Priest of the Greek Orthodox Church
Whatever has to do with the spiritual life, whatever we experience within the Church, can be dealt with in two ways: one is not to engage your heart with any of it at all. Everything is formal, theoretical and logical. The heart’s never touched, the heart’ s never concerned with all that’s happening in your spiritual life. In other words, people deliberately distance their heart from what’s going on and in this way are able to feel that, essentially, they’re even in control of things. This is a great trap, because whenever we discover that our heart’s on the outside of things, we realize that we, too, are on the outside, that we’re not taking part in the life of the Church, in the life of the spirit.
The other way is to see your heart sharing in things, which means that whatever occurs externally has repercussions internally, in the heart. In other words, whatever happens externally, whether truly, in the Church, in the worship of the Church, or personally in the struggle of each one of us, should be seen as seeping into our existence, into our heart, involving our heart, concerning our self on a personal basis. Then everything acquires a personal feel, a personal function, everything’s now true, everything affects the person and, in essence, everything reflects what it is that we experience.
To go from the formal to the substantial, that is to go from the logic of things to a personal understanding, to the life of the heart, is not at all easy. We have to humble ourselves. It’s only humble people who have a life of the heart. Proud people weigh everything logically, buoyed up as they are by their arrogance. But when we humble ourselves, everything within us becomes true. The heart now begins to have experiences, begins to have feelings, spiritual emotions, everything in our life starts to become true. Then, for the first time, we discover that we have a personal life, a spiritual life, a personal spiritual life. And, moreover, that the Person of God begins to concern us on a personal level, not in terms of our internal, utilitarian level, but on a personal level.
Everything resonates within us. That’s where we’ll see to what extent God is present in our life, that’s where we’ll see how open we are to the Spirit of God, or how far our fears, insecurities and human reason have established themselves within us. We’ll see how much room there is for the presence of God within us, how far we feel our sinfulness, how deeply this sinfulness has taken root within us as a hindrance to our relationship with God and the extent to which the presence of God is imperiled by our own personal life. Then everything takes on a personal dimension. Then the pain and the repentance are a very personal matter and a very genuine matter.
Prayer is something very true because it concerns the cry of a soul to God- but a sincere cry- which proceeds from within the person, not from our reason. Everything is now true. We now live our own truth before God. But this has been preceded by a lengthy stage in which we have had to come to humility, so that we can hear our heart ourselves, so that we ourselves can be in contact with our heart.
I say all this so that we can understand that these days of ours are somewhat difficult, in external terms, because we’re under pressure from external circumstances. It’s time for each of us to see how far their personality is active and functioning in their personal life, how far their identity is active and functioning personally, their heart personally, how far they’re affected personally by their relationship with God, the extent to which they can struggle within themselves with their fears and difficulties, how far the often hostile thoughts which arise against them can be kept at bay through faith, love and trust in God. How far all these things are really true in their life.
Is it time to see what the spiritual life of us Christians is like? How much real faith we have in God? The degree to which fear is diminished in the face of faith? How sincere we are towards God? How we live the experience of God within ourselves? How far each of us feels their sinfulness as an obstacle and suffers and weeps over it? How far we feel the presence of God as a power? Very often it’s difficult to surrender our existence into His hands. All of this demonstrates who we really are.
When such trials come upon us, when things come that pressurize human existence, it’s an opportunity for all of us to see who we really are vis-à-vis God. Who we really are when faced with our conscience. Who we are when faced with our existence. It’s a chance for us now to see how full of faith our prayer is. How true it is. How far it really opens up to God. The extent to which it rests on confidence. How restful it feels before God, even if, outside, there and battles and pressures. It’s a chance for each of us to see what we really, really want within us. What’s our personality like. What our personal life is like as regards God.
It’s a great opportunity we have now. Why? Because we often read in the lives of the saints about their labors and their struggles, their difficulties, their achievements and the solutions they found to the pressures they felt. But very often we understand these things emotionally, logically, not really and existentially. The time comes in our own lives when the truth of life knocks at our door and wants to know what we’ve done so far. What have we achieved? Who are we, really? Who are we in our self? What’s the moral ballast we have in our spiritual life.
I felt today, intensely, how important it is for us to exploit such moments. Not to exorcize a fear, but to see, to feel ourselves revealed, true, naked in the face of God’s truth.
The things that pressurize us will come and go. They’ll come, but then they’ll go, as things do. But we have to gain some benefit from all this. We should be part of God’s truth and this should become our reality. Put simply, we should fight against everything within us that’s sick, weak, hollow and hypocritical. First, these have to be fought against. And they are fought against in the deep darkness of our cell. It’s there where they can be fought against. That’s where you see who you really are.
I pray with all my heart that we will emerge greatly benefited from these vicissitudes which our country and the whole world are experiencing. More humbled before God, more true before God and before our conscience. And God will take care of all the rest. In any case, He’s promised to. Then we really find peace: when we submit in trust to God’s plan, to God’s presence.
I pray with all my heart that these days will be fruitful for all of us.
Recording of a homily at the Presanctified Liturgy, Wednesday 11/3/2020.
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