Remember Thou Art Dust

Ash Wednesday

“Remember thou art dust, and to dust, you shall return” Genesis 3:19

These are the words spoken as ashes are placed on our foreheads on this day that the season of Lent begins in the Church.  This is a reminder that our time here on this earth is limited, we are mortal, and one day will no longer exist.  These words should call us to the remembrance of what we have done during our lives here on this earth.  What will our legacy be?  If we were to die tomorrow, how would people remember us, or would they?

Historically, fasting was a large part of the Lenten journey.  Christians would benefit fast from meat products; meat was seen as lavish in a world where things were hard to come by.  This gradually was relaxed over time and reduced to only a few days a year if any at all.  However, we tend to fast, or give up things, during this period of the year.  Most of the time it is something of little consequence like giving up chocolate or coffee, although that would be a great sacrifice for me.

However, the Prophet Isaiah gives us a hint of what we actually should be fasting from not only during the Lenten season but all year long:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, here I am.

Isaiah is very precise with his words about how we are to live our lives.  It is not to give up something of little consequence, but it is about making a difference in someone else’s life.  Doing something for someone, without looking for a reward, is what we are called to do.

Why should we do this?  Well Isaiah has the answer for that question:

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

If we do what Isaiah is suggesting, God will bless us.

As we continue this journey through Lent lets us resolve to do something for another person each day, not matter how small it is.  If we do this God will bless us and we will be remembered as a person of great faith.

I Went to a Wedding and This Happened


For the past few weeks, I have been leading a Bible study on the Gospel of John.  We have been working our way, verse by verse, through this most important Gospel.  John’s Gospel has always been a favorite of mine.  He does not write from a position of names and places and dates but rather a story if spirituality.  John’s image comes from above the whole picture, and so we get a bird’s eye view of everything that is going on.  John writes as someone who has listened to the heartbeat of God.  This comes from the image of John leaning on the chest of Jesus at the Supper in the Upper Room.

When Scripture is studied in context and verse by verse way things tend to jump out, that may be obscured in another study and the Wedding at Cana is one of those stories.

On the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

What we see here is the first of the seven signs (we can also call them miracles) that John will write about in his Gospel.  The setting of this story is necessary. In the Old Testament, the marriage feast was a symbol of the union of God with his bride Israel. Cana, located in Galilee, had a large Gentile population and sign that the Gospel would reach to the ends of the earth. The wedding took place on “the third day” this sets a resurrection tone to what is going to follow.

In this passage wine is symbolic of life, and there is a double meaning to Mary’s statement that “they have no wine.”  First, marriage is not complete without the presence of Christ in the lives of those who are married and second the old covenant was unable to bestow everlasting life even on the most faithful of people.

This story is a bridge passage or an ending and a beginning.  When the discovery that they had run out of wine is made, Jesus tells the servants to fill the empty stone pots with water.  These pots have a great significance to the story.  They are made of stone so as not to be ruined by ritual impurity according to the Jewish law.  There are six of them, six is an imperfect number, seven is a perfect Scriptural number, and this indicates that the law, the very law that would make these pots impure, is imperfect and incomplete, and unable to bestow life.  This water, the water of the law, is changed into wine symbolizing that the old covenant has been fulfilled in the new, perfect, covenant of Jesus Christ and this new wine will bestow life on all who drink it.

But we cannot stop there.  There is an overabundance of this wine, “they filled them to the brim” so that as they drew the wine out it spilled over the sides.  Here we see the overabundance of the grace that Christ grants to all.

This is but one example of Jesus pointing out that the old covenant has been fulfilled in him, but sometimes one has to drill down a little deeper to find it.

A Celtic Prayer at Rising

St. Columba of Iona Fr. Peter Preble Fr. John A. PeckBless to me, O God
Each thing mine eye sees;
Bless to me, O God,
Each sound mine ear hears;
Bless to me, O God,
Each odor that goes to my nostrils;
Bless to me, O God,
Each taste that goes to my lips;
Each note that goes to my song,
Each ray that guides my way,
Each thing that I pursue,
Each lure that tempts my will,
The zeal that seeks my living soul,
The Three the seek my heart,
The zeal that seeks my living soul,
The Three that seek my heart.

