Sunday, May 13, 2012

Everyday Theosis

     In our liturgies we at times stand for long hours, drop down to prostrate, and at the same time seek to keep our attention focused on the heavenly realm. Even outside of our liturgies we fast, try to maintain attitudes of constant prayer, and struggle to bridle our physical desires. Not only that our greatest spiritual tradition Hesychasm teaches us different physical techniques to use in prayer, such as controlled breathing. To many our Byzantine traditions seem physically symbolic but we have in many ways learned the value of physical work went comes to spirituality and our teachings on Theosis.
     There is a passage from St. Maximos in the Philokalia that comes to mind when considering these physical aspects of our traditions. When speaking about ways to receive knowledge about God he says, "by working hard with his body, he will prepare his soul for that knowledge(v2pg118)". There is no doubt that in the Philokalia as well in other aspects of our tradition that physical actions lead us to divinization. However, it has been a struggle at times for us to articulate this reality into the simple aspects of daily living. When was the last time when cooking a meal, doing dishes, or mowing the lawn did we contemplate that we are becoming what god is by grace through this? There is a difference of course in our religious physical actions in that they are more direct. Never the less, these sometimes considered meaningless physical actions that we do each day can also be a means to encounter God.
     In thinking about what could be considered levels of participation in religious activity I'm reminded about Elder Sophrony's teachings on prayer. In his teachings we find that any action of prayer opens us up to all of eternity. By pondering such wisdom we can arrive at the conclusion that access to God is available to me in this moment just as much as it is when I go to the Divine Liturgy. There is of course different actions that facilitate us for greater experiences of this truth about prayer and in the Divine Liturgy we find the greatest resources for this. However, we should never discount that there can be found unending experience of God's presence in what we know as non-religious or secular activities .
     On another note, work or even the things we face in everyday life does not always offer us the conditions to hold to the ideals that I have been discussing. When he was on Mt. Athos Elder Sophrony learned a powerful truth from his spiritual father St. Silouan that we should consider in such conditions. The Lord told St. Silouan to "keep his mind in hell and do not despair". If we are willing we can let even the negative aspects become moments of encountering the power of God. Too often we try to escape the negativity by 'living for the weekend or that big promotion, college degrees, so on and so forth. However, the only way we can truly escape "hell" is by learning to encounter God in the here and now. Our faith proclaims that Christ in his divinity destroyed the powers of Hell. It is the divinity of Christ gifted to us that will bring us our victory.
     There is so much potential that we can have in each day. Every physical activity that we do can have endless value if we learn to share it with God. You might not be aware of this but many of our people see no value in their lives. Some people struggle at times with difficult circumstances and for many of them physical activity or daily life is hell. There are even those, who never miss a liturgy, but find their daily lives as a prison. In fact, there are some of our brethren rotting in prison waiting to hear the good news of what they can have in God each day. May God be praised who wants to give meaning to our lives. Meaning not just on Sundays or Holy days but in every moment. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans8:39). This wonderful gift of participating in the divine nature is ours in every moment. All it takes is trust in God that he wants this for us, which our faith teaches that he does.

(Note: for those who don't understand the Byzantine tradition on divinization. Man does not become another person of the Trinity. He participates in what God is making him a god by grace and never by nature.We are not born eternal beings but become so by participation in what God is. As it says in 2peter 1:4 "you may become partakers of the divine nature")


  1. This would have to be one of the biggest struggles of my daily life: trying to find some meaning in my work. If it was physical, I could see a point to it, but sitting behind a computer day in, day out, year after year, completely saps me of energy and the idea that I can somehow sanctify my life by doing this. When I clean my house, I tell myself I am doing it for the angels that surround me; when I cook for my husband or parents or friends, well then it is a labour of love. When I weed my garden, I know that I am tending God's creation. But sitting in front of a mute, impersonal can this lead to becoming more Christlike? Saints, and monastics, place importance on physical work, and rightly so, but our modern dependence on the computer seems to me to be anti-human. I really struggle to see value in it. Try as I might, I find it near impossible to integrate my faith with my work. It is an area I fail in every day, which can lead to a fair amount of despondency. Any words of wisdom?

    1. The Lord says "I HAVE COME THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT ABUDNATLEY" (John 10:10). If the possibility to find meaning in every moment is not true then God is a liar, our religion is dead, and going to liturgy is a waste of time. Our emotions are a roller coaster and if I rely upon them to judge my spirituality then I'm doomed. Faith says I don't care how I feel or think for it is so!!HE says it so!! Take the risk and believe that God's POWER can even work in the most meaningless tasks. Know that you are at your keyboard all day for the glory of God!!!

    2. In your work perhaps you are serving others, if you work in an office for example, insurance, design, customer service, booking holidays,-whatever it is you do at your computer I would imagine others benefit in some way from it. Thus you ARE doing Gods work and when you can see that in every aspect of you life-it will become more rewarding.
      There is a saying; nobody notices what I do until I do not do it, then everybody notices it is not done. Chin up...learn to love your computer!