The Practice of Law as Ascetic Struggle
The Practice of Law as Ascetic Struggle

by Ken Liu

Christ is risen!

The legal career is not exactly the most conducive to a life of prayer, reflection, and holiness. The billable hour can be tyrannical. Interacting with opposing counsel can be combative and anxiety-inducing. The track to partnership can be a rat race. And the law firm culture is, as they say, a jealous mistress.

Yet it is precisely through struggles like these that God can work most powerfully in our lives.

The apostles taught that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” Acts (14:22). Our career challenges are certainly tribulations that test our faith. How do we practice law ethically in the midst of temptations to cut corners and pad our bills? How do we love and bless opposing counsel who treat every case like warfare? How do we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) when our every waking thought is engrossed in preparing for the next big deal closing?

The answer? The same way we do every life struggle -- we use them for our spiritual advantage. 

In his recent Paschal message, Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America wrote, “Wherever we are, whatever troubles we experience in our lives, whatever troubles we behold in this world, Christ is there with us, suffering with us in our suffering and offering us the hope of the unfailing happiness of his Pascha, inviting us to be in the world and not of the world, storing up all our hope and all the treasure of our hearts with him, in the kingdom that has no end, where neither moth nor rust can destroy and where no thief can break in and steal (Mt. 6:20).”

If we are open to it, the struggles of our career can be a powerful aid to our spiritual growth, compelling us to our knees in supplication, turning us to the Theotokos for intercession, and purifying us of our pride and arrogance. Acknowledgement of our need for God’s grace and mercy helps us make it through each day. As St. Mark the Ascetic wrote, "Do not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested."

After a long, stressful week, the peaceful vespers service is a wonderful time to lay down our burdens at the altar and rest in Christ’s bosom.  At Sunday liturgy, we soak in God’s goodness and get recharged through the partaking of Christ.

Then as we return to work each week, let us begin each day by devoting all that we do to Christ with this prayer:

“O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the eternal Father, Thou hast said, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ In faith I embrace Thy words, O Lord, and bow before Thy goodness. Help me to complete the work I am about to begin for Thine own glory: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

And end each day with these words:

“Thou, O Christ, art Thyself the fulfillment of all good things! Fill my soul with joy and gladness, and save me, for Thou art all merciful.”


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