From the Carminal Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael

The Gifts We Bring



The Christmas Season has come to a close and today we remember two events in the life of Jesus, the visit of the Three Wise Men and his Baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.  We will leave the Baptism for another day and turn our attention to the Wise Men.

What do we make of the visit of these three men?  The first thing that we have to understand is that we do not know how soon after the birth of Jesus the visit took place.  For artistic reasons we often see them, along with the shepherds, standing outside of the stable where Jesus was born.  The account from Scripture that we heard read this morning mentions a house, not a stable, and only mentions Mary as being there.  Not that it matters much to the story, but a little context is always a good thing.  You see we do not get an exact time line from Scripture, it is not a history book, but what we get should change our lives.

So we have these three men, some call them kings and some call them astrologers.  They come from the east, or literally from the rising of the sun.  Tradition and Tradition is not a bad thing, by the way; tradition tells us that they have come from Persia, Babylonia, and India.  Tradition also tells us their names, Melchior, the Persian; Caspar, or Gaspar the Indian; and Balthazar the Babylonian. Three men, from three different places, all meeting on a journey.

They come because they were in search of something and noticed a star, or as the Scripture has it, his star.  They first come to see King Herod; this is where the tradition comes from that they were kings as the first thing a king would do when entering another king’s territory is to pay him a visit.  They come to Herod and ask if he knows where this new baby might be. Herod calls the chief priests together and asks them where the Messiah will come from, and they tell him Bethlehem.  So he sends the men there and asks them to come back and tell him is this is so.

The three men set out on their journey, but why did they come what drew them?  They were seekers in search of something that they did not understand.  They saw a sign and were interested to find out what it all meant, and so they set off on a pilgrimage to find the answer.  Not unlike what we are doing in our spiritual life, we are searching for meaning and for clarity and so we set off on a pilgrimage to find the answers.

So they follow the star and when it stops they find Jesus.  They enter the house and find Jesus with his mother.  Tradition tells us that two years has passed since his birth.  They enter the house and kneel before him to pay him homage.  For a king to kneel before anyone is an extraordinary thing, and the writer of the Gospel points this out, so we understand the gravity of the situation.  This is not just another baby; even pagans recognize him as the Messiah.

They present the child with gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh. These gifts have a practical meaning, but they also have a spiritual meaning to them.  Gold is obvious it is valuable and, once again, tradition tells us that Mary and Joseph used this to finance their time spent in Egypt.  Frankincense is a perfume and would be used, well as a perfume, and myrrh was used in the burial ritual.

But they also have a spiritual meaning for us; gold is the symbol of kingship.  Again we see these visitors recognizing Jesus as a king. Frankincense was the symbol of a deity or a god, and the myrrh was a symbol of death.  So in these gifts, we see the Gospel story being told.  Jesus is the Messiah or a king, but he is also God, and he will be crucified and die.

Another interesting fact is that these men represented all ages and races.  We turn again to tradition. Caspar was the oldest and hailed from Tarsus the “Land of Merchants” located in present day Turkey.  He is depicted in art as an old man with a white beard and convention tells us that he would be about 60.  Next in line Melchior, who came from Arabia and was considered middle aged and would be about 40.  The youngest was Balthazar and is origins are a cause for disagreement.  He is usually depicted as black and, therefore, would have come from Africa perhaps Ethiopia, and he was thought to be about 20 and is therefore not depicted with a beard.

Why does this matter?  Because they came from the ends of the earth, old and young, shepherds and kings, to worship the Messiah.  What they all came is a search of something, and they all brought gifts to honor him, and so the question we have to ask ourselves today is what gifts do we bring?

All of us have various gifts that have been given to us from God for our use but also for the use in the Kingdom of God.  Do we thank God for the gifts that we have?  Are we using those gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom here on earth?  What are we using them for?  Are we giving all we have to the king or are we holding back a little just in case?  Do we trust him, and by that I mean do we trust him, to know us better than we know ourselves?  These are all questions we need to be asking ourselves not just today but every day.

