…right before taking the monastic vows, the future monk asked his spiritual father, Metropolitan Anthony of Surouzh, an unexpected yet heartfelt question. “Well, Your Grace, I will now receive the monastic vows from you. I will undertake for the Lord God and His Holy Church the great monastic vows gladly. As for the vow of chastity, I totally understand what it means. I fully accept the vow of poverty as well. All the vows related to prayer are also perfectly clear and acceptable to me. But as for the vow of obedience—here I can’t understand anything!”
“What are you talking about?” Metropolitan Anthony was very surprised.
“Well, I mean,” Father Vladimir reasoned, “instead of starting me out as a simple monk, you’re immediately making me a bishop. In other words, instead of being a novice and obeying the commands of others, my job will mean that I’m the one who will have to command and make decisions. How then do I fulfill the vow of obedience? To whom will I be a novice? Whom will I obey?”
Metropolitan Anthony grew thoughtful for a moment, and then said: “You will be in obedience to everyone and anyone whom you meet on your journey through life. As long as that person’s request will be within your power to grant it, and not in contradiction with the Scriptures.”
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
Our former priest at the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in West Virginia is an outstanding celebrant of the Divine Liturgy. Here he is, delivering the Gospel according to John during the Paschal liturgy.
I suppose one element of contemporary life is mostly missing: In Kristin Lavransdatter people often break the rules but rarely reject them. Very few of these characters are virgins on their wedding days, to take the most obvious example, and yet the ubiquity of sexual sin doesn’t cause them to cast aside the strictures of church and culture. They handle this problem with hypocrisy and the old brutal male compartmentalization (Sami women don’t count), but above all they handle it with penance and forgiveness. Moral relativism means never having to say you’re sorry; these characters are backsliders, sinners, and still partly pagan, but they’re definitely not relativists.