My Conversion To Orthodoxy

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Fr. Jonathan Hemmings (Orthodox Christian Parish of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross at Lancaster) talks about his conversion to Orthodoxy, his meeting Metropolitan Anthony of Sourouzh, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, and other Living Signposts God of the Faith, and his last book, Fountains in the Desert.

 

For a more detailed testimony of Fr. Jonathan’s Conversion go to Finding the Faith of Joseph of Arimathea

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Living Waters

 

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Isaiah 43:19

19 Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

 

John 4:10

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

 

John 7:38

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

 

John 19:34

34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

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Listen!

 

A person’s response to God’s offer of salvation is a matter of engaging the will, faith and action.

Without the will there is no movement,

Without faith there is no direction,

Without action there is no reward.

 

To discover Living Water requires us knowing:

Whose open Hand provides this blessing and treasure

What is it’s measure

and

Where to find it flowing?

 

We must start by digging for water in the caverns of the heart.

If the ground is rocky, we must dig in silence with the sharp adze of patience.

 

 

Listen carefully!

Do your hear something?

 

If our ground is hard, we must soften it with mercy and repentance:

For the soil of pride can only be removed through meek dependence

On God.

 

Listen!

Do you hear the drip of water on stone?

 

We must not simply remove the weeds which are the fruits of the passions,

we must excavate each day with persistence

since familiar habits possess a stubborn resistance;

whereas the humus of humility is the place to locate compassion.

 

In this way, we may even lead in order to serve.

Leading the way to build a viaduct for the King of Glory

Order our service to others by constructing a conduit for Christ.

 

Dig therefore with wisdom,

Dig with discernment,

Dig with love,

Whilst guarding the heart at all times with diligence.

 

Listen!

Do you hear water flowing?

 

Because at the time appointed,

At the opportune moment,

We who are disjointed

are healed and

Sealed with the Holy Spirit.

 

God opens the flood gates of our hearts

With His own master key of humility,

To become a channel of His grace.

 

Just listen to that sound!

 

The sound of Living waters;

an ocean wave, a mighty river in flood, a cascading waterfall

a fountain of benediction;

heard by earth’s sons and daughters

To become for all a Life- Giving spring, welling up to Eternity.

 

Work hard then each day and dig!

Listen, work, dig deep

head bowed with sweat and tears,

extinguishing fears of death, awakening life from sleep,

exchanging salt waters for sweet

to greet Living waters.

 

Many rich and powerful men would pay dearly to see the Lord or His Most Pure Mother, but God does not appear in riches, but in the humble heart… Every one of the poorest men can be humbled and come to know God. It needs neither money nor reputation to come to know God, but only humility.

(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, I.11,21)

 

By Fr. Jonathan Hemmings

 

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Work Pray Be Saved

transfiguration orthodox church Work Prayer Salvation

 

Work Pray Be Saved! Back to Mikrokastro monastery, my spiritual basis in Greece! For the Transfiguration Feast. “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!” I feel so safe, protected and loved here! It is always like this: the Mother of God always comforts me; the peace, stillness and hesychia of the monastery invades me; the fellowship of the nuns warms me; the motherly affection of its Abbess, Mother Theologia’s love nurtures me; the nuns’ combination of discipline, structure, work and prayer ‘stabilises’ me; their wise ‘equation’: Work and Prayer= Salvation!‘ centers’ me, ‘grounds’ me on peace and the Holy Spirit.

orthodox monastic Work Prayer Salvation

 

Just today, I felt so happy harvesting, curing and storing potatoes after the Matins service and Holy Liturgy in the monastery chapel! It felt so exhilaratingly Van Goghean!

Work Pray Be Saved

van gogh Work Pray Be Saved

 

Certainly one eats his meal afterwards, roast potatoes😃, with gratitude and thanksgiving.

orthodox monks Work Pray Be Saved

van gogh Work Pray Be Saved

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Fr Jonathan Hemmings has written a whole chapter on this ‘equation’: Work and Prayer= Salvation! in his book, Fountains in the Desert, which I have found most useful and often turn to for life balance ‘tips’.

 

When the holy Abba Antony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie (ἀκηδία) and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Antony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

 

Our human condition requires dependency upon God and interdependency on others. Correct spiritual examination requires the help and direction of a spiritual father who helps us grow into the image of Christ. Self examination alone without such an external reference point can put us in jeopardy such that we choose the wrong direction, make false judgements, become disappointed, lack faith, and fall into the trap of hopelessness and despair. Here we find ourselves in that spiritual malaise of accidie whereby because of our sense of sinfulness before a Holy God, we become inactive, paralysed and reach a state of torpor.

We ponder on the contradiction “How can we be Christians and have such sinful thoughts?” St Antony addresses this dilemma in the desert where he meets the devil, himself and God

“Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone;”

We notice that St Antony wants to be saved, he is aware of his own condition. Like the Prodigal son and Zacchaeus we must first come to our right mind and possess a desire (a zeal) for change. St Antony’s request is simple and succinct:

“What shall I do in my affliction. How can I be saved?”

orthodox monastic Work Prayer Salvation

We must be direct in our prayer to God; vagueness in repentance or in our requests is a form of obfuscation.

These two questions of St Antony remind us of that question the Lawyer posed to Christ before the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:25 “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Inactivity is not an option for Christians; Christians are verbs not nouns!

Antony sees a man sitting at his work then getting up to pray, returning to his work and again rising to pray. The angel was sent by God to correct and reassure St Antony. Consumed by ourselves we lose focus and the source of our strength-we lose the will to work or pray! Work and Prayer= Salvation! This is an equation for all and not just for monks. Full of self loathing we need not only correction but reassurance. When called upon, the compassion and conviction of the All Holy Spirit assists us by His comfort and strength.

orthodox monastic Work Prayer Salvation

Just as our Lord was ministered to by angels in the wilderness after the Temptations Matthew 4:11

“Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

So with St Antony an angel ministers to him instructing him and restoring courage and joy. “ Do this and you will be saved.”

The Fathers teach us that we should not trust too readily in our own thoughts and opinions but take heed to God’s Word Who provides us with the pattern of salvation.

orthodox monastic Work Prayer Salvation

In our modern western culture, Life balance is a much discussed topic today. When mums have to juggle careers with caring and the ever increasing demand for dads to prioritize we need to drink from the fountains of the desert. Without work we become indolent and listless; too much work makes us tired and stressed. Without prayer we become detached from our source of strength and the deeper reality Who created us. Likewise prayer without action is fruitless, as St James says in his epistle:

James 2:17

“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Prayer will warm and revive us in the love of God; work will warm and energise us in the love for others thus fulfilling the Divine equation for salvation:

Luke 10:

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’”

 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

orthodox monastic Work Prayer Salvation

Fountains in the Desert