I recently saw a picture; it was a stick figure drawing, of a person standing before Jesus, you could tell it was Jesus because he has long hair.  The person was holding a heart in his hand, and the caption read this is all I have, and the response from Jesus was it is all I need.  In the end, that is all he needs your willing heart.

We have to be ready, like the Wise Men, to set off on a journey and follow the star wherever it leads us.  It may lead us outside of our comfort zone, and it may lead us to think about things in a new way, but we have to be willing to take that first step.  The Wise Men had an idea; they had an inkling inside them that there was something special at the end of their journey, and they were not let down.  Tradition tells us that they were pagans, but tradition also tells us that they left changed in some way and that they eventually converted, and that is what we have to do.  We need to leave here changed in some way, even if it is just a little.

Let’s Pray:

By your Spirit, Almighty God, Grant us Love for others, Joy in serving you, Peace in disagreement, Patience in suffering, Kindness toward all people, Goodness in evil times, Faithfulness in temptation, Gentleness in the face of opposition, Self-control in all things. Then strengthen us for ministry in your name.  Amen.

The First Step of Humility

The first step of humility is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes and never forgets it. He must constantly remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them. (Rule of St. Benedict)

Saint Benedict took Lent so seriously that he dedicated an entire chapter of his rule to the subject. Further, he declared that “the life of a monk ought to have always the character of a Lenten observance.” For Saint Benedict, Lent is the season that mirrors most exactly what the life of the monk should be at all times.

Keeping in mind Saint Benedict’s views on Lent, I decided during this holy season to concentrate on reading and meditating seriously on what Saint Benedict wrote in Chapter 7 of his rule. The chapter is dedicated entirely to humility, which obviously connects to the attitude or spirit we must seek to cultivate during Lent.

Humility’s first step, as enunciated by Saint Benedict, seems clear and evident. It is a basic principle of all spiritual life. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Benedict makes us realize that God knows each of us through and through and that nothing escapes from his eyes. To him, we are like an open book where he can read every word, every line, every sentence. Humility’s first step teaches us how to live in God’s holy presence: in spirit of a humble repentance for our shortcomings and weaknesses, and in a spirit of gratitude for God’s infinite patience with each of us.

Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avil-Latourrette
Blessings of the Daily: A Monastic Book of Days

The Call to Monastic Life

This post is part of a longer essay written by His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA whilst he was abbot of the St. John of Shanghai Monastery in Manton, California.  In this part of the essay, His Beatitude lays out the three ways by which we are called to monastic life.

By Metropolitan Jonah

There are three ways men are called to the monastic life, according to the Fathers of the Church. The first is a direct call from God. The second, from other people. The third, through circumstances.

The first is the strongest. Somehow, God reveals His will to us, that He wants us to become a monk. Sometimes this is through a mystical experience, sometimes through a deep insight into our self. On the other hand, because this comes from God directly, and may be a great surprise to us, we often rebel. St Symeon the New Theologian had a profound experience as a youth, and then went back to the world and worldliness, and only later repented. St Augustine has a famous saying: Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet! St Silouan fell back into worldly passions after his calling, and then repented.

A direct calling from God to monastic life may be part of a direct calling to spiritual awareness. The grace of God penetrates our being and opens our spiritual eyes, and instills faith within our souls. He opens the reality of Himself to us, and in so doing, also opens our awareness of our own fallenness. This spiritual awakening may coincide with a calling experience, or may come later on. It is a fundamental shift in our consciousness, illumined by grace, and leading us to repentance and the transformation of our whole life. Not all mystical experiences are from God, and they must be tried and tested. First, they must be submitted to one’s spiritual father, for his discernment.

