Posts Tagged ‘Fr. Thomas Hopko’

Orthodox New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2008
San Antonio New Year's Celebration

San Antonio New Year's Celebration

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions, usually because they are doomed to failure and really seem a bit unrealistic and almost superstitious.  The only one I seem to fall into is the “loose 10 pounds” resolution.  Ironic that I’ve been gaining and loosing the same 10 pounds for 20 years.

If I was to make a list of resolutions I’d like to commit myself to Fr. Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims on the Christian Way of Life that have been circulating around for a while.  If you want to hear them click here  and scroll to the bottom of the page.

  1. Be always with Christ, and trust God in everything.
  2. Pray as you can, not as you think you must.
  3. Have a keepable rule of prayer, done by discipline (every day).
  4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day.
  5. Repeat a short prayer when you mind is not occupied.
  6. Make some prostrations when you pray.
  7. Eat good foods in moderation, and fast on fasting days.
  8. Practice silence – inner and outer.
  9. Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day.
  10. Do acts of mercy in secret.
  11. Go to liturgical services regularly.
  12. Go to confession and Holy Communion regularly.
  13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings.
  14. Reveal your thoughts and feelings to someone regularly.
  15. Read the scriptures regularly.
  16. Read good books, a little at a time.
  17. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  18. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  19. Be polite with everyone, first of all family members.
  20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
  21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  22. Exercise regularly.
  23. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  24. Be totally honest, first of all with yourself.
  25. Be faithful in little things.
  26. Do your work, then forget it.
  27. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  28. Face reality.
  29. Be grateful.
  30. Be cheerful.
  31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  32. Never bring attention to yourself.
  33. Listen when people talk to you.
  34. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  36. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  37. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out.
  38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
  39. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  40. Don’t seek, or expect, pity or praise.
  41. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  42. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  44. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  45. Be defined and bound by God, not be people.
  46. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  47. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  48. Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves.
  49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
  50. Be merciful with yourself and with others.
  51. Have no expectations, except to be fiercely tempted until your last breath.
  52. Focus exclusively on God, and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin.
  53. Patiently endure your faults and sins peacefully under God’s mercy.
  54. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  55. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.

This is the kind of list we all think we cannot possibly fulfill.  I could quote the famous passage, “with God all things are possible”, but do we always believe this promise?  I’m more inclined to fall into the doubting category.  Experience has shown me that humans are either pathologically cynical or hopeless defeatists – traits of our fallen nature which fuel so many failed New Year’s resolutions.  And it’s for that reason I suspect Fr. Hopko puts in #54 – “When you fall, get up immediately and start over”.   The Apostle James didn’t see failure as an impediment to our “success” as Christians, but as a spiritual aid.  In Chapter 1:2-3, of his Epistle he advises,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [temptations in the King James version], knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

You can and should spend a lifetime following Fr. Hopko’s Maxims, but most importantly, our faith gives us an opportunity to fail and keep trying.   It’s not an excuse to live a life of conscious sin, but for many of us it won’t be our perfection that’s a testament to our faith, but our willingness to keep getting up and trying again when we do fall.   My prayer then is ‘God give me the strength and desire to keep getting up’.

Happy New Year!  Prospero año nuevo!  Prost Neujahr!