The Toil of the Cross We Are Called to Carry
young man was despondent and heavy of heart that he had not seen the fruit of his prayers and ascetic labors, and so he went to speak to his spiritual father. He said to the old man, "I do not know what to do! To me nothing seems to bear fruit for God."
The old man said, “I will help you but first you must help me.”
The young man happily agreed.
The old man took him to the narrow road behind the monastery and gave him a pair of shears. He instructed the young man, “Cut the branches back away and clear them from the path so that passers-by will not be hindered by them.”
Desiring to satisfy the old man, with joy and determination the young man took to his labor. Indeed, immediately the young man threw himself into the work.
Much time passed by and the young man was barely one-third completed with the work. More and more he looked to the work yet to be done, but could imagine no way to finish the task before evening. Then he heard the steps of the old man and his countenance fell, his heart beat with anxiety, and he felt great shame for the job could not be finish before sunset.
The old man drew near and exclaimed: "Well done!"
The young man, greatly surprised, responded. "How can you say 'well done?’ Do you not see that I am not even half done with the task that you have given me?"
The old man laughed, saying, "I did not tell you to complete the task! I simply asked that you cut the branches back."
So it is in life. We need do, without measure, the work that God has assigned to us in life. With a little patience, determination of our will, and foremost, with the love of God, we will complete our portion. Yet the final result will come only in God's time. God's work is freeing. God's work is liberating. Our labor is to fulfill his commandments in as much as we are able. And like the eating of sweets, to find satisfaction in the eating.
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My very poor English translation, with which I took liberties, of a post in Serbian by Milan Pavlica, of Novi Sad, Serbia. Posted on “The Orthodox Church” Facebook page:
With thanks to Sonia Sanoo Lazic for her initial translation and bringing it to my attention.