Awake, O Sleeper

Awake, O Sleeper

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:14-16)

Awake Sleeper

In Greek myths, the personification of sleep was the god Hypnos who lived in Hades near the river of Lethe (forgetfulness) with his brother Thanatos (death). In many stories he is kind, gentle, and calm, however he possesses those human lives whom he lulls to sleep. From this god’s name we get the word hypnosis, for myths involving him reveal that it is the hypnotist that gains possession and control over the one he puts to sleep. From the time of Christ until now, the world has been attempting to lull the souls of Christians to sleep with its hypnotic way of life. We experience it today with an onslaught of flatteries, ideologies, comfortabilities, etc. These attacks on the soul are made in order that the Christian would fall into a deep spiritual sleep, for to fall asleep under the world’s hypnosis is to be possessed by it and to dwell in forgetfulness and death. This is what sin does to our souls. In commenting on this verse in Ephesians, St John Chrysostom writes, “By the sleeper and the dead, he means the man that is in sin; for he both exhales noisome odors like the dead, and is inactive like one that is asleep, and like him he sees nothing, but is dreaming, and forming fancies and illusions.”

We all experience the intoxicating slumber of this world and have some area of our spiritual life that is not awake. However, we are not created to be sleepers, but to abandon sin and be a people who rouse the soul. St Paul calls us to an exalted life, commanding us to awake and receive the light of Christ. Therefore, we must ask the question: How do we awaken our souls to receive this light?

According to the Fathers and Mothers of the church, in order to raise the soul out of the slumber of sin there are three practical habits that we can form.

The first of these habits is the mystical practice. This means to participate in the divine services and sacraments of the Church. Our life needs to revolve around these things as absolute essentials for keeping our souls alive and awake. The divine services of the Church bring is into direct contact with the Living God and they impart transformation to the soul. The sacraments are great medicines that allow us to partake of divine grace and give us strength to battle our own sins.

The second of these habits that we can form is the ascetical practice. This means to start and end our day at our icon corners or home altars, to read Scripture and the lives of the Saints daily, to keep the fasts prescribed by the Church, and to do as much as we can to fill our lives with the grace of God. Many times this second habit is hard because it requires us to set time aside, to give up some things we like, and to force ourselves even when we don’t feel like it. That’s ok! Nobody becomes a professional athlete or gets an advanced degree without first forcing oneself to set aside time to push forward for achievement. In fact, the very definition of asceticism is to deny oneself, as our Lord commanded us to do (Matt 16:24).

The third habit to awaken the soul is the practice of alms-giving. This means to give ourselves for others. This can be in the form of treasures like money or possessions, but this can also be in our time and talents. If we find it hard to give up things for others, especially earthly things, then we know that our soul is asleep and we need to awaken to a deeper spiritual life. How we raise up our soul is to sacrifice for others.

Awakening the soul can require a lot of effort, but our reward is beyond compare and the comfort that comes after is worth more than any struggle. St Paul says that if we rise and awaken our sleeping or dead soul, Christ’s light will be given to us. We are given an opportunity in this life not to just experience Christ’s paschal light, but to be given it—to live it. This is why our saints are painted with halos, because this great light shines from their awakened and alive sanctified souls. Let us Christians strive to be like them and embark on a path toward forming habits today that will keep our souls risen for eternity.

Fr. John

Fr. John Valadez

is the pastor of St. Timothy Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lompoc, California and is the Spiritual Advisor of SOYO in DLAW. He is a convert to Orthodoxy and was ordained to the holy priesthood in 2017. Fr. John is married to Khouria Krystina and they have five children.
I Need a Vocation, Not a Vacation

I Need a Vocation, Not a Vacation

Every kid has a dream job. Whether they want to grow up to be a doctor, veterinarian, ballerina, athlete, astronaut, scientist, a mom, a dad, or even the president, it is up to them to choose a path to follow. We, as college students, are in the ‘refinement’ section of choosing what we want to do, where we want to work and for whom we want to work. But, our human hearts crave more for our careers, we don’t just want a job, we want meaning in our work and in our lives.

Vocation is a word commonly discussed among Orthodox college students often in the context of where they want to work in the future. Let’s take a second to learn what it really means. Vocation comes from the Latin word, vocare or “to call,” therefore, vocation itself doesn’t refer to your future job, but to your actual God-given calling: to love.  God calls us all to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Vocation runs so much deeper than the job you hold or will hold.

