Everything you do, all your work, can contribute towards your salvation. It depends on you, on the way you do it. History is replete with monks who became great saints while working in the kitchen or washing sheets. The way of salvation consists in working without passion, in prayer….
May God give you the strength to keep your spirit, your mind, and your heart in the spirit of Christ. Then everything that happens to you can very quickly be radically transformed. What was tiresome and discouraging will disappear, transfigured by your desire to be there where Christ your God is….
The wise elder’s words are not only good for our salvation (which is always at hand) but reminds us that we should not divide our lives into two worlds. Even monks have to wash dishes…
If we concede that some of our life is drudgery, mindless, but needful, while other parts of our life are interesting and of value to God, then we have ourselves created a two-storey universe of our inner world. This part of my life is of no value – while this part is of great value. This, of course, is nonsense. Even service in the Holy Altar frequently consists in washing dishes.
The words of the elder teach us that the problem of the two-storey universe is to be found primarily in our own heart – not in the culture around us nor in the tasks we find at hand. God is everywhere present and filling all things. He is even present and filling the various tasks of “drudgery” we undertake. No task is beneath us. The Mother of God changed the diapers of the God of heaven. Our love for those around us should be no less. We are moved when we read in John that ‘Jesus wept’ at the grave of Lazarus, His friend. The Theotokos had long before heard Him weap and wail as all children do. Nor should any mother (or father) give less value to the weeping of their own children. God has invested everything with His love, transforming the world into the stage of our salvation. Glory to God for all things.
I am about to embark on a new commercial enterprise. It will be my own business. Consequently, I am thinking about whether it is God’s will that I pursue this option and, if so, how I do I obtain, secure God’s blessing on it. One of the benefits of running my own business is that, to a large extent, I will be able to put policies in place that reflect my Christian values. I also want my enterprise to be something which is of genuine service to others. I don’t want my working life to be separted from my life of faith.
Once again, I open your blog page and find a discussion which directly speaks to what is on my mind at the present. You are a mind reader! (joke!) Providence takes many forms.
Thank you from a Mom who complains to much. I needed to hear this.
As someone who does not live two lives, but only one in God, I concur with what you are saying here. In fact, most of my life goes into the “drudgery” column. When I see how what I am doing serves God, it doesn’t seem so mindless anymore.
However, on the days when my will seems to want to replace God’s, on those days when I just want to do my own thing….well, those are tough, but such is the human condition.
I once saw a lovely interpretation of the verses in Matthew where Jesus explains that every time we have helped the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, we’ve helped him. A mother does this daily. You received a tiny, naked stranger and clothed him; when he cries you visit him in the prison of his crib. You feed him and give him drink — and in every way you do this for the Lord Himself. The work of a mother never separates us from the way true Christians should be living, even though it sometimes feels frustrating to women who were active and involved before. Bless you, mamajuliana.
“Nor should any mother (or father) give less value to the weeping of their own children. God has invested everything with His love…” Reminds me of the parents who always worry about bringing their children to church because “they might distract other people,” or, “I can’t worship when I have to look after my children.” A wise Bishop whose name I can’t remember would tell them, “Caring for your children *is* your worship. Bring them to God’s house so they will feel comfortable there.”
One of the most moving experiences I had when I first started serving in the altar was when I first cut-up the andideron before Liturgy. I don’t know why it was so moving; but it just was.
It is encouraging that all of our life in God is holy. If we are in Him and He is in us, then every task becomes holy. This is the mystery of incarnation. Thank you, Fr. for this post.
P.S. We met Archbishop Dmitri this past week at St. Seraphim. His gentle love overflows! We (my wife and I) are catechumens at St. Seraphim.
Thank you for this profound reminder! Now if I can just remember this throughout the day and live each moment in the now…
Fr., can you tell me from what book your quote of Elder Sophrony taken from?
back after my Lenten hiatus 🙂
I suppose I’ve divided my life up in two countries if not two stories. They are divided between either being in an environment that assists me or one that tests me. I want to love the challenging country like I love the assisting one and realize they are the same. The only difference is my heart.
I want to be the same when I am among the cool of the mountain pines and the heat of the desert. But since I can’t seem to grow my love for the desert, I’ve been spending my energies trying to detach myself from the pines. However, this only makes me at home nowhere.
What a terrible trickery I play on myself.
I think the issue is not so much as to change anything around us as to recognize the presence of God in everything everywhere.
I should have referenced it:Words of Life by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)
published by the Monastery of St. John the Baptist
I thought you might find this article about religious trends in the US interesting. It points out that most Catholics and Protestants drift away from their faith over time rather than having a sudden crisis. This makes sense in terms of the secular/sacred divide most people approach their faith with in the US and how much more real the secular world is to them. The unreality of the second story appears to lead to its nonexistence in the mind of many former believers.
I have written in earlier posts about the two-storey universe as the breeding ground of non-belief. Indeed, what belief exists within the two-storey framework is fairly poor. Glad to know my theological observations are backed up by actual facts. 🙂
Thanks for this observation Father. Elder Sophrony is a great saint and his words are always profound and refreshing.
Thank you from another mother who complains too much…
I have struggled with this idea. This past month I have been working on a project for my simulation class (I am a college student studying engineering). It was a group project filled with frustration and testing, my group simply couldn’t contribute much. I was left with the burden of most of the project and much worry along with it. I often wondered, while pouring myself into computer programs, statistics, mathematical analysis, “where are you in this God?”. This is something that has become so apparant to me in my conversion to Orthodoxy, that God is here, now, with us. But in some things, especially something cold and inorganic (but incredibly useful and interesting) like mathematics, I find God hard to find. I often pray to God to help me see him in these things especially, but I can’t seem to find Him. Lord have mercy, thank you Father. Forgive the rant-like nature of this post, I suppose my point is that I too struggle with this!
Doesn’t sound like a rant to me. There is a line of Orthodox thought about the Logos (Christ) and the logoi which give the very shape and reality to all created things. Math has its own “logos” which, in its own way, reflects the Logos. Christ is not a mathematical equation, of course, but the very “reasonability” of the world is a reflection of its Creator. Beauty, another aspect, is also a reflection of the Creator. A scientific or mathematical theorem is supposed to also has “Beauty” to be plausible. These things are interesting, not because they are somehow secular, but precisely because they reflect the character of their creation. Enjoy.
Everywhere and everywhen…
What Father said. Math is a reflection of the supreme reasonability of the universe. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance” (Isaiah 40:12).