St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Wednesday, December 04, 2002 ::

The Sweet Wood of Sacrifice

As I sat by the fire the other night with my wife and watched the once dead, cold piles of wood and kindling become small glowing embers, I was reminded of this quote by one of my favorite saints, St. Seraphim of Sarov, a 19th century Russian mystic and monk:

"For good relationships are heaven anywhere. Monotony and misery cannot
exist where there is love. But the fire of love must be kept burning warmly
and brightly with the sweet wood of sacrifice."

How often it is in our culture that marriage is seen as something that fulfills us rather than us fulfilling, what Fr. Thomas Hopko calls, "the debt of love." This debt of love is precisely that life of sacrifice and service we see time and again in the life of Jesus. For Him, the "sweet wood of sacrifice" ended up as actually that--the Cross! But while physical martyrdom is a calling few of us experience in this life, we are all called to what the ancient monastic fathers called a "martyrdom of conscience." This is the daily, even hourly, choice to lay aside our own desires and live our lives for the Other; the person(s) whom God has put into our lives.

But there is something else about this metaphor that strikes me--that without constantly adding new wood to the fire, the fire will go out! Many of us Gen-Xers grew up with an idea of marriage that said the only work involved in marriage was finding "the person God has for us." After that, God would take care of the rest! There is a pervasive idea in our culture that says if you have to work for something, or if you have to sacrifice of your own [fill in the blank here: time, money, etc] to make a marriage work then there must be something wrong with your marriage!
How said this is!

A friend of mine and I were discussing ideas about marriage a few years back and he said (paraphrasing), "Our crowns are in heaven with God and there is very little I need to actually do to insure my marriage won't fail. God will fulfill what is lacking."

Yes, He will fulfill what is lacking--but by giving us the power and ability to love as He loved us, not by loving "in our place." He loves us and we in turn, shower His love on those around us. In the Lord's Prayer we say, "thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," praying for the ability and grace to live and love on earth, as love and life exist in union with God in heaven.

There will always be enough dead wood in our souls. I hope I can remember to be constantly working with God, stoking the fire of my soul with the "sweet wood of sacrifice", so that I can love others with the love of God who is Himself Love.

St. Seraphim of Sarov, pray to God for us!

:: Karl :: 3:01:00 PM [Link] ::

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