I have been reading Elder Thaddeus’ book and it has been the catalyst for some wonderful conversations with my husband, and I find that it is stimulating our faith in so many ways. We are going through an interesting time in our lives, pondering our next physical move and even preparing for it, that for our faith to be challenged and grown at this time, well, it is truly the work of God in our lives. For most of my friends and myself, being able to sit quietly at home with our husbands and have really good conversations is a rarity. They are rare because of the confines of time, the work schedule, the schedules of our children, and just being tired! Let’s face it; our lives are hectic and this world is noisy and we get overwhelmed by all of it.
Elder Thaddeus is challenging us with these ideas. He has suggested that we need to keep our minds tuned into God at all times. My husband read this same book a couple of years ago, but had forgotten some of it and with my reading of it and speaking of it, it is recharging his batteries. He told me that he has tried, at work, to honor some of the precepts of Elder Thaddeus and he is seeing it working, in just a day or two of changing his thoughts.
“Any kind of work is God’s work. Every task should be performed from the heart, for it is not for people that we are laboring, but for God. God is present everywhere. The whole planet belongs to Him; the entire universe is His. No matter who your boss is, whether he is a good man who manages his company well or not, we must do our work for God. For when we work for God, our hearts and minds are open, but when we do not, we say things like, ‘I won’t work for him; he’s a lazy good-for-nothing who sits all day, yet he gets paid more than me.’ This is a sign that we are not performing our task from the heart.” “Any work we do here on earth is God’s work…..We should not think too much about who our superiors are, or who our employer is. What we should bear in mind is that every type of work on earth and in all the universe is God’s work, and as such it should be performed from the heart, without reservation. When we do so, we can free ourselves from our interior resistance. Every action of ours will help our neighbor, beginning with our family, wherever they may be. So, we must always be sincere. Then we radiate peace, quiet, and love, and we are loved in return. With our thoughts we either attract or repel enemies, friends, family, and neighbors.” (Elder Thaddeus).
These points have changed how my husband approaches his day and it is making his days so much more enjoyable; and it is affecting the people around him in obvious ways. A co-worker remarked, when they were facing a production and parts issue in the plant, that my husband was smiling. My husband’s response was to the effect that he could not do anything to change the situation and so he shrugged his shoulders and just smiled. The co-worker looked a little amazed and replied, “You look so much better when you smile,” chuckled to himself and walked away. This could have been a very stressful moment and there could have been yelling and blame-throwing and all sorts of chaos. But my husband chose instead to breathe deeply, think of Elder Thaddeus’ comments about working, say a short prayer, and just smile. His positivity affected everyone around him and turned something awful into something they could all handle and take care of. What a blessing!
And so to my opening statement, “Is it really this simple?” Is opening our hearts to God with each heartbeat really a game-changer? “A man who has within him the Kingdom of Heaven radiates holy thoughts. Divine thoughts. The Kingdom of God creates within us an atmosphere of Heaven, as opposed to the atmosphere of hell that is radiated by a person when hades abides in his heart. The role of Christians in the world is to filter the atmosphere on earth and expand the atmosphere of the Kingdom of God. We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the atmosphere of heaven within us, for it we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves or others. He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others. People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us; they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them. It is not even necessary to speak to people about this. The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about ordinary things. It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.” (Elder Thaddeus)
This philosophy from Elder Thaddeus is so freeing. I have consciously applied it over the past several days, and I can honestly tell you it has affected even my sleeping patterns, and most definitely, the atmosphere in my home; I am genuinely happier. Whenever a thought threatens to enter my mind that is leading me to unquiet, unrest, or stress, I simply banish it. I mentally tell myself, “No; Elder Thaddeus warned of this. Do not think that.” I breathe deeply and recite the “Prayer of the Heart,” or the “Jesus Prayer,” and calm and peace are instantaneously restored to my mind and my heart. (“Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”). I am not saying this is the long sought-after panacea mankind has longed for in regards to peace and harmony, but can you imagine our world if more people practiced this? “We have very little faith in the Lord, very little trust. If we trusted the Lord as we trust a friend when we ask him to do something for us, neither we as individuals nor our whole country would suffer so much. The chaos in our minds and in our whole country comes from our thoughts. We are the ones creating disharmony of thoughts, and if our politicians were of one thought and one mind, things would not be like this. We are not aware the we have Divine energy in us. Divine Life. The uniting of each individual with others – since we all possess the energy – creates a great power and the enemy flees from it, because here is harmony.” (Elder Thaddeus) And so I am beginning to see that it truly does all begin with me. My thoughts determine the world around me (my family, friends, people I meet day-to-day), and its rippling out in waves affects the entire cosmos. It is freeing, because of its simplicity, but also is a lot of responsibility. Because of how I react, how I think, how I plan in my mind, I have the ability to lead others towards that Divine Life (Holy Spirit) that resides in me, or I can turn them away. “The Lord is present everywhere. He lives in our hearts. That is why He said that we must love with all our hearts and do everything willingly (cf Matt. 23:37). When we seek the Lord from the heart, He is here!” (Elder Thaddeus)
The Orthodox view of thoughts and the indwelling of the Divine Life, is based on the concept of our being made in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26) and our God is a Triune God. Man’s triune character as stated in OrthoWiki, “men have reason, nous and sensory perception. The nous as the eye of the soul, which some Fathers also call the heart, is the center of man and is where true (spiritual) knowledge is validated. This is seen as true knowledge which is ‘implanted in the nous as always co-existing with it.'”
