Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Be Really Holy: Take a Vacation
Bonnie and I are taking a little vacation. A real vacation--two days at a "resort spa" with a massage and pedicure. My heart is at peace. It seems the right thing to do, but my mind is full of accusations.
"If you were really holy," my mind tells me, "You wouldn't waste all that money on yourselves." "If you were holy like Mother Teresa or St. Mary of Paris, you would care more for the suffering of others and use all of your resources to help the poor." "If you were really holy, like St. Seraphim of Sarov or Elder Paisios, you would deny yourself." "If you were really holy...."
Actually, these thoughts, though perennial, are not disturbing me very much. I have heard them all before, and I have begun my response to them in the way I have learned works best: "Well I guess I am not holy then," I say to the thoughts. "I am only myself, married to Bonnie, who is only herself." "Someday I may be holy, who knows?" "But right now this is where I am, and this is where I find peace and grace in my less than holy heart."
One of the reasons why we need spiritual fathers and mothers, or at least honest people, in our life--especially as zealous Orthodox Christians--is that it is so, so easy to accept the delusion that holiness is found in living someone else's life. Honouring and reading the lives of saints and learning from contemporary elders and wise fathers and mothers are important aspects of our spiritual growth. We learn some of the markers along the path to holiness and are warned of pitfalls along the way by attending to the lives and sayings of the holy ones who have gone before and who are still among us. However, it is a crippling error to confuse spiritual teaching with its specific application in any one person's life.
I may be at the beginning of the same path that St. Silouan was (is) on, but I am not a Russian monk with a third grade education on Mount Athos in the early 20th century. I can learn a great deal from St. Silouan's life and words, but I cannot live his life. I have to live my life, the life of a married priest with way too much education, way too little wisdom....and an opportunity to take a vacation.
If I am ever going to be holy--or even holy-ish, I'd settle for that--it will be as I am transformed and transfigured by the Grace of God. It will not be by becoming someone else or trying really hard to do what someone else does or did. I am the one who needs to be changed, not the imagined holy one that my mind sometimes presents to me as the me I should be. Being someone else is no one's path to salvation.
And so, for the next couple of days it seems that my path (whether it is towards or away from holiness, God will judge) seems to be through a resort spa. I will do my best to enjoy it--it shouldn't be too tough.
Prayers for this sinner are appreciated.