God calls for us to become like Him, to “take up our crosses and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24). But what does that mean for us college students? It means we have to live our whole lives in God, and no matter where the journey of college takes us, following Him will always be the goal. Look at the saints! They were able to do follow Christ, all while being themselves, each on their own path. The saints led their lives celebrating their individual talents and skills as doctors, army officials, chefs, monks, bishops, emperors, mothers, fathers, and Christ, too, was a carpenter!

Luckily, our God knows us all so intimately, and He has bestowed on all of us that same calling. Your life is not going to be a straight line, there are going to be hundreds of twists and turns and sometimes you might really have no clue where to go. If you accept your vocation (to love the Lord and your neighbor) everything else in your life will fall into place, not your way, but His way. His way may not be the way you always saw yourself going–its pretty much never going to happen that way.

For me, when I decided I wanted to become a doctor, I could retrace my steps to the conversations and experiences that pushed me to be where I am today. But along the way, I had no clue how to distinguish any sign from the background noise, everything was just happening all at the same time and I was just trying my best the whole time. Today, I still don’t know where my choice will take me, but I am excited for every step of my journey, and I have faith that the Lord’s will be done. Ask me again in five years if I knew where I would be standing at that point, here’s a hint: I HAVE NO CLUE. If life was that predictable, it’d be boring.

And while modern times have made us value money and status above all else, a word of caution from the wise–do not let your job be the foundation of your identity. If you let your job become your source of self-worth and you begin to see people in terms of their salaries, you may be allowing your career to become your idol. Instead, ground yourself in Christ Jesus, and perform your job, no matter what it may be, with love and for His Glory.

Pick up the phone when God is calling!

 

 

 


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Faith on the Web

Faith on the Web

#Blessed.

The way we recognize and live our faith online is funny sometimes. When we post online, we have a bit more time between thinking of the message we wish to convey and executing it.

As such, we often craft the image of ourselves that we’d like to present with a lot more intention. Sometimes that can feel a little fake—but its not wrong, I think, to be deliberate in how we convey ourselves through a medium as permanent as Facebook and Instagram and Twitter.

On the same note, there’s also a renowned invincibility—or at least, a bolstering of protective factors—that we experience when we post online. It has something to do with anonymity, occasionally—but when our name is behind our words, we still enjoy the freedom from pressures that arise from being face-to-face with someone, or in a group of people. Through the Internet, we don’t have to respond right away to things, so we feel more comfortable making stronger claims; we don’t have to experience potential awkwardness in real time, and we are accordingly emboldened.

As such—and I mean this in all sincerity—social media and online interactions can be a truly excellent place to manifest our faith. I know that I’m an avid Twitter user, and very often when I’m composing a Tweet with a grateful tone, I end up reconsidering terms like “I’m thankful” or “I’m fortunate,” and often end up focusing on “I’m very blessed.” It’s a small change, but a very intentional one. The little things in my life are blessings, and thanks belong to God. I don’t think of that enough in everyday conversation; the extended time of typing out a post allows me to remember and recognize that.

It goes even deeper than that. Back to Twitter—a lot of the work I do (I’m an NFL Draft analyst) lends itself to disagreement. Disagreement, especially on social media, lends itself to arguments. Arguments breed potshots, low blows, name-calling, and other such instinctual tactics when we feel the threat of being wrong in front of others. That’s the other edge of the sword when it comes to being protected through anonymity, I suppose—most people with whom I interact online, I’ll never meet in real life. So shooting from the hip holds very few tangible consequences to me.

By that same token, however, I’m more likely to speak out when I’m upset in person, because I feel it more immediately, more viscerally. I feel as if I have less control. Through social media, I certainly feel the desire to comment on someone’s politically-charged post with my own opinions—but what good does that add to the world? And when someone gets snarky or condescending in the comments section on one of my takes, I could easily roast and embarrass them—but how does this benefit my Christian life (and their life, Christian or otherwise)?

We’re constantly told of the dangerous of interacting on social media and through the Internet—rightfully so, as it has its pitfalls and traps. We are meant to be living images of Christ, however, and we shouldn’t use the difficulties of online interactions to recuse ourselves from that responsibility. The very process of typing instead of speaking gives us time—more time to think about what we’re saying, how we’re saying it, and why we’re saying it. You have the opportunity to gear that time positively, to convey a clearer message of the Christ that lives through you. Every day, I try to take that opportunity—I hope that you do, too.