The One Thing Needful
By Collette D. Jonopulos

Recently I have become the keeper of an extensive Orthodox library. Instead of allowing it to collect dust, I have resolved to read a book a week. Although reading for pleasure has not been a staple in my life for some time, I have found a special joy in this routine. I invite anyone who is tired of redundant television themes or time-consuming social media to join my resolution.

Making the time for reflection and self-evaluation is important. As we serve the Church and our families with our time and energy, we can easily overlook our own spiritual growth. The purpose of this (hopefully regular) posting is to share a thought or excerpt from some Orthodox readings for your enjoyment here, but, also, perhaps to provide a resource as you compile your own reading list. Whatever your intention, remember don’t take my word for it.

This past Saturday, after celebrating Divine Liturgy in commemoration of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, Fr. Ken Ellis offered me a book, The One Thing Needful: Meditations for the Busy Orthodox Woman by Collette D. Jonopulos. I turned him down knowing that there was a copy at home. I noticed the book on the shelf this afternoon, and picked it up.

As the title insinuates, the book contains short (one- to two-page) meditations on our role as the church militant, as women living in this world. With thoughts about prayer, beauty and obedience, and Orthodox perspectives on turmoil, anger and violence, this book provides encouragement on practical ways to include Christ in our everyday lives. Often the short meditations are very personal to the author, who identifies as an Orthodox convert, a writer, and a mother. Each short reading culminates in a rhetorical question encouraging self-reflection and self-care.

Below is an excerpt from a meditation titled Joy in the Lord:

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you” (Ps. 5:11). This is the attitude we should carry daily in our hearts. Throughout life we have problems and heartaches, but underneath our pain, below our despair, just waiting to emerge, should be unmitigated joy in the Lord." 1

I have so many times taken myself too seriously, becoming dull in my approach to Christianity. When this happens I have to remind myself that we were created for joy. We are the children of God. Jesus loves us so much He died for us. Because of His sacrifice, no matter how bad it gets, we have the promise of resurrection and eternal life. If that isn’t a reason to get up in the morning with you in our hearts, nothing is.

False spirituality, the kind that has us dropping our shoulders and feeling like small insects, was never preached by Christ or His disciples. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sorrowful when we have sinned, but this droopiness of the spirit shouldn’t be our permanent demeanor. We are called to be examples of Christ, and we should do so with joy I our hearts and smiles on our faces.

The women who stand our in my life as mentors and examples of Christ-like love are all joyful women. They carry with them a confidence and peace I want. Their lives are not perfect, but they operate on a spiritual plane where joy is their companion. Their love for Christ radiates from their eyes, their smiles, their laughter. When someone looks upon their countenance they see Christ. Oh, to be like one of them.

God should be our exceeding joy and joy should be our companion through this life. No matter our outward situation we have reason for joy. St Augustine, in his homilies on the Psalms:2, wrote: “How miserable If we are called to work so hard and only weep, without seeing any fruit for our work. How miserable if there were no one to wipe away our tears. But we know that some operation of the Spirit is at work, when we continue sowing even in our tears. For the spirit promises, through the psalmist, that we will return—astonished with joy!—and carrying the fruit of our labor as an offering to Him” May you and I this very day be astonished with the joy of the Lord.

When people think of me, do they think of joyfulness?

I ask myself, and challenge you to consider the following: how can you cultivate joy in your home, at your work, and within your church?

With joy in Christ,

Pani Amy George

[1] Collette D. Jonopulos. The One Thing Needful:  Meditations for the Busy Orthodox Woman.  Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1996 (5-6).

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