A Letter to Symeon

A Letter to Myself
Written by way of self-examination. A creative attempt at practical application of basic principles of the Orthodox Christian spiritual life, in the style of letter-writing.

My soul has long been on pilgrimage1 without finding a true harbor either outside or within myself. —St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, The Arena

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In Christ,

I have become aware of what it is that you lack: ‘A firm resolve.’

In recent days you have not taken to morning and evening prayer, preferring to sleep and excuse yourself from giving God due glory, and loving your neighbor by way of prayer. This life is but one. Your action is subject to your choosing, and where does your treasure lie?

Do you want physical bread or the bread that comes down from heaven? The choice is yours. If you choose the former you will be unsatisfied, frustrated, and regretful. This grace of God given in the latter is ‘new every morning,’ but you must arise to it if you wish to receive it.

If you believe the day to be your own, ‘for the taking,’ then seek satisfaction and your reward will be given you now—but I can assure you that you will be deceived in this way.

To arise that God may ‘grant you a good beginning,’ you must follow the path set before you by our Holy Fathers. Begin with prayer before all else—unless you need a splash of cold water in the face first!—and pray that God would clothe you with grace as you arise in the resurrection of Christ. Make use of the prayer book using appropriate prayers and intercessions, but also pray by reading from the Psalter, perhaps chanting three Psalms morning and evening, and maybe more as you progress. And engage in the use of the Jesus Prayer, which allows the mind to descend and settle in the heart, so that you may come to dwell in the silent presence of God, Who makes Himself known to those who call upon His name with persistence—in faith, hope, and love.

You may also ask of yourself: ‘Do I truly believe?’ If you do, it will strengthen your resolve and inform your actions in all places, and at all times. Do not hesitate to do what is most difficult in the service of both God and fellow-man. In doing so, you will become purified of ego and the passions.

Next to beginning and ending the day in prayer—which you should do regardless of how you ‘feel’—make an effort to read the prescribed passages from the Holy Scripture (at minimum). This effort is not to ‘gain’ salvation—which cannot be bought by actions—but to work out salvation and aid in the salvation of others.

You must also come to know the Saints as friends, fathers, and mothers, these who sold all for the sake of the Gospel. Do you wish to honor God and love your neighbor? Then imitate the Saints in heart, mind, and deed.

All these things, along with regular communion, confession, and communal prayer, will be the beginning of your path to salvation. You must believe and have a firm resolve in order to sacrifice all for the sake of the Kingdom. ‘He who wishes to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake will find it.’

God grant you Grace and a good beginning!


Show 1 footnote

  1. Psalm 119:6 LXX


  1. Silouan says

    Very well written. It’s this simple and this difficult. Lord have mercy!