While There Is Time
By Bishop Augoustinos of Florina
"In an acceptable time I have heard thee..." Isaiah 49:8, 2 Cor 6:2
I ask, dear friends, that you pay close attention to these words. We will spend
some time in interpreting them; they are a prophecy by Isaiah and those of you
who will comprehend them will become the "lottery's grand prize winners."
Otherwise I am left with no alternative and I wash my hands...
What is the meaning of these words? I will start my interpretation from a
little further away.
When a person intends to travel internationally, he prepares his passport and
arranges for a visa from the intended destination country's embassy
accordingly. Generally speaking, all travelers inquire about the departure time
of the bus, train, ship or airplane and make every reasonable effort to ensure
that they are on time, with their ticket in hand. Similarly, a young man who
plans to study at a university ensures that he prepares and submits the
necessary application forms, as required by the educational institution of his
choice. It is likewise for the businessman who has borrowed fluids for his
business and is obliged to submit monthly payments; he makes every effort to be
on time and to not cause any issues with his lender. What I am trying to say is
that as we always make the necessary time to ensure that we obtain our
passport, purchase our ticket, pay our loan, and attend to all of our other
duties related to employment, marriage and family, similarly there is adequate
time for a different obligation, more important than any which life presents
What is this obligation? Well, God did not create us for travel and business,
for degrees and titles, for dowries and weddings. These things have nothing to
do with our main purpose. What is our true purpose? The above verse says it clearly.
As there is always time for all worldly matters, there is likewise plenty of
time for this most important matter. However, which one of us truly understands
this? One may say that it is necessary for an angel to descend from Heaven and
inject within our heart some of the faith and love that our saints possess;
only then might it be possible for us to truly feel and comprehend the
"In an acceptable time I have heard Thee." In other words the time which we
spend in this world is truly priceless; it is time for the purpose of
salvation. Our life may last 20, 40, 60 or 80 years; what can we do during this
time? Why do we ask? Why do we not open the holy scriptures, the synaxarion, or
even visit a cemetery where the bodies of many lie buried? Why do we not look
in the stars in the sky and then, searching within our heart, ask ourselves:
"Why did we come to this world?" What is it that we ought to accomplish within the
span of our earthly life? Well, I am about to tell you, just make sure you are
You my young lady, that spends so much time in front of the mirror or stay up
during all hours of the night entertaining yourself, draw near and listen to
me. And you, my young man, who spends your day running around in your car or
motorcycle, draw near and listen to me as well. And you, my dear
housewife, who spends hours window shopping in the malls, come near me as well.
All of you, why are you wasting so much of your time? I do not ask for much; I
only ask that you set aside some of your time each day for prayer, to kneel and
speak with God.
I am also talking to you, the husband, who spends hours upon
hours studying those papers with the fine print. I see you on the train or bus
or at home either in front of the TV or staring at magazines and newspapers.
What is it that you find in them? Please forgive my language, but have you ever
seen a man use a stick to dig up or disturb cow droppings? Not really; because
such an act would bring forth offensive odors and stench. Draw near my fellow
Christian and if you are a baptized Orthodox man, than open up your Bible each
day and spend some time reading it with your wife and children so that all of
your eyes may open.
What else? Take a pen and paper and start counting the hours. One entire week
comprised of 168 hours. From all these hours, what does God ask of you? Simply
just one or two hours to attend the weekly Sunday Liturgy*; to be in church
from the moment you hear "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and
the Holy Spirit" all the way to "Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers, Lord
Jesus Christ have mercy on us and save us, Amen." If the priest asks us to
attend an all-night vigil who goes? If, however, the devil calls us to join him
in the dark entertainment centers of the evening, then many run to be with him
through midnight and beyond. While in church, though, they all ask "How much
longer until it's over?"
In the end my fellow Christians, every new year God grants you a new cycle of
365 days. Every year is like a long komboloi (worry beads) with 365
beads. Every day is represented by a golden bead. Yes, my fellow Orthodox
Christian, it is truly made of gold since we all know too well that "time is
money;" From all these 365 days dedicate at least one day and approach the
spiritual clinic through the sacrament of Holy Confession. When you lose your
physical health, I see you running to doctors and hospitals. For your soul,
however, do you do anything? Thus my child, from all these 365 days, pick a day
or two and seek a confessor, go and kneel in front of him and confess your
So you see my child, it is unfortunate but true. There is such great
unwillingness to dedicate five minutes for prayer, a few minutes to study the
Holy Bible, an hour or two to attend the weekly Liturgy a day or two for
confession. What can we then expect from God?
