You know, Our Lady of Vladimir Mission in St. John’s, Newfoundland isn’t the first community of Orthodox Christians on Newfoundland. It’s the first one in a long time, but it’s not even the second community of Orthodox Christians on Newfoundland. Leif Ericson the Viking explorer and his men were Orthodox Christians, they settled on Newfoundland (L’Anse aux Meadows) for some years and even had a priest with them. But it is believed that other Orthodox Christians, even earlier than the 10th century, were on Newfoundland. Some say that St. Brendan the Navigator and his monks from Ireland came to Newfoundland in the 6th century.
And here we are, some 1,400 years after St. Brendan’s great voyage and Fr. John and I are in the midst of planning our move to Newfoundland to serve the Orthodox community there. (We hope to settle there by September). And even though I want to move to Newfoundland, and even though I have family there, and even though I am happy to be home in Canada, and even though I consider all of Atlantic Canada as home in a sense, I keep hearing St. Brendan’s prayer run through my head when I think about moving to “the Rock”.
Holy Hermitage of the Annunciation, New Germany, Nova Scotia
See, my “native land” isn’t simply New Brunswick, nor even Greece: It’s a mindset. It’s familiarity, comfort. My heart feels pulled in multiple directions; my mind is full of doubting questions, “Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honor?”
Sometimes our will corresponds with the will of God and it makes life changes easier, even pleasant. But there are other times when the will of God is, at least in some ways, contrary to our own will for ourselves, for our future. It is in those latter times when we must push ourselves the most. Since what is this temporal life after all? The Prophet David tells us, “As for man his days are as the grass, as the flower of the field so shall he blossom forth”. Odd as it may sound, the fact that my earthly life is quickly passing away helps me. Why shouldn’t I surrender to the will of God? Why shouldn’t I abandon the “soft comforts of home” or “turn my back on my native land”? this vain life in which man “spends like a shadow” (Ecc. 6:12)?
Fredericton: Fr. John’s hometown and the capital of New Brunswick – not as nice as the city of Saint John, but nice nonetheless
So I will say goodbye to my beautiful, green New Brunswick. I wave farewell to my holy city of Thessaloniki. For unless I evade citizenship in this world how will I become a citizen of Heaven? The “present forms of this world are passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). All we have to cling to are the unchanging forms of the world to come in which there is no distance from loved ones, no other “native land” but the one Kingdom and its worthy citizens, with whom we will glorify the One True King of all, the Lord of Hosts.
As we set out on our own journey, facing “towards the sea”, I ask your prayers, your patience, and your fellowship. I’m sure there will be lots of changes. I hope I will have time to keep the blog up, but things will be different. The number of posts may decrease, but I will try my best to communicate with you all and come up with something interesting to say despite the serious decline in monastery-visits I will be experiencing.
Through the prayers of St. Brendan, and countless other holy missionaries who set out on difficult paths in order to offer themselves as kindling for the fire of God’s love, may we find Christ’s help on the “wild waves” yet to come!
Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home?
Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?
Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy,
without silver, without a horse,
without fame, without honor?
Shall I throw myself wholly upon You,
without sword and shield, without food and drink,
without a bed to lie on?
Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?
Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness,
tears streaming down my cheeks?
Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach,
a record of my final prayer in my native land?
Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict?
Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean?
O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?
O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?
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