St John (Tornike) of Mount AthosIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Christ is ascended! Let us remember St John, Tornike, of Mount Athos, today. May St John the Athonite pray for us.

One of the afflictions many of us face today, is anxiety, of the worldly kind. A worldly anxiety compels us to worry and depression, and does nothing to our well-being, much less our spiritual growth. Anxiety afflicts many of us from time memorial, as we read in Genesis 32, Jacob became anxious when he expected a deadly battle with his estranged brother Esau, whom he has offended. Queen Esther was also anxious and stressed when she learned of the potential plight of her people (Esther 4:4).

And yet, our Lord has always encouraged us to trust in Him, and to walk in His Ways (Micah 4:3-5), that strong nations would be rebuked by our Lord and God, and that we are to war no more.

St John, Tornike Eristavi (a Georgian title for the head of the army), was a famous army commander known for his many victories. Eventually, he dropped all these worldly recognition, and sought out his spiritual father at Mount Athos, and became a monk. Though commanded by the king to return to military leadership at one time, St John immediately returned to monastic life when he could. He was a saint known for his humility and obedience, and would always do something only upon the blessing by his spiritual confessor. The saint eventually spent his monastic life in silence, praying and hoping in God, and reposed peacefully.

St John showed us that the temptation of the world would always haunt us. The more successful we are in the world, the further we would be from God and His Ways. The saint showed us that vanity and worldly achievements were worthless, and that he would only abide by the Ways of God, rather than be seduced into continuing the worldly life of material gains, military or political leadership, and complacency. The saint sought God, and found God, just as we reflect upon Jeremiah 29:11-14, with the encouraging verse where God promised us that, “when you shall seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you.” All our heart, said the Lord.

There will always be incidents, events, transitions, and journeys, that would confound us and baffle us. In all these cases, we are to remember Proverbs 3:5-8 and St Matthew 11:27-30, that we are trust in our Lord and Christ with all our hearts, and never to rely on our myopic delusional thinking. We are to abide in Him, and all our paths would be clear to us, and that we would be spiritually nourished and strengthened (“health to your navel, and marrow to your bones”). We are to be humble, and recognize that we are to abide in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the the Way to our Lord and Father. We are to trust only in our Lord and Christ, and find our way back to God.

And though we have found the journey to Orthodoxy, not through our merits, but through God’s infinite mercy, we are reminded in Romans 11:13-24 that we are not to be arrogant, for God can work wonders beyond our understanding. In all things, let us focus on our own journeys, our own flaws, our own passions, and our own failings, and let us be steadfast in our penance and prayers,

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Jeremiah 29:11-14
Proverbs 3:5-8
St Matthew 11:27-30
Romans 11:13-24