Monday, June 8, 2015

Work, But Do Not Worry

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

A brother asked Abba Pistamon, “What should I do? I get worried when I sell my manual work.”

The old man replied, “Abba Sisoes and all the others used to sell their manual work; that is not dangerous in in itself. But when you sell it, say the price of each thing just once, then, if you want to lower the price a little, you can do so. In this way you will be at peace.”

The brother then said, “If I can get what I need by one means or another, do you still advise me to take the trouble to do manual work?”

The old man replied, “Even if you do have what you need by other means, do not give up your manual work. Work as much as you can, only do it without getting worried about it.”

There’s another “saying” I recall…something about one father advising another to “marry off” the disciple who had become bored with prayer – not to an actual wife, but to a garden. Give him something to do, in other words. As much as we might desire to pray constantly, for most of us, our fallen human nature enters in and leads to fatigue or boredom or burn-out. Prayer is hard work. “Work” can be a relief and a refreshment at times.

I like the work of making antependia and altar cloths. Sometimes it’s good just to do something with my hands, and end up with a finished product.  Sometimes, though, the work takes up more time than I want it to, for instance if I must meet a deadline.  At those times, I have taken the advice of Abba Sisoes: I worked as much as I could without getting worried about it. 

While it is always best to have ora and labora in balance, we live in a fallen world, and so it is not always possible to have the perfect proportions. I have found that if the labora takes a big chunk of time for a few days, it is usually followed by some “down time” when ora can take precedence. God makes a way. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.


  1. As usual, we are thinking the same sort of things. I have been given an opportunity to supplement my income by selling paintings, but I have hesitated because of worry. Mainly worry that they won't be good enough. But as always the Desert Fathers have come to the rescue with simple common sense. Have a go and see what happens. And don't worry about things you can't control.

  2. Yeah, it's always about abandonment to Divine Providence, I think! The hard part is figuring out how to let go of our own plans and fears, and how to trust Him instead. I guess that's where "listening" comes in. You are in my prayers daily, and I hope for your success in the painting endeavor!