Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sanctifying Work

The practice of our faith does not end at home but must be part of our whole life.  Often when we go to our work we feel separated from our faith and subjected to a different set of rules.  There is some truth to this as each organization has its values which are encoded into their systems and procedures and norms of workplace behavior. So we may find that we bring into our work a different value system based on our Orthodox faith. Even if it is different we must bring it through our presence and witness to our faith.

We sanctify our work thorough our way of life and our prayers. It is by our inner state that our work becomes sanctified. It is ideal when our employer also has a desire to sanctify the workplace because he or she will then have concern about each employee's spiritual growth. We cannot count on this however.

Here is what Elder paisios has to say,
Every profession can be sanctified. For example, a doctor mustn't forget that what helps the most in medicine is the Grace of God. This is why he should strive to become a vessel of Divine Grace. A doctor who is a good Orthodox Christain, along with being a good scientist, helps the sick with his kindness and his faith, because he encourages them to face their illness with faith. He can say to someone who suffers from a very serious illness: "This is as far as medicine has progressed. From this point on however, there is also God Who works miracles."
In our work, as we perfect our inner being to become centered in God at all times, we will find many ways to glorify God through our actions.  It may be a kind word to a fellow employee, an act of kindness to a customer, or spiritual advice we are able to give to another person we interact with. It's not always what we say but how we are. It all depends on our ability to love others no matter what their value system is. When we do this we will discern the right things to say to others that will glorify God in His love for all mankind.

We can include icons in our work space to help keep us focused. We can take a few breaks during the day for silent prayer to keep us centered. And when we are idle we can recite the Jesus prayer over and over. And at all time we must be ever watchful for those ugly passion that can rear their ugly head at any time. 

But all this assumes we are living the Orthodox way of life. This is a life of repentance, of daily prayer coupled with fasting according to the guidelines of the Church or our spiritual father. It assumes we regularly participate in the sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Confession.  It means we must be students of the Holy Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers. When we live a sanctified life based on our love for God and our deep faith we are led along a path of inner purification. As our inner being is purified we can become more effective in sanctifying our work place. As we sanctify ourselves we can sanctify the places we work.

Reference:Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels IV: Family Life, pp 185-186

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bored With Your Work?

Many people to day do not find satisfaction from their work.  They claim they are bored or treated unfairly. They say the time goes slow and they are constantly looking for the end of their work period.  But there are many more who love to go to work. Some are so immersed in their work that they may even forget to eat properly. How does one turn work into something we gain spiritual satisfaction from and feel nourished through it?
Elder Paisios has this to say,
It depends on how each one does the work, and what one has within him. If one works with humility and love, everything will be illumined, full of light and graceful, and he will feel inner repose. But if one has prideful thoughts, imagining that he does the work better than others, he may have a sense of satisfaction, but it doesn't fill his heart, for his soul doesn't sense it.
To gain joy our from our work depends on how we approach it, what attitude we bring to it. Elder Paisios says, "If one doesn't do his work with love, he gets tired and weary." This is the attitude of love we must have no matter how mundane the task we are asked to do in the work place.  It is a place to practice what Christ has taught us, to love one another, to avoid gossip and judging others. This requires humility as we approach the work place. 

But what if we feel we should be doing work that is more meaningful? It may be that the kind of work you do is not suited to your skills. Then with prayer and help from friends, you can be guided to seek training for different kinds of work.  But you must first make sure you have mastered the nature of the workplace, so that when you do get another kind of work you do not suffer in the same way. 

First, find a way to love while you work, to give thanks to God for all things. Seek to bring cheer and goodness to those who you relate to at work. There may be new opportunities that open up for you where you are, or you may find new energy to enroll in a series of classes that will qualify you for different kind of work.

With an atitude of love and humility you will find that you will be able to have joy in any job and more likely be guided to work that fits your natural God given capabilities.

Resource: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels IV: Family Life, pp 180-181

Monday, October 14, 2013

How Can Parents Help Our Children Choose a Profession?

Choosing a profession these days is often difficult for young people as there are so many options and we are often find a conflict in choosing what we enjoy versus what will earn us lots of money. How can a parent help guide a child in this choice?

First, we cannot put money as our primary criteria as we will likely mislead our child. What is important is to discern the skills that God has given our child based on what they have chosen to do so for.  What is it they excel at? What is it that gives them joy? What are their innate skills and personality type. With careful discernment we can gently guide them in a direction where they make choices that are in harmony with God's will for them. We mustn't be too pushy about this or get in our minds what our child should become based on our desires. 

Elder Paisios tells the story of a parent who want their son to become a doctor, but his inclination was to become a priest. They wouldn't let him, forcing him along the path to medical school. 
The young man had studied Byzantine music and chanted; he had even made his own musical instrument, and found the tones on his own. He knew Byzantine music by heart. He had a gift. He wrote chants and services. As soon as he finished high school, he took the entrance exam and was accepted into the Theological School. His mother had a nervous breakdown because of her grief. She would come and to me and beg: "Father, pray for me to get well, and I'll let my child do whatever he wants." But when she did get well she refused to let him do what he wanted. Later, he abandoned everything and in the end wasted away.
We can easily confuse our own wishes for our children for what is best for them. We must try to understand what God intends for them and help them do whatever it is that fits their natural God given talents. This we can usually see from an early age.

Elder Paisios tells of a story of a two young boys who came to visit him who were about seven years old. One of them sat next to hims and kept asking questions. The elder then asked him, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" He answered, "I want to be a lawyer." The other boy was no where in sight. They sought out to find where he went and found him in the wood shop. The heard the sound of a hammer pounding on wood. When they entered the wood shop they saw the young boy pounding with a hammer a smooth plank used of planing that was on the work bench that was now warped beyond salvage. The elder asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up and he said, "A cabinet maker." The elder smiled at him and said to him, " May you become one." He also told him with a smile, "so you destroyed the plank! Its alright!"

Naturally we want to help our children to avoid going in directions that are not in line with  their capabilities. So there is useful guidance we can and must provide. We also have to make sure what direction they take is in harmony with God.

Reference: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels IV: Family LIfe, pp 178-180

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Work is a Blessing

"Better to wear our your shoes than your blankets"

Elder Paisios quotes this old saying and asks, "What does it mean?" Clearly it is saying that it is better to work, which in earlier times would wear out your shoes, than to be lazy and to spend your time in bed wearing out the blankets.
Elder Paisios describes work in this way:
Work is a blessing, a gift from God. Work gives vigor to the body and refreshes the mind. If God had not given us work, man would have become moldy  Those who are diligent work into their old age. If they stop working while they still have strength, they become melancholy; it's like death for them.
There is no way to gain peace without engaging in work of some kind.  When we do take a break, like a vacation or even a lunch hour, when we did not return to work, what would we do? We would seek out some other kind of comfort. When it ended we would seek another. We would never find satisfaction. We would be filled with anxiety, not from work, but from our inability to find true comfort.  We would feel an emptiness, a need for being of some value to others. Our soul would be longing to carry out the will of God which is to help and love others. This is why even though we may find ourselves fatigued at the end of a good days work, we can feel a sense of joy that we have been useful, worthwhile, have contributed to the life of mankind.

It is important to carry our faith into our work place. We should pray before we take on our various projects for God to guide and help us. We should find ways to show kindness to those we work with. In this way we carry our God's will into our work place. What is essential is to always keep God in mind while we work.

Work is a blessing from God

Resource: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos spiritual Counsels IV: Family Life, pg176