The most important people today are probably not those we think of first. Kallistos Ware tells of St. Barsansuphios of Gaza (sixth century) who says that in his time there were three persons whose prayers likely held everything together. Because of their spiritual intention, the sun rises each day, evil is held in check, and life goes on. He even mentions their names. John, he says, is one of them. And Elias too. The third, he says, lives in the province of Jerusalem. It could be anyone—a priest, a farmer in the fields, a mother tending her hearth and her children. But it may well be Barsansuphios himself, who was trying to keep himself clear about his spiritual vocation, but humility kept him from saying so.
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Ware says, “the world is upheld by the prayer of hidden saints—Christian and, I believe, also non-Christian.”
Awakening to the spiritual life and the vocation of prayer in the midst of daily life is not, as I’ve said before, a cul de sac or private party. Just as a butterfly fanning its wings in Tokyo affects weather patterns in New York, our spiritual intention, our life of prayer, has enormous social and political consequences no matter how hidden our life may be.
Thomas Merton once said:
“I wonder if there are twenty people alive in the world now who see things as they really are. That would mean that there were twenty people who were free, who were not dominated or even influenced by any attachment to any created thing or to their own selves or to any gift of God, even to the highest, the most supernaturally pure of His graces. I don’t believe that there are twenty such people alive in the world. But there must be one or two. They are the ones who are holding everything together and keeping the universe from falling apart.” (New Seeds of Contemplation, page 203)
Who can say what good is happening in this world because of your hidden life of simple, and sometimes bumbling, prayer?