Living A Sober Life is Normal Orthodoxy
In my old law enforcement days, I served on the DUI Task Force in our local community. This was when Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was just getting started and there was a real push to get impaired drivers off the road. We had to do extensive training on just how alcoholic beverages or any intoxicant affected a person’s ability to safely operate their car. One tool we had was a car that was rigged to simulate the slowed reaction time that happens to a person when they are drunk. It really got the attention of teens as they tried to drive that car and realized they were really in danger if they were drunk behind the wheel.
Turns out that what’s true of physical intoxication is true of spiritual intoxication too! And it’s why the Fathers of the Church and the saints constantly talk about the necessity of having a sober life. It is absolutely essential to grasp that the disciplines of the Faith are for that purpose, to build within you a sober, attentive, and faithful life. Dear ones, please put this in your heart and mind and contemplate this wisdom – live a sober life!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 23:15-24:5:
My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your mind in the way. Be not among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. Hearken to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice. My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a harlot is a deep pit; an adventuress is a narrow well. She lies in wait like a robber and increases the faithless among men. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine, those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.” Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief. By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a man of knowledge than he who has strength.
The real power of the wisdom of physical fasting that is at the heart of Great Lent is to wake us up to how we are made “sluggish” in our lives by the intoxicating effects of “too much” on our everyday lives.
We, humans, don’t live well drunk, both physically and spiritually. And too many of us think sobriety only means being free from physical intoxicants. But the reality is physical intoxicants like drugs or alcohol are icons of the deeper dangers of spiritual intoxicants, undisciplined passions, and habitual sins to enslave us to a drunk life of bad and short-sighted choices. And the whole of the coming of Christ to destroy death and restore us to our true purpose in God creating us in the first place. A Normal Orthodox Life embraces the work of spiritual sobriety.
So, the Church gives us the wisdom to sober us up so that life doesn’t catch us off guard and we don’t run our lives into the ditch of bad choices and short-sighted mistakes. Can you think of a better or deeper WHY than this for all the disciplines and the insights and practices of our very intrusive Orthodox Faith?
But, the only way to sober up is to admit we have to discipline our desires and make them our servants and not our masters. And the only way to do that is to insist that our desires obey the truth and not be indulged just because we “want” something or someone! We have to fast to be sober. We have to learn to say “no” to good things for a short period of time SO THAT those good things don’t make us sluggish and drunk and unable to see trouble coming! Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were asked to fast from only one tree, and they failed. Now we have to undo their short-sightedness and grow up so that we are not drunk and unable to steer our lives in the right direction.
The monk Eutychios was born to pious parents who raised him as a serious and sober Christian and he grew and eventually was chosen as Patriarch of New Rome, Constantinople in 552 AD. But then, because of the rise of the heresy of some and the ubiquitous church politics that is found through all of Church History, he was exiled from the Roman Capital in 565 AD because he held firm to the Orthodox Faith. He suffered slander and injustice but he refused to become intoxicated by popularity or comfort. He valued fidelity and the sober willingness to suffer temporary persecution to embrace an eternal Truth. And his fidelity and sobriety were recognized because he was reinstated to his office in Constantinople in 577 AD. He died remaining faithful on this date in 582 AD and we still remember him today!
Today, are you sober? Are you clear-headed enough to see trouble coming? Can you navigate your life well? If you allow the wisdom of the Faith to keep you clear-headed, you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Eutychios, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.