From Kassiane Michele in Alabama:
Just a little background, so you will better understand my post: my husband and I read and studied about the Orthodox Church for several years. On February 9, 2008, we were baptized and chrismated along with our 2 sons into the Holy Orthodox Church. I came in kicking and screaming, as Frederica says so many women do. I was just fine in my comfortable Presbyterian (PCA) church. But guess who wasn't? Yes, my husband Silouan Troy. Here we go into a new journey!
As an American "type A" personality AND a new convert to Orthodoxy, this subject seems daunting to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Emily gave this Maxim to me because it is exactly what has been on my soul lately. I had an interesting conversation with my priest this past Sunday. Without me saying too much, he kept saying to me over and over in a most loving, quiet way, "Kassiane, be still. Be patient. Be calm." I thought about it as he would continue to say this throughout our conversation and I thought, "I am calm. Why is he saying this to me?" I now realize that my outer being is showing what is on the inside and that is a very anxious person. I am an impatient person. I want God to fix me right now! I stress over it. Take those awful passions and just crush them without me having to do a thing. Of course we know this isn't how it works. The frustrating part is that I know that every time I work hard on fighting those passions, these are the time that I feel like giving up and I lose my inner stillness. But this isn't how it should work.
Today I experienced how it should work. This morning when I arose from bed thoughts began to attack me. Things like worry over my sons and their passions, thoughts like "Why is Silouan still in bed, he said he was getting up early to read "Ladder of Divine Ascent", humpf." The incredible part was that every time a thought came God gave me a thought to attack it right behind it. I thought about it a lot today and pride tried to come in and tell me I did it all alone, but the truth is, I have been doing these past 2 weeks what I should do every day of my life and that is taking every thought captive, bathing myself in Scripture and books by the Church Fathers, and praying all day long.
I lose my focus. Thoughts are my enemy because the true enemy puts them there and I don't even realize it. This may seem simple to many of you who have been Orthodox for a long time, but the truth is, I have been in church all my life, and this is the first time in my 40 years that I am beginning to understand how to have a relationship with my Creator. I have a long way to go, but I must start somewhere, and that is with my thoughts. I find that my mind is where I lose my inner stillness.
Have you heard Metropolitan Jonah's talk on "Don't Resent, Don't React, Keep Inner Stillness"? I highly recommend it and pray it will help you as much as it did me. You can find it here.
I pray you have a blessed Great Lent. Last year was my first Pascha, and I had no idea what I was doing with all those extra services, prayers and fasting! But this year, I am starting to grasp why we do what we do. Pray for me, a sinner.
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.