Saturday, May 14, 2016

The One Thing Needful.

Julianna Schmemann.

   It might be old age, or it might be the approach of the final stage of life-­the coming face to face with the blind­ing light of the Cross, Love cruci­fied-and feeling so responsible for it. I feel I must ask that question which follows and at times even haunts me: "Lord, during my long life, have I sat at Your feet like Mary and have I chosen the one thing needful, that will never be taken away from me?!"...
   Another Lent has come and gone: the Sunday of Zacchaeus, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Judgment Sunday, For­giveness Sunday - already they begin to fade into the recesses, crowded out by the everpresent clamor and bustle of a new day.
   Did we learn our lessons from the great school of Lent?!. Are we still with Zacchaeus in that tree, yearning to see Christ?!. Are we yet repenting with the Publican, not just in words, but feeling deep despair at being so far?!. Do we still desire to humiliate our­selves with the Prodigal Son and beg for­giveness just to be close, close to the One whom we abandoned, from whom we fled?!...
   "One thing is needful"-"Mary sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching." The Gospel is so direct, so simple. No sophistication, no complex studies are needed to hear what the Gospel proclaims. Every page of the Gospel, every feast, our whole Liturgy tells us of the one thing needed. Open our mind, open our ears, be willing to forsake the accumulated dust of our pride, our so-called achievements, our so-called intellectual refinement, in order to become like a child, like Mary sitting at Jesus' feet.
   What separates us so radically from being a child?!. It seems we take ourselves­ - what we do, what we have achieved - so seriously. We try to multiply our talents tenfold; we try to use them for the Lord. But how quickly, how unnoticeably our achieve­ments, our talents, become "our" talents instead of being totally given back to the One who gave them to us, for His glory. There are so many layers of dust, of dark­ness, of earthly cares which obscure our vision.
   We sincerely think that what we do is important as such, without realizing that our deeds should be aimed exclusively at thank­ing the Lord, at getting out of ourselves, away from ourselves. We should offer all we do, all we have, all our thoughts to Him, so that our every breath would glorify and thank the Blessed Trinity, so that our every deed and thought would be in the living presence of the Cross.
   Yes, Christ has resurrected, but He is on the Cross. The tears brought by His suffer­ing, His innocence, His Love, should – must - always torture our soul and bring it to a burning desire to share in the suffering of the Cross. They must cause us to freely bring whatever we have, whatever we do on this earth for our brothers and sisters, and to lay it all before Him in repentance, thanks­giving, and love.
   Our whole life is expectation. As chil­dren, we waited for vacations, for summer, for birthdays. As adolescents, we wished for happiness or independence. As adults, the world was not big enough to fulfill our hopes, our wishes, our goals. And it is true: life is expectation of the entrance into the risen life of Christ, of "joy and peace in the Holy Spirit".
   Usually our tangible expectations seem real, whereas waiting for the Kingdom is relegated to an ob­scure future and hardly touched by our concrete life. But to be prepared to fill our­selves more and more with the only true ex­pectation, that of the Kingdom, should guide whatever we do. Prepare for our daily work… for daily temp­tations as little as they might appear… prepare for the Feast, for the Liturgy, during the whole week or days between liturgies… pre­pare for the next time that we sit at the Lord 's table in His Kingdom.
   The very instant that we stop preparing on our long journey to the Kingdom - when we begin to become complacent and content with ourselves - that very instant we fall away from movement and energy and prayer and love. We often, unwittingly, assert our autonomy, by dividing our life into what is needful for our secular life and what we leave for the Lord. And we are so sincere, so happy with a sound organization of a life where a section is carefully saved for our "spiritual needs. "
   Neither Zacchaeus, nor the Publican, nor the Prodigal Son ever thought of their spiritual needs. They gave, they loved, they believed, they desired without holding any­thing back. And it is difficult to imagine, without trembling, what ineffable joy is in store for us, if ever in our complete unwor­thiness we come to our Father and He sees us from far away, has compassion, embraces us, and invites us to His table.
   "Lord, have I chosen the one thing needful?".

   Schmemann J. (1992), The One Thing Needed, AGAIN Volume 15 Number 1, pp. 11-12.