From Emily in Baltimore:
As the Lenten fast nears the halfway point, I think this is a good reminder for all of us -- I know I needed to hear it!
Our Lord commands us to fast cheerfully: "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18.)
But. But. How can I smile when I'm SO tired of hummus and vegetable soup?!
It's difficult to be cheerful, but it's such a blessing to others when you make the extra effort. Every time you interact with another human being, you have the choice between encouraging her by your cheerful attitude, or causing her to stumble by complaining. If I have to say something negative, I try to make sure it's to a close, trusted friend or family member, and that there's a good reason for saying it (I'm concerned about a situation and seeking their advice, for example.) With everyone else, I try to be cheerful -- not overly effusive, which would be insincere, but calm and sympathetic and positive regardless of the situation.
Our dear Khouria Frederica is fond of a quote from a 1st-century Jewish mystic, Philo: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." How true. I harbor the hope that, through ministering to others in a very small way (a smile or a word of encouragement) I may be helping them to gather the strength they need to minister to others around them -- and maybe even to me.
The Forty Maxims
- 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
- 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
- 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
- 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
- 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
- 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
- 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
- 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
- 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
- 10. Be faithful in little things.
- 11. Do your work, then forget it.
- 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
- 13. Face reality.
- 14. Be grateful.
- 15. Be cheerful.
- 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
- 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
- 18. Listen when people talk to you.
- 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
- 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
- 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
- 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
- 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
- 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
- 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
- 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
- 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
- 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
- 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
- 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
- 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
- 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
- 33. Be strict with yourself.
- 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
- 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
- 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
- 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
- 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
- 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
- 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.