This book has really helped me step back and examine how the things that I do on a daily basis point me toward or away from God. The idea that the things we do shape who we are is simple when said, but very profound when one stops to think about all that the statement really means. It means that the things I say, the way I say them, the tasks that I do and those I choose to leave undone, the places I go, the books I read, the ways I spend my time, even the very thoughts that I allow myself to think, all point me either toward The Kingdom or away. It means that the person I will become is very much dependent on the choices I make in each moment of each day. God gives the grace, no doubt about it, but He leaves the choice in our hands.
With regards to education there is also a lot to think about. If education is formation, and if we desire to pursue Wisdom and Virtue then once again the things that we do and the choices that we make matter very much. It's not enough to aim to teach the basics and to get into a "good college". That can certainly be one of the results of a good education, but it should not be the goal. The pursuit of Wisdom and Virtue brings us to the feet of Christ. If we gaze upon Him He is gracious enough to help up to become more like Him. How do we behold Christ? By using the tools we have been given to open ourselves up to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Our studies can be tools that help us to open ourselves up to God. We can learn through our studies how to be attentive through practices such as narration and keeping notebooks; how to recognize The Truth through understanding absolute truths; how to understand where we've been and where we are going; how to use words in order to convey meaning and bring a unifying principle to what we say in order to point to the Unifying Principle, the Logos Himself. All of these things point us toward Christ, if we use them properly. But we must keep in mind that they are the tools, not the goal. Even with all the "right" books and methods at our disposal, what makes them profitable is not that we are using the "right" things, but rather how we are using them.
St. Seraphim of Sarov (pictured on the right) said that the goal of Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit. We can acquire the Holy Spirit through practices such as prayer without ever learning how to read a single word. We can learn to deny ourselves an take up our crosses and follow Him without ever once having to discipline ourselves through study. We can learn to love our neighbor as ourselves without any reference to an academic approach to science or history or art.
Now I am not saying that academics are a bad thing, or that we should stop bothering about it. But what I am saying is that academics should not be the first thing. I think the question we must ask is, "Does what I am doing point me toward Christ, or away from Him?" If we live the Christian life first and foremost and make sure that all our habits, practices and rituals point toward Christ, then academic education can become sanctified and it can become another avenue through which we can move closer to Him. We must build the Christian culture in our homes by our own desire first and that desire will become contagious and will be caught by those around us. St. Seraphim is famous for these words:
Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved.We must desire and then actively seek the Kingdom of God above all else and then "all these things will be added...". The emphasis on seeking translates into action. We have to do, and not just think about, those things which we are called to do in the present moment. Thinking is all well and good, but the thought must penetrate the heart in order to live through action and be fruitful.