My brethren, as you can see, I have taken a hold of the valuable coin on which
is inscribed "In an acceptable time I have heard Thee..." and I peeled it apart
so all of us can comprehend these words. Now that this deed is completed, which
one of you will take the time to establish his or her timetable and itinerary.
Which one of you will rise in the morning and instead of standing in front of
the bathroom mirror will take the time to seek the spiritual mirror contained
within our Holy Bible and read it? Which one of you will kneel at home to pray?
Which one of you will make it a point to start coming to church every Sunday?
Which one of you will make it a point to seek and find a spiritual father for
It is within the time afforded to us by God in this life of ours that these
deeds must be completed. You must also take note that time is of the essence,
even though it appears that we have plenty of time. Our church reminds us of
this every day; "That we complete the remaining time of our lives in peace and
repentance, let us ask of the Lord." What is the duration of our life going to
be? How much longer will we live? Is it perhaps possible that this current year
is the last one of our earthly life? What am I saying? Could this current month
be our last one? Perhaps even this next week or next day may end up being our
last one... Do you doubt me? Well, just open the newspaper and read the
There was a mayor of Athens once who organized a large party to celebrate his
birthday, inviting politicians, ministers and many others. They all gathered in
happiness. The table was set with the finest foods; flowers were everywhere;
the music was playing. In his pocket he even had the papers ready with the
speech he would deliver. He was standing by the door having his picture taken
as he greeted each of his guests. But before he made it to the table, his call arrived.
He could have never expected it to come at that time, but it did come, as
lightening from a clear sky! What type of lightening? A heart attack... He fell
down, never to get up again; they lifted him and carried him away with their
hands... He was truly gone. As far as his guests, none of them sat around to
enjoy the meal. They were all beside themselves. Those of you who were raised
in small villages may have seen the following, several chickens grazing in the
meadow when suddenly a hawk appears out of nowhere and plunges among them, snatches
one of them and quickly disappears. The remaining chickens become greatly
agitated. This is exactly; my brethren, how death appearslike a hawk that snatches
lives away. He snatches you in the store, in the street, in the town square,
during a wedding, during a baptism, during elections, wherever he finds you! He
snatches the elderly as well as babies from their cribs.
My brethren, how much longer shall we remain senseless? How much longer shall
we refuse to consider eternity?
"In an acceptable time, I have heard thee..." In a very old book, I read that
there was a king a long time ago who had the following custom. Throughout his
entire kingdom and whenever he came near a city with his army, he carried two flags;
a white one and a black one. When he approached the city; he raised the white
flag which meant that as long as that flag was raised, a soldier did not have
permission to disturb anything, not even the hair on a person's head! All of the
city's inhabitants had also the ability to request favors from the king,
whatever they desired. This, however, was for a short duration only and it had
a very definitive time limit. As soon as time was up, the black flag was raised
and then mothers would weep for their children; in homes and in fields, to
people and to animals alike, fire, murder, blood everywhere...
Do you comprehend what I am telling you? Christ, our good King, raises His
white flag over this world through His Holy Cross. Let all the sinful come, all
people, all nations, while there is time ("In an acceptable time...")! The time
will soon come that the white flag of love and mercy will be lowered and then
all gates will be shut. The day will come that you will arrive only to find the
Church door closed. You will keep knocking but not even the chanter will be
there to answer. The stars and the sun will be extinguished and the rivers will
dry up. The moment of judgment and justice will be upon us all!
My brethren, as long as we remain in this vain world, let us repent, let us
weep, and let us all beg fee God's mercy; May God deem us worthy to spend the
rest of our life "in peace and repentance," through the intercessions of our Holy
Theotokos and all the saints. Amen.
* Webmaster note: His Grace, Bishop Augoustinos, is
almost certainly condescending to the weakness of his worldly listeners in
saying this. Pious Orthodox Christians would not be satisfied with merely
attending the Divine Liturgy, but would also make every effort regularly to attend Vespers and
Orthros (Matins), especially if they were communing. It's reasonable to
conclude that His Grace deemed it pastorally unwise to lay such a "burden" on
those who were rarely even attending services or confessing.
From Orthodox Heritage (Vol. 3, Issue 7), p. 1-3.
Reprinted from the weekly bulletin "Kiriaki," Feb. 6, 2005. Translated from Greek by the staff of the Greek Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Poimen. Posted to the OCIC on 8/21/2005.