Forget Me Not: On Finding Hope in the Small Things

Forget Me Not: On Finding Hope in the Small Things

“We should follow the example of the birds. They’re always joyful whereas we are always bothered by something.” -Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Sometimes it can be easy to forget about the presence of God in our daily lives, especially when we experience pain, loneliness, fear, or spiritual drought. In moments such as these, we might believe that these feelings give us more cause to despair in our suffering, rather than push us to seek reasons to hope in spite of them. During this past year particularly, I have found myself paying more attention to the simple blessings in life that I would normally take for granted. These ordinary, little blessings often remind me of God’s presence in my daily life and fill me with hope for the new day. Blessings come in a myriad of forms. As a result, there are endless ways that one could feel hopeful. For the sake of brevity, I wish to relate one particular day that I experienced last semester in order to illustrate what I mean when I say the simplest blessings can give us hope.

“All true beauty has the power to draw the soul towards thee, and to make it sing in ecstasy: Alleluia!” -Akathist of Thanksgiving

Back in early September, I was having a really rough time… a lot of things had piled up and I felt very low. In an attempt to calm down, I stepped outside in my yard to be by myself for a just few minutes. It was very chilly that evening, but I didn’t mind because it smelled so refreshing and I enjoyed the touch of the cold grass under my bare feet. While I was walking through my yard trying to focus on my breathing I began to cry, but I had been fighting tears throughout the evening, so it felt liberating to let it all out for just a few minutes. It was around 5:00 and the moon was slowly rising as the sun sank low into the west, casting a pink light onto the lavender clouds to my left. I became somewhat lost in the silence and birdsong of dusk, but after a few turns around my yard, I came back inside to a steeping cup of hot tea, and into the arms of my mother.

“Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea” – Elder Sophrony of Essex

As a result of the cold temperatures of the outdoors the heat of my home became more welcoming to me, the warm tea was made more desirable than it was before, and my solitude made the company of others more pleasurable. Within the simplicity of the evening, I found that my struggle did not seem quite so formidable as it did before I went outside. At the time I felt so horrible about myself and yet looking back on those few minutes, I now see that they were a gift from God… a sort of reset button. After returning indoors from the stillness of the evening, I felt like I had fresh eyes to see the little blessings that I was unaware of only minutes before; this realization gave me hope to push onward because I felt the love of God around me made manifest is the simple blessings before me.

“In your spiritual life engage in your daily contest simply, easily, and without force. What is simple is also what is the most precious.” -St. Porphyrios

That evening I was reminded that there will always be trials to face, but more importantly, I realized that oftentimes the most subtle blessings can be reason enough to provide us with hope for a better tomorrow. Sometimes we become so wrapped up in our own suffering that we forget to pay attention to these little, hidden blessings which can open both our eyes and heart to God’s presence and His everlasting love. Christ never ceases to bless us, even in the tiniest of ways and he gives us infinite reasons to hope each day just through our wondering at His greatness and love for us. 

“We should be spectators every day of the wonders of God.” -Mother Gavrilia

Some of us may be familiar with the greeting “Christ is in our midst,” and even though that can be a difficult thing to remember… He is and ever shall be. Whether we are reminded of His presence in the deliciousness of a homecooked meal, the taste of a warm mug of tea (or coffee), in the time spent with others, music that we listen to, or in the laughter of a small child (I could go on and on… ad infinitum!), we should always remember that God is present there with us! Such seemingly commonplace things give me hope because they remind me of His everlasting love for mankind. Glory be to God for all things!

“Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Instead open a tiny aperture for light to enter and the darkness will disappear.” -St. Porphyrios

by Magdalena Hudson

Hello, my name is Magdalena and I am currently pursuing a degree in Nursing. I attended CrossRoad Summer Institute a couple of years ago, which ultimately led me to my first experience with OCF at SLI 2019, needless to say both of these events changed my life!  In my free time I love to learn new things, read, listen to music, be outdoors, draw, spend quality time with loved ones, and the list just goes on! This past year I made many wonderful friends through online opportunities and I am looking forward to the experiences yet to come.

 

Glory To God For All Things | Dissatisfaction

Glory To God For All Things | Dissatisfaction

Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with earthly things.

I’m a biology major, currently in my junior year, which means I get to mess around with all sorts of weird stuff. Currently, I’m wrapping up a semester-long experiment, the purpose of which was to isolate a virus, grow it on bacteria, and learn all about it (which is exactly as interesting and smelly as it sounds).

One of the high points was extracting the DNA, what really makes the little guy tick. My lab partner and I had spent two months growing our virus and worked for three straight hours to get that DNA out as meticulously as possible. Three hours of pipetting later, we got what we were looking for: a couple of drops of liquid in a vial. Two weeks later, it was in the trash, tossed out with everything else when the experiment ended.

It was one of the weirdest mixes of pride and sadness I’ve felt. So much work for so little, and even that little would end up in a dump just a short time later. It was, in a word, dissatisfying. It was amazing work, and we had done it well, and I was proud of the things I had done, but…in just a little while it had passed away.

Reading this verse and thinking about it, I’m realizing that life is full of buts (haha…buts). There’s nothing in our life that doesn’t come with its own sad little caveat. There are little ones: you can clean your room, but it’s just going to get dirty again (in spite of that, my mom still made me clean up my Legos). There are medium ones: you can put all your effort and money into school, but there’s no guarantee it’ll pay off; you can invest in relationships, but they’re almost certainly going to hurt you. And then, there’s the big one: you can live your life well, do good, love people, have it all…but you’re going to die, those you love are going to die, and everything you’ve stored up will, eventually, be dust.

