I am very thankful to the editor and producers of the LIGHT of CHRIST for
inviting me to contribute for few months with articles written in English. I came to this title Fr kyrillos’ Comments and Confessions asking myself how to approach you, the readers, and give consistency of purpose and development to these pages.
‘Comments’ because we, you the reader and I, are going to spend a little time thinking and talking together, I shall put to you certain points to which you will have some mental reaction of agreement or disagreement, perhaps you may even write to me about it, therefore, we would write the page together.
‘Confessions’ because I shall write from the secret –mysterion- of my heart, with my mined resting in my heart. Where, by faith and trust in the mercy of Jesus Christ, I confess that, totally unworthily from my part, rests the Holy Trinity of God: The Lord said (Jn. 14:23) “Any one who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him” and “the Spirit of truth…is in you” (v. 17). You, Oh Reader, who perhaps may have just come out of the Divine Liturgy, are, too, the home and throne of God! There is only one condition for this mystical event to be a fact: we have to hold the commandments of Christ and keep them. This is the man who loves God that one who keeps his commandments.
The Holy Church, our Church, the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” is a Mother, our Mother, therefore has the duty to feed us with the convenient nourishment. We shall speak of this theme many times in our pages. One of the ways of this nourishment is educating us using the passing of time. The Church measures time through years, months and days. The celebration of feasts is feeding souls and life with information of an event of the life of the Lord, the Mother of God or the Saints. During August we celebrate, that is, we commemorate, bring to our memory, the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Dormition of His immaculate and blessed Mother and, also, a group of Saints. Among these I would like to mention, the Repose of the New Hieromartyr Kosmas of Aetolia, Equal-to-the-Apostles, on 24 August, in particular for its relevance to our contemporary political, social, educational and religious life in Europe. The month shall be crowned with the commemoration of the beheading of the holy glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, 29th of the month, and, on the last day, the Hieromartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in the north of Africa the year 258 A.D.
Education is the imparting of knowledge and the knowledge is information. Evangelion is Good News. Let us never forget this. In our Christian sense the Good News is knowledge of God. Without knowledge of God we can never love God. St. Anthony the Great said that “the most grievous disease of the soul, the worst calamity and disaster, is not to know God” because God created man, God has given him mind and word. Through this knowledge man can rise on high and enter into communion with his Creator, contemplating and glorifying Him (1). That is, Man becomes grateful.
The month of August is imprinted in our memory from childhood as a different month from the others. It has warm and good weather, even in the British Islands. We were free, without school and as adults we take holidays from our jobs. The two Great Feasts of the Transfiguration and of the Mother of God raised our hearts with joy, the churches were full of flowers and its people dressed with colour and smiles. There is one thing we found odd and difficult: we had and should continue even into old age to fast of food.
It is one of the hardest things for the Christian men and women of our day to practice fast of food. Perhaps we do not understand or know the reasons for it or the way of fasting. From our mothers or elders we heard and we were obliged to deprive ourselves of some foods, when we were hungry and they were there to be eaten. Nothing else was in our mind and, now that we have grown up and are free to do what we please, we remain blank in our minds in this respect. Therefore, it is very natural that the people do not want to fast. I do not blame them!
However, the Holy Mother Church in her work to educate us for the Eternal Life, and also for this temporal life to be Christian and good in the eyes of God, asks us to fast between the first and fourteenth days of August. The fast the Church asks for is more than food. Food is the first step to introduce us to an attitude of feeling different. If we fast when we are hungry, or have to say no to a dish of smelling roast to be contented with boiled potatoes only, it will be a very different sense of attitude: we have to say NO to ourselves. It has required a conscious act of choice on our part to be obedient to the Church. This choice of obedience would bring us to attend the Church, to listen in it to the Offices sung, the Holy Scripture, to look and kiss the Ikons, to put our lives in the hands of the Mother of God. And when we go home to think of all our experiences in the Church and outside it, to read the Holy Scripture, meditate on what we read. Then our heart will become quiet and, even, silent and will rise in prayer to our God, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. How significant is the fast then! How useful, fruitful and transforming the fast is! It makes Man grateful!
The month of August is different from the other months because it is the last month of the Ecclesiastical Year. It is the end of ecclesiastical administration. To us it looks a bit strange to speak of the end of a year when we celebrate the 31st December as New Year’s Eve. Most of us are ignorant of History, certainly of how the measuring of time was between three to two thousand years ago. However all of us, even those raised in cities, would understand that with August we finish, more or less, the collection of grain and fruits, the children have received their exams results, every body goes on holiday, and when we return in September we begin a new stage of our lives. So the Holy Mother Church remains very-up-to-date in warning us that we have to stop the frenzy of our lives and think where are we going: Question yourself Christian! Let your mind enter your heart!
Let us follow the example of Christ when He was transfigured: Moses and Elias spoke with Him “of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:31). Therefore, let us think of our individual and personal death. To think is to meditate on death every day with coolness. Then, let us examine all things that we shall not take with us. After, let us examine those thoughts, words, actions that build our personality and which are the things that we shall take with us. They are the only things for which we are responsible at the throne of Christ. Therefore, unless we consider and meditate carefully and chose freely how to be ready for death we shall fail. We are not asked how to be born, but we are left free how to die. 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.
Let us read St. Anthony The Great:
“Only one thing is impossible for man—to avoid death. To have communion with God is possible for him, if he understands how it is possible. For if he so wishes and understands (how it is to be done), through faith and love, testified by a good life, a man can commune with God”(2).
To this point comes the Feast of the Dormition-the death-and Resurection of the Mother of God and Assumption into Heaven, on 15th August. I look or feel this glorious feast as a mini-or little-Pascha. The period of fast ends with this celebration. We have been meditating on our death and found how to die with the Mother of God. And if we accomplish our death as our Lord and our Lady and Mother, the Mother of God, accomplished theirs we are assured of our place, by the mercy of God, in the Glory of the Father. Christ has promised it to us:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3).
I should like to recommend you to read the chapters 14, 15 and 16 of the Gospel of St. John, during the period of the fast and the rest of the month. You will be transformed, transfigured, for the beginning of September.
I do not know if there is complete translation into English from Greek of the life, writings and prophesies of St. Kosmas of Aetolia, we are in great need of it to deal with the world of today.
I began with many thoughts in my mind and very little time to put them for you onto paper. I let them fall into my heart. And said to my Angel Guardian put them to the merciful Trinity and let something good flourish in the heart of my Readers. Now it is up to you all to develop these thoughts and, perhaps, share your thoughts with me.
I’ll see you next month…, God willing!
© Fr. Kyrillos LERET-ALDIR.
(1) Text 97, 170 texts on Saintly Life, EARLY FATHERS OF THE PHILOKALIA, Faber & Faber, London 1954-73.
(2) Id., ibid., text 127.
Content & Index