Christ said, “In patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Orthodoxy presumes patience on our parts. The services take patience – they last a good length of time and without patience your mind will never stop wandering.
Catechumenates can take a while.
Learning many of the things of an Orthodox way of life cannot be rushed. Only time can make a difference.
These are hard words in a culture where time is money and we never seem to have enough of either. But though our culture has changed, human beings have not. We still take 9 months to come to the fullness of time in the womb. We still have to go to sleep for about a third of our life. We still age at about the same rate (the Bible speaks of 3 score years and 10, perhaps 4 score, and our span of life on average still has not reached 4 score).
But grace, this marvelous life of God that is given to us, also accommodates to our life as human beings. We do not receive grace and suddenly become angels. We receive grace, and the whole process of our salvation is a matter of years. My family and I marked 15 years as Orthodox Christians last February. I ran across these quotes from the Elder Sophrony in his book, St. Silouan the Athonite. He mentions a period of 15 years for the assimilation of grace in the lives of great ascetics. It tells me that I am not a great ascetic. It also tells me yet again, “Be patient.”
The history of the Church together with personal contact with many ascetics has led me to the conclusion that the experience of grace in those who have been granted visitations and visions is only assimilated deeply after years of ascetic endeavor; grace then taking the form of spiritual knowledge that I should prefer to define as ‘dogmatic consciousness’ (but not in the academic sense of the term).
The historical experience of the Church, in which I include the Apostles and the holy Fathers both ancient and modern, makes it possible to calculate this period of assimilation as lasting at least fifteen years. Thus St. Paul’s first Epistle (to the Thessalonians) was written some fifteen years after the Lord had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Often the period lasts twenty, twenty-five, even thirty or more years. The Evangelists and other Apostles wrote their testimonies and epistles long after the Lord’s Ascension. Most of the holy Fathers acquainted the world with their visions and experiences only when their ascetic course was nearing its close. More than thirty years elapsed before the Staretz set down in writing, with final and mature dogmatic consciousness, his own experience. The assimilation of grace is a lengthy process.
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