A spiritual father – a teacher

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what means the term spiritual teacher (father) and its role in the life of the Christian?

For starters we will list excerpts from the collection of the teachings of the Holy Fathers “Spiritual teacher and the attitude of the Orthodox Christian towards him”, which for every Orthodox Christian would be useful to read.

“Head in the spiritual life of every Christian should be the priest – a spiritual father,  whom you should address not only for confession, but for the lessons, too.”

“Make an effort throughout your life to always have a spiritual father to tell him your sins and thoughts, the weakness and the temptations, to use his advice and lessons – so you will easily gain the Kingdom of heaven.”

“Without spiritual guides one cannot survive on earth. You will find them in the Church, where the Holy Spirit placed them to shepherd the flock of Christ. Beg the Lord to grant you a spiritual father according to your heart, who will comfort you in trouble. The Spirit of God will teach him what he should tell you, and you will hear from Him what is pleasing to God.”

Give your heart in obedience to your spiritual father and God’s grace shall abide in you. “

These are just a few lessons from the Holy Fathers, which refer to the  mutual relations of the Orthodox Christian with his spiritual guide.

Great luck for the Christian is to find a worthy spiritual father, who will take  a responsibility before God for the spiritual life of its “child”, he will pray for him, he will follow his spiritual growth, he will guide him in all the situations of his life, referring him to the path of virtues, which leads to eternal life.

For the Christian who has a spiritual father, the path for resolving life problems that appear in front of him, it is quite different from that of the people of “this world”, who live without faith, outside the church and who wander in the darkness of ignorance in terms of things and the phenomena of the earthly life.

When such “worldly” people will have life problems, they are forced to solve them by relying on their own reason, on their life experience or on the advice of the same sort of “worldly” people. As a rule, in such cases, the problems remain unresolved or their resolution pulls behind other, perhaps major problems.

This happens because the cause of all the troubles and problems is the man himself, in the alienation of his soul from God, in the disruption of the internal mental harmony, as a consequence of the deposition of sins throughout life.

God’s commandments can not be violated without consequences. If you put sunflower oil in the car’s engine instead of engine oil, it will spoil it. If the  lights of the Christmas tree, estimated for a voltage of 127 volts, are switched on 220 volts – they will burn.

This will happen because the inventors of the engine and the lights, constructing them predicted for their inventions a certain mode of operation, which, if impaired, leads to their deterioration.

Also, God, creating man, gave His commandments as rules, which, if he fulfills them, it will keep the soul in a “normal” harmonious state.

A reasonable person, if the television breaks down, calls for the most experienced person who is trained specifically for that and knows how to fix the TV. The unreasonable person, begins to mess with the screwdriver after the microelements or he calls the neighbour who is not expert in this and only helps the owner to “finish off” the TV.

Similarly, the “modern” people, when confronted with life problems as a consequence of failures (sins), try to sort out them or rush for their “neighbour” – a fortune teller, a bioenergetic practitioner. The result must be sad.

A Christian who tries to fulfill God’s commandments, has a clear conscience and peace of the soul. The events in the outer life do not disturb his inner harmony, but also contribute to even greater spiritual perfection, just as fire and water only temper the iron, making a solid steel.

An Orthodox Christian, who has faced a life problem, seeks an advice of the spiritual father, aware that the answer is not received by man, who may be righteous, and sometimes even spiritually experienced, but from God Himself, who sees his faith, and through the spiritual father it gives the necessary advice and blessing.

Once  getting a blessing from the spiritual father for something, the Christian, not doubting, fulfills everything as an obedience, and for this the Lord gives his graceful assistance.

The church, through its holy fathers teaches us: “Give your heart in obedience to your spiritual father and the grace of God will dwell in you.”

How Does The Christian, who Begins his Spiritual Life, Find a Spiritual Guide?

The Church gives every Christian a right to choose a spiritual teacher. It’s nice if he chooses a priest from the nearest church. Because the structure of the soul of each Christian is strictly personal, and the priests according to the characteristics and according to their spiritual experience are also different, it is important to find such a spiritual person, so that, between the Christian and the spiritual father he has chosen it will establish a sincere relationship mutually understanding and full confidence. Then the spiritual guidance will bear fruit. We can give some practical advice to people who want to find a spiritual teacher:

  • Above all, you cordially turn to God, asking Him to grant you a good teacher, who has a gift of reasoning. As you ask – so you will receive.
  • Go to the nearest church and during the service you pay attention to the priests.
  • Try to feel to whom the heart pulls you.
  • Go to that priest for a confession, repent for your sins, ask for everything that is troubling you (just do not waste his time in idle talk, talk briefly about the most important things).
  • Depending on whether the priest will treat you with care or indifference, with sympathy or disinterested, you alone decide whether you will continue to entrust the resolution of your problems or you will be confined to the confession and dismissal of sins, and then you will look for another spiritual father.
  • If you have already confided in him and you have received from him an advice and blessing – you fulfill the obedience sacredly, as if you received it from the Lord and do not run from one priest to another in the hope that he will change the advice that you did not like.
  • Through all the priests, the same Christ acts, and it is therefore sinful to address the same issue among various priests – spiritual fathers (if the first time you received a specific blessing on how to proceed).
  • Do not despair if you have failed to find a priest in the nearest church, to whom you could entrust the soul for a spiritual guidance. Many people in Russia, before the Revolution travelled to solve the problems in their life, in the Optina Pustyn (desert) among the Great elders or Divjeevo and other places where there were monks known for their spiritual life.
  • The more you start to visit the temples and get in touch with other Orthodox Christians you will hear which priests and in which churches enjoy the authority and love from their parishioners, and increase the opportunity to find your own spiritual guide.
  • If there is no opportunity to go to an experienced spiritual guide and the Christian continues to go to the priest who is accessible to him, whatever he is, because of his humility, God will help him. “

One who wants to find a spiritual teacher, should remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and you will find” (Matthew 7.7)

The most important thing is not to stop asking the Lord and He will give you a teacher for the salvation of your soul.

very reverend Alexander Torik

Црковен живот за почетници, Библиотека „Св. Гаврил Лесновски“, Штип, 2012

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