By Fr. Cosmin Sicoe
Not too long ago, I was approached by a very loving mother who told me that sometimes she is afraid to pray for the salvation of her children because God might allow some tragic experiences to happen in their lives in order to bring them to salvation. Of course, as a mother, she did not want anything bad to happen to her children.
This reminded me of a beautiful double-sided icon of the Mother of God. One side of the wooden panel depicts the traditional Orthodox icon of the Mother of God with Jesus in her arms. In this unique icon, the Theotokos has a very worried facial expression. The other side of the icon depicts the reason for which she has this worried expression – the Crucifixion of Christ. The Mother of God was worried because she knew what was going to happen to her Son. She was worried because she knew that “a sword will pierce through her own soul” (Luke 2:35), as the righteous Simeon prophesized to her at the Presentation of the Lord into the Temple.
It is normal for a mother to be worried for her children. It is normal for a mother to wish to protect her children from any harmful experience. However, we should not forget that the Mother of God, even though she knew that her Son was born to die and to give His life for the world, did not try to stop Him from doing this because she believed in the ineffable love and goodness of God the Father. She knew that God the Father had a plan for the salvation of humanity and she put her trust in Him, as she did at the time of the Annunciation when she said: “Let it be to me according to your word!” (Luke 1:38)
The Gospels also give us an account of somebody who tried to prevent Jesus from going to His passion. After Jesus began to speak to His disciples about His Passion, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying: ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter: ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.’” (Matthew 16:22-25)
When we try to prevent ourselves or those whom we love from painful, but saving experiences, we “are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men”. In his first letter to Corinthians, St. Paul emphasizes the same idea: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. .…. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:18; 20). We must put our trust in God that He will provide what is best and necessary for the salvation of our loved ones and ourselves. We should always keep in mind that everything that it seems we possess - our jobs, our houses, our friends, our parents, our spouses, our children, even our own lives – we will lose one day. But if, by the Grace of God, we succeed in offering “ourselves and one another and our whole life” to the One Who Is, to the only true, real and eternal Existence, then we gain everything.
Therefore, let us not be afraid of some small and temporary losses or painful experiences in our lives or in the lives of our loved ones. Instead, “let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
If we have this mind set, then our deepest sorrow and tribulation becomes not a lamentation, but an angelic hymn like these beautiful selected verses from the Akathist in Praise of God’s Creation:
“Glory to you for every sigh of my sorrow!”
Father Cosmin Sicoe is the Priest of the Panagia Pantovasilissa Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article was originally published in the Shepherd's Staff Newsletter of June-August 2017.