I was feeling blue this morning, missing the boys and just a bit down in general. I was sitting next to Father and he said to “go ahead and say prayers and get it over with.” [Note: I was procrastinating] I said, “Gee, that’s not the way to think about it! I was hoping for some consolation.” He said, “Yes, but sometimes that’s just what you have to do.”
True. If we always waited for things to “feel right” then most of us would pray very seldom.
But to get back to this morning, I started thinking about the consolation I was seeking. I picked up my prayer book and an index card fell out of the back. I had written on it words from my spiritual father given to me after Innocent died. On the back I had added a few things after Andrew died. I used to pull this card out every single time I said prayers and read it to remind myself of things that I would otherwise forget in my depression and grief. At the very top I had written, “Fr. M. loves me and prays for me at home and at church.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that someone loves us? Most of us are loved by many people, but they are people and subject to temptation just as we are.
We must give our heart to someone, and if we give it to any person on this planet, this person can harm us. We all seek boundless and unchangeable love and infinite peace, but who can give it to us? Not even our parents, our brothers, or our sisters. Every one of them can abandon, despise, or harm us. Why? Because we are all limited by time and space and we all battle against the unclean powers, which are constantly defiling our thoughts.
–Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, p. 121
I suddenly was reminded of something that I had (shamefully) not done in weeks. I would pray rounds on my prayer rope asking the intercessions of my favorite saints. Because I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to important things – alas, trivia is no problem – I decided to write down the names of those saints in the empty space left on the card as an encouragement to pray:
“Holy Mother Macrina pray to God for me!
Holy St. Anna pray to God for me!
Holy St. Nectarios pray to God for me!”
I looked back over the list, thinking carefully to see if I had left anyone out, and in doing so I was suddenly aware of the very strong feeling of not being alone. In fact it was so strong it startled me. I felt absolutely surrounded by the love and prayers of these saints and holy elders and eldresses. The things I had been worried about and fretting over seemed very far away and unimportant. I basked in it for a minute.
Incongruously, the lyrics to the old show, “Cheers”, came to mind:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
Naturally, these are worldly lyrics, referring to a bar of all things, but it highlights something universal in all of us: we all want to find a place where we are known and loved and welcomed. All of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are looking for that. What defines us is where we search and what we expect to find. We know, because Christ has told us, that we will not find it in the world. Because we are all created in the image and likeness of God we are capable of loving each other, but it is clouded by petty jealousies, disagreements, pride, etc. God, through His saints, His mother, and not least of all, Himself, is the only One capable of giving us what we are all so desperately searching for.
[As a footnote, I was truly surprised that something so simple as just writing down, “Saint X pray to God for me!” for all of my favorite saints and elders had such a stunning result. I’m not in the business of giving spiritual advice, but I think this is something that anyone could do.]