Fr. Kyrillos’ Comments and Confessions
This month I have to confess to you that I began to write this article with trepidation in my heart. We have completed one year of encounters together, I, writing these monthly pages, and you, reading them. Thanks be to Our God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity one in essence and undivided!
There is trepidation in my heart. I am a year older. Many of my friends and relatives, even those younger than me, have left already this temporal life. Many of my parishioners, and even spiritual children, now have been transcribed from the list of health, salvation and visitation to the list for the blessed memory and forgiveness of their sins. I had joined them in their intimate cares of joy or affliction. I had comforted, encouraged, warned, praised, and guided them in the dark night that is this life, even when it is lived with shining Faith. They are now the eternal memory of the Church, their Mother, which prays unceasingly:
“Lord, give rest to the souls of thy departed servants who have fallen asleep in the Lord from all the ends of the world,… for there is no man who liveth and sinneth not…”
There is trepidation in my heart because when I remember them, the Holy Church reminds me that at any moment I shall be called to leave. And this is sure without doubt. When we arrive at sixty and beyond any extra is a bonus. Any birthday is counted not from the length of the past but the shortening to the future. To think of our death is to meditate with coolness and wisdom. A year ago, in my first Comments and Confessions, I suggested how important it was to pinpoint those things that we shall take with us. According to my own examination, it is clear that all that will go with me will be my thoughts, words and actions that I, throughout my life, have had, said, or done and, also, all that I should have thought, should have said or should have done but I did not. All and each of these events in my life, at the end of it, will have constituted the stones with which my persona has been built up. And this persona is the one, which is going to be judged by Jesus Christ.
The cause of this trepidation in my heart is the vision of me being seen in front of the throne of Jesus Christ to be judged. Last year (2001), in August’s Newsletter, I wrote:
“We do not know the when and the where, or how bodily, but we are left free how to prepare, how to accomplish our death in the presence of God.”
Then, also, I was quoting to you the words of your Patron Saint Anthony The Great, who gave us the clue to prepare for our death that is to have communion with God. He said that that is possible in spite of the immense difference between God and us if we understand how it is possible. That is the great secret-μυστήριον.
Indeed it is a secret that we have to uncover or discover. If a man is ignorant of God, he/she will have to make a series of questions somehow different than the man who is a Christian. This one has the secret way to God in the Holy Church; therefore his method will be to uncover the holy mysteries, or secrets. Some of them are the Sacraments. I say some of them because in academic theology-through the influence of the Latin Church-it is said that they are seven. However, if we take the word mystery a little less technically and much more openly, we could call so to any way of thinking, speaking, doing or abstaining that unite us with God according to the Church. For example the way of living of Saint Anthony the Great is a mystery, is sacramental. If we look at it with academic theological eyes, we make a conceptual abstraction and call it monastic. If we look at it with the eyes of the ordinary man, like you and me, we see a man totally dedicated to believe in God and love God up to the total obedience to what God has commanded through Jesus Christ.
For living with that style of life St. Anthony took the trouble to learn and to put in practice all that Jesus taught. Once I read in St. Symeon the New Theologian:
“Such, my brethren, are the wonders of God. And God reveals His hidden saints so that some may emulate them and others have no excuse for not doing so. Provided they live a worthy life, both those who choose to dwell in the midst of noise and hubbub and those who dwell in monasteries, mountains and caves can achieve salvation. Solely because of their faith in Him God bestows great blessings on them. Hence those who because of their laziness have failed to attain salvation will have no excuse to offer on the day of judgement. For He Who promised to grant us salvation simply on account of our faith in Him is not a liar.”
There is trepidation in my heart because, in spite of being a Christian and a priest, the thorn of laziness buffets my conscience and the awareness of death shakes the joy of living from my heart. Laziness is not only related simply to not doing things. Most of us are extremely diligent in anything that we feel pleasurable. We may feel pleasure even to join in a beautiful service in church, however if for attending church we have to say NO to some other pleasurable activity, then the conflict arises.
For example, to attend the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on a Sunday and in some of the great feasts is a duty for any Christian. Sometimes parents have the conflict between the wish of children to play football with the school team on the Sunday morning or taking part in the celebration of the Liturgy. Another example, a young lady falls in love with a handsome man (or vice versa); one of the partners it seems cannot wait to let time pass to show the suitability for each other, through the building of unshakable friendship and trust as the foundations for the harmony in a marriage in front of God; however, soon one or the other is asking for sex and cohabitation even-that is to put the cart before the horse and contrary to the commandment of God, that teaches us not to fornicate.
The conflict of the parent and of the young people in the moment of choice has not been underestimated by Jesus Christ, our loving King and God, and so He taught unambiguously:
“If any one desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me (Mt.16:24).
The cross is a symbol of suffering by Christians in imitation of Christ and the self-denial is for the sake of Christ and the fulfilling of His teaching for a better life. The conflict, or battle in our inner heart-as we were saying in our Cs. & Cs. of July,-arises through the awareness of how God sees us to choose a temporary sinful pleasure, in place of faithfulness to His teaching. We become our own prosecutor, since our conscience bears witness, in our hearts, for the rest of our lives and in front of Christ’s judgement seat.
There should be trepidation in the heart of every Christian. There should be fear of loosing of one’s eternal salvation. There should be sadness and grief caused by the realization of one’s sins. The Holy Writ blesses the godly sorrow, which produces repentance-μετάνια-, distinguishing it from the ungodly sorrow, the sadness of being found out, which produces death (Mt. 5:4; 2 Cor. 7:9, 10). Christ has conquered suffering and death, the cause of sadness, and turns true sorrow to joy for His followers (Jn. 16:20-22, 33). Let us always remember the words of the priest, when he invites us to approach for the reception of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, during the Divine Liturgy:
“With fear of God, faith and love, draw near.”
“Μετά φόβου Θεού, πίστεως καί αγάπης προσέλθετε.”
May God guide you into His communion through fasting and repentance!
Ι’ll see you next month ‘Deo volente’ (God willing)!
© Fr. Kyrillos LERET-ALDIR.
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