Question: I suffer from despair… How do I brace up and get to church?
Answer: There is a fixed time of worship, and there is your spare time that you have to sacrifice to come to church for help. This painful condition of your soul has a certain reason. It has causes and circumstances that you have to change if you want to break free.
What do you need to do it? First of all, you should consider how you got into this place, how you have lived your life since you were 7 (assuming you have never confessed before). Perhaps, your conscience rebukes you? Perhaps, you understand that you do wrong and would like to abstain from something but you are unable to do so? Secondly, you should have a clear vision of what you want from God. Do you want God’s love to make you a different person? Are you willing to accept his love, to obey God and to struggle with sin? If you feel bad and want to change something, come to church no matter what.
Confession is a Sacrament during which you stand not in front of a man (a priest) but in front of God. It is through the priest — in his presence — that you petition God and receive help from him. Your sins can be forgiven provided that you repent genuinely. You have to be willing to repent and to have at least a little faith.
A new life will begin as soon as you allow God to enter your heart. Of course, you will have to coerce yourself because the devil will impede it. The outside world will also hamper you, as well as the sin inside you. However, you should make yourself come and stand in the queue for a confession, and not to leave the church at all costs. The priest may tell you something you won’t like… You should be patient and humble yourself down. If you come to a doctor, there are different doctors, kind and less than kind and completely unkind… But they do treat people. God heals people through them.
Then you will receive the Holy Mysteries, the Eucharist if the priest allows you. Since that time, your new life, where there is no place for despair, will begin. It will be a life filled with faith, hope, and love. Welcome to God’s House!
Question: What do I do if my relatives do not share my enthusiasm about God and the Church?
Answer: Apostle Paul says that an unbelieving husband is sanctified by his believing wife. If you have just turned to God, it’s your natural desire to bring your entire family to him and have a monastery at home. It won’t happen overnight. In fact, it may never happen…
You should take care and be cautious. You can talk persuasively and insist on something but it will cause a knee jerk reaction of aversion, lead to quarrels and misunderstandings. This is why you should build up the strength of your inner self and look for opportunities to go to church, to confess, to take communion, and keep growing steadily. You should seek God’s will every day, do your best to serve your neighbours selflessly, try to understand and accept them. It is through you that your family can be saved. It will happen only if your relatives see God inside you, if they come to realise how great it is to live with him, how much beauty and might there is in the Church.
Apostle Paul said, Bear ye one another burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ… The most important goal is not to lose the grace that you’ve received. It can get lost if we judge others, complain, or doubt. The devil will try to do everything possible to destroy peace in your family.
This is why “he who treads softly goes far.” Confess and take communion. If someone is annoyed at seeing you make the sign of the cross, don’t do it to show off. If it is possible, bring your children to communion but only if your family members do not protest against it. Look for balance.
I had that period when I came to the faith and my relatives thought I fell mentally ill, too. I had to pray secretly, in the bathroom or in the toilet, so that no one could see. My soul was on fire for God. Later, everybody started going to church and I didn’t have to hide anymore, but the fire ceased to burn. I had to force myself to pray. May God grant you strength, courage, patience, and humility. May Christ enter your home and consecrate it. May there be a home church in your home. You have to be very careful and tactful not to do any harm.
Question: Children make noise in church… What do I do?
Answer: I believe you should bring them to communion and take communion yourself more often. I remember how I used to take my children to church almost every day. The children were screaming and crying but I wanted to partake of the Chalice and to have my children partake of it, too. It is vital for their development, for their growth as Christians, and for your entire family to become more observant.
Certainly, it may be uncomfortable: you will have to go out and try to calm down the kids if they act up or make too much noise. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t give up, if I were in your place. Perhaps, you should try coming to church not at the beginning of the service but at least during the Canon of the Eucharist… I hope that you’ll find the proper balance in this case and everything will be fine eventually. The Lord knows that you go out on the porch not because you want to chat but because you have to comfort your children. He is merciful and He will bless your Holy Communion. Put some effort into being the partakers of the Eternal Life altogether.
What should an ideal woman be like? Can you name the best and the worst qualities of a woman’s nature? Why are there so few female saints in the Orthodox calendar?