“Blessed is the one who has perceived
That the Lord, in his love, bent down
And as a servant, clothed Himself with His servant.”
– St. Ephrem the Syrian
Today as the disciples were walking along the road, they got into a fight about who was to be the greatest. Jesus sat the Twelve down and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35).
How do we serve everyone in a healthy way? Neither despising others or demoralizing ourselves. How do we choose to be last, apart from pride or an impoverished self-image? By being grateful to God. Grateful to God for bending down to serve us. Grateful that we now have the opportunity to serve Him in each person and, thereby, become like Him.
When we serve with gratitude, our focus is on God (not ourselves). Christ freely “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil.2:7). Are we willing to do the same? Considering to what extent (beyond comprehension) God has gone to serve us (He’s done everything), how else can we respond than by serving others with overwhelming gratitude?
So in whatever we do, whether we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, show patience with our children, fast, tithe, pray, we do it thankful for all God has done for us. Reflecting on the generous outpouring of God’s goodness in bending down to show His love in service to us, we should be knocking people down to serve others and be last!
The quote from St. Ephrem comes from The Hymns on Faith translated by (Orthodox) Deacon Jeffrey Wickes. Just as The Ladder of Divine Ascent is recommended for reading during the Great Fast in spring, The Hymns on Faith (concerning the birth of Christ) is ideal for reading during the Nativity Fast.