“Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life creating Trinity now lay aside all earthly cares” (Cherubic hymn).
If you need a reason to attend the Divine Liturgy, it’s enough just to listen to the choir sing the phrase: “now lay aside all earthly cares.” Better than any session with psychiatrist or meeting of a group therapy class, preferable to learning Oriental meditation transcendental or otherwise, is the self-awareness that comes from contemplating that invitation wafted in music at the middle of the sacred service.
To realize that your cares are earthly, and that they will not and cannot accompany you into eternity is already a revelation. “Dust you are, and to dust you return” the priest will pronounce at your burial. All that is earthly shall remain in the earth. That includes cares you consider so momentous that your entire focus is on them. But like everything on earth, they will change, dry up and disintegrate in time. They are not of paramount importance—salvation is. Let your cares go the way of the world. You are among the people of God reaching upward to be with the Lord in the air. Your soul wants to rise like a helium-filled balloon; but your cares are weighing you down—all around you are ascending, but you are still on the ground. Why is that?
One reason is that you may have some unresolved anger in your heart. You cannot get rid of the memory of somebody who had hurt you. He or she is not being punished. Even the Lord who is just and fair is doing nothing about resolving your anguish and punishing the one who is to blame for your misery. Well, then, you won’t let him get away with it. You’ll remember the suffering your enemy has caused you, and so you hold onto that stone in your soul.
Another reason is your lack of faith. You want a resolution to your problem right now. You have no job, or somebody turned you down, or maybe you are going through a crisis that you want solved. God doesn’t seem to be listening to your prayer, or perhaps He doesn’t appear to consider it worth His while to resolve. You pray: Thy will be done. What you mean, however, is: My will be done. There is no peace within your soul, and where there is no peace, there can be no communion with God. The priest will be blessing you thirty some times with the gift of peace from Christ, not the kind of peace that this world yearns for; i.e., freedom from warfare, security for the home, personal property and safety for one’s self. Christ offers an inner stability, or as He said: “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives.” As the blessed Augustine said: “In Your will is my peace.” He reminds us of the gift that Jesus is offering to us.
When you lay aside earthly cares, you separate yourself from them. It’s not a simple thing to do, especially if we identify ourselves with our problems. I’ve known those who pray for liberation from their difficulties, and when those problems are taken from them they have nothing to live for. I myself recall as a young priest how naively I would struggle to solve the problems and cares of others. For instance, I took ownership of the problem of an automobile salesman who had lost his job. I found another sales company who would hire him in the same capacity he had previously. The man was not pleased—the company I found sold cars of another manufacturer. I understood. He didn’t want another position; he wanted to complain about being out of work.
That phrase: “lay aside all earthly cares” is more than song. It’s a meditation, a challenge, an opportunity for self-awareness, and a requirement for salvation.