Ask yourself: what brings me peace?

Ask yourself: what brings me peace?

“Peace begins with a smile.” I still remember hearing that quote by Mother Teresa from a friend one summer at church camp. Honestly, I didn’t think it was true. It sounded too simple. This may have been because growing up I heard phrases like “world peace” or the Bible verse “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” Peace seemed so big, like an immense undertaking or something to accomplish.

However, I was wrong. Peace is right in front of us. It’s inside of us and it’s a gift from God. One way to seek peace, then, is to turn inward. Ask yourself: what brings me peace?

For me, stillness is often the answer. Psalm 46:10 tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” There is so much external noise and there always will be. Stillness provides a refuge from the noise and the distraction. Because we are all created uniquely, stillness can look different for each one of us. A priest once told me, “Do what brings you closer to God.” He didn’t give me a recipe with all the ingredients and measurements. Instead, he encouraged me to listen to my heart and to trust myself. I mentioned to him that I love journaling at the beach to which he replied, “Great! Do THAT!” Naturally, I listed off a whole bunch of other activities in which I feel close to God: surfing, baking, reading books, talking with friends. He smiled at me and nodded his head. As I was listing these things it occurred to me that I was drawing near to God during these activities because I felt at peace doing them. They are stress relievers and they calm my heart and my mind, allowing me to be still (even if I am not physically “still”), be at peace, and be with God.

Something I have to remind myself of, something I think is important to remember, is that we have an external environment–what others say and do, what’s going on in the world–that we cannot control. However, we have an internal environment–our soul, our relationship with Christ–that we can control.

When the internal environment is at peace, things happening in the external environment are easier to handle. Internal peace provides stability, a foundation for us to act from. That foundation is Christ, who is goodness and life. St. Philaret of Moscow prays, “Teach me to treat all that come to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Thy will governs all.” This prayer reflects the difficulty we can undergo in dealing with our external environment and encourages us to take care of our internal environment through Christ.

Another aspect of peace I like to remember is that peace is powerful. St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Acquire a spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” Peace is contagious! Just looking at someone in church who is deep in prayer, or gazing at the icons, or smiling as they cross themselves I feel at peace. They aren’t doing anything crazy like finding a cure to world hunger. They’re doing simple acts that stem from a spirit of peace. Seeing them helps me refocus inwardly, to block out the noise and return to myself and Christ in me. And it gives me peace.

The Prodigal Son struggled with noise and the temptations of his external environment. In Luke 15:17 it reads that he eventually turns inward, “But when he came to himself…” realizing his need for his father, to be in relationship with him and to be in his house. Always return to yourself, to Christ. Surround yourself with people who refocus you when the noise grows louder and becomes distracting.

This week we enter into the Lenten season. I don’t know about you, but being a vegan for forty days doesn’t bring me immediate peace. In fact, it stresses me out. Yet, in the Prayer Before The Icon of Christ (found in our little red prayer book) it says, “We cry aloud unto thee: thou hast filled all things with joy, O our Savior, for thou didst come to save the world.” There is profound peace knowing Christ has filled all things with joy, even suffering. We can think about the martyrs who had peace and joy in their suffering, in their death. I know that if the martyrs experienced peace and joy in death, I can experience Christ’s peace and joy in ‘little deaths’ to meat and cheese. We are being called to partake in Christ’s suffering for these next 40 days, but we are also being called to partake in His peace and His joy. In dying to ourselves we will experience life, just as the martyrs’ death brought them to be in paradise with their holy King, and be in a place where there is only “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” Doesn’t sound as daunting anymore, does it?

Peace be with you, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Andrew Gluntz

Tatiana Speier

Hello everyone! I’m Tati. I was raised in the Orthodox Church with both my grandfathers being parish priests here at St. Athanasius in Santa Barbara, CA. I have been a camp counselor at Camp St. Nicholas and have served as a leader for Youth Equipped to Serve.

Some things I love to do in my free time are trying a new recipe, going to the beach (I just learned how to surf! I’m terrible, but I enjoy it), and spending time with my nieces and nephew.

In December I graduated from nursing school and I just got hired by the local hospital to work in the oncology unit. I recently learned the term “oncology” comes from the Greek word Onkos which means burden; the illness was imagined to be a burden carried by the body.

Our faith teaches us to carry our cross, our burdens, something we know we can’t do without our Savior and without each other. I feel blessed to serve those struggling with the weight of cancer.

Are You Religious?

Are You Religious?

“Are you religious?” my friend asks me from across the table at a popular vegan diner in Berkeley. They saw me do the sign of the cross before my faux-chicken cutlet sandwich. I answer timidly, “I mean, yeah, I guess.” This isn’t the first time I have been asked this question and this isn’t the first time I didn’t know the proper response.

Quite honestly, I’m unaware of what “being religious” means in modern day society. I ask them to clarify. They say, “Well, you know, do you believe in God and stuff?”

As I scramble to find the right answer to this question, I always feel a bit embarrassed, thinking:
Oh I was caught! They must know I belong to a group of people who participate in the transubstantial act of communion every Sunday and probably think I’m super weird for doing it. Sometimes I even feel ashamed. Now that I have “admitted” that I am a Christian, what will they think of me?

Unfortunately, Christianity in the United States does not necessarily have the best reputation among the average American citizen, as extremism floats to the top of media coverage, and a stereotype or stigma is born. If I say that I’m “religious”, I could be immediately pigeon-holed into a certain kind of person, who believes a certain set of things and expresses those beliefs in a certain sort of way.

Why is it that people so easily lump all Christians into one type of extremist being, one that passes judgment on other groups of people that are not associated with its ideologies? As an Orthodox Christian, this troubles me. We are suppose to show that we are Christians by our love, yet people assume that’s the last thing that we do. Are we not called to demonstrate this love?

And “stuff”? Do I believe in “God and stuff“? If by “stuff” you mean I wear my cross around my neck and my komboskini around my wrist in an effort to stay centered on Christ, then yes I am “religious.” But do I pray ceaselessly like the monks on Mount Athos? Do I read my Bible every night? Am I able to attend OCF and Liturgy every week? No, I am not able to be as consistent as I want, but I do try. I think we all do, and that’s what matters.

The next time someone asks if I am religious, my answer will be “Yes, I try.” Because that is really what it comes down to; you make the conscious effort to believe in something that you know transcends fear, hate, and the evil that attempts to exist within Christianity itself. You love, and that is something we all are called to do.


claire-postClaire is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying Theater and Performance Studies and English. She currently attends Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Her favorite Saint is Saint Pelagia the actress and when not in church or the theater, she likes to spend her time exploring San Francisco, reading plays, and eating sushi.