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Concerning Time

A few words to the Christian concerning time

How time flies! It seems not long ago that the last year began, and now we have already greeted another new year. Not an hour but a whole year has passed! During this year so much has happened: there have been many births and many deaths; in one year many have experienced joy while others have endured much sorrow; many new things have been accomplished in the field of science and in the arts. My dear reader, have you and I done anything really good and useful this year? Are we thankful to God that He has preserved us to this day? That He still gives us time? Do we treasure this gift? Do we understand why we are given time? Have you seriously thought about the answer to this question? Here is a chance to think about it now.

What is time? It is an undeserved gift of God’s mercy; it is a talent entrusted to us by the Lord which is to increase and acquire for us an entire eternity. Truth, as much as it comforts the soul, can at the same time be fearful and terrifying. In a few years spent in a fitting way, one can acquire mercy and enjoy unending blessedness in union with God Who is the source of happiness and blessedness: or, in exchange for a short period of earthly life which has been misspent, to receive never-ending afflictions of soul and body, anguish and torment, the pangs of conscience and the burning of hell-fire. Who can disregard such a prospect? But it is a real one. According to the teaching of our holy Faith, temporal life is given precisely that through it is obtained eternity. The Lord gives nothing to anyone without express purpose; and how infinitely more important, 0r course, is the purpose He has in assigning the term of life on earth for the being created as the best and most perfect of all that surrounds him.

What constitutes this purpose, and what defines the true meaning of our temporal existence? Our innermost strivings speak of this for never and nowhere finding any ultimate limit, they evince another existence, higher and more perfect. The word of God speaks of this most clearly, assuring us that here in this temporal life we are but strangers and pilgrims, that our true homeland which we must seek is in heaven, in an everlasting kingdom of glory. Such is the true and essential meaning of our temporal life.

This life is a school in which each of us must prepare himself to be an inheritor of the eternal kingdom of glory, purchased for us by the sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Himself regarded His own life on earth as a time of labor, of constant activity to the glory of God, for the salvation of sinners. For this labor, since for this reason He was sent into the world by the Father, He expected from Him the highest and most perfect reward: I have glorified Thee on the earth, He says to God the Father as He ends His earthly sojourn, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, 0 Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was (John 17:4,5). Therefore, look upon each minute of your existence as upon a treasure; if you make good use of it, it can bring you incalculable profit. At the same time, imagine yourself to be a student assigned for a certain period of time to the school of temporal life; do not neglect a single lesson, a single opportunity which may instruct you and instill in you good thoughts, feelings and desires; keep in mind that every hour that you live, depending on how you use it-either for the benefit of the soul, or for the satisfaction of the flesh-, has an important influence on your eternal destiny, perhaps even greater than you can imagine.

Remember, and do not forget, that in our present sinful state the time of our life is a period of intense warfare, sorrows and privations, chastisement and trials. You may say-what a gloomy view of life! But what is to be done? It is not life that is at fault, but we ourselves. Quietly and harmoniously, in peace, happiness and undisturbed rejoicing, our days would pass one after another were it not for that warring element within us which the Apostle Paul so lamented (Rom. 7:23), and which constantly, at every minute, demands that we be vigilant towards ourselves and often calls us to outright warfare. None of us can avoid this warfare because the unsleeping enemy lies within us. This enemy is-our passions which constantly oppose the spirit which strives to ascend. This is the weakness of our flesh, raising everywhere obstacles to the positive impulses of the soul. Woe to him who would try to excuse these weaknesses! And do not think to consider yourself fortunate if you do not notice this inner warfare in yourself, if you are living peacefully or, to be more precise, carelessly, indulging yourself in those pleasures to which you are attracted by the world and to which you are disposed by your sensual nature. This only means that you have not understood your calling; you do not know the purpose for which you have been given life. It means that you do not value eternal blessedness and do not strive to acquire those blessings which have been purchased at the price of the sacred blood of Christ the Savior. In a word, this means that there is no love in you for Him.

Understand or, better still, ask the Lord to make you remember that the imagined happiness which comes from earthly, sensual pleasures causes a ‘certain coldness in the heart of a man who desires to love God. Believe the word of God which says that the end of such pleasures will be tears which no one will be able to wipe away, and pain of heart which no one will share. Do not forget our Lord’s parable about the rich man and Lazarus, and learn to look upon life as a path strewn not with roses but with prickly thorns, as an arena where you must struggle as befits a Christian, with total self-denial, in the spiritual warfare. This warfare is first of all called forth by the inner battle of the spirit with the flesh, the battle of the old, sinful principle with the new one placed in us by grace; secondly, with those failures, set backs, privations and sorrows so often and so easily met with wherever there are people and not angels, when through sin we drive away our Guardian Angel and open the way for him who, like a lion, walks about seeking whom to devour, who dared with his seductions to approach the Lord Himself.

O Lord our God, teach us to bless Thine all-holy Name at all times and in every place. Teach us to value time, and to use it unto Thy glory and for our salvation.

 (Translated from Dushepolezny Sobesednik, periodical of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mt. Athos; December, 1899, pp. 371-74.)

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Father would you please send to me a copy of "Concerning Time"? You may forward to Very Appreciated, Monk Symeon of Syracuse

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