The New Atlas

He was a Titan who lead a rebellion against the Olympians. In his failure, he was made to hold up the sky on his shoulders. (He is often shown holding up the world, but this is incorrect) This would be his eternal punishment. Once, he almost tricked Hercules into holding up the sky for him, but Hercules saw through his scheme and was able to escape. Poor, heroic Atlas!

Carrying burdens seems to be an inescapable fact of life. Sometimes, the burdens are so heavy it feels like Atlas holding up the sky. I’ve carried heavy loads of wood or stone until my shoulders and arms and legs ached with the effort. I managed this weight because I knew I would soon set it down. The terror of the story of Atlas is the hopelessness of it, knowing that you can never set your burden down. The terror of my life is the feeling that there are some burdens I will never lay down.

Some one once referred to the 20th Century as the “Age of Anxiety.” When you read the history of that time, there was certainly much to be anxious about. I wonder if that tag continues to be applied to the 21st Century? Certainly, these are fearful times. The economy has crashed and our financial security has largely vanished. Now, we hear of impending pandemics and nuclear terrorism, and the level of anxiety is reaching new heights.

I was reading The Missionary Letters of St. Nikolai Velimirovich. In letter 59, he wrote to an American, John Davis, who had a deep fear about the population explosion of the human race. He wrote, “Of course, one who forgets God, takes God’s worries upon himself. And God’s worries are not something that weak human backs can carry.” What an interesting thought– fear makes us forget God, and by forgetfulness, we carry God’s worries. When this happens, we become the New Atlas– we take the sky upon our shoulders. Yet, we are not Titans and our backs cannot carry the load.

The most difficult thing about an emotional, physical, or spiritual burden is when, like Atlas, we have no hope of ever setting it down. Despair only adds to the weight of the load that we carry. It is no wonder that Christ taught us “Do not worry. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Enough for today is the evil thereof.” Even at His birth, the angels said “Fear not!”

The Lord says to all who would be like Atlas, “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Cast your cares upon me…Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Christ is the only true Atlas, and in his Cross, He took upon himself the full weight of the world. Weak sinner that I am, I’ve found that its easier to pull the yoke with Christ than to be an heroic Titan carrying the sky on my shoulders.

The heavy stone has been rolled away. Christ is Risen! Hey, Atlas! Lay that burden down!

3 Responses to “The New Atlas”

  1. November In My Soul Says:

    Fr. John,

    We can also help carry each others burdens. A friend recently revealed to me of some horrendous abuse they suffered at the hand of an adult in their life. This revelation was a long time coming and now I feel their burden is at least a little lighter because I share it and help carry it. I am no Atlas (most days I feel more like Sisyphus) and it is not the consolation or compassion of our Lord but it is what were are called to do.

    I enjoy your blog.

  2. Andrew Says:

    I need to re-read this post often to keep myself a tad bit calmer in life.

  3. shinie Says:

    what a beautiful reminder. God bless you rev.

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