We have a great challenge and a duty to ourselves - never to lose sight of God. The Lord is surely not going to lose sight of us - even when we attempt to run away from Him and go into hiding. I have tried this myself at one point in my younger years. He did not let me go. He held me like a parent would hold a rebellious child. I was crying, "I want out! Let me go! I want to live my own life!" But He kept me firmly within His fold, saying, "My obstinate Child, where are you going? It is folly to live by your own desires; you should live in a way that will bring salvation to your immortal soul!"
Today, we have heard some brilliant singing. There is always something special to every church and every region, some feature that makes them distinct from all others. This is exactly what makes the Orthodox Church so beautiful. Creativeness and ingenuity are at its heart. To be an Orthodox faithful is to be versatile. It means looking for and exploring the best means to express one's spiritual movements and sensations in the fullest and most vivid way. All of these aspects are present in the singing, the icons and in the atmosphere of the church. They are what makes Orthodoxy truly universal by virtue of its variety. There is no expectation for all the worship to be done in one and the same way in all places; no one church should be the exact copy of another. We just want everyone to be reach out to God, and to do so in good faith.
Our lives are full of distractions and temptations, which look very appealing, especially for younger people. When we worship at Church, we stand on solid ground; God Himself is holding us in His fold and keeps us from falling down. To me, this is the most important thing. It is also important to know that we will be succeeded at Church by our children and grandchildren; that they will be able to keep their faith alive in a world that is going awry. Orthodoxy is not a conveyer belt; not a factory for indoctrinating masses of people ready to follow a leader thoughtlessly, unquestioningly, and with little understanding. We are all with Him, and on His side. But what exactly is His will and His plan? This question becomes the starting point for a constructive process of reflection within ourselves. "What is the will of God for myself?" we ask. This is our way to have a conversation with God through prayer.
To pray does not to recite some well-known texts that we had committed to memory. It is our way of reaching out to God. True prayer comes from the heart. It is a sacrament, much like the Holy Communion. We may come and we may say over and over again, "I repent in all my sins in deed, in word and in thought". But this will not be repentance. Our words should be born of our anguish, and only in this way can we find relief. Speaking of the communion... we should always be mindful of the fear of God when we are taking it. "How am I going to accept the Lord into myself? Am I worthy to partake of His body and His blood with so much sin in me?O Creator, let me not be burnt by communicating: for Thou art Fire, consuming the unworthy.
There is no standard model to follow; it is a continuous search for the right way of serving, living and acting. It is important to avoid a hasty decision and rushed choices. We should all know that God is near us, and all we need is to listen to him. Sometimes, we just do not hear amid the haste and rush of our daily lives, for lack of peace in our hearts, or just because of being so fixated on being in too many places and doing too many things at the same time. We always lose out on something important when we do so. Where are we hurrying? Why are we on the run all the time? Would it not be better for us to sit down and spend some time in silence? Let us all learn to live with God and to seek out His will.
God tells us not to withhold our forgiveness of others, so we may also be forgiven by Him. As we say in our prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". The world is fragile, and so are we.