When first I heard this verse: “lay aside all earthly cares,” sung during an Orthodox Liturgy, as part of the Cherubic Hymn, my heart melted, my whole demeanor softened, and I nearly cried, or perhaps I did in fact, cry. I remember feeling intense gratitude well up within me for the offer, and a thorough longing within my soul for the peace, that these words evoke. Could I lay aside all earthly cares? Is that even allowed? All my life, back as far as I can remember, I have been steeped in an environment that taught me to work hard and to care a lot, about all sorts of things, many of which, in my heart of hearts, seem silly or superfluous, or at least extremely temporal and unimportant—in the grand scheme of things. And I intend nothing against industriousness and a strong work ethic, but even these things have their time and place. Perhaps, I’ve allowed earthly cares to obscure and overwhelm spiritual cares; perhaps you have as well?
When I first heard this verse sung, it surprised me and it seemed even slightly scandalous. Yet, it was then, and remains to this day, exactly what my soul has always desired to hear. And it has brought me back, again and again over the years, to the Liturgy, as the deepest calling to my soul’s yearnings. Yes, I do want the light burden and the easy yoke which Jesus promises us; and yes, I would like to lay down in green pastures beside the still waters, which the psalmist expresses to us. If push comes to shove, I want nothing more than these simple things. Laying aside all earthly cares, seems to me to involve turning aside from the worries and anxieties of the world around us, along with turning aside from the passions which war within our own heart. It is as easy as simply doing it, and as difficult as struggling against ourselves in mortal combat. Certainly, I have experienced both thrilling victories and upsetting defeats as I’ve sought to lay aside all earthly cares. I imagine you have as well.