Tuesday, January 30, 2007

counsel to a king

From today's reading in the Prolog of Ohrid, St. John of Rila's message to Tsar Peter the Bulgarian:
If you desire the heavenly kingdom, be merciful as the heavenly Father. Do not trust in injustice and do not be covetous; be meek, quiet and be accessible to everyone. Do not accept praises from your noblemen. Let your purple robe radiate with virtues. May the remembrance of death never depart from your soul. Humble yourself before the feet of Mother Church; bow your head before her prime-hierarchs so that the King of kings, seeing your sincerity, reward you with goodness such as never entered into the heart of man.
What I wouldn't give for a national, state, or local leader today who at least tried to follow such a standard! But then, I'm reminded of something I read by G. K. Chesterton about the problem with a republic. At least a person who's born to nobility recognizes somewhere deep down that his position is nothing more than an accident of birth--that he himself did nothing to attain it. But in our system of government, you have to start by winning the most difficult popularity contest we can conceive. By the time you get there, you can really come to believe that people chose you because you're better than others, because of something you achieved. I find it difficult enough to maintain humility while seeking to move up in my career, and that's in the fairly non-competitive world of low-level bureaucracy. I can't imagine what it would take to succeed in American politics and remain humble.

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