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Floaters, Sinkers and Paddlers

September 25, 2022

Floaters, Sinkers and Paddlers
As we navigate the winding river of life, I think we have but three choices: float, sink or paddle. In the muddy river I pilot, I have done all three. For many years of my life I choose to be a sinker. My hands and feet were bound with sin and my lungs were filled and choking with polluted worldly air. With the cleansing waters of my baptism and the aide of the never sleeping Holy Spirit, I became more of a floater. I traveled with the flow and occasionally into a rock wall. It is only when I began to paddle with the disciplines of the Holy Church that my direction continued to head out of the deep darkness. But I still on occasion smash into a rock or fallen tree limb hidden beneath the water’s surface trying to pull me under. We read in 2 Corinthians today: “In every way we are afflicted, but not straitened; we are at a loss, but not utterly at a loss; persecuted, but not abandoned; cast down, but not destroyed” [2 Cor. 4:8,9] Saint John Chrysostom instructs us: “These things are permitted by God for our training and means of testing.” (Hom. 9, P.G.61:498)
It is simply not enough to confess to being a Christian and continue floating along. Christ died for our sins. We must die to the world and our self-centered lustful passions and we will then reap the fruit of Christ’s sufferings. (2 Cor. 4:12) It simply is not enough to come to church. St. Philaret of Moscow writes: ”Every Christian should find for himself the imperative and incentive to become holy. If you live without struggle and without hope of becoming holy, then you are Christians only in name and not in essence. But without holiness, no one shall see the Lord, that is to say they will not attain eternal blessedness. It is a trustworthy saying that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (I Tim. 1:15) But we deceive ourselves if we think that we are saved while remaining sinners. Christ saves those sinners by giving them the means to become saints.” (St. Philaret of Moscow, Sermon of September 23, 1847)
 Some of hindrances I struggle with are from my own choices, and some are from my enemies and friends and of course the plentiful daily irritations of life. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity. Thank God for friends and our enemies because they help me paddle. In a famous prayer from his 'Prayers by the Lake,' St. Nikolai of Zicha (+1956) wrote:
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world. Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself they have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf. Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background. Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand. Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep. Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out. 
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me. So that my fleeing to Thee may have no return; so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger; so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.
Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends. It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.
A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. 
Our time here in the river is short, grab a paddle with both hands before it is too late!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-25-2022

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