Because of this thinking and interpretation, eastern and western thought tends to diverge a little bit and has caused some divisions. However, that being said, and acknowledged, I believe that God’s indwelling is what makes us able to control our thoughts (once we accept this idea and use it) and project the Kingdom of Heaven outward to others. We all know of people who just seem to “steamroll” their way through our lives and who suck all the energy, all the life, out of us. I have a friend who, quite literally, just drains me of energy. I can take her in small doses, but I do not have the spiritual or emotional stamina to keep company with her for more than a day or two at a time. Because of that, our interactions have become more rare, as our lives have evolved and I realized her impact on me and my family. There are also people who breeze through our lives, and who we desperately want more time with. They radiate joy and peace, and quite often just sitting in their presence is enough; they help fill you up. I have so many divergent people I love, people who have so many differing philosophies, whose presence I want to share, because having them around makes me a better person; they just plain, old make me happy – I smile more when I am around them. I want to radiate the Kingdom of God; I want people to wish to be in my company because the emotion and depth of my love for God just roll off me, with no effort required.
I had a great-grandmother that many thought was a “tough cookie.” After learning about her early life and her journey to America later in her life, I came to respect her even more, when I became an adult. When I was a young child, I gravitated more towards her husband, my great-grandfather. I have photos of me as a little girl, joyfully sitting on his lap. He has the greatest smile and the most wonderful eyes, that crinkled at the edges. I wish I could have known him as a young man; I am sure he was a blast to be around. I used to follow him through his garden, joyously popping cherry tomatoes right off the vine, into my mouth. As a child, for me, it was total joy to be in his company. I think of them both often, as I have their mantle clock in my home (it has Westminster Chimes that tick away our days and our nights – and my husband is not as fond of it as I am), and a table they used to have in their entryway also graces our entryway. My great-grandmother gradually became one of my favorite relatives of all time…she used to speak to me, as she gradually became more and more infirm, and she drew me into her youth through her stories. She would laugh and smile, and she looked young again, even though she was in her 90s. She had dementia and one of the last moments in her life, she had me sit on her bed and she told me stories from her early adulthood in England as a nanny. I asked her, mid-story, if she realized it was me she was speaking with. She patted my hand (and I will never forget the differences in our hands; my hands on my grandson’s look eerily familiar!) and said, “Oh, yes, I know it is you, but I wanted to share this with you before I go.” I have never forgotten her words, or her smile, as she spoke to me. She died just hours later; I was in junior high school at the time.
My great-grandparents had no experience or exposure to these philosophies or theories of the metaphysical and psychological properties of the soul; they just radiated joy and peace around me, their great-grand-daughter. And it has stayed with me my entire life. I want that for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (God willing I last that long). I want others to feel the joy and happiness within me, and know that the love of God in my soul touches them. And Elder Thaddeus has shown me such a simple way to keep the love of God and the Kingdom of Heaven in my mind, and my heart, all the day long – each and every day. The peace and quiet of interior joy and love of God is something we can all strive for. We can consciously choose to be happy people. We can consciously choose to love each other with this love of God, the Divine Life, that lives in our souls. I really do think it is that simple, and perhaps that is why it is so elusive in our modern, noisy, busy, world.