Obedience

True obedience is not a slavish submission to another against ones will. This sort of obedience is that of the law and unprofitable for salvation. Rather obedience is the process of becoming one mind with another. It is accepting another’s will as your own will. It is a willing submission; not forced but free. This is obedience in Christ.

Nevertheless, we must be obedient to God but we must do so willingly. To unite to God we must become of one will as He. “Not my will but Thy will.” We must die to our own desires and accept those of God as ours. Then His will be become our will and our will will be His will. He will give us whatever we desire because whatever we desire will be what He desires. Also, we will be truly free because only God is truly free. His freedom becomes ours. Obedience is freedom, dying to our will means receiving all that we desire. The unfathomable Mysteries of God!

To love God is to obey Him because love seeks the desires of the other as one’s own. Truly obeying God is to love Him because we only freely give ourselves to those we love.

As in all the Orthodox life, obedience must be incarnate. We obey God in those He has set over us. Monastics obey their superiors, children their parents, wives their husbands, citizens to rulers, laity the Bishops and the Bishops the Apostles, in the Holy Tradition by means of the Doctrines and Canons, the testimonies of God’s will.

We obey in all things because we obey God in all things. He is all in all. We obey in Christ and obey those over us as Christ. Notwithstanding the totality of obedience, obedience to those set over us is the incarnation of obedience to Christ, to God. Thus, we are not obliged to obey things that are contrary to the will of Christ. Such a command is no longer in Christ as the command is no longer an icon of Christ’s command. Nevertheless, we must not allow this as an excuse for self-will.

Obedience is free and it is never forced. Those in authority but love as Christ, who forces no-one to faith or virtue. If obedience is not given freely then it is of no benefit. One may teach and exhort but never force, otherwise one is longer exercising the authority in Christ and is in effect exercising no authority because there is no authority outside Christ.

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10 Responses to Obedience

  1. Sophocles says:

    Father Patrick,

    With which Orthodox Church are you i.e. Greek, Russian, etc.
    How long have you been a monastic and with which monastery are you attached?
    Sorry to pry but I’m just curious.

    I’ve given some thought about monasticm myself. I have been to St. John of Shanghai Monastery twice and have a warm friendship with one of the monastics there.
    I have also been to St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Arizona. My brother’s spiritual father is there and it is beautiful there.
    Have you ever been to either? How about Mt. Athos, Valaam, etc?
    Again, sorry for the pesky questions but if you have opportunity, I’d appreciate a response.

    Oh, and I have been keeping up with your posts here since I discovered this site.

    On another note, over on Energetic Procession, I feel a certain frustration in being unable to bring out more from my heart to those with whom I speak, to bring out the deep treasures of our Faith. Right now I’m engaged in a conversation with Nick on your post on St. Hilary and it is so difficult to to convey that the Faith is something “other” than what is able to be explained by conventional means but how best to describe what that “other” is is where I fail. Is this through ignorance on my part, impurity of motive, lack of clarity through lack of concerted prayer and fasting, or all of the above?
    I know you don’t know me to give an in depth answere to these questions but I thought I would share them nonetheless.

    In Christ and in fellowship,

  2. Sophocles says:

    Father Patrick,

    I will try to remember what I wrote the other day but it was all spur of the moment stuff.

    I asked which Church you were in: Greek, Russian, etc. and which monastery you were attached to.

    Also, I remember mentioning that I have entertained thoughts of monasticism in varying degrees and just wanted to learn more about your journey into the Orthodox Church and into the monastic life.

    I also mentioned having gone in the last couple of years to the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai twice and the St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona and wondering if ever you had been there. I have developed a good friendship with a monk at St. John with whom I correspond fairly regularly.

    Also, I felt a little frustrated in trying to bring out of my soul what I really wanted to share with those whom I spoke with at Energetic Procession and elsewhere on the blogs. I so wish to speak in such a way that the authentic savour of our blessed Faith may come across to those who are searching and was wondering if my inability to do so was based on my very limited knowledge or my lack of purity and holiness or both or something other than this. I must confess that it saddens me somewhat when the Orthodox Church is considered as one of many churches and not as “The Church”. And I so want to be able to find the right words spoken from love to convey this.

