The First Wednesday of Great Lent: Lent—the Tithe of the Year (Maxims 11-33)
By Father Thomas Hopko, March 13, 2008
11. Go to liturgical services regularly. Go to Church. Stand there. Listen. Pray. Don’t pay attention to the people—oh yes, be attentive to their presence. But be there for the sake of the service itself.
12. Go to Confession and Holy Communion regularly. Participate in the Church’s sacramental life.
13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. When feelings come upon you, when thoughts come upon you, don’t engage them. If you accept them, they’ve got you, and you will sin. So you’ve got to cut them off, right at the very start.
14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly. Normally, that would be one’s pastor, or one’s Spiritual Father or Mother, one’s elder. But every human being, every Christian, must have someone who knows everything about them. And that we regularly report to them about what is going on in our life.
15. Read the Scriptures regularly—not reading them to fight with others, not reading them to show off quoting, but reading them as fuel, as food. Because if we don’t read the Scriptures regularly, we die. It would be like trying to live without eating or to drive a car without putting fuel into it.
16. Read good books, a little at a time. Don’t gobble them up. Don’t read through it to say “I’ve read it.” Slowly read books. Sometimes, read the same book two or three times over again—trying to put into practice what it says.
17. Cultivate communion with the Saints. Learn who the holy people were in Christian history. Learn who they were who taught, who suffered, who died, who lived a Christian life. And emulate them. As St. John of the Ladder said: “Anyone who does not emulate the Saints is a fool, but also a fool would be someone who tried to imitate another person in the details of his or her life.” You can’t do that, but we must learn from the holy people.
18. Be an ordinary person. Be one of the human race. Don’t ever say: “I thank you God, I’m not like other people. Try to be like others as much as you can. Be ordinary. As the Russian writer Chekov said: “Everything outside the ordinary is from the Devil.”
19. Be polite with everyone—first of all, the members of your own family. Sometimes we feel, we could be rude with our own family members but nice to people outside. No, we must begin with kindness to those closest to us first.
20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home. God doesn’t live in clutter or in filth and dirt. Yes, we don’t have to be fanatics about having everything prissy clean, but we have to have a Sophianic order, at least in some parts of our house where we live and eat and where we pray especially.
21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby. Have something where you exercise your brain just for the pure joy of it.
22. Exercise regularly—got to move around.
23. Live a day, and even a part of a day, at a time. Don’t be in the past, and don’t be in tomorrow. St. Benedict said: “Do what you’re doing. Be present where you are.” What does God want me to do, right now—not later tonight, not tomorrow morning, not yesterday, but right now?
24. Be totally honest—first of all, with yourself. The greatest sin is the lie, and the greatest lie is the lie about God, and the lie about me and God. Be totally honest.
25. Be faithful in little things. Jesus said it. “He who is faithful in little, inherits much and is put over much. And those that are not faithful in little, lose the little they have.” In St. Luke’s Gospel, the Lord even said: “lose the little, they think that they have.” Fidelity in small, ordinary things.
26. Do your work, and then forget it. Don’t carry it around with you. Be totally attentive to what you’re doing, but don’t carry it in your mind. Have your mind focused on what you’re doing at the present moment.
27. Do the most difficult and painful things first. We tend to do the easy things, the things we like, and put off the things we don’t. We should try to reverse that and do the most difficult and boring things first.
28. Face reality. Don’t live in fantasy. There’s a Russian saying: “God is everywhere except in imagination and fantasy.” Face the realities of your life.
29. Be grateful. Be grateful in all things.
30. Be cheerful. Act cheerful, even if you don’t feel like it, especially in the presence of others.
31. Be simple, hidden, quiet, and small. The Holy Fathers say: “If you want to be known by God, seek not to be known by people.” And again, it’s simplicity, hiddeness, quiet, smallness.
32. Never bring attention to yourself. Never, consciously, bring attention to yourself. Wherever you are, do what the other people do. That’s especially important in Church. When you go to Church, do what the people there are doing. It’s what St. Ambrose told to St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, when she asked: “What should I do when I go to Rome?” He said: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Fast as the Romans fast. Stand as the Romans stand. Sing as the Romans sing.
33. Listen when people talk to you. To be attentive to others is one of the greatest gifts. Keep your mind awake and pay attention when people speak to you.
~ Ancient Faith Radio, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/lent_the_tithe_of_the_year.