Archive for February 27th, 2007

It’s Not Just the Details – It’s the Particulars

February 27, 2007


I wrote earlier of the details – and my own wrestling with the details of my travel.

Slowly, I am decompressing and regaining my own composure. The difficulty of life is not really found in the details but in its very character as particular.

 I think people do very well in general – that is to say – with things in general. When we think of things on the general level we’re not really talking about much other than our own ideas. Arguments can be had on this level, but not much is really at stake – just ideas.

Mankind, in general, is easy to love. Indeed Ivan Karamazov (by far the most sinister of the brothers) argued that it was only in general that we could love mankind. Mankind in general is easy to make plans for, to create bold utopian experiments and the like.

But then comes the particular. To feed 5,000 people is generally a large thing to do, but it comes down to the actual feeding of 5,000 particular people. The details of such an undertaking is enormous. I don’t know how we manage to seat the 5 of us living in my house now!

In local parish life – it’s almost never the general things that trouble us – in general we are all Orthodox and agree (in general). It’s only when we talk about what setting of the tropar we will use (or the myriad other choir decisions that must be made) or how we will actually do so many other things that can be measured only in particulars, that we find trouble.

In concept, the idea of a single, unified jurisdiction for Orthodoxy, is easy. But when that day comes (which it most surely will) the difficulty will be found in the particular.

This is always the test of love (not do I love man, but do I love this man).

This is the level of every struggle that is true and significant. Here the Gospel of Christ can come into its fullness. It is finally only in the fullness of each and every particularity that the Gospel is fulfilled.

And it is only in each and every particular that you and I lose our souls, that we despair of succeeding, that we actually come to know our need of God. In general, we do not need God (because of how perverse the “general” is). But we need Him in each and every particular.

This tells us how important prayer is in the smallest things. In the largest things (things in general) prayer is almost perfunctory. Not how do we feed the world, but how do I feed my family and the stranger at my door?

And it is in the smallest things that we fail.

Thus it is that the focus of our life must turn from the general, and from the largest things, and to the smallest details. I know and can know nothing of tomorrow or even 10 minutes from now. But what am I to do with my neighbor here and now as they stand in their particular need (or irritation or sin)?

“He who is faithful in small things, I will give to be master of much,” (Matt. 25:14) Christ says.

A little prayer, a little patience, a little humility, a little kindness, a little cry for help and all can be fulfilled. It is for want of the little things that our lives slip away into something less than what they should be. And it is in the little things that saints shine forth as the stars of heaven. God give us grace!

In the Details – God Reigns

February 27, 2007


 For the second day, I am sitting in airports, just one of many thousands effected by a snow storm and a storm of flight cancellations. I cannot complain – I was comfortable last night and am so now. I will have missed my Tuesday appointments and responsibilities but it cannot be helped.

But these are the events that precisely make up the stuff of our life. A plane doesn’t work. Traffic won’t move. The computer crashes. What was supposed to be due tomorrow is suddenly required today. And on it goes.

Our faith is tested, not in any larger global sense, just in the details of the day, the place where we live. Either we pray here or we probably will not pray at all. For me, it is the reminder to bring myself back to St. John Chrysostom’s words, “Glory to God for all things,” the words I used to name this blog and to remind myself to actually try to live what I preach.

This morning I looked up while waiting for the shuttle bus to carry me to the airport – when my line of sight was greeted by a lovely young woman who apparently had contact lenses that could only be described as designed to look like a demon. It took me back for a moment, and then reminded me to pray, and got me properly started for the day.

I probably looked sort of haggard, without shower or morning ablutions. I hope I did not look demonic. But may God help her not to want to appear as the image of something she truly was never created to be.

To be quiet inside, to be patient with what is beyond our control, to love everyone around, including ticket agents and airline managers – this is today’s Lent for me. And to pray for all around me and their protection and salvation. It is not wasted time or a wasted day – just another place to pray and new faces to pray for.

I am not so important that being thrust aside for a day matters to the world. Again our salvation is found in embracing the smallness that is the truth of ourselves.

Across the nation and world, people will today struggle with things that make my inconveniences seem very small. May God strengthen them to bear the day.

At the end of the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we knelt and sang:

Beneath your compassion,

We take refuge, O Virgin, Theotokos.

Despise not, our prayers,

In our necessity, but deliver us from harm.

O, only pure, only spotless one.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

It was a sweet reminder of her protection (the cathedral was actually the “Protection of the Mother of God Cathedral.”) I knelt and looked at her icon and once again remembered that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses; prayed for and loved and never alone. May she place her protecting veil over us all.

Pictures from Minneapolis Sunday of Orthodoxy

February 27, 2007

Pictures from the Sunday of Orthodoxy were made available today. I gladly share them any who wish to see that wonderful Cathedral.