Fr. Michael Marcantoni is the priest at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Rochester, NY. Originally from Puerto Rico, he is a Veteran of the United States Army, he has been married to his Presbytera Katherine from Arequipa, Peru for 10 years. They have two children. "Led by the Spirit" is presented to you to be practical, applicable spiritual guidance for the struggles of everyday life.
A Fatal Passivity
When I recently returned home from the war in August of 2003, I tried to get my life back to some sense of normality. A major part was my involvement with the small and wonderful parish that I was a part of. It was a small community and the priests had to work jobs during the week to support their family, but there were three monastics in the area that became attached to it. Two elderly nuns and a priestmonk.
They began doing daily orthros and vespers and I would join them. When it came time to read the psalms I wanted to read together as a group, but one of the nuns offered me a very different perspective on participation. She told me that my role as a receptive listener was an active one. That it afforded me the luxury to reflect and meditate upon what was being said. If a phrase jumped out at me I could take my time pouring over it. The reader on the other hand, did not have that luxury. They had to continue the flow and rhythm of the reading. The act of reading became a sacrifice and facilitation of prayer for those engaged in what was being said.
No one had ever placed a state of receptivity in the category of “active participation” for me before. This is an essential element for Christ tells us in the Gospel that passivity in regards to our Spiritual Life is death. We hear the parable of the Sower where the seeds representing the “word of God” fall on different types of soil and most commonly we understand it in a fatalistic and therefore “passive” way.
The seed on the path that is picked off by the devil, the temptations that uproot the seed growing on rocks, the growth of Faith impeded and choked off by the pleasures and anxieties of life represented by the thorns, each and every last one of these cases is marked by the common denominator of passivity. And passivity is death.
Our communities and generations have suffered from passivity. There is no shortage of teachers, no shortage of readers and priests with sermons, so what is missing? Too long we have expected someone else to know the theology, someone else to sing, someone else to work, someone else to pray. We have found that we cannot hand down a faith that we do not possess and we cannot possess and receive that faith in Passivity.
The Good Soil in this Parable is marked by anything but the passive, for Christ says that it represents those who with a “good and sincere heart hold fast and bring forth fruit in patience.” A good and sincere heart does not exist by accident, it does not remain that way without actively, deliberately being protected and cultivated like an inner paradise, bringing forth “fruit in patience” is also a deliberate, painstaking task and the patience implies as with all things worthwhile that it will be slow, difficulties will arise and frustration will be high. Or else, there would be no mention of “patience” to begin with.
“Behold, I hand down to you that which I received” says St. Paul in First Corinthians the receiving of this faith is not passive the handing it down is not passive. Truly, you are the heirs this is your inheritance and it belongs to our children. We have long said that the next generations is the future of the Church, but we have not stopped to consider that even more so, the Church is THEIR Future, their inheritance, and possession.
They cannot receive from us that which we have not taken ownership of ourselves. This is your faith, your liturgy, these prayers are yours to sing and to know, this Divine work of the people does not belong to someone else, to us specialists but it is yours to pray and perform. There is no shortage of books and websites. I am urging you on this day, now here, as if for the very first time: do you have a question, consult the scriptures, do you want to know what the Church teaches and why open any number of resources, start wherever you are, do the prayers set before you, let our seasons of fasting not be something that happen around and to you, but something that you perform deliberately.
Because this is yours, yours to know, yours to experience and your Children’s to inherit from you. Take what is yours, for the Kingdom of Heaven is like this-we bear fruit, we get somewhere, by holding fast, by patience but never by inaction and passivity.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Originally Recorded: October 16, 2016
ABOUT FATHER MICHAEL MARCANTONI
Fr. Michael Marcantoni is the priest at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Rochester, NY. Originally from Puerto Rico, he is a Veteran of the United States Army, he has been married to his Presbytera Katherine from Arequipa, Peru for 10 years. They have two children. Led by the Spirit is presented to you to be practical, applicable spiritual guidance for the struggles of everyday life.
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