In the life of Saint Dimitri of Rostov, as told in St. Nicolai Velimirovic’s Prologue from Ochrid (October 28), we can read that the saint was in the salvific habit of chanting the hymn “O Theotokos and Virgin, Rejoice” every hour when the clock struck.
Of course, he was a monk and even a saint. He lived in a monastery, and led a life dedicated to prayer and the learning and keeping of God’s commandments. We poor ones lead a life most often not dedicated to those things which are for the salvation of our souls, but to the cares of this world and self-gratification, even though the evangelical commandments, which St. Dimitri followed so well, apply to all Christians.
We engage in both important and frivolous pursuits, and are often surrounded by people using bad language, and with bad ideas. Everywhere, whether in the office or supermarket, among our families, friends and brethren, or even when alone, temptations, distractions and sinful images assault us. It is very easy to forget WHO WE ARE (that is, who we have as our Father), and to lose a sure knowledge of the presence of God within our hearts as we go about our tasks. Perhaps we say our morning and evening prayers faithfully (perhaps not), but we may go long periods during the day that we do not remember God, or pray even a little bit. To always have the remembrance of God within us is certainly beyond our capabilities for the moment, but we can make a good start by emulating Saint Dimitri’s good habit.
Christian! Strive to remember God at least every hour. Purchase a watch which beeps every hour, or a clock with chimes. Decide upon a short prayer or prayers to say every hour when you are “called to prayer.” Perhaps you may say “Meet it is,” or the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” or the prayer of the publican “O God be merciful to me a sinner and cleanse me.” You may merely cross yourself and call God to mind. The content or variety of prayers is not so important, and is a matter of personal preference. The important idea here is to somehow shake ourselves out of our lethargy at least every hour, so that we do not forget God.
If you observe this practice faithfully, you will begin to see almost immediate results. You will find yourself praying more often, and able to listen to the prompting of your guardian angel, who previously could not be heard above the din. You may notice with unnerving frequency that you were about to be angry or were gossiping, or about to be mastered by some other passion as the clock strikes. If that is the case, then, you have an opportunity to immediately turn to God, and ask forgiveness, then say “your prayer.” It is a much better thing to remember God while sinning, and to turn back to Him, than to keep on sinning and not think about Him.
In our household, everyone has this habit. Every time the wall clock chimes, we cross ourselves. Even our youngest one, Natalie, who is two years old, remembers, and is in fact the self-appointed family sentry who makes sure none of us will forget our duty.
Notice: This Article first appeared in “Orthodox Family”. It may be freely distributed, as long as my name, church and contact information, and this notice are included: Fr. Seraphim Holland, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, PO Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070; Phone: 972 529-275 <http://www.orthodox.