Almost inevitably when an ascetic practice of the Church is enjoined to the people, someone will say, "Well, that's for monks. I'm not a monk." More often than not that's not true, but even in those instances where the monastic practice far exceeds what a layperson might be expected to do we shouldn't invalidate even the first step up that ladder. If it's a hundred steps and you know you can only do one there is merit in that one step.
I have watched all my children learn to walk and none of them ran to me the day after their first step. And I have seen men learning to walk again after accidents and none of them thought they'd be going hiking tomorrow. So, if it is something you have never done or something that sinfulness has enfeebled you from doing, you will never accomplish even paltry results if you never put forth effort. More importantly, you deprive the Holy Spirit of an opportunity to work within you.
(OCIC) - Once I was giving a talk about St. John of San Francisco, and someone said, “Well, this is all very wonderful, but, you know, I couldn’t go without sleeping in a bed for forty-two years!” And I said, “Okay, but could you start by just getting to church on time?” It’s the same thing with Fr. Seraphim. Fr. Seraphim was a great ascetic. Quite beyond most of us. But we could just start by keeping our eyes on Christ, as he did. We could pay a little more attention to what is supposed to be the center and focus of our very being all the time: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we do that, if we are inspired to do just a little bit more each day than we did before, then Fr. Seraphim’s legacy truly continues to live on. And really, basically, that’s what Orthodoxy is all about.
Orthodoxy is so rich. It has such beautiful externals, which are not just entirely externals—they also partake of the essence of Orthodoxy, of course. But it’s very easy, Fr. Seraphim used to tell me, to get distracted by these externals. It’s very easy to think that, because we are following all the fasting rules and because we know the Typicon and so forth, we are actually living an Orthodox way of life, whereas we may not be at all. If Christ is not there behind all that, then it’s a waste of time: it’s a beautiful waste of time, but it’s a waste of time nonetheless. For Fr. Seraphim, however, Christ was always there, behind everything. And when Fr. Seraphim breathed his last, Christ was there to receive his soul. Amen.