And he said unto his disciples, "Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?"
Let us who mystically represent the cherubim and sing the Thrice-holy Hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly care. . . .” So begins the Cherubic Hymn of the Eastern Orthodox Church, marking the beginning of the great entrance in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. With these words begins that part of the service called the Liturgy of the Faithful—the most solemn part of the Liturgy. The admonition to lay aside all earthly care was a very old part of the Liturgy even in Chrysostom’s time in the fourth century. This same command is given in that most ancient of Christian Liturgies—the Liturgy of St. James. The words of the Cherubic Hymn from that Liturgy are preserved in the English hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” with the line, “ponder nothing earthly minded.”
Laying aside all earthly cares has always been an important part of Christian worship. When we gather with the angels to praise the God of the universe, it is good and right that we should set aside thoughts about things like the choice of color we want for the leather interior of our next SUV or what we will do after church. We should not even ponder how we will be able to afford our next meal or whether our family members are safe. The cares of the world are both frivolous and serious. But we should set aside thoughts about relationships gone awry and injuries sustained and all other thoughts of this world if we wish to truly focus our minds and hearts on God. Hence, the admonition to lay aside all earthly care.
This does not just apply to the times we pray in church. Even in our homes, in our secret closets, we need to take our eyes off ourselves if we wish to pray to God rightly. Our souls are easily distracted by the cares of this world: our plans for the next business day or upcoming vacation or times with our friends. These are not sinful thoughts, but they distract us from thinking about God and from real prayer. They rush into our minds constantly, and we must be vigilant to keep them out when we wish to pray. Such thoughts are even more difficult to lay aside when we are troubled, and in such cases we can make our concerns a part of our prayers, pouring out our hearts to God. But even then, we need to be still and calm and quiet if we wish to hear his voice.
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Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.
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