It seems we’ve been focusing on being awake this week and today is no exception. In fact, I want to really dive deep today in the central wisdom of the Church that teaches you and me to “BE” awake to what is most important in life.

And that’s because it seems in our modern world there is an increasing amount of troubles, temptations, violence, demands, politics, morality confusion, technological discoveries, mindsets, and messages all with the intent of keeping you and me asleep! “Asleep to what?” you may ask. And the answer is asleep to the central focus of each human life: To know God and to become like Him. You see, when you are awake to that reality, you see all the other challenges of life, of society, of pain, disappointment, fear, politics, morality, and even happy events, in their proper perspective. Asleep to that focus, and all we do is do what we are doing; grasping and lurching from one extreme to another and always wondering why Peace is so elusive to us all.

Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 16:13-24:

BRETHREN, be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. Now, brethren, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicos, because they have made up for your absence; for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men. The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brethren send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

“Be Watchful” and “Stand Firm” and “Be Courageous” and “Be Strong:” with these words, the Apostle Paul reveals to the Corinthians the heart of our timeless Orthodox wisdom of actually being Orthodox on purpose. But he begins with “Be Watchful.” The Greek word there is “νήψατε” and it is in the imperative form. You know what that means, don’t you? Yeah, it isn’t a suggestion. It’s an imperative, a command! I would go further and suggest that my ability and your ability to do the rest of what St. Paul tells us, Stand Strong, Be Courageous, Be Strong, and even “Let all you do be motivated by love,” is only possible if I do this very first command – Be Watchful!

And, for centuries, we Orthodox have heard a multitude of fathers and mothers of the Church tell us the same thing. Wisdom through the centuries reveals to us the central importance of this watchfulness, this awakeness, AND how to be watchful. But, the truth is, until you know and appreciate just what is at stake you will never be fully able to appreciate WHY this work is essential and vital to your very life. And this isn’t just about your eternal life and your preparation for your own mortality. This command to be Watchful, to BE Awake, is at the heart of every aspect of your everyday life as well. Your relationships depend on you being watchful. Your career depends on you being watchful. Your children and their well being depends on you being watchful. This wisdom isn’t just about you being a “good Christian” as much as it is about you being a truly human person, fulfilled and complete.

Sounds important, doesn’t it?

And here is the key to watchfulness: The central vision and constant contemplation of the Lord Jesus. It is this very central reason St. Paul finishes his wisdom to the Corinthians with the stark and jarring words “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” My ability to be watchful depends on my willingness to see Jesus Christ as the center of my life! Not just my “religious” life, as if my life can be compartmentalized into “different” segments. That foolish notion only leads me to a schizophrenic existence that keeps me a slave to my passion. No, this focus on contemplating Christ and knowing Him and loving Him goes to the very heart of my ability to “stay awake” to priorities and a focus on truth.

Today, is your life focused on Christ? Do you appreciate the intricate beauty of the Divine Liturgy to give you everything you need to be focused on Christ? Are you aware of the reasons why the disciplines of the Faith are all designed to keep you awake to your true purpose? At your feet lay all the tools and treasures you will ever need to know God and become by grace what Christ is by nature. Will you stay awake and BE?


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Comments (3)

  • David Domzalski Reply

    Fr. Powell,

    Thank you for your posts and podcasts. They are really enlightening and inspiring for me as a newly-converted Orthodox Christian. I have to ask, though, how does one cultivate this watchfulness? My focus is on this portion of your post, “… The central vision and constant contemplation of the Lord Jesus.” How do we keep this at the forefront on a daily basis?

    God bless,


    September 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm
    • Fr. Barnabas Powell Reply

      Dear David,

      This wakefulness is developed over a lifetime through the liturgical life of the Church. Our daily prayer rule, plus our daily focus on the lives of the saints, plus our participation through the week at the church building with special services of Vespers and Orthros and other devotions, plus our regular and consistent participation in the Divine Mysteries of Confession and the Eucharist, plus our active practice of attentiveness at Sunday Orthros and Liturgy, and our development of a healthy and focused relationship with a spiritual father all work to develop a sense of “awakeness” and awareness of the mystery of our own hearts.

      This will be our struggle for the rest of our lives and we will strive to attain this to our very last breath. We will always contemplate the mercy of God in granting us His grace without measure and for His immediate readiness to forgive us even to our last moments of life. We will practice the Queen Spiritual Disciplines of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving all under the tutelage of the Wisdom of the Church and we will learn to abandon ourselves to God’s mercy. We will never be finished with this labor to be awake for the rest of our lives. But God’s grace will make up every place we are deficient! Thanks be to God.

      September 30, 2016 at 2:34 pm
  • Deacon Mathew Kakis Reply

    My beloved Brother in Christ, I have the great blessing to be reading and hearing your words of nurturing for the past two years. I was hoping to come to Portland to meet you personallynext week but I am sure it will occur soon enough May the Lord continue to bless your precious ministry and may he draw endless faithful to your door through the prayers of Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene
    Deacon Mathew Kakis

    October 1, 2016 at 8:01 am

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