Become Like Christ!
Life in the world is based on force, on violence. The Christian has the opposite aim. Force does not belong to eternal life. No act imposed by force can save us.
In community life, obedience allows us little by little to understand the psychology of other people. In learning to live with one person, we learn to live with the millions of people who are like him. In this way we enter progressively into deep suffering for all humanity. Our spirit must develop in every dimension of the human being, and not merely on the level of daily tasks and difficulties. These small tasks, and the frictions that go with them, are of course inevitable, but they are not the be-all and end-all of our life. Our aim is to become like Christ. If, as an I, I cannot bear a small community, how could I bear, as Christ does, humanity as a whole, throughout time and space?
Christian life means to become like Christ, to have, as Saint Paul tells us, the same movements of the heart, the same thoughts, as the Son of the Father. If we remain conscious of this goal, if inwardly we go with all our being in this direction, our mind will not be lost in petty things. Envy, jealousy, frictions, and the minute problems of daily life will pass completely unnoticed.
We celebrate the Liturgy together. But we must pay what this costs: each one must be concerned for the salvation of all. Our life is an endless martyrdom.
There is no other way but to pray continuously during work. Transform all that you have to do into prayer. You are opening a door; ask the Lord to open unto you the door of repentance, metanoia. You are laying bricks; remind yourself that unless God Himself builds the house you are laboring in vain, nothing will stand. I do not usually look for spiritual advice from political leaders and generals, but the case of Cromwell is interesting. Preparing himself for a battle, he prayed: ‘O Lord, I will be too busy; I may forget Thee, but do not Thou forget me’.
Find reasons to be with God!
On Mount Athos, when I was still a novice, an elderly monk said something remarkable to me one day about the most lowly tasks: ‘No work can debase the value of the human person. Only sin degrades the divine life in us’. Jobs which cannot become a passion are the most convenient for spiritual life. If I am cook, as I prepare the food I pray for those whom the Lord loves. There is no passion involved. At the same time, this job has great value, because it allows me to serve those whom Christ loves. With such an attitude one can lead a very good life.
The Lord said: ‘Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all the rest will be given in addition’. This is our principle, even if the material aspects of life impose themselves on us from morning to night. The world has other goals, and no one has time for prayer any more.
When our mind and our heart are directed towards God, everything becomes simple. Without this dynamic movement towards God, life loses its meaning.
~Adapted from Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), Words of Life, translated from the French by Sister Magdalen (Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Essex)