From The Blog

Mission Monthly – March 2006

“He learned to know the art of right living in two worlds at the same time.”

St. Nikolai Velimirovic on the Life of St. Sava of Serbia

What is this “art of right living in two worlds at the same time” such as St. Sava “learned to know“?I am so intrigued by this that I have chosen to read St. Nikolai’s “Life of St. Sava” as my first Lenten devotional reading. I imagine that the skilled practice of this “art” is a very rare skill, and that no one should even dare to presume to be a practitioner of it. Nevertheless it does seem to me to be at minimum a goal of tremendous importance for those of us called not to the monastic life but rather to life “in the world.”

As we begin our Lenten journey it is very important to remember that all our efforts have but one purpose: to prepare ourselves to enter into our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Entering into is very different from simply remembering. Our God’s salvific action is not intended to be consigned to the realm of reminiscence or reenactment. None of us were present to experience first hand those tragically profound events of history, and in this we see one of the great mysteries of God’s Holy Church: our participation in Her life is participation in the realm of heaven itself. Our Divine Liturgy is not a recollection but rather a reality of true, heavenly worship. Upon our earthly altar sits the eternal King of Glory, Christ our True God. In Holy Baptism we die with Christ in order to rise with Him in the Resurrection. In Holy Chrismation we are “sealed” with the gift of the Holy Spirit now dwelling within us. In Holy Confession we speak directly to God in tearful sincerity that our sins be washed away by the true gift of forgiveness. We must understand that these and all our actions in the life of God’s Church are not mere external acts imposed upon us. They are a complete union—a harmonious joining of the eternal and temporal within the very essence of our lives! And so too is Holy Week and Pascha, where we again enter into the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God!

The season of Lent is often referred to in the Church as the “season of abstinence.” When we see and truly recognize the present reality of “the harmonious joining of the eternal and temporal within the very essence of our lives” we are helped to understand the very practical nature of our abstinence. Who cannot admit to the very real struggle that “worldly cares” often present to us, even when very natural and good responsibilities from time to time overwhelm us and disrupt our life in Christ? When we seem to be trying our hardest we still encounter the difficulties of maintaining the balance of right living in these two worlds. More often than not I find myself attending to my material needs at the expense of my spiritual needs. It is for this reason that this holy season of abstinence is given to us year after year, that by preparing for and entering again into our Lord’s Holy Pascha we will continue the good work of bringing proper order to our spiritual and material lives.

I am excited to begin reading the Life of St. Sava. He was a prince of the Serbian nation and a great spiritual leader of his people. His ordered life must have been one to behold. Jesus told His disciples, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). I don’t know that St. Sava achieved perfection but I do know that his life is sure to illumine my path. This Lent we are given another opportunity to truly seek perfection as Christians living in the world. Let us make the most of this blessed opportunity, that the truth of our natures might be revealed. For the fullness of our salvation is a two world reality—what a blessing it would be if we could indeed “learn to know the art” of living fully, and rightly, in both.