An Orthodox Christian Father's Letters to his Children

Tuesday, December 5/ 18

St. Sabbas the Sanctified.

Christina, Tim, and Natalie, my dear children:

Today is the memory of St Sabbas the Sanctified. The Typicon that the Russian Orthodox Church uses was originally compiled by him. It is called the Jerusalem Typicon.

Tomorrow is St Nicholas' day. Weekday services can be hard on me. I desire my entire flock to benefit from the holy services, but attendance is often quite low. The early morning hour for the liturgy is difficult too. Sometimes I cannot get to sleep until very late, and get very little sleep.

When I am serving in a nearly empty church, being tempted to say "Why bother!", or struggling to stay awake as I say my pre-communion prayers at 4 AM, I try to remember that my paltry efforts are pitiful compared to those of the Saints. As a Christian, I serve God, not men. It matters not what others do; it should have no bearing on whether I fulfill my duties. As a priest, I am called to service, super-human service. I feel so inadequate, so many times. What I hold on to, in moments of sadness, or exhaustion, or frustration, is that I must be honest with God.

I am his slave, and a willing slave, of a benevolent master. I am a poor slave, not always obedient, and sometimes very weak, but for reasons inexplicable to me, I have been chosen, first, to be a true Christian, and also entrusted with the care of the souls of my children, as your father, and also to care for a small flock of rational sheep. I am only a sinner, trying to help others not to sin.

If I am honest with God, in moments of weakness, if I focus only on the smallest of efforts, I know God will magnify my small offering, and make it a rich one, and credit it to my account, as he did the widow's, who cast her two mites into the temple treasury. I often remember a particular verse for the scriptures, which I now recommend to you:

"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. " Luke 17:10

We have a duty, and we must serve. Our Lord served us, by his humble life, passion, and death on the cross, and His resurrection and invigorating of human flesh, and all this he did while being under no compulsion to do so. He was the only profitable servant, and all He did was strictly because of self-emptying love. Let us, you, and I, can struggle to do righteous things, because we understand in our heart that we are ordered to do so by our benevolent Lord and Master our duties, Who served us.

If we can somehow enter, even just a little into and understanding of our Lord's servanthood for us, then, when our stubbornness rises up over our duties, we will be able to beat down our foolish self-will by remembering that we are servants. A servant does not dictate what it is that he should do. His master tells him.

Let us, you and I, beg the Lord to help us remember that we are His servants, and try our utmost to be *profitable* servants. Let us, you and I, not try to receive any recognition for our small obediences, and continue to consider ourselves to be unprofitable, until the Lord fills our hearts with perfect love for him, and "Abba Father" is the only thing in our hearts.

I have tried to live my life by this verse. I do a poor job, but I try. But just as the Lord sends us many consolations, even while commanding us to school ourselves to feel ourselves worthy of none, so must I, as your father, try to train you to always keenly feel your duties, and also, at various times, give you consolations, by showing you a father's love and a father's pride.

I am not so good at always showing you how deeply I love you, and how proud I am of you.

I love you.


{7} But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? {8} And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? {9} Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. {10} So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. Luke 17:7-10

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas