Weakness at the beginning of Lent

I am tired. I feel tired and afraid, with no control over anything. At my best moments, I realise that this is a gift – the gift of awareness, of truth. Because the truth is we are never in control over anything. We invent little worlds (our group of friends; our family; our parish; our monastery) over which we may claim some sort of dominion. We invent silly games (our careers, the rules of our society) which we can win. We upgrade or downgrade these games carefully, so that we are never pushed beyond what we feel we can control.

But look up, look beyond the borders of these silly little kingdoms where we rule. Lent is a horrid period. Year by year, Lent is when some force within me pushes me out of my comfort zones, and I find myself in a lions’ den, face to face with the beasts, utterly unprepared to fight, totally helpless, fully aware that the only possible outcome is to be slaughtered.

This is nothing new. This happens every year. Yet, I somehow survive, because the same Force that pushes me out of my self-created kingdoms, out of my self-created games – that same Force saves me from those wild beasts at the last moment.

And this changes everything.

Perhaps I should not share this with you. Perhaps it would help the monastery more if I kept my weakness to myself and pretended to be someone I am not. This would be the proper thing to do – but I have never tried to be proper; I have never cared to replace my honest, weak self with the false image of a man who is in control. Those who play this game are one step away from a type of suicide – not to allow yourself to be seen, to cover yourself under the expectations of others, to betray the feeble, yet precious being that you are out of fear that you will not stand up to the standards of others… This is the definition of hell, the betrayal of one’s deepest, most intimate self. I don’t want to leave this world having played a respectable part, yet knowing that who-I-am was never visible. What can be worse than to go though life as someone else?  What bigger failure than to sell out your own self?

If you don’t live as yourself – weak and fallen, as you are – how can you love? Whose love is it that you feel? With whose love do you embrace the world around you? Whose good deeds and whose sins are your good deeds and your sins? When you hide yourself under an image, you basically step aside and die – all that is left is the image you created. It is this image – not yourself – who loves and hates, who lives and dies. You will never experience love – your love – until you own up to your true self. You will never experience life – not even death, ultimately – until you settle down in your own life and accept yourself as you are. I don’t mean this in the sense of ‘this is who I am and there is no reason to change’, but in the sense of ‘this is who I am, this is the real starting point of any change’.

No healing is possible. No repentance is possible. No prayer is possible, until the heart that heals, repents and prays is your sinful, fallen, yet beating heart. False images do not have hearts. False images do not love. Most painful than all, false images will never reflect Christ, because there is nothing false in Christ, nothing common between Life and void. Prayer begins with pain at one’s fallen nature; it grows out of this pain, and its flowers bloom out of it.

32 Responses

  • Amen! May your Lenten journey be strengthened through your humbleness. May we all remove the veils that create barriers between ourselves and our Lord and Savior. May our journey be real. God bless!

  • First time ever doing a blog comment and I don’t think it worked. In sum, may our Lenten journey be real, honest, and all veils removed.

    • It worked, dear Nina. Thank you for writing this first comment. Please keep me and the Monastery in your prayers.

  • Missed you Holy Farther. Thank you for the fruit of your love. God provides. If I had a wish it would be to kiss your hand to Honor Jesus our Lord. I love you Fr . Please don’t stop praying for us.

  • Thank you father for posting. It is so good to read and find that I am not the only one feeling like this. Repentance can not come without being honest to oneself.

    • I suspect we all go through more or less the same experiences in this life; perhaps to different degrees. What differs is how we respond to them. Do pray for me and the Monastery.

  • Thank you, Father. Thank you for showing us how to bear the little shame of who we truly are, serenely, and with hope of the resurrection.

    • Thank you for your encouragement, dear Sarah. Please don’t let go of the Monastery this Lent; we need your prayer and support.

  • Thank you Father, forgive me.
    It is taking years for me to get close to what you have spoken of today. To take off the mask has been difficult. As each day goes by, with God’s help, I can keep it off for a little longer.
    As God permits, looking forward to a new podcast. My 11 year old son has made a connection with you while listening with me.

    • Dear Michael, I feel terribly guilty about not recording a podcast for so long. I’ll try to get back to it very soon. The Monastery needs them too, people seem more willing to support us when I keep recording. Unfortunately, I’m slightly overwhelmed these weeks. Please pray for me. Ask your son to pray for me, too.

  • Thank you monk Seraphim ! This teaching was like a rope being thrown to me to pull me out of a pit! ☦

    • I recognise the exact feeling. Deep down, in that darkness, there can some times be Christ. Other times, it is just us, and our fallen nature. Keep praying – for yourself, for the Monastery, for everyone.

    • Thank you for your kindness, dear Sanda. I don’t think I have seen even a shadow of myself yet: not a shadow of the hell of my nothingness, not a shadow of the wonderful being God created me to be. One day, when I’ll be face to Face with Christ: that day will be the day I meet myself. Pray for me. Pray for the Monastery.

      • How to be less impatient , In trying to be in time I’m failing . I even don’t know what I am waiting for. Yet, there are instants when I can think about and even feel that slowing down is almost possible.

  • Being a true human person is God’s greatest gift to us and the one we struggle with the most. To be honest as the person we are means being true to God. Most of the time we are not able to bear His light and allow it to be seen. Reality is enlightenment and very scary.

    • Thank you for your words, dear Johanna. Please give us your prayers and support, as well. This already is one of the most difficult fasts I have gone through.

  • This is the honesty and having found a group of fellow strugglers that has drawn me deeper and deeper into my/our journey of salvation via Orthodoxy. It is this honesty that speaks volumes about the authenticity of this ministry.

  • I am, in new ways, being shown how I prefer “talking about” the need to be weak so Christ Jesus (and I by grace) can be strong, and actually BEING weak (living that way).

  • Hello Father,

    If you are willing, could you say more about the lions, and the beasts. I would like to know what you mean, rather than try and make my own guess as to what you’re talking about. Could you clarify that bit? Thank you.

    • You are right, dear Maria. I’ll pray and see what comes out of it. In the meantime, pray for me and the Monastery, please.

  • Fr. Seraphim,
    Thank you so much for you willingness to podcast. They are obviously very heart felt and have touched my heart in a special way. I must say that I am not Orthodox but I am Christian. I especially enjoyed your podcast on marriage vs. monasticism and how in marriage, we work out our salvation. I have never heard it put that way before but let me just say that those words have been a blessing to my marriage and gave new meaning to what marriage is, for me. I am praying for Mull and I’m telling my Protestant friends about it and about what God has called you to. Please pray for me.

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