16. Accepting our lot with faith and prayers
There was a time when an ill-behaved priest tried to attack Bishop Gabriel and was instead thrown out of Church. This priest made a complaint to the Synod and also civil authorities. For that reason, Bishop Gabriel was suspended from priestly duties.
Eventually, the ban was lifted and Bishop Gabriel was sent to be the Bishop of Blagoveshchensk. One day many years later, Fr Tikhon was in the entourage with the Patriarch and Bishop Gabriel traveled to the Sakhalin island to see the Patriarch. The Bishop was already 70 years old.
Over dinner, the younger monks gathered around the bishop and asked how his grace braved the period when he was suspended.
Bishop Gabriel told the monks that after the Synod suspended him, he lived on his small savings, and then tried to find a civilian job. The new bishop forbade all the priests to allow Bishop Gabriel any employment in the Churches, and disallowed him to enter the altar. So the suspended bishop had to receive communion like the rest of the parishioners. The people, including his brethren from earlier, however, were kind to the bishop, and wrote to him. Eventually, the bishop found work with the people. He became a gardener and guard. And during winter, lived off his savings.
The monks asked the old bishop when was the happiest period he experienced.
Bishop Gabriel told the monks that the happiest time was when he was suspended and humiliated. That was when he found God close to him, when he prayed or when he worked in the gardens. Bishop Gabriel placed all his faith in God, and never allowed his ecclesiastical position as bishop to blind him to the virtue and spiritual power of humility before God. To him, God was the most important part of his life, not himself.
We will always experience tribulations. That is part of life. There is no such thing as a life empty of suffering or void of pain. Life has ups and downs. God will gift us with unique experiences to enrich us, to allow us to grow closer to Him (Isaiah 41:10). God will gift us with experiences of difficulty and pain, to refine us to be vessels of prayers and humility. God will also gift us with moments of bliss as consolations, when we are too weak to continue. We give thanks to God, in happiness, and in sadness.
When we are drowning in enjoyment, distracted by the many temptations of the world, it becomes difficult for us to discern the signs, mysteries and wonders of God (Hebrews 13:5). Only when we still ourselves, humble ourselves, and pray in silence (Psalm 46:10), we begin to feel the presence of God Who has always been around us (Joshua 1:9).
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.