Sept 26/ Oct 8 2009. Repose Of The Holy Apostle And Evangelist John The Theologian
Being sick this week has made me a little philosophical, with the extra and welcome downtime. Normally, I try to write about the service texts and scripture, because these things are at the core of our faith, and I rarely feel up to some sort of “spiritual essay” not directly related to something I have read or prayed. Here is the exception that proves the rule.
Everything we do must have meaning!
This should be the goal of the Christian in everything he does, thinks, thinks about doing, desires and says.
Let us define ”meaning” for our purposes. This definition will not appear in Webster’s, but it is the Christian definition. For something to have “meaning”, it must be according to the will of God, and lead to eternally good consequences. This is a broad definition, applicable to every circumstance in life. The Christian must, as St Andrew says in his Great canon, “be a good trader”, that is, assess every situation and find the right thing to do. It takes great wisdom to always find (and do) the meaningful action.
Basically, if everything in our life is meaningful we are always living in Christ, in the Spirit. This is not possible for us in our weakened condition, but it is something we must strive for.
Of course, we can only control what we do, and not what others do. Our actions have meaning if they are the right actions, according to the will of God, no matter what the results are. It would be wonderful if every time we gave good advice or helped someone with some problem they improved permanently in some way, so that our meaningful actions would also cause someone else to live more meaningfully, but this is not the reason we do what is right. It is always right to do the right thing, even if things do not turn out as we desire.
Basically, saying that we must strive for everything in our life to have meaning is like saying:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Remember that as we think, so should we do.
The best way to illustrate this important life skill is by examples. Everything in our life should be evaluated under this prism – does it have meaning?
I am sick this week. I felt really puny on Wednesday, and really terrible Thursday, so much that I called off liturgy. I acutely felt my mortality during times like these. We should always feel our mortality, and be thinking of our eventual death in the body. There is only so much time – how much time do we have? To my chagrin, I was unable to write this article yesterday, because I did not feel well. I could have done it – it would have been hard, and my head would have hurt more, but I slept a lot instead.
I don’t feel “guilty” about any of this, but my small sickness has made me think about how fragile I really am. What if I got sick for a long time? Would I still do the things that need to be done, or would I sleep? I feel far from perfection, and that is a good thing, because it is true. My (minor) sickness has meaning, because of the thoughts I have had concerning it.
Sometimes sickness does not have meaning, such as the many times a drug addict is sick because of their habit, or when a person becomes bitter about their health.
Drug addiction is a long series on meaningless events – self-centeredness, excuses, lying, stealing, hurting loved ones, unreliability, and getting high and debilitating one’s body and soul, but God is merciful, and can make these things meaningful if there is repentance. If the addict never repents of his addiction, all of the events comprising that addiction will be meaningless, and there will eventually be the death of body and soul, but with repentance, all can be made well. Of course, this repentance is not a one time event, but a change of life.
We need not despair that we do meaningless things (despair has no meaning). We need to try harder, and although the task may seem impossible, with God (helping) all things are possible. This is great news, it is truly the “good news”! With God’s help despite our missteps and weaknesses and plain old stupidity, we can become perfected! Even the meaningless can come to have meaning if we change as the Holy Spirit within us directs.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)
We all need rest. Our rest must be meaningful,. It is good to take the family down to Glen Rose to look at dinosaur tracks and tube the Brazos, and laugh and sing and get sunburned noses. It is meaningless to go to Vega and drink and gamble and ogle the lost souls parading around in cocktail dresses. Nothing good can come of this.
Many times we are tired. What do we do when we feel this way? If it is Saturday night, do we “relax” and watch TV and order pizza? This is a poor choice, when we could go to the Vigil and try to pray. Which option has eternal significance? Which is meaningful?
Are our priorities meaningful? The verdict on this is borne out by looking at the things we value, the way we spend our time, and spend our money. If we have cable TV with a zillion channels, many of which will have little (good) eternal significance for us, and we do not tithe to our parish (because we perceive that we do not have the funds to pay our bills and give to the church), something is out of sorts in our life. We have chosen a way of life that is less meaningful.
There are as many more examples as there are situations in our lives. So much of our life is great, meaningless spaces surrounded by little moments full of meaning. The task of the Christian is to have less space. Our Lord Jesus Christ had absolutely none of this “space” Everything He did, thought or said had meaning. This is our goal. Let’s improve a little, but by bit, until we have reached it.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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Interesting observations re: meaning and addiction. I think that understanding and perspective could be valuable to those fighting addiction. Thanks.