From Laura in Baltimore:
Last night, I had the blessing of standing (and standing, and standing...) and chanting the The Canon of St. Andrew. It is not an easy task, but strangely enough, one that I look forward to. Our dear priest, Father Gregory, refers to this service as “boot camp.” I can only agree with him.
What amazes me is that every time I participate in this service, certain verses seem to jump off the page and almost scream, “that’s you, Laura.” What’s really shameful is that sometimes it’s the same verse I remember screaming at me in years past. I think I must not grow much from year to year if this keep happening.
I try, as an Orthodox Christian, to stick to the rules, say my prayers, observe the fasts, etc. But I have to admit, it’s also easy to look for the loopholes. I think, “one little peek won’t matter,” or “one little bit of cheese doesn’t really matter, does it?” or even, “My whole life is supposed to be a prayer, so I don’t need to stand in front of the icons for another 15 minutes and pray.” It’s quite shameful. And the thing is, one little whatever might not matter in the long run, it’s the series of “one littles” that make the difference. Think how the Colorado river carved the Grand Canyon, one little drop at a time.
My own “little” sins and all the ways I’m not strict with myself seem to come into sharp focus during Lent and services such as the Great Canon. It’s easy to get discouraged, and often I do, thinking, I’ll never heal from all the damage I have caused and continue to cause myself and those around me through my sins. But I know that discouragement does not come from God, for chastisement and discouragement are two different things. And, like the monk who “falls and gets up” over and over, so should I, God willing, with a little more spiritual moxie.
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.