Saturday, July 12, 2008

Memory Eternal

July 13th marks the fifth anniversary of the falling asleep in Christ of Fr. Adrian Pollard, under whose hand I entered the Holy Orthodox Church. I miss him, and feel deep loss that he is no longer with us. Not a single day has passed that I do not think of him and honor his memory.

Fr. Adrian was not a perfect man; like all of us, he had his faults and failures. But for me, in my time of spiritual crisis, he was exactly what I needed. Whatever progress I may have made in my spiritual life is (humanly speaking) due in great measure to the foundation Fr. Adrian gave me in the beginning of my movement to Orthodoxy. There are several key aspects of his teaching that I continually refer to, and with God's help I hope never to forget.

Fr. Adrian constantly stressed the importance of moderation, the "middle way." As he often expressed it, "The Truth is found not just in the middle, but in the middle of the middle." This was Father's way of cutting off extremes in the spiritual life that cause one to go astray into fruitless paths, or even to spiritual destruction. This is really just common-sense teaching which, it should be noted, was not unique to Fr. Adrian; others throughout history (Christian and non-Christian) have noticed the same reality. The Fathers of the Church stressed that the virtues lie in the "mean" between two opposite vices. For instance, the virtue of courage lies between the vice of rashness and the vice of cowardice. Vices are those things that either fall short or go beyond the virtues (see St. Peter of Damaskos, Discources 19 and 20; and especially St. Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines, 87). Though due to my stupidity and weakness I have often found myself leaning toward extremes, the remembrance of Fr. Adrian's emphasis on this point has helped me recover my balance.

Another central tenet of Fr. Adrian's teaching was a love for St. Silouan and Fr. Sophrony. Fr. Sophrony's book St. Silouan the Athonite was one of the first books Fr. Adrian recommended to me to read; after four readings I am still plumbing the depths of this book. Even though Fr. Adrian is no longer physically present to give me advice and help me work out spiritual questions, he gave me a connection to Fr. Sophrony and St. Silouan that is a reliable aid to the spiritual life.

I am grateful for having known Fr. Adrian, and consider it a sign of God's loving-kindness that I was able to be with him even though it was only for a short time. Aonia i mnimi, vechnaya pamyat, memory eternal.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant where there is no pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering, but life everlasting. (Orthodox Memorial Service)

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