Summer vacation. What to remember!

1 July 2019

Below is an appeal of the late Metropolitan Vitaly (+2006), published in 1960 before the beginning of summer. Much of what he wrote almost 60 years ago is still very relevant today to Orthodox Christians preparing for their own summer vacations.

Appeal of the Right Reverend Vitaly, Bishop of Montreal and Canada

Warm summer days are upon us, and soon all of you will rush to your long-awaited rest in the country, away from the bustle of the cities.

You undoubtedly have earned this rest because of your honest and hard work, through which you support your family by providing them with their daily bread.

Your children, in particular, like tender plants, need plenty of fresh air and life-giving sunlight.

However, we must remind you that not only our body feels the need for rest, but also our soul, which is weary of the vanity of the world, everyday cares and worries, with which we trouble each other by passing on to one another from soul to soul our unhealthy passions and sins in conversations, gossip criticisms and disputes. Our soul is tired of all that it sees and hears. Therefore do not only indulge in physical relaxation, do not be led only by the needs of your body, which like some runaway horse is able to “carry thee whither thou wouldest not” (Jn. 21: 18). Feed your soul with daily prayer, which is its main nourishment, and the beauty of nature, in which you long to relax, will help you bring this prayer to the Throne of God itself. Do not pollute the solemnity and grandeur of nature with evil thoughts and deeds, but rest in nature’s bosom, as if in some Temple of God, observing attentively all of natures wonders. Nature is also a school of God’s Wisdom and Love, in which you learn, through your spiritual hearing, to feel the breath of God’s Grace. Draw your children’s attention to the Providence of God which we see in each blade of grass, in each insect, butterfly and every bird. This will make them thoughtful and loving. When Sunday or one of the great feastdays comes along, pray together as a family and read the Gospel lesson appointed for this day, or better yet, if at all possible, attend church services at the closest parish of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. We are blessed to have the opportunity to travel quickly and easily from one place to another at will.

If you spend your summer in such a manner, God’s blessing will descend on your vacation and you will return to your place of work refreshed, invigorated, joyful and spiritually enriched.

The Hierarchical Council of our Church, which recently took place, was conducted in a spirit of deep understanding as to the difficult crisis in which our entire world finds itself. In all of its appeals the Council first and foremost called for intensified prayer, fasting and repentance.

More often than not, our summers pass in spiritual laxity, with poor church attendance, frivolity and indulgence in relaxation that approaches slothfulness. But now is not the time to fall into spiritual carelessness, when so many clear signs are given to us, through which the Lord warns us of possible coming troubles, which will come upon us if we do not turn to Him in sincere prayer. This year began with a series of aviation accidents, and thus the sky itself is showing us perhaps, from where we should expect more serious dangers. And now from different corners of the world we hear of earthquakes, which have wrought terrible destruction, causing tens of thousands of human casualties. Today these disasters have taken place in Agadir, Persia and Chile, but tomorrow, beloved brothers and sisters, these frightening tremors may shake the ground under our own feet, transforming our homes into our graves. Already a third icon of the Mother of God has begun weeping, thus encouraging us to shed tears of repentance. What other signs are we waiting for?

And so, we ask and beseech you to be spiritually vigilant, to increase your prayers, and to spend your time prudently, like the wise merchant who spends his silver with forethought. With God there is nothing to fear, but to be with God we need to preserve, like the apple of our eye, our conscience clean and pure. The apostle Paul admonishes us: “…let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (I Thess. 5:6), for “blessed is he that watcheth” (Rev. 16:15).

Pravoslavnoe Obozrenie