For Christmas my Nouna (Godmother) got me a book from the Orthodox Calendar Company called 2009: Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints. It’s a neat little book that gives the life of one of the saints for the day (while listing all the other saints celebrated) along with a quote by one of the Saints. Today’s quote comes from St. Theophan the Recluse:
Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but is given only to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their powers to the test, then cry out with their whole heart, “Lord, help us.”
This quote is really interesting in my opinion as it says a few things about how the Orthodox see salvation.
Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but is given only to those who seek and work…. This is interesting because it says that we have to work for our salvation. Now, this is not saying that it is through good works that we achieve our salvations, not at all. What it is saying is that while the grace of God is freely given, we have to actively and continually seek out that grace. Nothing comes without effort. Salvation is not as simple a thing as saying “Jesus, I believe in you.” The effort which we must put forth is trying to overcome our fallen will; our passions and the demons who latch on to our weakness to exploit those passions. The work that St. Theophan refers to are those things which help us to overcome those passions: trusting in God, helping the needy, praying–especially praying–attending the Divine Liturgy with an open heart and mind rather than merely being ‘present,’ etc. All of these things help us to overcome our will so that then we can fully consciously say “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
…and only to those seekers who, after putting all their powers to the test, then crty out with their whole heart, “Lord, help us.” The Fathers teach us that one of the first steps towards really working out salvation “with fear and trembling” is not think much of ourselves. We are to not put trust in ourselves since we are fallen creatures and to learn to rely on the power of God for everything. If we achieve some task, we are to recognize that it was only through the help of God. If we overcome some sin, we are to recognize that it was not through our own power, but the power of God working through us. In this way we learn to overcome pride, and gain the virtue of humility. St. Theophan tell sus that the help of God only comes to those who trying everything in their own power to come close to God, and seeing that fail, cry out for God’s help. We cannot reach God on our own, through our own powers!
Lastly, St. Theophan tells us that when we cry out to God, we are not to cry out “Lord, help me,” but rather “Lord, help us.” We must remember that our religion, our faith, is not one of just ‘me and God.’ All of us, as creations of God, are striving together towards God. We can rely on each other help us through tough times and we must be able to support others while they are going through rough times. We do not have to ‘run the race’ alone!
There is so much wisdom in these two sentences. What always amazes me is how insightful and wise the Fathers and Saints can be while still being so concise. May God bless us all to be able to see this wisdom!
IC | XC
NI | KA