    I know you don’t know me, Father Patrick, and I’m sure it is difficult for you to answer some of these questions but any attempt on your part would be greatly appreciated.

    As for my first set of questions I do hope not to be prying into your affairs but I am just inquiring.

    I think that’s the sum, or nearly so, of what I wrote.

    In Christ and fellowship,

  3. monkpatrick says:

    Sophocles,
    I am glad that the comment has made it this time.
    My situation is rather strange at the moment. I am from New Zealand but I am presently living in England. I am “officially” with the Ecumenical Patriarchate but I am often attending a Russian parish church, which has services in English. Due to various circumstances I am not in a monastery at the moment and rather working as a high school IT teacher; that is why I am a wayward monk. I am intending to study theology here n England and there seems to be a good Master’s degree available in Orthodox Theology, so I will have a go with that.
    My journey into the Orthodox Church began just over eleven years ago, when I was getting frustrated with Protestant way of doing things and Scriptural interpretations. Rather than form my own “correct” church, perish the thought, I decided to look towards more traditional churches for a place to stay. I considered most Protestant denominations, I had moved from a Charismatic to an Evangelical, Open Brethren, group because the Evangelicals where at least better at interpreting the Scriptures, although I swung to far anti-charismatic/prophecy and very sola-Scripture. I also looked at Roman Catholicism but attending services was not very helpful because they reminded me of my Protestant services and the Roman Catholics were no better at keeping the traditions of Scripture in practice than the Protestants. Thank God, I heard about the Orthodox Church and decided to find out more. I found a book by Fr John Meyendorff in my University library, in New Zealand, and basically converted on the spot after reading it because it answered the theological and philosophical questions that I had regarding salvation, especially tied up with time and how one is “connected” to Christ. The Eucharist and theosis provided the answers that I was looking for. It was a while before I found an Orthodox Church to attend, there were none in my home city and few elsewhere in the country. Even when I found a church, there wasn’t an English speaking Priest to catechise me so I had to move to another city to find someone, who even then only spoke limited English. Nevertheless, he was a great Priest, an Indonesian who is conducting mission work there but under the Ecumenical Patriarchate rather than with Fr Daniel and Archbishop Hilarion, whom I also love dearly for his kind hospitality and support when I was in Australia. Eventually, I met a convert New Zealander, who was a monk-Priest and this helped, along with any book I could find in English. I was Baptised at the end of ‘96. One book I read about Baptism, “I confess one Baptism…” (I think) was quite influential on my thinking of the Mysteries and I am quite a stickler for form in the Mysteries and in general in the Orthodox life, hence “Sacred Traditions”. This latter point is another reason that I am Orthodox because of the Apostolic Traditions. The Orthodox Church is the only Church, at least formally, if not always in practice, to hold these Traditions consistently with the Scriptures and to maintain them without change.
    Monasticism is something that interested me early on and, since I was single, I thought to look into it. I visited monasteries in Australia, England and Greece, including Mt Athos but nowhere in the US, but I couldn’t be a monk until I paid off my student debts. (I was also advised to spend some time in parish life to avoid monastic judgmentalism of those in the world; it was good advice.) When I finally paid off my debts and had continued to avoid being married, I decided to try a monastery. My first choice didn’t have room for me, so I tried another. This was a disaster and I decided that it would be better to remain in the world perhaps as unmarried Priest. I have since had a number of Bishops keen to make me a Priest but as an unmarried man it was not recommended without support. Recently, a Greek Bishop, who could provide support, in New Zealand, agreed for me to become a Priest, made me a monk (I thought as custom for unmarried Priests but he intended it to be much more monastic) and then decided not to go further because the Greek community were not ready for an English speaking Priest. (He was quite right I believe, although I am now awkwardly in a position of being a Rasophore monk outside a monastery and not attached to serve at a Church as clergy.) He wanted me to go to Greece to learn Greek but after everyone I knew reacting negatively to this I decided to come to England to study and find a spiritual father who has monastic experience and speaks English. I have decided not to try to live in a monastery again, because, as I have learnt and been advised by an Abbot on Mt Athos, I can’t cope with monastic life in a monastery. So, I am a bad example of a monk. Nevertheless, I absolutely support monasticism and I think that anyone with the slightest interest should test this calling before deciding on marriage. I believe it is a matter of will rather than God appointing people to monasticism or marriage. It is the angelic way and although it carries many crosses, the blessing are untold. (In practice, it is daily life with all its unromantic ups and down and stupid cravings for chocolate biscuits that wouldn’t interest you in the world.)
