“Walk circumspectly . . . redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:15)
The devil called a meeting of the demonic horde one day to come up with new ideas for more effectively distracting man from working on his salvation. “New ideas, anyone?”
A demon raised his hand. “How about we tell them Christ is just a myth?”
“No,” Satan answered, “that works on the arrogant, but it doesn’t have a broad and lasting appeal.”
Another hand went up. “What if we tell them salvation is easy, that there’s really no work to be done?”
“We tried that,” said the chief of deceivers. “It’s worked well for the last five hundred years, but it too is losing ground.”
Then a lethargic arm, slowly rising high enough to be noticed, caused all to turn and face the demon of Sloth. “All we have to do is whisper in their ears, ‘You’ve got time, lots of time. No need to hurry, no need to do anything today, you’ll work on it tomorrow; there’s lots of time.’”
A rumble of pleasant agreement rippled through the dark host, and the devil smiled. “Brilliant. Go forth and whisper, ‘Urgency is a myth,’ and, ‘there’s lots of time.’”
The time between Theophany and the beginning of Lent is often very short. We’ve barely recovered from the tremendous blessing of Theophany when suddenly Lent is upon us. This year Pascha falls very late (May 2). We are given the rare chance to rest deeply before the next victorious marathon and to take account of the year that is now behind us. What is the state of our heart? What are we going to do differently this year? In what ways did we grow or regress in the last year? For we have had another Nativity and Theophany, and are headed towards Pascha once again.
But our time in the Church, our gymnasium of salvation, is running out. “Pray ceaselessly,” exhorts Father Seraphim of Platina, “it’s later than you think.” Such is the truth of time, the mind of the Church, and the urgency of salvation. With rigidity of practicality and common sense, we devote time and self-discipline to scheduling and making definitive progress in our education, vocation, diversion, and material success. But when we turn to the health of our soul, when we even momentarily contemplate eternity, lo and behold, those deceitful, soft words run like oil in the ears: “There’s no urgency, there’s lots of time.”
Let us throw off that warm, comfortable cloak of self-deception. Now. Today. Let us say “no” to everyone and everything that is keeping us out of our prayer closet. Our spiritual angst, that pit of emptiness in our soul, will not be relieved by anything other than knowing Christ. Whether in silent contemplation, with a prayer book, spiritual reading, at liturgical services, with the Jesus prayer, by camaraderie with spiritually minded friends, in all places and at all times, let us make a clear plan and decisive effort to know Christ. The emptiness we feel inside is His throne and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, in our heart, which we have chosen to leave vacant. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Rev. 3:20). “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).
“For I call you to a much higher flight; to total abandonment; to an act of courage which defies reason. I call you to God. I call you to the One that transcends the world so that you might know an infinite heaven of spiritual joy, the heaven which you presently grope for in your personal hell and which you seek even while in a state of revolt. For you, my Friend, in the eyes of heaven are not a piece in a machine that drives you; in the eyes of heaven you are a soul, a whole being, so free in your actions, so priceless in your worth, that God Himself, in the guise of the Second Person of the Trinity, came into the world to be crucified for you” (Fr. George Calciu, Christ is Calling You!).
“Excessive care about worldly matters is characteristic of an unbelieving and fainthearted person, and woe to us, if, in taking care of ourselves, we do not use as our foundation our faith in God, who cares for us! If we do not attribute visible blessings to Him, which we use in this life, then how can we expect those blessings from Him which are promised in the future? We will not be of such little faith. By the words of our Saviour, it is better first to seek the Kingdom of God, for the rest shall be added unto us (Mt. 6:33).” ~ Saint Seraphim of Sarov