Choosing a Different Course

AdminArchbishop Paul's ReflectionsLeave a Comment

D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” is the story of a family whose mother is bent on becoming socially prominent. Her ambitions drive her to need more and more money, and the pressure of this is reflected in the family. Lawrence writes that the house itself seems constantly to whisper, “There must be more money. There must be more money.”

The loving young son in the family wants to help his mother. He discovers an extraordinary talent in himself: by riding his rocking horse with great attention and intensity, he can discover the names of winners in future horse races. He does this for several months, placing bets through the family’s gardener and secretly giving his winnings to his mother.

But the huge effort takes a terrible toll on the boy, as his mother’s ambitions and needs grow. She worries about his deteriorating condition, but has no idea what is causing it. The boy finally works himself to death on his rocking horse in one last extreme effort to still the whisper of “There must be more money.”

Though Lawrence’s story is set in England decades ago, it reverberates in our society today. Many families and homes are uneasy because of a perceived need to accumulate as much money and “stuff” as possible. This need can drive us unrelentingly, especially because the ability to accumulate is widely seen as a sign of success.

Once again, the Church offers us a chance to step back and take another look at those things that may be driving us. The troparion used for several saints, including the beloved Nicholas of Myra, contains these words: “Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you.”

Suppose this line from the hymn was made part of a family discussion with the question, “What do you think these words mean?” Suppose too that the discussion could be brought around to the idea that many saints chose material poverty in order to pursue spiritual riches without any distractions. This idea might open up a whole new way of thinking for our children, so accustomed to seeing prominent figures who are willing to do almost anything to pile up wealth for themselves.

We can look at more recent Church members. The Grand Duchess Elizabeth, sister of the last Russian Tsarina, Alexandra, was one of the most beautiful and privileged women of her time. Raised a Protestant, she eventually embraced Orthodoxy and wrote letters to her grandmother, Queen Victoria, explaining her choice. After her husband’s assassination, she chose monasticism, and she chose martyrdom in Russia during the Revolution, though her fellow European royals would gladly have gotten her out of Russia before her arrest, had she chosen to leave. But she refused to abandon the nuns in the monastery she served as abbess, nor could she turn her back on the poor and needy people of Moscow who depended on her.

It may be that we and our children will not make choices that go so dramatically against the mainstream as Nicholas and Elizabeth did, but by offering us examples of people who made such choices and who achieved spiritual greatness, the Church reminds us that this path is at open to us no less than to them. That knowledge can bring peace to people — young or old — who have to make a living in the success-oriented world, but who also seek the Kingdom of God.

(Taken from: )

Leave a Reply