    Having been on Mt Athos for a few months, I got to know some of the monasteries there and I think that those connected with Elder Ephraim in the States are good places. However, they are strict, traditional monasteries and for some it is not the best place. There are a variety of opinions and flavours, even on Mt Athos. It is a matter of finding the right place for oneself, and this is more a matter of intuition rather than a checking of boxes. It is recommended to try a few but not too many. There is no perfect place and wherever one ends up trials are sure to follow; this is meant to happen and it requires sticking at it. However, sometimes certain things are just not right and it is necessary to try elsewhere. There is a good reason for a long period of trial, three or so years before any formal commitment is made. Quite a few try and leave monasteries on Mt Athos, even after a year or so. Mostly back to the world but sometimes to another monastery that ends up working out much better for the monk. It is good building up relationships with monasteries before going to live there; it helps to give a better sense of what one is in for. Note that monks are not saints and some live a long way from ideal norms even while remaining in black. However, I have met some saintly monks, from whom one can sense Grace pouring off (for want of better imagery).
    I don’t think that it is ever possible to adequately explain the Orthodox Faith to those outside the Church in words alone; God has spoken though the Scriptures and Saints and if this doesn’t make progress, what can our words do? The experience of life is Christ transcends words and we can only show this forth in our life, perhaps most powerfully in silence. This doesn’t help in blogs but it does with “real” relationships where on is known in word and deed and not word only. God helps us to speak as the need arises and concentrating on developing an inner life of prayer, by the way of the cross in obedience, with humility and love, should be the focus of our lives. “Be still and know that I am God.” I have never converted anyone to the Church and I may even have had the opposite affect, may God forgive me if this is the case.
    Personally, I find myself in a tension participating in blogs. It is really the preserve of Priests to speak publicly for the Faith, and laity should only do so in private. For a lack of Orthodox friends around, I do find it useful to have some of my thoughts “peer” checked, so to speak, but perhaps there are better ways. I am now getting to know more people here whom I can talk with. I am surprised that I can manage say anything true or useful because I am certainly not knowledgeable, pure or can have any pretence at being the slightest bit holy. It is more of a matter of how deep into hell I am getting myself and having the pride to comment on blogs is only starting to help place me below Bishops and then false humility in saying this. Nevertheless, I have experienced a little of God’s Grace, in my sinfulness (He is so merciful and kind, loving all equally in infinite depth,) and what little I have learnt I too want to share in my poor words. May God have mercy! May all glory be to Him!
    Don’t worry about not being able to speak well, it is a blessing and you may be surprised at what affects words spoken in faith in love may have.
    Regardless of what others think the Orthodox Church is “The Church”. I know this from experience and not just arguments and reasons. I don’t think that Protestants can conceive of “The Church” until they accept that Protestantism does not fit the Scriptural witness of the Church and start to look for something truer. Roman Catholics cannot seem to escape the idea that the Church must be centred on the Pope. They cannot seem to trust the unity of the Spirit and that Christ Himself preserves the Truth in the Church as its, very present, Head. Perhaps it is a counter to Protestant individualism. These are just my thoughts on perhaps why and they may be far from the fullness of the truth but for whatever reason, I think that it is difficult for them to see the Orthodox Church as “The Church”; this can only happen once one is committed to become Orthodox. Much patience is required with those outside the Church and often it is only when they come to seek that they will respond to the answers. Speaking to those who are not seeking does not get very far because they are not really listening; they are not wanting answers. One sometimes cuts them short and leaves the matter to rest; some are just arguing for the love of arguing or as an excuse to slander the Church. It is best for their sakes not to have a discussion at all. If Orthodox are talking like this then this is a problem and perhaps they have not really grasped what the Church is either on both a theological or experiential level. It is good to keep in line with the monks, especially those on Mt Athos; they have the best theology and spiritual awareness as a whole, although any particular individual may not necessarily share this.
    Well, I have said too much as always and said more than I should, although it may be just as well. May God use them as He will. Please forgive this chatterbox and remember me in your prayers.

