Word Magazine October 1961 Page 28


By Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
Pastor, St. Nicholas Syrian Orthodox Church
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

St. Anthony of Egypt, the great hermit of the desert, who formed a monastic institution which brought much value to the Church, coined a thought that I believe most revealing of his spirituality: “I always try my best to behave like the angels in heaven.”

The obvious interpretation of this can only be that St. Anthony was ever conscious of the presence of God. He always strove to act as he would, were God visibly present before him.

This abiding awareness of God’s closeness to one’s soul perhaps is one of the most potent means of sanctification at our disposal. To many souls set upon climbing the spiritual summits, it has proven the secret of sanctity. With the practice of the presence of God in everyday life, the acquiring of virtue and the avoidance of evil ways become astoundingly easy.

Whenever we depart on a trip we seldom forget to assure those we are leaving behind that we shall not forget them and that we shall think of them often. It is rather strange therefore that during the journey of life our mind should not revert more often to Him Who awaits us in our heavenly home. The practice of the presence of God would be just that: the habit of spontaneously thinking of God now and then in the midst of the thousand and one duties of our daily routine.

If, for a fraction of a second, God were to be as forgetful of us as we are of Him, we would instantly return to the void and nothingness whence we came. The very breath we are drawing at this moment we owe to God’s actual thought of us. Should He cease for an instant to think of us, we should no longer exist. How ungrateful of us to spend days and weeks without so much as a thought for Him!

The trouble with many of us today is this lack of a practical consciousness of God’s unfailing presence. If we delve deep enough in our Sunday School days and in our school day memories, we’ll remember that God is omni­present by His creative and provident power, and that He dwells within our souls by grace; but in practice how often during the day does our mind rest on the thought of God? . . . At prayer time in the morning and evening at best, for most of those we term good Orthodox Christians; but what about the remainder of the day?

What a valuable aid the practice of God’s presence would be to us in the dispatch of our duties! At command performances in the presence of royalty and outstanding personalities, entertainers usually display their utmost ability and play their best. Wouldn’t such be the case in the performance of our daily chores if we were in the habit of seeing God always next to us?

Then, disregarding traffic violations and whizzing past a stop sign becomes particularly embarrassing if a policeman is in sight or a patrol cruiser is parked across the street. The presence of an officer who can impose a fine for the violation of traffic regulations is recognized as an efficient help to the motorist in abiding by the law. The presence of God, when we become actually conscious of it, also proves helpful in inspiring our efforts towards the perfect observance of His commandments.

Might not the constant awareness of the proximity of the pervading presence of God be the cure to a goodly number of the present day world’s headaches as it was in the time of St. Anthony of Egypt?