The second way, a call coming through other people, is where it becomes plain to others, especially our spiritual guides, that we should embrace the monastic life. Of course, it should be plain to us as well. When we seek guidance, such as that of a great elder, his words may resonate in our souls, and we will know that what he spoke is the truth. We may or may not like it, but it remains the truth. Then we try it out. And it should be plain to us then that it is the way God wants us to go.

The third way, by circumstances, is most nebulous. Sometimes we can find ourselves at a monastery, and find that we like the way of life, and simply begin to fit in. Or we meet the spiritual father, and want to be close to him. Sometimes it comes through a realization of the vanity of our life in the world. There are many ways this can happen.

What is clear though is that when we know we have a calling from God or that it is clear through others and resonates in our souls, we go as soon as possible. It is not something to be put on hold, to “wait until I bury my father.” This is a calling from the Lord and should be pursued at once. The more intense it is, the more intently we should pursue the call. This does not mean that we should hurt others in doing so. But we must not let them hold us back: “He who loves father or mother…son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” The initial stages of life in the monastery are where we try our vocation, begin our detachment from the world and from our fallen self, and our own will. It is in the furnace of obedience in which we come to know whether we are called to this life or not. This knowledge, the realization of God’s call to us, is the fruit of much prayer. We must seek God and His will, surrender ourselves to His will completely. To pray “Lord Jesus Christ, Thy will be done!” is something very helpful for our search. But when it becomes clear to us, we must do it!

Reasons to Visit a Monastery Part 5

Encountering Sacred

Even if there were no other reason for visiting a monastery, there would remain this one: it is an agios topos, a holy place. “And Moses said, I will go near and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed. And when the Lord saw that he drew nigh to see, the Lord called him out of the bush, saying, Moses, Moses… loose thy sandals from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3: 3-5).d Place         

Coupled with the prayers of the monastics, the saints that dwell within the monastery, and the angels that protect it, there are also at least one or more chapels. The presence of a temple of God alone is enough to sanctify a place. And it is in this sanctified place that even without hearing God-inspired words or witnessing miraculous events, the pilgrim is refreshed. His weary and tired body and soul are nourished with more than monastic fare – they are nourished with monastic stillness.

A pilgrim once asked a priest-monk why it was that out of all the monasteries the pilgrim had visited, this one particular well-known monastery was the one in which grace and divine fragrance was the most perceivable. The priest-monk answered that although all monasteries are holy, that that monastery held the typikon to celebrate Divine Liturgy every single day, and confessed people for hours on end, and so as a result it attracted the grace of the Holy Spirit and He dwelt there. As Dr. Constantine Carvanos surmises, “[t]hrough confession at these centers of spirituality, through participation in the moving services of the monks or nuns, and speaking with them, a Christian living in the world is aided by calm refuge from his worldly cares, by being purified, by rediscovering himself, and by tasting of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” (Constantine Carvanos, Discourse on those living in the world, Orthodox Info:

St. Nikolai Velimirovich records: “When [St. David of Garesja] arrived at a hill from which Jerusalem was visible, [he] began to weep and said, ‘How can I be so bold to walk in the footsteps of the God-man with my sinful feet?’ David then told his disciples that they, being more worthy, should go to worship at the holy places, and he took three stones and began to return.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovitch, Prologue, May 27.)

The saint’s humility was so great that he considered the sight of the Holy Land and even its pebbles to be overflowing with grace. How much more does the grace of a sacred place exceed sight and stones? In this sense the words of St. Theodora hold an even greater significance: “Love stillness. One who is not attached to the vanities of this world is strengthened in soul by stillness, abstinence and silence.” (St. Theodora, Matericon, 85.) This strength, harnessed by the grace of a sacred place, can then be brought back into the world if treasured and safeguarded through prayer and watchfulness.


