An old pastor of souls, after a whole day of work to the glory of the Lord, sits down to have some rest on a bench, at the garden gate of a needy woman from his community. Taking a few minutes of rest, he suddenly hears a subdued voice whispering something in desperate agony. Turning swiftly his head towards the source of the whisper, he sees a candle lighting the face of a young woman who is frantically labouring at a sewing machine. The lady’s face is all worry, and her lips are moving in feverish whisper: “Oh, if only I managed, oh, Lord, have mercy, hold on this candle a little more, so that I can finish these little clothes. God, please, just a little more time…” Her hands are trembling fervently, working faster and faster…
The old priest jumps up from the bench he has been having rest. God! – he exclaims. In the same manner the candle of my own life is going off, my life is passing, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow the Master will come and demand the weaving of my life. What will I tell Him? Because it’s already night, and there are still so many things I need to preach about, so many houses and hearts to enter…
“The pastors are asleep, are fast asleep” – I read this phrase somewhere. I’m also a pastor, and with bitterness in my soul I have to acknowledge that the author of these words was perfectly right. Satan is sneaking around, growling like a lion, seeking his prey, but the pastors have no time for their flock – they are asleep.
Our Christians sink into bigger and bigger sins. Passions ensnare people in all possible and impossible ways. Modern technology opens new opportunities, new ways for humanity, but also creates new temptations about which – as I mentioned in an earlier article – the Holy Fathers knew nothing. We have to admit – with much sadness, with much bitterness – that the world is slipping into a chasm, and that when the most appropriate thing is to peal all bells, everyone is asleep, fast asleep. History witnesses the case of a Byzantine emperor who was guarding the walls of his fortress that had been assaulted by Hagarians. His faithful servants could foresee the tragic outcome of the fight, and they tried to convince the emperor leave the walls and flee from the fortress. “You will come back with an army and recover the fortress” – they were saying. “Just several more minutes”, answered the emperor. Meanwhile, the Hagarians managed to break the protection wall and run into the front-line of the Byzantine soldiers. The emperor fell down, severed by an Ottoman sword.
He needed only two minutes to have his life saved, but he didn’t have this time, this is why he fell down from a sword.
Athletes on the competition arena need only a few seconds to win, to take the grand prize, and when they come to the finish, they ask how many seconds, fractions of second they came ahead of their competitors. And we, Orthodox Christians, how many seconds, minutes, hours, days, years need in order to return to Christ who was crucified for us?
The candle is burning out. It has very little time left to light. Twilight is coming, and, as the Holy Fathers say, now is later than ever; and if non-Christians compete for prizes, for money, for possessions, then we, priests and Orthodox Christians, must compete with even more endurance for the big prize – the Heavenly Kingdom!
Watch therefore and pray always, for ye know not what hour the Son of God doth come – this is what the Holy Scripture always calls us for. And I say – labour the salvation, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and never forget that Orthodoxy is in our hearts.
Priest Iulian Raţă