O Lord Jesus Christ, Only-begotten Son of Thy Eternal Father, Thou hast said with Thy most holy lips: "Without me you can do nothing." My Lord and my God, in faith I embrace Thy words with my heart and soul, and bow before Thy goodness; help me, a sinner, to do in union with Thee this work which I am about to begin, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- a Prayer at the Beginning of Any Work
On Sunday 1/14 September, we will celebrate the Church New Year. The New Year is a grace-filled time to re-dedicate ourselves to working for Christ and for the Church, as well as to consecrate all of our work to God's glory.
In the midst of all the present social and economic troubles, people feel pressured and anxious in a way never before experienced. This presents a temptation to rush about in frenzied anxiety, trying harder and harder to make money and, in one's spare time, to have worldly experiences of entertainment for oneself and one's family.
In this model of life, then, work is only for making money, and leisure time is entirely for entertainment. Yet no one feels he has enough money, and no one feels sufficiently entertained. Perhaps the model leaves something to be desired.
In the true Christian view of life, revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures and the lives of the saints, the hours of our day are meant for prayer, work, and rest. We often hear about prayer; we should also reflect on the role of work in the struggle for our salvation.
Even in Paradise before the Fall, God gave man work: "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Gen. 2: 15) So work, productive activity, is inherent in our nature, and when people do not have work, they become unhappy and go bad. We have all seen this. In addition, after the Fall, God gave man an additional reason to work, as an act of repentance for his sin: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen. 3:19). So, if our work is difficult and unpleasant, which we all experience at least sometimes, this is allowed by God in His great wisdom, so that we can be cleansed of our sins.
Before we start our work each day, it would greatly benefit us to say the prayer re-printed above, or one similar to it. It would greatly benefit us to recall each day that we should 1. Dedicate our work to God, for His glory, because our primary function is to glorify Him for His own sake, 2. Ask the Lord to use whatever difficulties we experience at work to cleanse us of our sins, and 3. To acknowledge that we deserve to eat our bread in "the sweat of our brow," and to ask Him to provide bread - that is, the material things we truly need, not those we simply want out of unruly desire - for our families through our work.
In addition, we should promise God that during this coming year, we will work for His Holy Church. The Church is our spiritual home, and we need to dedicate hours to Her every week, both in worship and in labor. When our pastor or other parish leaders ask our help, let us re-order our priorities and give that help. God will most certainly reward us.
May the All-Providing Lord bless all our work this year, for His glory!
Spiritual Life is Work, Too
We should use all that is necessary in this world for the cultivation of our souls, for when death separates us from this world we will take nothing to the other world except our souls, in whatever state they have been formed here.
When he was eighteen, St. Simeon the Stylite was so concerned about the salvation of his soul that one day he fell face down on the earth and prayed to God that He would show him the path of salvation. And lying thus in prayer for a long time, he had a vision that he was digging a trench for a foundation and, exhausted from digging, stopped to catch his breath. A voice spoke to him, saying: "Dig deeper!'' Then he began, with greater labor and effort, to dig yet deeper. Again he stopped to catch his breath. But again he heard the voice: "Dig deeper!'' He again began to dig, with even greater labor and effort. At this the voice spoke to him again: "Stop, it is sufficient! Now build what you wish to build; for without labor, you will succeed in nothing.''
Those who labor little, and build the life of their soul on sensual shallowness, build on sand, which cannot uphold anything, even in this transitory world - and even more so in eternity.
- from The Prologue from Ochrid, entry for September 1st