Sunday, September 30, 2012

Keep Your Stick on the Ice

About a month ago, on one of the Byzantine Catholic forums that I enjoy reading and participating in from time to time, a generous gentleman began a thread offering to lift up young parents in prayer. The motivation for this was the fact that so often young people, particularly young parents with young families, have little time for personal prayer due to the time constraints that come from raising children, working a job (or multiple jobs), household duties, etc. He called this a "take-off on the Communion of Saints." As he said, "We lift each other up and go it together."

What a marvelous idea! In my mind this simply reinforces the fact that even in our private spiritual lives we are never alone, never separated from the rest of the Body of Christ. As my spiritual father used to say, our spiritual lives are not just "Jesus and me, and to hell with thee." We are part of a Body made up of many members. When we feel that our spiritual lives are lacking, when we are pressed for time and simply cannot devote as much time to prayer as we would like, why not take advantage of the fact that we are not alone?! Why not ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to lift us up in prayer?

Soldiers on the battlefield develop a deep sense of camaraderie that oftentimes goes even beyond that with blood relations. Having been through the same trials, suffering and struggling alongside one another, they become a source of support for one another. The history of warfare is full of men performing heroic deeds simply to save the lives of their fellow brothers-in-arms. Who of us hasn't heard stories of men in modern times throwing themselves on live hand-grenades and sacrificing their lives so that their friends might live? Do you think the spiritual life is any different?

Universally the great mystics of the Christian East and West refer to the spiritual life as "warfare." The Eastern Fathers in particular are very detailed and sometimes quite graphic when describing the tactics and state of this spiritual warfare. They speak of the tactics of the enemy and what we must do to overcome the onslaught of temptation coming from "the world, the flesh, and the devil." In all of this they emphasize having a spiritual father/mother, one who has been through the battle and can aid in guiding us safely through as well. If this is not possible, then they recommend having spiritual friends alongside us, to fight the good fight with us. Such spiritual friends act the same way fellow soldiers act to one another. They are a sense of support and encouragement when we are down, wounded by the enemy, by our own personal failings and sin, or simply from sheer exhaustion of keeping up such an intense fight. We in our turn also act as a source of support and encouragement for them.

One of the great things I encountered within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is the formation of "small groups" or "men's/women's groups." Usually these were groups of a handful of people - no more than five or six - that would meet once a week to discuss what was going on in their spiritual lives, what their struggles were, what they needed prayer for, etc. The group would then offer any support and suggestions that they thought could be helpful. In an age where spiritual fathers and mothers are rather limited, what a great way to find some support and encouragement in the spiritual fight!

There was/is a Canadian comedian who used to end his television program with a saying directed at the men in his audience: "I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together." How true. In this spiritual warfare, we, as the Body of Christ, are all in this together; and we ought to be pulling for one another. We ought to be able to rely upon one another for support against the onslaught of our enemies, whether that onslaught comes from our own fallen nature, from the world around us, or from the devil and his minions.

This world is passing away. This battle is not permanent. But, as a professor of mine used to say, "We're all in this together, and none of us is getting out of here alive." At the end of our lives, when the dust clears and our personal battle is over, we have more of a chance of standing victorious over our enemies when we have fought against them not as individuals, but with the help and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And our brothers and sisters also stand more of a chance if we have been there to support them and to lift them up in prayer. So let's lift one another up in prayer and support one another in the good fight so that when this is all over we may stand in the rays of the eternal Sun and shout in victory to our God Who has saved us! May heaven consume us.


  1. Phillip — George, Seraphim and I like the idea of lifting up a young family in prayer. We've decided to "adopt" your family to include in our nightly family prayers. Kim

    1. Thanks very much, Kim! I can't tell you how much this means to me. My little family could use as much prayer as your willing to offer for us. :)

  2. Brother, Phillip, I'll happily take your family in, as well. Many thanks, and years. By the way, I'm liking the Komboskini you sent me, very much. I'm trying to draft another blog (putting this off really badly), which touches up on spiritual warfare, too. This post couldn't have come at a better time, brother.

    Ever watching your "six," and "flanks."