As we began this month our journey towards Great Lent let us take some time to contemplate the importance of stability. This crazy, technologically advanced world we live and participate in presents us many choices. We are barraged constantly with choices and options. It has become a virtue to change often. Whether it be something as simple as brands, stores or any consumer product, or as serious as job, church, city, religion, political party or sexual orientation. We can recreate ourselves every day and this is seen as a good thing. As holistic beings, we can not help but be affected by all of this. As consumers we get to choose whatever we want, when we want it and can have it immediately. This is innocent enough, but when it comes to more important things like relationships, vocation and religion this can be a very serious matter. The most serious side effect of this is how we approach our spiritual life, and this is where we must give our attention.
We must begin by stating emphatically the conviction that the spiritual life is lived right in front of us, right here, right now. It is not lived in some other distant, remote place. We can so easily make excuses, “if only I lived in such and such a city or time, then things would be easier”, or “if only I didn’t have to work here, I could live a more peaceful life.” We make many excuses as to why we don’t simply take up our cross and embrace the present as the reality that our Lord has given to us for our salvation and healing. Within the various writings of the Fathers and Mothers of our Church, we can find many that deal with the issue of stability, vigilance, steadfastness as a virtue of the spiritual life as a Christian. There is the monastic adage that says, “stay where you are until you are compelled by the Spirit to go elsewhere” and “stay where you are and don’t easily leave it.” Obviously this has real meaning for one who has dedicated his or her life to the monastic life, but this has meaning for us as well. St. Euthymius the Great once said,
We must never admit evil thoughts that fill us with sorrow and hatred for the place in which we live, and suggest that we go somewhere else. If someone tries to do something good in the place where he lives but fails to complete it, he should not think that he will accomplish it elsewhere. It is not the place that produces success, but faith and a firm will. A tree which is often transplanted does not bear fruit.
This is the essence of stability – faith and a firm will in the presence of God here and now, and in this place. We can often be tempted to be elsewhere – another church, another family, a different job, etc. We pray often to our Lord God “who is present everywhere and fillest all things.” Do we really have this as a conviction? As we mature in Christ we begin to realize that Christ came to smash all idols especially the ones that tell us that the spiritual life is lived elsewhere or that it looks the way we expect.
If we look at a thesaurus for synonyms for stability we find words such as adherence, assurance, backbone, balance, cohesion, constancy, dependability, determination, durability, endurance, firmness, maturity, permanence, security and steadfastness. Should not these be words that describe a mature Christian who takes his faith seriously and who is actively and intentionally engaging and actualizing this faith into his or her life? This is done primarily through seeing God in the midst of all of our circumstances.
In our thirst for holiness we must realize that God is here present with us in the present moment. There is a classic book by Jean-Pierre de Caussade where he speaks of the value of the “sacrament of the present moment.” He says that if we truly desire and thirst for holiness we must actively engage God’s will right in front of us. He says, “If we are thirsty we must not worry about books which explain what thirst is. If we waste time seeking an explanation about thirst, all that will happen is that we shall get thirstier.” He says that it is the same with holiness and doing the will of God and that we should accept what God presents to us with child-like faith. “What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.” This acceptance of God’s will in the present creates a strong foundation of stability upon which to build the house of our life in Christ which is experienced in active participation in the life of the Body of Christ, the Church. Let us, as we approach Great Lent, be mindful of these things and, with St. Herman of Alaska, ” all make a vow: at least from this day, this hour, this very minute, we should strive to love God above all else and do His will!”
O Lord our God , help us to realize that our true life is only in Thee. Help us to do Thy will in all things and to be ever mindful of Thy glorious presence in all things. Help us to find our true stability in Thee alone. Amen.