by Diahann Hiser, New Skete Candidate
There is a beautiful Akathist called "Glory to God for All Things."* It was introduced to me by my parish priest during a particularly painful spiritual counseling session a few years ago. That was a difficult time in my life, and I found myself falling into despair. Father looked at me with deep compassion, understanding the pain, and asked me if I had ever prayed "Glory to God for All Things." I had not heard of it, and shook my head no. He handed a copy to me and I took it home and read it, with tears streaming down my face.
As Father instructed, I prayed the Akathist. But lying on the floor. Face down. Now, Akathists are supposed to be chanted while standing. However, I could not stand. The words of thanks poured forth from my soul, mixed with salty tears. Giving thanks in times of trouble seems like something only holy people would do. But truly something shifts in the spirit, when instead of moping, or worrying, we turn everything over to God and trust in his plan for us. When we cultivate an "attitude of gratitude," the Lord transforms our grief into serenity. The path to healing had begun. Glory to God for All Things.
I prayed this Akathist through tears many, many times before arriving at New Skete. Something remarkable happened on one visit as an Aspirant to the monastery. I had a copy of the Akathist with me, and it was a beautiful chilly but sunny morning, so I went out on the guest sitting room deck and prayed. I prayed Glory to God for All Things. Standing. Smiling. Happy. The first time ever without tears. It was beautiful, and the experience was one of the most uplifting of my life. I will never forget it. Glory to God for All Things.
Tonight, as a Candidate of the Nuns' Monastery, and approximately two months away from starting the Novitiate, I prayed again Glory to God for All Things. On the floor. Face down. Through tears. The monastic journey is not without its struggles, even for beginners like me. In fact, there are times when it seems everything in the world conspires against the call to this life. But I invite you (and remind myself), to keep in mind a few of the words from the prayer during this Lenten season of repentance, and remain strong in faith:
"When You called me to serve my brothers and filled my soul with humility, one of Your deep, piercing rays shone into my heart; it became luminous, full of light like iron glowing in the furnace. I have seen Your face, face of mystery and of unapproachable glory.
Glory to You, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love.
Glory to You, making wonderfully sweet the keeping of Your commandments.
Glory to You, making Yourself known where man shows mercy on his neighbor.
Glory to You, sending us failure and misfortune
That we may understand the sorrows of others.
Glory to You, rewarding us so well for the good we do.
Glory to You, welcoming the impulse of our heart's love.
Glory to You, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age!"
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, may you have a blessed, peaceful, and spiritually beneficial Great Lent, leading you to the Bright Pascha of the Lord!
---------*The author was Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov). It contains biographical references to his childhood illness and family life, as well as other material. A copy of this hymn, in samizdat form, was amongst the belongings of the priest Grigori Petrov, who died in a Soviet prison camp in 1940, and has been sometimes attributed to him.
The title ["Glory to God for All Things"] is from the words of Saint John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. Thanksgiving and prayer as a celebration is understood perhaps best by one from whom all beauty is seemingly denied; a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings.