Beloved in God,
I often visited Staretz Dimitri Egoroff during my early years as an Orthodox Christian. I would hear him say: “every soldier must stay at his post.” He wasn’t speaking about the army but about our life as a Christian in the world. He meant that it is in the circumstances of our life, and the arena of our heart, that we are called to live and confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not someone else, or somewhere else, or some time else. But who I am, where I am, when I am.
Small every day deeds keep darkness at bay.
In the movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the following dialogue is found:
Galadriel: Mithrandir… Why the hafling?
Gandalf: Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? I don’t know. Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.
As Orthodox Christians we are believers in a Christianity that sees the acts of everyday faithful believers as being powerful enough to sanctify the world. Yes, we believe in the heroic and great deeds of great saints, yet we also see God working through the “small folk,” the “ordinary” people of God as part of the process of bringing the presence of the Kingdom of God into a sinful and suffering world.
The powerful witness of a “merely” Christian family, who brings their children up in the fear of God, with faith and love, is sufficient to overcome many of the plots of the devil and to be a witness to the world. You see, the world is not only affected by the self-sacrifice of the great martyrs but also with the witness of “normal” families who show by example how to live out a faithful Christian commitment in the daily circumstances of their lives.
Saint John Chrysostom writes: “Generally the children acquire the character of their parents, they are formed in the mold of their parents’ temperament, they love the same things their parents love, they talk in the same fashion, and work for the same ends.”
Saint Basil the Great writes that our daily work is actually part of our “goal of piety.” He means it is the context and arena for our spiritual life. He says: “It is obvious that we must work with diligence and not think that our goal of piety offers an escape from work or an excuse for idleness, but that see it as the arena for our struggle, for our spiritual endeavor, and for the exercise of patience in tribulation, so that we may be able to say like the Apostle: “In abundant labor and struggle and painfulness, in weariness and in all the daily concerns.” (2 Cor. 11) Not only is this exertion a benefit as part of our Christian discipline, but also for showing love to our neighbor, because through us God may work to uphold others who may be weak and need help. This is what the the Apostle in the Acts means when he says: “I have shown you all things, how that in laboring, you ought to support the weak, and so that you may have something to give to others in need.” This is how we may be accounted worthy to hear the words: “Come ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.”
Saint Basil goes on to say: “In the midst of our work we can fulfill the duty of prayer, giving thanks to Him who has granted strength to our hands for performing our tasks and cleverness to our minds for acquiring knowledge, and for having provided the materials, for that which is in the instruments we use and that which forms the matters of the art in which we may be engaged, praying that the work of our hands may be directed toward its goal, that is the good pleasure of God.”
Saint Augustine of Hippo goes beyond the example of the Apostles to point out that Our Lord Himself made our daily work holy because he showed, by his example, that daily work is honorable and respectable. He says: “This much I know, that He was neither a thief nor a robber, neither a charioteer, neither an actor nor a gambler, but that innocently and honorably He performed such labors as are suitable for human occupation, such as the work of carpenters, builders, shoemakers, farmers and similar trades and work of ordinary people.” And he says: “Respectability and honor are also found in ordinary work and menial tasks. That is why we see that the Apostle Paul would not refuse to perform any rustic labor or to engage in any workman’s craft.”
And so finally it is about our life as a Christian in the world and how we live it. It is in the circumstances of our life, and the arena of our heart, that we are called to live and confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Married or single, at work or home, at school or play, it is not someone else, not somewhere else, not some time else, but who I am, where I am, when I am. It is the “small deeds” of ordinary men and women that keeps darkness at bay.
My dears, Father Dimitri would say, “Let every soldier stay at his post.” Small every day deeds keep darkness at bay and our world is still in need of meeting the Gospel.
~A Letter from a Priest
hat tip: Sunday Bulletin of Holy Theophany Orthodox Church