Sixth Century mosaic of Christ, Ravenna
For whoever deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain
How much self-deception there is on the path of acquiring piety. Some think that piety consists solely in a great number of prayers; others claim it lies in the accomplishment of numerous outward deeds unto the glory of God and for the good of one's neighbor; still others-only in the unceasing desire to attain salvation; some-only in the strict fulfillment of the outward rites or canons of the Church
All this is good and necessary to a certain degree. But he is deceived who thinks that herein lies the basis and the essence of true piety
True piety, which sanctifies us and completely dedicates us to God, lies in the fulfillment of God's true will at that time, in that place, in those circumstances in which God has placed us-in the fulfillment of all that He requires of us. However many pious feelings and desires we may have, however many wonderful deeds we may perform, they will have no value in God' s eves and we shall receive a reward for them only when by these feelings , desires and actions we truly fulfill the will of God. Let a servant perform the most exceptional services in his master's house, but if he does not fulfill the master's will, then these deeds which his master does not require of him will be of no value, and his master, in all justness , will say that his servant is negligent in his duties.
True piety requires that we not only fulfill the will of God, but that we do it with love. God desires that all our offerings to Him be made willingly and joyfully. In all His commandments He first of all requires of us a clean heart, filled with love for Him. The love and mercy which our heavenly King and Lord has towards us are so measureless that we must place all our happiness in trying to be His most faithful and totally devoted servants. This faithfulness and devotion must everywhere and at all times be steadfast, even in times of difficulty, in all that which is contrary to our opinions, intentions, and inclinations. To fulfill God's will we must be ready to sacrifice all our pleasures, our time, our freedom, our glory and finally, our life itself. To nourish within oneself. such devotion to God and to express it in deeds-this is true piety. But because we do not always see the reason behind God's will, we are obliged to fulfill it through self-denial, as slaves, in blind obedience; but we must be wise even in our blindness. This obligation is essential for everyone. The most en- lightened person, capable of leading people to God, has need of Divine guidance, even if he is completely ignorant of its designs.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Just as here on earth, so in heaven, nothing happens without the will and allowance of God. But people love God's will only when it is in accordance with their own desires, Let us love God's will alone - then earth will be for us like heaven. Let us thank God for everything, for all that is bad as well as for what is good; what seems bad turns into good when we accept it as being sent from God. Let us not complain about the path chosen for us by God's Providence, but let us seek there, according to our strength, signs of God's wisdom and goodness. In the movement of the celestial bodies, in the ordering of the seasons, in the affairs of human life every- where the will of God is accomplished. Let us pray to God that His will might be fulfilled in us, that we might I o V e His will, that we might delight in it, that it would root out our self-will and become the sole ruler of our hearts. For God's will alone is all good, pleasing, and perfect-and it is our duty to fulfill it.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself that He always did what was pleasing to His Father. Jesus Christ is our example and His Father is our Father. Let us, therefore, pray to the Lord that He would act in us according to His Father's will, just as He Him self acted: that He would mysteriously unite us to Himself and that we should desire no thing else than to do what l~ pleasing to His Father. Then everything in us will become a continual sacrifice to God, an unceasing prayer, a constant expression of our love for God.
Thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful...(Luke 10:41)
"we seem to think that we have a thousand things to do, while we really have only one thing. If we do this one thing poorly, then everything else, even if it seems successful, will do us no good. Why are we concerned about so many things? Why do we increase our worries? Let us resolve to devote our attention and all our efforts to this one thing which has been given to us; let us, according to our strength, do what God's Providence calls and obliges us to do. Let us leave aside everything that has no relation to "the one thing needful," because it will only hinder its fulfillment
(Translated from A Treasure Hiden Under a Bushel, bv Sergei Nilus)