...Even though I was too stupid to realize it.
December 7, 2022
After a long while away due to the Thanksgiving holiday and some terrible cold germs that had invaded the monastery, I could return to help the nuns today. But first things first. I arrived in time for third-hour prayers and Divine Liturgy. I had lots on my mind and heart as I took my usual place in the chapel. With many petitions going through my head, I prayed the psalms and sang along with the choir of nuns as best I could. The Epistle was from 1 Timothy about not exalting others too hastily lest we partake of another’s sins since you never know the state of another person’s soul nor their relationship to Christ. I heard the famous quote about the love of money being the root of all evil…” no need to worry too much about that,” I thought as I smiled to myself. The Gospel, however, was about the signs of the end times. I do worry a bit about that, to be honest. What will the world be like for my children when they are on their own? How difficult will life be for those of us who are dedicated Christians in those days? Will we all have the fortitude to endure it? There are many in my family and among my friends and acquaintances whose spiritual state remains unknown to me. Many more have conspicuous shortcomings before God, and I worry about them. I make it my business to pray for them as well as for my family and for me.
As time goes forward, it is apparent that the world becomes less hospitable toward those who follow Christ. Those who deny Him are many, and they are the ones who appear to be in charge of everything from politics to business. Good is now bad, and bad is now good. All manner of strange gods are now placed before the True God, and so very many people are confused, ignorant, or both. How hard it is to find a stable community of believers today! How few are those who strive to please God! These readings and my thoughts went hand-in-hand in my mind today.
I was assigned again to the sacristy, to iron purificators, and mend some of those with frayed hems. It was quiet and peaceful work, and it went quickly and easily today. I was able to pray and contemplate the readings and deal with all the anxiety they stirred up in my soul as I worked. Soon it was time for the sixth-hour prayers. I finished my sewing and made my way to the chapel to pray this hour alone, as the nuns had what they call a “hermit day” today. This is when they take their hours privately, each as she can during the busy work day, rather than coming together for them as they usually do. Sister Andreja told me which psalms the community would pray today so that I could pray these same ones at noon. I opened the psalter and began.
As usual, the psalms became dynamic as the thoughts in my head matched the words on the page. I found myself identifying with the theme of each psalm, understanding in my own unique way the thoughts that King David put down on paper so long ago for us to read and become inspired by today. As I prayed for those around me who had sadly given up hope of an all-loving God, for those in my company who no longer believed, for those who mocked prayer and devotion, for those souls whom I knew who resented religion, I turned to Psalm 73, and as I read, I heard their voices….
How good is God to Israel, to those who are pure of heart!
As for me, I came close to stumbling; my feet had almost slipped,
for I was filled with envy of the proud when I saw how the wicked prosper.
For them, there are no pains; their bodies are sound and sleek.
They do not share in people’s burdens; they are not stricken like others.
So they wear their pride like a necklace, they clothe themselves with violence.
With folds of fat, their eyes protrude. With imagination, their hearts overflow.
They scoff; they speak with malice. From on high, they threaten oppression.
They have set their mouths in the heavens, and their tongues are roaming the earth.
So the people turn to them and drink in all their words.
They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have any knowledge?”
Look at them, such are the wicked; ever prosperous, they grow in wealth.
How useless to keep my heart pure, and wash my hands in innocence,
when I was stricken all day long, suffered punishment with each new morning.
Then I said, “If I should speak like that, I should betray your children’s generation.”
I strove to fathom this problem, too hard for my mind to understand
until I entered the holy place of God and came to discern their end.
How slippery the paths on which you set them; you make them fall to destruction.
How suddenly they come to their ruin, swept away, destroyed by terrors.
Like a dream one wakes from, O Lord, when you wake, you dismiss them as phantoms.
And so when my heart grew embittered, and I was pierced to the depths of my being,
I was stupid and did not understand; I was like a beast in your sight.
As for me, I was always in your presence; you were holding me by my right hand.
By your counsel, you will guide me, and then you will lead me to glory.
What else have I in heaven but you? Apart from you, I want nothing on earth.
My body and my heart waste away; God is the strength of my heart;
God is my portion forever.
Surely, those who are far from you perish; you destroy all those who are unfaithful.
To be near God is my happiness; I have my hope in the Lord God.
I will proclaim your works at the gates of daughter Sion.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Glory to You, O God!