Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Holy Myrrhbearing Women
An image of seeking the Lord.

   This letter has been written by Saint Theophan the Recluse to the sisters of the Tambov Convent on April 22, 1862, but it applies to every Christian seeking the Lord.

   In the Myrrhbearing Women I see your image, Sisters, the image of a similar attitude of the heart!. For what constitutes the particular characteristic of the myrrh bearing women?. Their constant patient following of the Lord, as if seeking Him. They minister to Him from their substance and accompany Him to Jerusalem; they follow Him as He bears the cross. They surround Him when He is crucified on Golgotha; they watch where He is laid after He is taken from the cross. After the Sabbath, early in the morning they hasten to the grave; and while still in total darkness they are overjoyed by the manifestation of the Resur­rection, and they run to inform the Apostles about Him. With such zeal they cling to the Lord, so insatiably did they want to see Him and be near Him. And so you too, abandoning everything, went to follow the Lord. Blessed is your path. Go and seek always His face.
   And how can you not go and seek Him?. Who is more beautiful than the Lord?. He is adorned with virtue, more than any other of the sons of men. He is beautiful not only with divine beauty, but also with the beauty of human nature, with the lofty blend of all perfections that are natural to a human being. Those who contemplate this beauty are drawn to the Lord, and the Lord in His turn fills all who love Him with it.
   What are His eyes like?. They are brighter than the sun which penetrates as daylight. He merely looked on a sinful woman and made her chaste. He looked at a publican and made him an apostle. He looked on Peter and drew rivers of tears from his eyes. Attracting souls to Himself with His eyes, He conveys to them a power of vision with which they penetrate into Heaven and clearly see all that is visible and invisible.
   What is His speech like?. He merely spoke and the fisher­men abandoned their nets. He gave a sermon and all who had come to seize Him were attentive; demons departed, the sick were healed, the dead rose up. Attracting souls to Himself with such words, He gives them a power of speech to which God will lend His ear, to which angels give heed, by which humans are comforted.
   Rich is the Lord, and enriching; powerful is He, and He gives unconquerable power; wise is He, and He gives wisdom; holy is He and He hallows. For every gift is good and every gift is perfect that comes from Him to those who strive to follow Him.
   Seek after such a Lord!. In the divine order of prayer and churchly activities seek for where He is concealed, as in fragrant thickets of vegetation. And you will see Him like Mary Magda­lene who saw Him in the garden, or like the bride in the Song of Songs who saw the beauteous image of her bridegroom amidst flowers when the day breathed out and the shadows moved (Song of Songs 2: 14-17).
   Seek Him in the Divine Mysteries, especially in the Sacra­ment of His Body and Blood, and He will become known to you as He became known to the disciples in Emmaus in the breaking of bread, and as He became known to the bride in the Song of Songs who confessed that He is sweetness to the palate and all desire (Song of Songs 5: 16-17).
   Seek Him in the dogmas of faith by undoubting conviction of their truth, in the commandments by their zealous fulfill­ment, in all ways of life by patience and devotion to Him; and He will appear to you and will let you touch Him as He did the disciples in the evening of the Resurrection - and you will exclaim like Thomas: "My Lord and my God!".
   Seek everywhere without laziness. Why do I say, "seek"!?. You have already found Him, and He, faithful to His word, has already given you Himself and confirmed this gift to you more than once. He is amidst you as a Shepherd in a small flock, and within you, as in His own abode. It remains for me to add one more counsel: see to it that you keep the Lord in yourselves.
   Keep Him by ceaseless thinking of Him and ceaseless mental conversation with Him; in Him is ever our salvation. Keep Him by the loving hastening of your hearts toward Him alone, not allowing your hearts to be attached to anything else except Him, whether it be great or small. Keep Him by placing yourself in the right hand of His providence by a God-devoted disposition of heart and constant prayer. Keep Him by the diligent fulfilling of the monastic rule of unhypocritical obedi­ence, by meekness, peace, mutual submission, mutual help, humility, lack of criticism, lack of attachment to things, people and worldly habits, by seclusion, love of labor, not giving comfort to your body, by constant remembrance of your depar­ture from this life and expectation of recompense in the afterlife.
   May the Lord grant that all this will be amidst you, Sisters. May your promises not prove false, and may your expectation not be ashamed. The world is before you and the Lord is within you.
   Turn your eyes away so as not to see the vanity of the world, and be always with the Lord. Seek Him and follow after Him in your steps, thoughts, and feelings.
   Many and unutterable gifts are connected with your life. The Lord is close in order to fill you with His grace, but we also must struggle for it.
   So struggle, not fearing empty fears, and do not spare yourselves. The myrrhbearing women were close to the Lord while being jostled by those who crucified Christ. You, too, do not look upon what is not within you. Let the world scream, let foolish superstitions rage, let misfortunes arise-you follow your path, not looking back or to the side. Do not observe that which surrounds you; do not hear empty talk. Only look at what is underneath your feet and patiently set them on the indicated commandments, and look to your conscience which has been enlightened from above. For in the world also there are many women laborers of piety who also seek the Lord and zealously seek to attain Him. Beware that you are not left behind them.
   Thanks be to the Lord, if His eye sees true monastics amidst lay women. But do not let Him notice among you a worldly woman under monastic clothing.

Lyovin V. V. (1994), Kindling the Divine Spark: Teaching on how to preserve spiritual zeal by St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Xenia Skete Press, Wildwood, California, U.S.A.