Saturday, May 23, 2015


   The commandments place us face to face with Absolute Being. All our efforts to observe these commandments inevitably fail. We discover our utter incapacity. We see such artfulness of mind and spirit in ourselves, such horrors in our heart, that we fell destroyed. Dread of falling away from God, in Whom we believe, is immense. We are in anguish over ourselves. Everything that we store by in the past, we cast away, and find ourselves stripped of earthly ties, of our learning, even of our will. We become poor and “empty”. And the worst ordeal of all is that, despite our utmost straining to be faithful to God, there are periods when we feel forsaken by him. Our spiritual poverty, together with the pain of God’s absence, plunges us into despair. It seems as if some terrible curse hangs over us. We suffer, maybe, on every level of our being – spirit, mind, heart, body. Now we understand the tragedy behind the Bible account of the Fall of man, and belief in Christ’s love impels us to the fullest possible repentance. The more profound our repentance, the more clearly do we see into our own previously hidden depths. Realizing the desperate state that we are in, we begin to detest ourselves as we are.

   In this manner are we cleansed from the “curse” of our inheritance (Gen 3: 14-19). New, uncreated energy begins to penetrate us; we make our communion with Divine Being. God’s Light comes to embrace us. The Spirit of Truth proceeding from the Father and reposing in the Son descends into our heart as Comforter: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5: 4).

   Man in isolation, as a separate individual, cannot follow after Christ – the panorama spread before him is too grandiose. If he is sound in mind he will not trust himself but seek out reliable witnesses, lest he “should run… in vain” (Gal 2:2).  The witnesses, of course, must be chosen from past followers of Christ and contemporaries of the same faith. Would I check with Buddhists or non-Christians whether I understood the Lord’s commandments correctly? S o I started to study the New Testament chiefly, consulting ministers of the Church, professors of Theology. I read the Apostolic Fathers and the great Ascetics, not neglecting the works of recent authors. At the time the latter were not of much direct help. Acquaintance with the writings of the Ascetics, however, did answer my need.

   In Christ we meet the Absolute Being. Only through His strength can we overcome all that is incapable of assuming eternity, that is contrary to His Love. It is hard for us at every step to have to admit our unstrength. Our minds are too limited to understand His Sacred Commandments. But sooner or later our dolorous striving after Him will begin to echo with the inspiring appeal of the Eternal Divinity. Not Blissfully yet, but we have come to love Him in His splendor, and this love is stronger than death. Painful as it may be to keep His commandments, we cannot relinquish the goal before us – to become for all eternity the habitation of His Light.

   The transition from the corruption inherited from Adam to the realm of Christ’s undeclining Light is a more important event than all other earthly realities. When we begin to hate ourselves (Luke 14:26) it is a sign of approach to this great mystery. It is said: Nothing that defileth shall enter into the Kingdom of the Lamb of God (Rev 21: 27). We put ourselves sternly on trial and without mercy condemn ourselves to hell as being unworthy to God. Only in this way can we repress our disposition to be indulgent towards our weaknesses and easily forgive our transgressions, especially if they occur in thought only. Our gamble is a tremendous one – our whole being lies at stake, the prize is immortality in Eternal Light. “The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11: 12).

   Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), We Shall See Him As He is, translated by Rosemary Edmonds (1988), Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex.