“May it be blessed” is the standard monastic response when a nun is asked to complete a task. It signifies her obedience. Having heard it over and over again while visiting with the sisters or working alongside them, I too would integrate this helpful statement into my own speech. However, it is one thing to grow accustomed to uttering a phrase here or there and quite another to genuinely mean what we say. We say things like “thank you” or “you’re welcome” all the time but these customary phrases are often uttered out of habit, without any true intention behind them on our part. This is not what “may it be blessed” should be.
It should be an external sign of our inward willingness to the do the will of another. It should, ideally, signify the peace we feel when we are asked to do something even when it contradicts our own will. But again, “should feel” is different than how we often actually feel when we are required to go against our will.
The point of this practice, of verbally uttering this phrase, is to cultivate our inner man, our willingness to lay aside our will and acquire peace. Just like the sign of the cross, or bows and prostrations, our person is made up of body and soul. So, first we utter the phrase (with conscientious attention) and then we learn to freely lay aside our will.
Unfortunately, in the world it is difficult to engage in these external, Orthodox gestures because our society is not accustomed to such things. This makes it more difficult for us to practice the virtue of obedience, but not impossible.
Just as a nun is obligated to obey those who are older than her both in age and in spiritual order (ie. a nun who has come to the monastery before her is her “superior” regardless of age), so we can look for opportunities to obey our managers, our bosses, and supervisors. This does not happen without a concerted effort (especially for those of us who are strong-willed). But, it is possible.
We should strive to obey our bosses, our managers, our co-workers with a happy heart. It’s not always easy, however, being obedient is made easier if we look at our boss as a microcosm of Christ, our manager as a microcosm of Christ, regardless of how he or she lives. It doesn’t matter how they live. For this relationship that we have with them is an opportunity for us to serve Christ through serving them, to submit or “cut off” our will (as Blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast often taught).
I will be the first to say I really struggle with obedience. I am very strong-willed and opinionated. But, in order for me to get better I try and think of the sisters’ example and write down how I can imitate their virtue. I thought you might find their example helpful also.
Navigating the un-spiritual world in a spiritual manner can be additionally difficult since the onus is on us to take on these spiritual exercises moreso than in a monastery. While it’s easy to allow ourselves to react negatively to circumstances in our workplace, just making a small effort, consciously obeying our managers and co-workers, brings with it a world of peace.
I tried it once and it worked.