When a sparrow tied by the leg tries to fly, it is held back by the string and pulled down to the earth. Similarly, when the intellect that has not yet attained dispassion flies up towards heavenly knowledge, it is held back by the passions and pulled down to the earth.
Reading the daily Bible readings, I have often prayed to have words move me, pierce me even. Sometimes, that prayer is answered; often not. Last Monday was a not day, and that made me wince a little. Anyone walking in the dark desires light. How can you know where to go or where not to, where to place your foot and where to draw back – unless there is light shining out the path ahead?
So, I asked God to move my heart with His word.
Instead, every word slid off me. Nothing stuck nor stirred.
Why? I asked God.
Then, an old friend brought this answer,
When a sparrow tied by the leg tries to fly, it is held back by the string and pulled down to the earth. Similarly, when the intellect that has not yet attained dispassion flies up towards heavenly knowledge, it is held back by the passions and pulled down to the earth. ~ St. Maximos the Confessor
What passions did I have? I wondered even as I recognised the truth of it. Was it the small bit of glee I had that we were finally going to change the living room sofa to a colour I liked after 10 years of my husband’s choice? Did the thinking about slipcovers and maintenance and chair positions constitute passions? And anyway, wasn’t this way better than constantly pulling out my hair over work issues?
The reply to that came soon enough. It wasn’t the new couch. My leaden passions referred to my heightened busyness and preoccupation with work plans and deadlines. Despite the great calm inside me and my cheeriness at work and in work, there was too much of work filling up my soul.
Taking up space that it shouldn’t.
Biting my lip as I stared at this truth, I wondered what to do. I wasn’t stretching myself thin; whatever work I was busy with was work that needed to be done.
Again, St. Maximos intervened. He took me back to an old post from almost 4 years ago, to old problems with superiors which remained still, hurting and grating even now. St. Maximos led me to his old words for me,
To the extent that you pray with all your soul for the person who slanders you, God will make the truth known to those who have been scandalized by the slander.
And that very day, I began to pray Blood of Christ prayers for superiors and colleagues who continue to make life difficult for everyone.
Prayer didn’t lesson the amount of work I needed to do. But suddenly, work didn’t take up the space in my heart that it did before. While it was a constant presence, even following me home, I didn’t feel anchored to it.
And as I continued those Blood of Christ prayers, I felt the first stirrings of a new sign for the year.