  4. Sophocles says:

    Father Patrick,

    Dear brother, thank you so much for your reply and your encouragement. I look forward to more correspondence with you. If I may “adopt” you as my online spiritual father of sorts, this would be of great benefit to me, if you are able or willing, of course. My email is available on my own site on my profile for any private communications.
    I will begin praying for you regularly and hope you do the same for me.
    May all glory be to Him who dwells in approachable light. Amen.

  5. a..sinner says:

    Father Patrick,

    I see my original comment here now. When did it arrive? Curious, ey?

    And you’ve been quiet here for a long time. All is well?

  6. Visibilium says:

    Are we required to be obedient to evil rulers, or do we have a duty to overthrow them?

  7. monkpatrick says:

    Visibilium,

    We are instructed to be obedient to rulers because they have been instituted and maintained by God. We are to do this regardless of what we may see as an evil ruler unless of course the ruler requires us to act contrary to God in which case our duty is to God.

    Within democracies where we are free to vote then naturally we can vote for the ruler we believe is best for our community and allows us the greatest freedom to live in Christ. I don’t believe it is right to raise a sword in rebellion against an evil ruler but we can privately pray that God may spare us from such a ruler. Also, within the due process of law we may feel free to write to our rulers and seek justice from them and proclaim the way of Truth, showing due respect. The Pastors (in an Orthodox sense) should teach the way of righteousness and if the ruler sees himself in this and repents then good, if he takes offence then we endure it in Christ and if he fails to hear then God will judge him. If the whole population through preaching comes to find the ruler to be evil then the ruler will lose the support of the people and no ruler can remain in power without the support of at least a significant portion of the population. No-one will carry out his evil commands and he will be disempowered without need for overthrow or violence.

  8. Patty says:

    Warm greetings in the True Christmas Spirit!

    I hope all is well, you seem very knowledgeable. I read through your blogs–very sharp indeed! Do you have a Doctorate in Divinity or Philosophy?

    Anyhow, I was wondering if you could give some priceless advice. I am thinking of buying a some good old Catholic theology books for some family members and loved ones, and well, I recently received an advertisement for this very interesting book called “Communicatio in Sacris: The Roman Catholic Church against Intercommunion of non-Catholics” by Mr. William J. DeTucci.

    I was wondering if you have seen any book review on this book? I could not find anything on the author. It seems the book talks about the Role of Vatican II in the Modern World and how some Traditionalists have resisted many of the Modernistic teachings of Ecumenism, Religious Liberty, and the New Mass, as opposed to the old Latin Tridentine Mass. However, I also recently read Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio ( http://www.vatican.va), which seems to be give the Liberty of “Open Communion” to so-called Traditional Catholic Groups who dissent from Vatican II, i.e. Marcel Lefebvre’s SSPX, Mark Pivarunas’ CMRI, Clarence Kelly’s SSPV, Br. Michael Dimond’s Most Holy Family Monastery, the various Saint Benedict Centers, Jason Spadafore’s Raphael Society, Patrick Taylor’s Society of the Virgin Mary, and so many other Independent Bishops at Large)–all who promote Intercommunion Latin Mass Ritual, of course! I think the Spirit of Vatican II is really being recognized now by many of the Traditionalists who once followed Bishop Lefebvre in resisting Vatican II Conciliar Reforms, but since the Motu Proprio Latin Mass Ecumenism has been widely promoted and it has been “well received” by many of these same various Traditionalists Sects and also by many Liberal Bi-Ritual Bishops who offer both the Latin Mass and Ecumenical Modern Liturgies.

