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Archive for June 17th, 2008

Horses and Chariots

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses,
but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 19[20]:8 )

We are hybrid creatures: at once beings of dust and ashes and persons capable of luminosity. From the moment the human hand reached out to fulfill the thought-intention and grasped the knowledge it wanted, we have been drawn away from light to the earth. It is no wonder that St. Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV). We have it on good authority that these things–joy, prayer and gratitude–can free the person from the gravity of fallenness; that these are among the primary engines which drive us heavenward and bring down to us the light to illumine our single eye. This is why we have the testimonies of light-bearing men and women, such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, as to the necessity of the remembrance of the name of Jesus every moment of the day and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

But, I can certainly testify from personal experience, the pull of the gravity of fallenness and sin is relentless and does not let us go. Failure to always practice joy, to work moment-by-moment prayer, and to say “Thank you” in every circumstance will result not simply in the halt of forward progress, but in regression.

I cannot say with certainty, but it seems to me that there are some human pursuits, not evil in themselves, but that do have an inescapable earthbound pull. We engage in certain of these sorts of human pursuits with something like necessity, with an orientation of serpentine wisdom, but must somehow not be captured by the mortal pull, but retain a substantial dovish innocence. I have not been able to achieve this in my own daily living. Horses and chariots are something like necessities in certain circumstances, but when one begins to trust in these earthly things one accelerates one’s downward trajectory. Dovish innocence is eclipsed by serpentine wisdom, we forget to work joy, to work prayer, to work gratitude.

Thankfully, none of this is dependent, in the ultimate sense, on us. We are required to act. We will put the bridle on the horses, and grease the chariot axles. But we have no control over anything but our own choices and actions. We forget that so easily, thinking that success is dependent upon our horsemanship or chariotry–or that of those on whom we depend for these matters. But no matter our expertise, horses will founder on uneven ground, chariot axles will inexplicably break. We may find ourselves unable to provide the fodder for horses or to keep up the chariot. Worse, we may find ourselves trusting in these chariots and horses in such ways that we succumb to baser actions and words.

But we may escape these things if we do that which is the will of God for us in Christ: to work joy all the time, to work prayer every moment, and to embrace absolutely every event and every human act we encounter with gratitude. All these labors turn us out from ourselves. All these labors are incarnations of our trust in God’s providence. All these labors are the synergies between ourselves and our heavenly Father in freeing us from the gravity of sin and enlightening us with the radiance of Tabor. And none of these labors culminate in instant results. All these labors require patience, which is to say the willingness to keep working these things, and to keep working them, and to keep working them. Wheat is not harvested the day after its planting. And when it is harvested it is ground, it is planted and dies, it gives up what it is for a transformation over which it has no control. Nor does it control the increase from planting to harvest.

Such things require of us trust. We are always exercising trust. The question is: in what or whom is that trust? Trust in God and his providence is a most difficult choice and an even more difficult act, and a near-impossible way to live. And yet it is to what we are called. That life will be sustained, it seems to me, by always working joy, always praying, and greeting every event and action with gratitude.

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