My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
OUR SPIRIT YEARNS AFTER THE FATHER'S LOVE (Part II)
by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)
Christ gave us everything. He revealed to us the glorious mystery of the Holy Trinity. He 'shewed us the Father' (cf. St. John 14:8-9). Through Him we receive and experience knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and can infallibly determine when it is He, the Third Person proceeding from the Father, Who is acting in us, and not some other spirit which might seem sovereign to the inexperienced. Through Christ and in Him we have a momentously positive expression of man answering to his primordial image and likeness to God. Now there is no longer in us anything or anyone else that could be the foundation of our being, either here on earth or in eternity. And Christ's words, "All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers" (St. John 10:8) ring true for us in the clear understanding that has been given to us. But we must interpret them in the same perspective as that other proposition. "A man's foes shall be they of his own household" (St. Matthew 10:36). "They of our household" love us, and we love them; but we must not listen when they would prevent us from surrendering to God. In so far as they would dissuade us from the one true way, they become our "foes". They are "thieves and robbers".
By living according to the Gospel Commandments we gradually--though painfully--find solutions to many of the age-old problems that confront mankind. Marvel not--it really is so. In Him lies salvation for every separate individual. In Him lies salvation for those who are united in His Name, and so for whole peoples, for the whole world (cf. St. John 4:42; St. Matthew 12:21). There is not, and cannot be, any situation wherein He is powerless to save. In saying this, I do not mean that He will without fail heal this or that malady, deliver us from some disaster or other, physical, moral or material, or from our oppressors or anything else generally considered harmful or destructive--although all that lies in His hands, too. Genuine salvation means in all circumstances standing firm in His Love, as He Himself kept His Father's Commandments, and abode in His Love (cf. St. John 15:10). We all know what trials the Lord went through, especially in the last days of His sojourn with us. And yet, immediately before His death, He says to His disciples, "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (Saint John 15:11). And, later, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" (St. Luke 23:43).
All love is subject to testing, and true friendship shows up in adversity. When love is stronger than death, it is perfect love. After such "trying out", which none of us can avoid, love through death on the earthly plane conquers death in eternity and makes man an inheritor of a "kingdom which cannot be moved" (Hebrews 12:28).
To start with, the Christian's ascetic struggle is concentrated within himself, but ultimately it becomes prayer for the whole world, for all Adam. Love's first step is towards God; the second, towards his neighbor. Just as the Incarnate Son's Love for God the Father was "unto the end", so His love man is also "unto the end" (cf. St. John 15:10-15; 13:1). And this precisely is the love commanded of us.
In their essence Christ's Commandments are the Self-revelation of God. Though expressed in seemingly relative terms, whoever would rightly obey them finds himself on the frontier between the relative and the absolute, the finite and the infinite, the determined and the arbitrary. The keeping of these unconstrained prescripts far exceeds our human strength. It is imperative that He Himself, the Almighty Who manifested Himself to us, by His effective abiding within us should lead us into His own sphere of unconditional and absolutely unconditioned Being: "I Am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing" (St. John 1d5:5).
Thus speaks the One Omnipotent Sovereign of all creation (cf. St. Matthew 28:18)...
"...To live as a Christian is impossible: all one can do is "die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31) in Christ, like Saint Paul. This daily dying, however, is neither easy nor simple--it is the "straight gate", the "narrow way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find" (cf. St. Matthew 7:13-14).
The glad tidings of Christ far transcend anything that the earth knows. How real the terrible sickness with which the serpent infected man at the dawn of his appearance on earth (cf. Genesis 3:1-6)? How can people be made to see that the utterly uncommon man, the Gospel Jesus Christ, is truly God without beginning, the Creator of all that is, revealed to Moses with the name I am? Can anyone "of sound mind" so lose his mind as to acknowledge as God a man Who died on the Cross, hanging between two thieves? What can I say? Those who are positively unable to believe in the Divinity of Christ will find no other way of attaining their own divinization. Children are capable of believing, as are the pure of heart, or those who for all their recognition of their fallen state, their nothingness, intuitively feel their kinship with God. He who believes in Christ believes in his own divinization. Belief or disbelief depends on an elevated or depreciated conception of man. For the believer Christ's death on the Cross--how and why He was crucified--is the strongest evidence in His favor. Look how Saint Paul, who had persecuted Him, saw it: "Christ sent me...to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto...the saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent...Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God' (manifest in the creation) 'the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called...Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men...Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect yet not the wisdom of this world...But we speak the wisdom of God is a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained "before the world unto our glory"; Which none of the princes of this world knew...But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit...Now we have received...the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:6-12).
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God