I start my day with prayer. Specifically, the Eastern Orthodox morning prayers. Among them is the “Prayer of the Optina Elders.” It is one of my favorites:
Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will. For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love. Amen.
It reminds me and prepares me to enter the day with the conviction that ALL circumstances and events have been laid hold of by God in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and second-coming of Christ Jesus. The invitation God is offering me is to enter this day and everything in it in this spirit and participate in synergistic union with the Holy Spirit in all it holds. This is not something that MIGHT happen in the future. It is what is ALREADY the case.
This essential aspect of the gospel is crucial for us to accept and adopt as our matrix for viewing and responding to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.
I am, by virtue of the way things appear in comparison with the way I believe they “should be,” notable to accept the radical proclamation that at the heart of the gospel is the redemption of ALL things. God is choosing, as He sees fit, to change some circumstances and not others. We still die, for example. All of us will die. But, the prayer says, referencing the gospel, death has been defeated and abolished not by removing it but by transforming it. God now uses death to serve His purpose not the one the enemy previously used it to accomplish.
The presupposition of the prayer is appearances, and my preconceived notions and emotions are not reliable for authentically conceiving of what is real and the meaning of events. They are in need of purification so I may participate in the Kingdom which is in our midst not just one that will coming some day.
I invite you to read the Bible with this presupposition and listen. Be prepared. The message will leap off the page at you ! ! Passages that seemed symbolic and metaphorical at best will seem to be mystically and deeply true without the need to rationalize their truth with qualifications.
Take, for example, the book of Job. Job holds out for the confirmation that his circumstances are not simply what they appear to be and result in an inevitable choice between two alternatives. He refuses to be put in the “either/or” position. He refuses to believe that praying harder or being morally perfect is the key to making things “all better” or convincing God to do so. What is more, he refuses to believe that God is impotent and that resignation to meaninglessness is the answer. He persists in desiring a “one-on-one” with God. He seeks the truth. What he gets is THIS truth. God redeems and saves by victoriously laying hold of his circumstance and transforming them without necessarily having to change its appearance. In other words, ALL things are laid hold of by God and consecrated – made Eucharistic. Most especially death and sin.
There is a time when all ask for one reason or another, “Can anything good come of this?” or “Who will show us any good?” (Psalm 4.6)
The Good News is “Yes!” This “Yes” is a Mystery in form and content as well as the means by which it exists. This Mystery is the dwelling place of the Psalmist on sooo many occasions. Here is an example.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
However, this core principle of the gospel, for those who seek to embrace and live in it, has a price. You can’t go back to reading the Bible and relating in the old way. There is no going back. It changes everything (pun intended).