The Kingdom is within you. Or it ought to be.

Today in the Desert Fathers:

One day Abba Longinus (later abbot of Enaton) questioned Abba Lucius about three thoughts, saying first, “I want to go into exile.” The old man said to him, “If you cannot control your tongue, you will not be an exile anywhere. Therefore control your tongue here, and you will be an exile.” Next he said to him, “I wish to fast.” The old man replied, “Isaiah said, ‘If you bend the neck like a rope or a bulrush that is not the fast I will accept; but rather, control your evil thoughts.’” (cf. Isaiah 58) He said to him the third time, “I wish to flee from men.” The old man replied, “If you have not first of all lived rightly with men, you will not be able to live rightly in solitude.”

As an evangelical, I wanted to be a missionary – because that was the hardest hardcore way to be a Christian, right? I received nothing but praise and positive reinforcement on that path.

Overseas mission work never came to pass for me, though I had the privilege of pastoring a Vietnamese-language congregation here in Washington State for a while. After seeing some friends sell everything and go overseas to the fission field, and then watching them become discouraged because nothing was happening there, I realized that you’re not going to do anything as a missionary that you’re not already doing at home. If you’re not making disciples, serving people, teaching, building, cleaning up, or otherwise doing the Gospel here at home, you’re not going to magically become a mighty apostle by virtue of a simple geographical change.

Fast-forward a few years, and I’m newly Orthodox. Monks are the hardest of the hardcore, so of course I had to become one. Once again, nothing but praise, respect, and positive reinforcement from everybody (and a certain amount of envy from married folks and others who fantasize about running away.) After a few months in a monastery it slowly dawned on me — again — that we don’t do anything at a monastery that we aren’t already doing at home. The intensity is cranked up, but otherwise if we’re not fasting peacefully, being kind and gentle and patient with everyone else but ruthless with ourselves — then we’re not going to do any differently when we leave the world for the cloister.

Scribbled in the margin of a 9th-century Irish manuscript is a verse on pilgrimage:

To go to Rome is little profit, great labor. The King you seek you will not find unless you bring Him with you.

It’s what we do that matters, not where we do it.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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3 Comments

  1. Amen.

    I have to smile at this post, because my Husband and I were talking about this very thing just yesterday. Two friends of ours, the ages of our children, one married, one not, have expressed to us how very much they would like to be monastics. One said blissfully and with much longing, in a group, “I cannot wait for my spouse to die, for then I will be free to serve God in a monastery!” The other said to me, privately, to pray for her as she feels so drawn to monastic life because it made her daily theosis so much easier, so less distracted.

    Our reply, to both of these folk, was along the lines of, “Well, if you can’t be Christian outside the monastery, you’ll never be Christian inside the monastery!” Duh. Why is it we think the grass is always greener on the other side of the lifestyle choice???

    Thank you for this post. I think I’ll pass it along…

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  2. Love this….(sigh)…and it is so true. A great reminder to first bloom where you are planted before you attempt to transplant yourself someplace else. Thanks, Silouan.

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  3. Thank you for this post, I really needed to hear this.

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