Sometimes, all those buts (okay it was funny the first time but let’s move on) can be depressing and a real source of despair. As St. John of Damascus says, “What earthly joy remains unmixed with grief?” The non-rhetorical answer to that rhetorical question is nothing.

That sort of despair is something I struggle with. Sometimes the world seems bleak and very cold, with nothing good in it. Sometimes the buts get so big (now it’s just gratuitous) that it can be hard to see the good that’s there too.

But that’s not true. The world, and everything in it, is “very good” (God’s words, not mine). God created earthly things, and we can enjoy them and know Him through them. They’re a source of joy and comfort and laughter for us, and that’s not a bad thing. The problem comes when we stop there, when we take the happiness the world can give us and don’t try and go beyond.

The things we experience are ultimately unsatisfying: as Jesus says, everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again and again and again until we stop being able to thirst. But he’s not telling us not to drink water! He’s not telling us to not enjoy it. It’s good to drink water and enjoy it, as long as we’re seeking the living water too. It’s good to enjoy earthly things, as long as they don’t stay merely earthly, as long as we’re seeking the heavenly too.

Earthly things don’t satisfy us because we weren’t made for earthly things. The world doesn’t make us perfectly happy because it’s far from perfect. A traveler doesn’t feel at home in a hotel because he’s not at home. We don’t feel at home here because we’re not at home. We are, like Abraham, strangers and sojourners. Our home is heaven, and we “desire a better country” (Hebrews 11:16).

When we feel most comfortable with just our earthly lives, we’re in danger. When we forget the things of the earth are mortal, we make them immortal; when we make them immortal, we make them gods, and we forget the Immortal God who is our true home, our true Life. It is when we are most conscious that “heaven and earth will pass away” that we are able to be closest to Christ.

It is this sort of dissatisfaction, a true, godly satisfaction which stems from the knowledge that no matter how good it is (and it is very good), it will be taken away and replaced with (or rather, transformed into) something much better, that is a gift from God.

Earthly things are wonderful, but it is God who gives them meaning and worth, and He graces us with this feeling to help us remember that. Today, I thank God for giving us this dissatisfaction in order to remind us that we are not children of the world, but sons and daughters of the Most High.


Nicholas Zolnerowich is a junior biology student at UMBC, where he is also the president of his OCF. He enjoys the outdoors, superheroes, and talking about himself in the third person.

2018 OCF Theme: Glory to God for All Things

2018 OCF Theme: Glory to God for All Things

11 times in the Morning Prayers; 12 in the Evening Prayers. 5 times in the Trisagion alone.

We throw the word ‘glory’–and it’s kin, glorious and glorified and glorify–around a lot in the Church. That’s not bad–but all too often, we become desensitized to it. I mean, think about how many times during one church service you say, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” It’s a big number, folks.

But what does it mean to give glory? So often we see it paired with worship, like in the Evening Prayers: “O Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worship and glorified…” We see it so often at the conclusion of prayers: “…for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”

I think this leads us too easily to lumping ‘glory’ into that with which it’s paired. Worship is a more concrete concept than glory–I know what it looks like to worship something, I can picture it my head, so glorifying something probably looks just like that. God has the kingdom–yep, with God is the kingdom, is Heaven–He has the power–yup, God’s powerful–and He has the glory–well, that’s probably just another big impressive thing that God has.

Iconography Painting Transfiguration Of Christ

But glory has more layers than that. I mean, if someone were to ask you “What’s glory? I don’t know this word,” you wouldn’t be able to respond with “Well, it’s a big impressive thing that’s kinda like power and being worshiped.” Not unlike beauty or love, glory tends to be one of those aspects of God that is best understood when you see it, experience it. When you try to define it, you find that you actually know it intrinsically. Glory is essentially “Um, that.” points at glorious thing

Then how can we pray these words, at the beginning of the Trisagion: “Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee?” How can we answer the call of OCF this year, and glorify God in all things (#glorytogod), if we cannot easily construct for ourselves an image of glory, of glorifying?

We must recognize, I think, that our closest attempt to glorifying God is often our helpless outpouring of thanks to Him. The Akathist of Thanksgiving service, rife with glories, typifies this effort for us. Each Ikos has within it a serious of petitions meant to glorify God. From the first Ikos:

Glory to You, Who called me to life,

Glory to You, Who have shown me the beauty of the universe,

Glory to You, Who have opened before me the sky and the earth as an eternal book of wisdom,

Glory to the eternity of You, in the midst of the world of time,

Glory to You, for Your hidden and evident goodness,

Glory to You, for every sigh of my sadness,

Glory to You, for every step of my life, for every moment of joy,

Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.

It is a thanking of God, but a transcendent thanking; the capstone of all thanks that can be given. Consider the things for which God is glorified: giving the speaker life itself, moments of joy, sighs of sadness, the beauty of the universe, all goodness. Can proper thanks be given for these things? Likely not. So, glory is given.

God is glorious, magnificent, beautiful–there’s nothing in that realm of glory that we can give Him. We give God glory because we need to thank Him, to honor Him, as the pinnacle of deference and gratitude. And again, God doesn’t need that from us–He doesn’t need anything from us. It is for our sakes that we give glory to God.

If we did not, there would be no purpose to our lives, no meaning to our breaths. Our world, a product of happenstance and coincidence and cosmic mush, would act upon us, and through our misguided and feeble human attempts to interpret it, we would fall into damnation and hopelessness.

Glory to God, for communion with Him is the purpose of our very existence. Glory to God.