From Colleen in Baltimore:
The story goes that a monk was once asked, "What do you do all day at the monastery?" He replied, "We fall, and we get up. We fall, and we get up." His simple description of ascetic struggle gives great insight into monastic life, and really, to all of us who would follow Christ.
As I approach the end of the Great Fast, I must fight discouragement over my numerous falls. I was so sure I could maintain a certain level of spiritual discipline, but daily was reminded of how futile my efforts are without complete submission to Christ. Humbled and grateful for the healing that the Church offers us through the sacrament of Confession, I have to try very hard not to dwell on what I said in the presence of my priest, but rather what was forgiven. Everything.
My prayer book contains a prayer to the Theotokos that helps me to pray the words that I am constantly thinking: "No matter how often I repent, I appear a liar before God, and repent with trembling. Can God shake me and I do those same things again an hour later?...You know...that I abhor my evil deeds and love the Law of my God with all my mind. But, most pure Lady, I do not know how I can love what I abhor and turn away from what is good..." This, I think, is why the word "immediately" is part of this maxim; I should not allow myself to be crushed by the fall; I should instead, with God’s help, get up at once.
I must not succumb to the paralysis of despondency over my sin, for it will always be with me, as long as I am on this earth. Only one day remains of the spiritual retreat that is Lent: but there is still time to get up!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
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.