Made the rounds on my blog feed today. Of particular note were a couple of my favorite bloggers’ thoughts.
First, Fr. James at Schole March 21st entry on “Be the Honeybee.” Honeybee’s flit from flower to flower, extracting only that which is good, leaving behind ‘the poop’ for the flies to sit on.
Secondly, The Handmaiden of God Leah’s entry on “Evil is the privation of good.”
Thirdly, John’s entry on his blog Mystagogy “The Community of the Desert and the Loneliness of the Cities.”
A holy trinity of encouragement. Something that is sorely needed by me this Lenten season. The road to Pascha has been paved by hellish stones. The rain streaming down my office window is a reflection of my inner tears streaming down my heart and soul.
This Lent has been beyond difficult. Not due to the fasting or the praying but due to the daily events which unfolded, one upon another, layering grief upon grief, sorrow upon sorrow, but also blessing upon blessing…if one has the eyes to see. The specifics of the grief and sorrow are unimportant. Each of us has our own things in life that hurt; betrayal, lies, victim of a violent crime, unilateral decisions made, broken friendship and/or relationship and the list could go on.
Our collective questions are the same. Why? Why did this happen…happen to me, or her, or him? Why did God allow this? Was it His will? Words intended for comfort and consolation, offered in love – without doubt – echo with hollowness. “It was God’s will.” “Her Guardian Angel really protected her.” How can betrayal be God’s will? How can being a victim of a violent crime be God’s will? I want to just run away, escape to an isolated island somewhere, to not experience this anymore. Stop the merry-go-round…I want to get off!
The Handmaiden of God, Leah, addresses, via St. Basil’s sermon on the Condition of Man, evil. Evil is the absence of good. Evil was not created by God. Evil came about by the disobedience of mankind and the subsequent soul’s decline. The soul, which was created by God for Good. When evil enters our sphere in a very direct way, we are shocked, taken aback, confused. These are the weapons of the enemy. Peace and clarity are marks of God.
On Mystagogy, John wrote, “Contemporary man, in his loneliness, experiences pathological anxiety, anguish and suffering. He is tormented and, in turn, torments others.” No kidding! What is the solution? How do we find, gain, and hold on to the peace and clarity that is God’s and not allow fear to overwhelm us? Let me tell you, the thought “I hate Lent! I dread Lent! It can’t end fast enough for me!” has been heard frequently echoing through my head!
I cannot write as eloquently as John, so shall quote him here:
We need to learn to pray. We need vigils constant vigilance in a posture of immobility and calmness. When I am near God what do I have to fear? He has guided me to where I may be guided by him. I become aware that, in my nakedness, God himself is there to vest me with authentic hope. By restoring our inner world, we increase our resistance, and in time become invincible to, the organized attacks of evil. By placing our whole life at God’s feet and seeking the authentic life he wants us to live we begin to have a foretaste of immortality, where we are never alone but in the company of Christ and his saints. And it may help you to know that there are many, out of sight, who are assisting you with their prayers. These are the monastics, dedicated totally to God, who keep vigil. Even though you have not met them they pray for you, with arms raised and with knees and knuckles callused by their prostrations.
Like Abba Antony’s honeybee, I need to take the sweet nectar that I find in each flower and leave the garbage behind for the flies. In each situation that has happened during this Lenten season, there is sweet nectar. Have I taken it up? Though betrayal and lies in a relationship are deeply painful and ultimately cause the severing of the friendship, was there nectar in it? Yes, there was. The flower opened itself and shared its sweetness. The honeybee took up what nectar it could hold; enjoying its sweetness, learning, and being blessed.
In every hard situation I must work to remember to be a honeybee, to be constantly vigilant in immobile prayer to receive calmness, and that what evil may have been perpetrated did not come from God.
May God have mercy upon those who did not show mercy to those they hurt, attacked, lied to or offended. And may His Grace of forgiveness continue to fill hearts with peace and His Light and Love.
Forgive my incoherence. Read each person’s blog. They really are excellent.