When we read Ephesians 6:10-20, what do we contemplate?
In the short preface by the author, we read his contemplation of what it meant to enter the religious life. The author, then a novice monk, was housed at the Pskov Caves Monastery (or Pleskov, and once the domain of an Orthodox convert, Lithuanian prince Dovmont).
The author conversed with fellow novices at the monastery, and began to marvel at how each of them ended up at the monastery. Out of the 5 novices, 4 of them grew up in non-religious families in the Soviet times. The fifth was the child of a priest.
Just one year earlier, all 5 of them would scoff at those who would choose the religious life as “losers”, thinking those who enter into the monastic life were either mad, or depressed individuals who were jilted.
But at the point of time when all 5 of them entered the monastery as novices, they knew that none of their previous prejudices were true at all. All of them were smart, educated, strong, and even good looking. All of them have options in the world, whether it be developing materially profitable careers, or finding good wives to settle down and have families. And yet, they left those behind, and chose a monastic life behind the walls of a remote monastery.
It was a choice. The novices chose.
In a monastery, life is not about hiding behind a cell and sleeping the day away. Life is not just about prayers. Life in a monastery, at any time, would be challenging, fully demanding the whole body and spirit of us. It requires us to be disciplined, to be repentant, to be prayerful, to be mindful of activities, to be strong in the labors, whether in the fields or behind some machinery. It is not a life of luxury. It is certainly not a life of escape. It is a life that demands strength, strength that only God can gift us with.
In the same manner we reflect upon the Epistle Ephesians 6:10-20, we are to remind ourselves, whether we are behind the walls of a monastery, or deep in the world and finding that inner monastery within us, to find strength in our Lord; to put on the full armor of God so that we can fend off the lures of the evil one; and in all humility and prayers, stand before God and everything of His. We are reminded to pray ceaselessly, to pray in the Spirit, that not just words pour forth, but our entire beings, that our only thoughts, and all manners of breathing, talking, thinking, working, will have an orbit around God. It is not easy, because we of the world will be very often distracted and tempted. It requires much of us, and only God can gift us with the armor and sword we seek to defend our inner monastery (Isaiah 40:29, Philippians 4:13), and slowly, prayerfully, we grow stronger in this monastery within us.
Life is not a path of escape, even if we are tempted every moment along the way. Life is about strengthening ourselves in the many mercies and gifts of God, that we can reconcile with Him. We are to hope in our Lord, who will renew us, strengthen us, awaken us, and never be afraid (Isaiah 40:31).
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.