In February, I did two podcasts on one day, one before I saw a doctor, one after I saw a doctor. I had a severe cold, and it’s gone. Both podcasts have this gravelly voice. I’m now putting this in the front of this new podcast, newly to be posted, that was made that day, simply because the cold is gone, and I want that very clear. I also want to say that today’s podcast, “All is Well,” is a very delicate, difficult podcast to do and to accept and to believe, simply because it really is so paradoxical. Reality as I have it and as you have it does not appear to be all well; it really doesn’t. I’m a clinical psychologist: so many people talk to me about what’s really deep in their hearts and the pain and the anguish which cannot be easily removed. It does not seem that all is well, but I’m making the claim that, [as] Fr. Hopko often said, “All is well.” I certainly believe all is well, with the—how do I say it?—accurate Orthodox perspective. If we see things… So we see reality for what it is and we don’t deny that evil is evil, but we also see through it and know that there’s more to reality than meets the eye. Isn’t that the point, and isn’t that second awareness the awareness that all is well?
Ah, hello. This is Dr. Albert Rossi, once again doing a podcast with a voice that’s telling you I have a rather severe cold. I did a podcast this afternoon on my favorite Scripture quotes, and that’ll be posted more sooner than later. I went to the doctor this afternoon, and she prescribed an antibiotic, and it seems as if this cold will be gone more sooner than later. But I wanted to do this podcast now with this nasal, weak voice, feeling weak and depleted, on a very difficult topic—difficult for me. It really is difficult for me, because I keep pondering it. It’s rather like the Zen quotation, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Well, the answer is in asking the question.
So I’m doing this now so that you who listen will hear the first one soon and then the second one won’t be posted for a couple of months. I don’t want you to think that I’ve had this long cold for a couple of months. No, no, no, no, no. Like most normal mortals, a cold comes and goes.
The topic of this podcast is: “All is well.” All is well. That mere sentence, three words, produce all kinds of questions. Fr. Hopko, Fr. Tom Hopko, often said, “All is well,” and he would go on to describe what he meant by that. He said that because he was basing it on a quote from Julian of Norwich, who said, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” But if we take a look around, it doesn’t seem like all is well. No, it really doesn’t: the inside of my own heart, the amount of dragons that live in my heart, passions and temptations; the amount of ugliness and corruption at every level—neighborhood, national, international. In a sense, it’s always been the case; there’s always been much corruption.
So how can we say, “All is well?” I just want to ponder it with you for a bit, because I say it, when I wake up in the morning, I lie in bed, and with my eyes open, I say, by heart, the Metropolitan Philaret prayer: Lord, grant me the grace to—how does it go?—live this day in peace and so on. But I do know it by heart! I don’t have it handy right now. The cold has rather depleted my mind, but good enough to do a podcast. But it’s a really good question, because it comes back to Philippians 4: “If there’s anything good, anything lovely, anything pure, anything just, think about these things.”
So we come back to Romans 8, and Fr. Hopko would use the quote from Romans 8 to strengthen his case that all is well. You know well, and I know well, Romans 8 says, “We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” That’s the truth. It’s also interesting for us to read the paragraph that goes before it. “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes himself for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Then it goes on to say, verse 28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”
I know what I mean when I say, “All is well,” and I think I know what Fr. Hopko meant. What I mean is: All is well with my attitude, and I think that’s what he meant. That is to say: All is well, because I know that I am a corrupt, despicable, nothing-of-my-own sinner. That’s the truth, but I also know that I am a saved child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom, and a loved human being beyond my wildest dreams. That’s who I am. So I can look out at the world or at the daily newspaper, and say, “All is well,” because it’s a larger view here. For lack of a better language, we’ll say it’s the “God view.” Now, granted, Jesus, when he was alive, did, I think it says, sit down and cry over Jerusalem, saying that if… he compared it to a mother chicken-hen and the little chickadees. All they had to do was come and be cared for, and the people in Jerusalem didn’t want to do that; they didn’t want to live by the law of love of God. But even that awareness… so saying, “All is well,” doesn’t deny the evil in the world, no. Evil is evil, and I’m a clinical psychologist. I deal with people who have been victimized all over the place, and I deal with people who do or did some really awful things. It’s not a matter of denying evil. Evil exists now in abundance.
My attitude is: All is well. That is to say, “all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich); and Thérèse of Lisieux: “Whatever be the character of life or [its] unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well.” Fr. Hopko would quote Thérèse on that, because she said, “All is well.” I’ll repeat that quote from her. “Whatever be the character of life or [its] unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well.” Thérèse of Lisieux, I would say, was one of Fr. Thomas’s two favorite saints. Certainly that’s my own opinion. He would quote her and say, “All is well.”
I’m doing this podcast with this raspy voice, because it doesn’t feel like all is well. I might not get to my grandson’s second birthday party this weekend in Philadelphia. I just may not have the stamina to drive down. And I already had to cancel a commitment for tomorrow, and I’m not even sure if I’m going to be able to make it to the pre-services, the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Theophany. But I’m prepared to say to myself, “Well, whatever. God only expects me to do what I can do, no more. That’s all. God only expects me to do what I can do, and therefore all is well.” Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff, a lot of people, that I could be perhaps giving better service to or loving more. Oh, yeah, Lord, have mercy. But isn’t that true for all of us, if we take a good look at ourselves. Are we perfect lovers, perfect loving human beings as God is? No, we’re just not. I’m not, that’s for sure. But I also know that all God expects—and it’s biblical—from me and from you is to do what we can do. That’s all we can do.
So you can hear my voice; I’m wrestling. It’s a great time for me, because it’s now evening, 8:30, and I’m feeling like it’s time to go to bed. I don’t have much energy left, but I can say: All is well, because we pray our experiences. We bring our experience of weakness, feelings of betrayal, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of depletion. We bring all of that to the Lord, and then—ah!—we trust in him. So “All is well” is a statement of trust. “All is well,” in that “You can make it well, O Lord.” We do live on a cracked and crazy planet. Okay, but, by your grace and your love, you did create it good and you will bring good from it, so I—and you the listener—can say: All is well.
There are two implications to “All is well.” The first implication is that we can judge nobody for anything. We can look evil square in the eye. We can condemn evil behaviors. We don’t judge people, and when we see and know about evil behaviors, we can take the larger view and know that God will use this to bring good from it in some larger scale, and therefore all is well now, in my mind. This is also one of Fr. Hopko’s 55 Maxims, as found on YouTube: Don’t judge anybody for anything. The second implication is that it can greatly free my mind from worry, the what-ifs. Oh, what if? What if? What if? What if my little cold gets worse? What if? What if? What if? No, all is well. All is well, because there is a Christ who loves me and takes care of me.
By the way, I just quoted one of the maxims from Fr. Tom’s 55, as found on YouTube. I would suggest that I—and you, the listener—read those 55 on occasion. Maybe someday I’ll do a podcast and just read through those 55 wonderful maxims. I knew Fr. Tom quite well, and I know he wrote those not for me or you, but for himself. That’s the little code, the little parchment that he wrote for himself to try to live by, because they were battles that he was fighting.
Oh, and here is one more implication, if you don’t mind. “All is well” can help us—help me and you—become more non-violent: non-violent with ourselves and with others. We don’t have to be violent. How come? Because all is well. So we don’t need force or push or guilt-ridden drive or violence of any sort, to ourselves or to others. So for me, that’s one more valid implication for “All is well.”
With that, this is Dr. Albert Rossi, asking myself and you, the listener, to pray and contribute to Ancient Faith Radio.