What do you do when you lose your family, possessions and livelihood in one terrible day? If you're Job, you resist the impulse to write country music and instead give glory to God, who blesses you with even more than you lost.
Roughly two thousand years later, another dedicated servant of the Lord was dying in exile from the empire he had struggled to evangelize all his life. St. John Chrysostom, with his final breath, praised his creator: "Glory to God for All Things!"
Another millenium and a half after that, a Russian priest composed a beautiful Akathist, a sort of prayer poem, based upon those words:
When the lightning flash has lit up the camp dining hall, how feeble seems the light from the lamp. Thus dost Thou, like the lightning, unexpectedly light up my heart with flashes of intense joy. After Thy blinding light, how drab, how colourless, how illusory all else seems. My souls clings to Thee.
He knew whereof he spoke: the "camp dining hall" was at a Communist prison camp where Fr. Gregory Petrov, after numerous tortures, died in 1940. From hearing the hymn, you would never guess at the circumstances under which it was written. We sing it every year on the eve of Thanksgiving, and every year I find some new nugget of wisdom to treasure in my heart:
Glory to Thee for Thy goodness even in the time of darkness, when all the world is hidden from our eyes.
Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others.
Glory to Thee for what Thou hast revealed to us in Thy mercy; Glory to Thee for what Thou hast hidden from us in Thy wisdom.
Glory to Thee, building Thy Church, a haven of peace in a tortured world.
Glory to Thee for the humbleness of the animals that serve me. (This one always makes me smile. Clearly, Fr. Gregory Petrov never owned a cat.)
This morning I am mindful of the "endless variety of colors, tastes and scents" as I assemble a salad, stuff a squash, cook down a whole bag of onions into a tiny caramelized pile (for transcendence, just add bacon, bourbon and brown sugar -- oh, Bittman!) and try not to eat ALL of the cookies I baked yesterday. It may seem small compared to what else is going [wrong] in the world, but our God gives beauty in abundance, even to the tiniest moments.
Most of all, I am mindful of the "love of parents, the faithfulness of friends." What friends you all are, especially for calling and writing and grabbing my arm to ask where I've been and why I haven't written. There is no reason besides the busy-ness of life. I thank God for this blog, one of the few relationships I have that doesn't inspire guilt when I let it go temporarily. When I pick it up again it feels just like an old friend. Just like you.