Saturday, September 17, 2022

The action of God in us.
Saint Sophrony the Athonite.


Saint Sophrony the Athonite.
        Nowadays there are people all over the world in search of a solution to their quest. This widespread unallayed spiritual thirst is a historical event that is really tragic. Many are on the edge of despair. Every one of them, according to his own measure, in the depths of his spirit suffers from the absurdity of contemporary life. They are inconsolable in their grief; their own individual efforts are not enough to free them from the enclosing world of confusion, and stay their minds on the most important thing of all.  

Ours is sometimes called the post-Christian age. But I personally, from what I know of the history of the world and of Christianity, am convinced that Christianity in its true dimensions has never yet been properly grasped by the great mass of people. Kingdoms pretending to the name of 'Christ­ian', and their peoples, have worn the mask of piety, while 'denying the power thereof' They have lived, and live, like heathens. Strange as it may be, it is precisely the Christian countries who keep the greater part of the universe in the iron grip of slavery. In these latter years they have shrouded the world in a dark cloud of expectation of apocalyptic fire: 'the heavens and the earth, which are now ... reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.'

In the present crisis of Christianity among the popular masses it is quite justifiable to discern a rebellion of the natural conscience against the distortions which the Gospel teaching has suffered in its historical destinies.

We are living again in the atmosphere of the first centuries of our era: unto us 'it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake'. More than once have I rejoiced in the thought that, for the most part, my life has coincided with harassment of Christianity. This allows me the more acutely to feel myself a Christian, to realise the incomparable honour in times like these of following the only-begotten Son of the Father on His path to Golgotha. Persecution is rife everywhere but in different forms - none of which, however, is easy to bear. May the God of love deliver every soul from the calamity of being a tormentor even of 'one of these little ones'.

In 'suffering for his sake ' there is an especial blessing and even election: he who suffers, by the very force of circumstances places himself in constant association with Jesus Christ, is led into the sphere of Divine love and becomes God-bearing.

There are two ways for theology: the one, widely familiar in previous centuries, appertaining to the professional theo­logian; the other, which means being crucified with Christ. knowing Him in the secret places of the heart. The first of these types is accessible to the majority of the intellectually endowed having a preference for philosophical subjects - genuine belief in the Divinity of Christ expressing itself in a life lived according to the spirit of His commandments is not needed. The second is the theology of the confessors, which is born of a profound fear of God in the fiery flames of repentance, leading to existential reality through the appearance of Uncreated Light. Academic theology com­bined with living faith affords blessed results. But it can easily degenerate into abstract theory, and cease to be what we see in the lives of the Apostles, Prophets, Fathers - the direct action of God in us. 'No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him ... It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard' [in his heart] 'and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me'.

The Holy Trinity is the God of Love. The love of which the Gospel treats is the uncreated life-force of unoriginate Divinity. The property of this Love is to unite us in very being. He who dwells in this unity with God gradually grows to realize what is happening to him. 'But God hath revealed [knowledge of Him] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God ... We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God: that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'.

And as Jesus answered, 'flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto him [peter], but my Father which is in heaven'. 'Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory'. And this is natural growth in the Spirit through dwelling in the Divine realm by keeping Christ's commandments. The mind straightway apprehends knowledge and formulates it in human terms. It happens like a flash of lightning, when the heart is burning with love. This is the 'marvelous light' of eternity to which we are called.!..




On Prayer. Archimandrite Sophrony Sacharove. 1996.