy and too many appointments to keep, it helps to think that others have faced all this and more.  That others have fought the good fight and won, and are now cheering me on from above.  It might sound cheesy, but in the Orthodox faith, we do believe that the Saints are able to intercede for us and to help us in our worldly struggles, even now.  Sometimes when I'm having a tough day, I like to pray for Saint John the Wonderworker to pray for me, and it gives me strength.  I also often pray that my grandparents (and my husband's grandfathers) and my uncle pray for me & my family.  Many times, I have felt so comforted by the thought that they are interceding on our part.

Cultivate communion with the saints.  It's more than just "considering" the saints, I think.  And this week, I'm going to try to do just that.

What about you?  Do you feel connected to those who have gone before you on this journey?  How do you cultivate that communion?