Daily Meditations

Sixth Monday after Pascha: ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! CHRIST IS RISEN!

From the Heart: Resting in the Ascension (Part I), by Douglas Cramer

Summer is almost here. It’s a good time to just take a deep breath, and relax. You know, go to the beach if you live close to it, have a barbeque, invite some friends over. I remember doing this on a grand scale as a child growing up in New Jersey. But how often do most of us do this anymore? We’re so busy, we’ve forgotten that true rest and relaxation, the kind that really restores you, is vital to our survival.

This week the Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord, and our worship since Pascha has been rooted in our joy in the Resurrection. In the light of this glorious, peaceful and fulfilling period of the calendar of our Church we should be totally relaxed and fully in the presence of our Lord. But we still struggle to relax and unclench, to be at peace.

Why? In part, because we live our lives in a kind of emotional and spiritual shallows. We’re so busy, we don’t pause to reflect, to listen, to understand our motivations. We are busy for busyness’s sake. We allow others to set our timetable. We often aren’t aware of the reasons we have for doing what we do. We all act a little crazy sometimes, bustling about with all our tasks and projects and responsibilities. It’s important for us to act. But it’s just as important for us to relax, to quietly find our center, to understand what’s driving us to do what we do, to make sure that our choices and actions flow from our deepest values.

How do we turn this around? We start from the heart!

Know Thyself

The Psalms focus this teaching in to a single verse: “Seek peace and pursue it.” We need peace, but we must be active to find it—we must seek and pursue. What does this mean? What is this pursuit? St. Isaac of Syria teaches us the answer: “Enter eagerly into the treasure house that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of heaven. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend.”

Seek. Pursue. Enter. Ascend. I’m winded just reading this list. However, this is the language of peace. Jesus Christ proclaims: “The kingdom of heaven is within.” We are called to go within, to find our heart, our center, our soul. And to begin our journey there.

The classical philosophers of Greece understood this basic truth of our humanity even before the birth of Christ. The central teaching of Plato, of Socrates, is “Know Thyself.” We must get out of our inner shallows, our superficial sleepwalking through life. We’re called to wake up, to dive deep.

This isn’t easy. Indeed, it’s the work of a life time. So, we just start wherever we are, and work through our stumblings. St. Isaac also said, “There is no virtue which does not have continual struggle yoked to it.” Or consider how the abbot of a monastery once answered a question about what the monks do all day: “We fall down and we get up, we fall down and we get up…”

We’re all swamped by too much information. There’s an Orthodox saying that through most of the 20th century the devil tried to overcome the Church by repressing information, by making it impossible for people to hear God’s Word. And sadly, this is still happening in many places. But, the saying goes, today the devil has changed his strategy—he’s trying to flood us with words and ideas, with too much information, trying to make it impossible for us to find God’s Word amidst all the distraction.

But this doesn’t have to stop us. Elder Paisios, a great 20th century teacher of Mt. Athos, taught that we must be like bees. A bee will find the one flower in a field of dung, Paisios said. The problem is we often act like flies instead, who find the one pile of dung in a field of flowers. God’s will is our flower. We need to question and seek within ourselves, and find Him.

This reflection is adapted from a speech originally written for Fr. Christopher Metropulos of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and SCOBA’s Orthodox Christian Network. Learn more about the powerful ministries of OCN on their website, www.myocn.net.

~Taken from  the Website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, http://www.antiochian.org/node/17790.