    However, breaking the rule of judging a book by its cover, and only peaking its table of contents, it seems to me this book is an itchy reaction to this Neo-Ecumenism that both Greek and Latin Churches have been involved with. Not sure if you have read the book, or know of some theologian who has written a review? Here is the link to the contents that I browsed:

    http://www.lulu.com/content/1431544

    and also here:

    http://www.vladcatholic.com

    I would most greatly appreciate any book review that you or a theologian has done. This book seems to have positive merit in as much it claims to be “a Compendium of Roman Catholic Doctrine on the subject of Intercommunion with non-Catholics. This book produces the overwhelming theological consensus for the Dogmatic Teaching condemning Intercommunion with non-Catholics, putting together a treasury of Sacred Scriptures, Church Fathers, Doctors, Saints, Theologians, and Popes who have written on the matter.”

    However, I just wanted to verify that before I make my last minute shopping for this Christmas & New Year Season.

    May God bless you all!

    Kind regards,

    Patty

  9. monkpatrick says:

    Patty,

    The book seems to be interesting but unfortunately, I have not read it nor do I know anyone who has done so, so I am afraid that I cannot be much help with a review or suggesting whom may be so. From a quick glance at the links, it seems to be written by those in Roman Catholic groups that have a similar on the edge status as the Old Calendarist groups in the Orthodox Church. From an Orthodox perspective such groups usually have some valid points to make but they do tend to go to an extreme lacking a counter balance in the wider Church community. The Compendium aspect will undoubtedly contain much accurate and thought provoking material but it may also omit to mention material that could run in a counter direction, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Overall, my understanding of Catholic theology and ecclesiology is that, although sadly, inter-communion should not take place between those in the Church and those outside her. This principle is quite strong in the Orthodox Tradition and found in the Roman Catholic tradition, as the book tries to demonstrate but, perhaps not as strongly in its theological foundation. I haven’t studied enough Roman Catholic thought to make a precise statement on this rather this is an impression that I have developed but needs refining.

    I hope this helps a little and that you can find a suitable and fuller review.

    By the way, I don’t have a Doctorate in anything, I am just starting a Masters in Theology.

  10. Dear Patty & Patrick the Monk:

    I read your blog. Thanks for the information on the Conservative Christian Obedience. I am a High Anglican Bishop (we celebrate a Tridentine Style Liturgy), who has valid lines from the Orthodox Churches. I am very moved by your page, and I recently got the book Patty mentioned (thanks for the referral) a very Hot! Roman Catholic Theology Book, that is troubling my current position called “Communicatio in Sacris: The Roman Catholic Church against Intercommunion with non-Catholics.”

    http://www.lulu.com/content/1753466

    I am thinking of converting over to the Traditional Latin Roman Catholic Church and now talking with a Bishop in France who gave this book of Dr. DeTucci “Two thumbs up!” I must confess I am very close of joining Tony Blair in this voyage from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.

    I personally give Dr. DeTucci TWO THUMBS WAY UP for his Patristic and Dogmatic Scholarship! Indifferentism is a Major Problem, and it has caused the Mass Murder and Holocaust of Abortion today, sadly to say.

    I would love to review any Mainstream Periodical that has read through DeTucci’s Book, but I may write my own yet. I love to read first more established Scholars, you seem to be a top notch scholarly periodical online. You are studying for your Masters? I wish you well. I studied at Oxford, and thank God, I realized the Main Anglican Succession is invalid. That’s why I had communion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, but I am rethinking my Economy of Sacramental Grace thanks to Doctor DeTucci (who I heard studied at the Lateran in Rome).

    And thank you!

    Sincerely in Christ Our Lord,

    + Most Reverend Bishop Dr. Joseph John Violet of St. Vitus, M.A., D.D., Ph.D.

    London, England

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