In conclusion, “if you want to know if someone loves Christ, find out if he loves monasticism,” as the saying goes. Visit monasteries, acquire humble-mindedness, and abstain from judging others – both the believer who is too lax and he who is too strict. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Reasons to Visit a Monastery Part 4


The command to imitate Christ is found throughout the Gospels. He is the image of perfect obedience, extreme humility, utter chastity, and a life of poverty. To be sure, if a believer only ever read the Gospels, he would be informed on how to live a proper Christian life. However, because man is weak and in need of examples, the monastic life illustrates the Gospel commandments lived out to their perfection. Thus the layman has before him a pragmatic example of how the teachings of the Lord are upheld and practiced. In turn, he emulates those things in an appropriate and prudent way, just as St. Paul encourages: “what ye learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things be practising; and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phill. 4:9).

There is much to be learned and gained from spiritual books, practical guides, and the wisdom of the desert Fathers and Mothers. However, nothing compares to the spiritual benefit brought about by actually being around someone who shares in the grace of God in a deep and intimate way. For whether or not he has “the words of life,” his prayer, his patience, and his virtue are enough to form and inform the humble-hearted that seek his unique, if silent, wisdom. Abba Dorotheos writes: “It is said that a certain brother asked an elder, ‘What shall I do, father, in order to fear God?’ The elder answered, ‘Go and cling to a man who fears God and from the fact that he fears Him, he will teach you to do likewise.’” (Abba Dorotheos, Practical teaching on the Christian life, “On the Fear of God,” [52], 113.)

Laymen are called to keep the commandments of the Gospel with as much precision as monastics. The monk is not called to one type of life, and the layman to another. No, they are both called to “be perfect even as my Father in heaven who is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), just as St. John Chrysostom taught: “You greatly delude yourself and err, if you think that one thing is demanded from the layman and another from the monk; since the difference between them is in that whether one is married or not, while in everything else they have the same responsibilities… Because all must rise to the same height; and what has turned the world upside down is that we think only the monk must live rigorously, while the rest are allowed to live a life of indolence.” (St. John Chrysostom, Pros piston patera (To the faithful father) 3, 14, PG47, 372- 74.)

The only difference between a Christian living in the world and a monastic living in a monastery is that monasticism “rejects any kind of compromise and seeks the absolute”[12], whereas the layman struggles as best he can in the midst of the distracting world. Both are acceptable and blessed in the eyes of God. Both ways are only successful by the grace of God. The layman should not be disheartened by his struggles in “the darkness of the world” (Eph. 6:12). Rather, he should take courage that he is upheld by the prayers of countless monastics, as Bishop Nikolai of Lavreot has stated: “The life of the faithful is supported by the prayers of the monks. This is elucidated by the very fact that the faithful take refuge in such prayers. Just as Moses stretched out his hands and the Israelites conquered the Amalekites, so the monastics lift up their hands to God and we, the faithful who are struggling in the wilderness of this world, conquer the noetic Amalek.” And more significantly, the layman should take courage that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).

Reasons to Visit a Monastery Part 3


The fallen human soul is predisposed toward pride. This is something that occurs with the monastic as much as with the layman. When the Christian keeps his prayer rule faithfully, observes the fasts of the Church, or attends church services regularly, the soul is inclined to become puffed up. The antidote is finding better examples than oneself of Christian dedication to remind the proud soul that she is lacking in virtue.

The layman has the ability to make pilgrimages to monasteries and so finds a helpful means to stay grounded in his spiritual life. Encountering monastics reminds the pilgrim that there are better Christians than himself (not that he cannot also learn this in the parish, he most certainly can, but it is an indisputable fact that one is faced with at a monastery). Hence the famous statement: “Angels are a light for monastics, and monastics are a light for the world.”(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, op. cit., 128)  The monastic is simultaneously humbled and enlightened by reading the lives of the saints, just as the layman is when he compares his life with that of a monastic.

Humility is a virtue that the monastic and layman ought to strive for above all else, for as St. John Cassian says, “Humility of soul helps more than everything else; without it no one can overcome lewdness or any other sin.” And so, the layman makes pilgrimages to monasteries in order to draw the soul away from the distracting world and into an environment of stillness and prayer, where the atmosphere is conducive to taking stock of one’s life alongside that of a dedicated monastic, and to allow the grace of the monastery to help him see his own sinfulness.

