Important Opportunities

11 November 2022

The Book of the Elders [το Γεροντικό] mentions a question which Amma Theodora put to Patriarch Theofilos of Alexandria: ‘What does Saint Paul mean when he says: ‘Redeeming the time’ (Col. 4, 50) [In King James. The New International Version has ‘Make the most of every opportunity’, and therefore agrees with Patriarch Theofilos]. He answered: ‘This phrase shows us how to profit. Supposing, at some stage, people start reviling you. Through humility and patience make the most of being disparaged and you’ll gain by it. Or are people mocking you? Take the opportunity to show tolerance and you’ll profit. Every contretemps can be of benefit, provided we wish it to be’.

This answer from Patriarch Theofilos of Alexandria certainly concerns those who want to align their own lives with that of Christ, who wish to make the most of what happens to them so that the years of their life have meaning.

It’s not easy for us to see what’s actually behind what’s happening. In other words, to see the aim or purpose behind what we observe and experience. Because, if nothing in life happens by chance, and if everything contributes to the rounding out of our character- insofar as we wish it to, of course- then it’s obvious that any difficulties, any events and any people (particularly the difficult ones) help us to see and correct our hidden and apparent passions and weaknesses, so that we may be freed of them.

Exploiting difficulties which befall us unexpectedly is a sign of wisdom. They ‘infuse’ within us, bring us the patience which matures us, the tolerance which broadens our character, the humility which gives us peace of mind and the faith which saves.

We sometimes ask why, in our opinion, somebody’s behaving in an odd or irrational way. How is it that they don’t understand? Why are they doing it? It would appear that reason can’t explain temptations and trial. That’s the time for silence and prayer, especially if we’re to acquire what we wouldn’t otherwise be able to, were it not for this particular temptation.

Moreover, if we study the lives of the saints and know about the temptations they suffered from those around them, another kind of logic is revealed. This transforms temptations into either a means of curing the passions, or of preparing the heart to welcome greater joy and glory.

Those who view the years of their life as being important for their spiritual  development, aren’t overcome by the temptations caused by other people, but bear them without complaint or over-thinking. They rely on God’s grace, which they invoke with fervor and humility, in the belief that his love knows what’s happening and is certainly supportive, in a quiet but effective manner.