top of page

Who is My Brother?

By Hieromonk Alexei (Dixon)

 

“Who are my brothers?” [1] Christ told us from the beginning, “It is not good that man should be alone” [2]. Yet man has pushed social behavior to the point that it is ‘unnatural’ to have even a single friend in the world with whom we may share our pain and struggles with. Man is driven into constant isolation and separation from God, kin, and neighbor by the world which seeks to stifle our conscience and bleed us dry of any life in Christ. Man has become a second Cain, the first true individual, that he no longer concerns himself with his fellow man. He has become a second Babel, the first true push for a globalism, that he neglects both his own duty in the cosmos and to the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It’s been so long since we’ve tasted true fellowship that we have become satisfied with digital and superficial companionship.

The Brotherhood of St Joseph the Hesychast

What is the remedy for this bleak landscape? As men, we need to take the initiative. We need to be open and direct with building up our friendships with other brothers in Christ. Fast together. Pray together. Distribute alms together. Saint Anthony the Great clearly put it, “Our life and our death is with our neighbor” [3]. Reject the idea that you can be on your own and do not need anyone. People who buy into this “act like some domestic who longed for liberty, but instead of exerting himself to get away from slavery proceeded only to change his masters, and thought liberty consisted in that change” [4]. Selling their birthright for enslavement by the base passions! Uniting ourselves around Christ and His Church we have a pillar of truth and love that does not waiver for the Lord is our firm foundation. To truly build a soul-binding relationship, like Jonathan and David had, we have to form our own soul into that precious and God-given gift. We cannot expect to have great friends that sharpen and support one another while being a fool who only uses those near us for our own benefit. If you need to force someone to love and listen to you, then they are not your friends.


By giving of your very self to others and sharing your life with someone, we form bonds that build up one another and we draw out the real adventure that the Christian life offers us. Christ is our Bridegroom in the Church and the Church is our Mother and our family. The monk will have his brother monastics and his abbot as father. The husband will have his fellow men as brothers and friends and his wife as his lover and companion. We will all be bound up in our relationships with those closest to us, and in forming these bonds of love that we will find salvation in our particular place and mode of living, for it is not a place that saves us, but Christ our God Who runs to meet us where we are.


What does it look like to have a Christian brother? One could ask: What does it look like to lose? To sacrifice? Saint Joseph the Hesychast put it simply, “It is better for my brother to be happy than for me” [5]. It means to become one with God, and in this path towards sainthood, we enflesh the Beatitudes, and become true Christians, a small Christ, encouraging one another as the Apostle Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” [6]. Wisdom teaches us that a brother is there even at the hardest of times, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” [7] and often a friend is even the apparent cause of our difficulties: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” [8]. To be a friend and brother in Christ means to participate in the life of Christ and to become like the saints and imitate them as they imitate Christ. While we cannot expect immediate perfection without struggle [9], we can and must begin a life of joyful ascesis and reorientation towards Christ and as we all grow closer to the summit, we also grow closer to one another.


Having brothers does not come without its challenges. Just as monastics will struggle to accept each other and live with each other’s particularities and personalities, so we must all in the Church accept and love our brother. This may mean we have to love our brother not as some perfect ideal, but rather for who they are now irrespective of their imperfections, and to love someone as they are. Not as mere concept or ideal (or dare we say idol). Our apostolic chief Peter even said clearly, “Love the brotherhood” [10]. While we continue in Christ’s Church, the very ark of our salvation, we will face many pirates on the open waters seeking to bring their chaos into the Church, robbing us of our treasure and very life. These pirates, the passions, that assault us which we must conquer them. We are not out to conquer our fellow man, but to liberate them from our common foe so that we can stand back to back supporting and defending one another so that we can present one another as our neighbor, our friend, our brother, committing “ourselves and one another and all our life to Christ our God” [11].

 

Bibliography


[1]. Gospel of St. Matthew 12:48, NKJV.


[2]. Book of Genesis 2:18, KJV.


[3]. Saint Anthony the Great. Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Translated by Benedicta Ward. Trappist: Liturgical Press, 1984.


[4]. Saint Gregory of Nyssa. “On Virginity: Chapter XVI.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Phillip Schaff & Henry Wace. Peabody: Hendrickson Publications, 1999.


[5]. Saint Joseph the Hesychast. Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Florence: Saint Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1999.


[6]. Book of Roman 12:1-2, KJV.


[7]. Book of Proverbs 17:17, KJV.


[8]. Book of Proverbs 27:6, KJV.


[9]. Saint John of the Ladder: “To admire the labors of the saints is good; to emulate them wins

salvation; but to wish suddenly to imitate their life in every point is unreasonable and

impossible.” (Step 4.42)


[10]. 2nd Epistle of Saint Peter 2:18, KJV.


[11]. Saint John Chrysostom. Hieratikon Vol II: Liturgy Book for Priest & Deacon. Edited by Hieromonk Herman (Majkrzak) & Vitaly Permiakov. Waymart: Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press, 2017.


 

About Author


Hieromonk Alexei (Dixon) is a native Virginian and is currently assigned to the Holy Monastery of Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam in Michigan. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Peter of Chicago & Mid-America, the ruling hierarch of the Diocese of the Midwest in the Russian Church Aboard in 2022. He is also a graduate of ROCOR Pastoral School of the Diocese of the Midwest where he earned his Diploma in Pastoral Theology.

2,183 views4 comments

4 comentários


Matthew M.
Matthew M.
10 de mar. de 2023

Father, bless.


“Behold now, what is so good or so joyous as for brethren to dwell together in unity?


It is like the oil of myrrh upon the head, which runneth down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, which runneth down to the fringe of his raiment.


It is like the dew of Aermon, which cometh down upon the mountains of Sion.


For there the Lord commanded the blessing, life for evermore.“


—Psalm 132 (133)


Curtir

Membro desconhecido
25 de jan. de 2023

Father Bless. Fr. Alexei, thank you for the potent reminder of the need to be “my brother’s keeper”. As St. John’s Gospel teaches us that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us”…this, and your essay, has far reaching implications (and applications) for me. Thank You! ☦️

Curtir

Membro desconhecido
27 de dez. de 2022

God may you work through us who have turned fully back to you in the body of your Son Jesus Christ, born of the Holy Theotokos, that with the Holy Spirit your will alone be done!

He is born!

Glorify Him!

Curtir

Demitrios Yfantis
Demitrios Yfantis
27 de dez. de 2022

Glory to God in the highest

Curtir
bottom of page