From Kristina in Houston:
On the day that I found out what my maxim for this project would be, a very special package arrived. In it were two small hand-written icons, exquisitely done by the sisters at St. Elizabeth in California. They are of St. Andrew and St. Emilia, and join another beautiful icon of St. Brendan. These icons are particularly special because they are the patron saints of our three little godchildren, two blonde boys and their baby sister. Their parents kindly had them made for us. They are the only hand-written icons in our prayer area, and their gold backgrounds glow brightly, drawing the eye. The icons almost seem alive, reminding me to pray for these small children.
A decade ago, I would have had very mixed feelings about receiving such a package. It is fair to say that the role of saints, and of the Theotokos in particular, were one of the stumbling blocks for us as my future husband and I considered Orthodoxy.
Now, I take more and more comfort from the icons of saints in my church as well as in my home. When I visit modern, non-Orthodox churches, I find myself saddened by the empty walls and multi-purpose facilities, yearning for the beauty, truth, and sense of heaven that are reflected all around me through Orthodox imagery. The saints who are pictured in our churches feel a bit like anchors to me, telling us that our faith has been lived by real people for two millennia, showing us images of those who died for Christ, reminding us that we are part of a much bigger story. The saints also reflect back Christ himself to us, and help us see the way in which he wants to transform our lives to reflect him as well.
Hebrews 12:1 - 2 makes so much sense to me now: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finish of our faith…
By considering these witnesses (saints) that have gone on before us, we can gain strength and courage to complete our own race. May they intercede on our behalf!
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.