The following story, taken from The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers, illustrates this point: There were three friends, all of whom chose different means of work. The first decided to become a peace-maker among men. The second decided to tend to the sick. While the third decided to live in prayer and stillness in the desert. The first two friends found that they were unable to complete the work they set out to do and became disheartened. So they decided to visit their third friend who was living in the stillness of prayer. They confessed their difficulties and asked for guidance. This was the third friend’s response: “After a short silence, he poured some water into a bowl and said to them, ‘Look at the water,’ and it was disturbed. After a little while he said to them again, ‘Look how still the water is now,’ and as they looked into the water, they saw their own faces reflected in it as in a mirror. Then he said to them, ‘It is the same for those who live among men; disturbances prevent them from seeing their faults. But when a man is still, especially in the desert, then he sees his failings.’”

And so it is with the pilgrim from the world. In the stillness of the monastery, he is able to reflect on his failings. Whether it be in comparing his spiritual life with the monastic who left all things behind to live “alone with God alone,” as Elder Porphyrios was wont to say, or simply due to slowing down and reflecting on his faults, the pilgrim returns to the world with greater humility of soul.

Reasons to Visit a Monastery Part 2

Spiritual Conversation and Action

One of the greatest benefits of visiting a monastery is the spiritual conversation and activity pilgrims are able to take part in. At a monastery, spiritual stories and uplifting anecdotes abound. Although many monastics shy away from conversation with pilgrims for a variety of reasons, given the appropriate circumstance a conversation with a monastic can rear a multitude of benefits – not to mention conversations with fellow pilgrims.

Whether they share a story they have heard, wisdom from the Mothers and Fathers of the Church, or even a tale from that monastery, their words inform and enlighten the pilgrim and help refocus his busy mind. Even time relaxing in the world does not refresh the soul the way a spiritual conversation does. This type of conversation, though found more rarely in the world, is often a common occurrence at a monastery.

Furthermore, many monastics, despite not living in the world any longer or dealing with its struggles and temptations, have great wisdom to share. Not only did they also once live in darkness (Matt. 4:16), but they have a wealth of experience from speaking with pilgrims who confide in them. Through prayer and reading, the monastic manages to help the pilgrim approach his problems with a bit more clarity and even a new perspective.

Coupled with this beneficial spiritual conversation is the spiritual activity that takes place in a monastery. Work and prayer are two primary tenets of the monastic life. Work, however, is done in a slightly different spirit than work done in the world. An Abbess at a monastery not far from Thessaloniki has often said work in a monastery is a great deed because it is done solely for the love of God, and the love of His saint, the monastery’s patron. She teaches that to even pick up a piece of garbage in a monastery yields a great heavenly reward because it is done in honour of the saint, to keep his house clean. After helping with work in the monastery, she would tell the pilgrims: “The patron saint wrote down the work you have done, and you will find it presented on the Day of Judgement.”

When a monastic bakes bread, he bakes for the glory of God. When he chants in church, he chants for the glory of God. When he sweeps, he does so for the glory of God. And when a pilgrim partakes of such God-honouring work, he begins to look at his own work in a different light, just as the monastic offers all his work for the glory of God, so too can the pilgrim – both while at the monastery, and when he returns to his work in the world. The Christian home is a microcosm of the coenobitic monastery; when the mother, father, or children clean the house, they too can do so for the glory of God.

Both the monastic and the pilgrim can approach work the way Abba Apollo did: “If someone came to find him about doing a piece of work, he would set out joyfully, saying, ‘I am going to work with Christ today, for the salvation of my soul, for that is the reward he gives.’”(Abba Apollo, Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 36)  The only difference between the monastic’s work in the monastery and the layman’s work in the world is that the monastic knows that he left behind his own success to seek the Kingdom of God; the layman merely needs a reminder now and again. He needs to ask himself which of the following he is and who he desires to glorify: “The man who loves himself seeks his own glory, whereas the man who loves God loves the glory of his Creator.” (Philokalia, St. Diadochos of Photiki: “On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: One Hundred Texts”, vol. 1, [12], 255).