Sermon from the Spiritual Father of the Convent of Saint Elisabeth

Divine Providence is our path to the Kingdom of Heaven

May 16, 2020

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The Divine Providence is our path to the Kingdom of Heaven. A man was created for the service of love, which is the service of the angels, but the earth has torn human beings apart from Heaven and shackled them to its surface. Human beings have taken root on the earth and are grieving as they try to find joy and purity on it. However, by becoming attached to things that are passing and finite, humans are digging graves for themselves. The Divine Providence is God Himself, who came to Earth in order to teach humanity how to live a good life, show people the path to their lost home and give them back the heavenly joy which they have forsaken. God is waiting humbly for humanity to join Him, without insisting, reproaching or prodding. God is calling on people to follow His path.

The Divine Providence is the path that was destined for us by God and the one to which Scripture refers:I am the way... (John 14:6).

The Divine Providence is the call addressed by God Himself to every human being to a pure life in His image and to an even greater grace in Heaven than the one that we lost. For the beauty of Heaven is one of purity, while the beauty of the earth is in our victory over sin. By conquering death, man becomes immortal.

The Divine Providence can be visible to man only after he has recovered his lost self. Like the Prodigal Son, humans are living in a distant country (Luke 15:13) - a land of their passions and desires - and are squandering the wealth that God has bestowed on them. It is only by discontinuing our old habits that we can begin to fill our lives with meaning. At this point, while still in search for real meaning, our soul will finally encounter God.

God's paths are beyond tracing out. There is no way of knowing what awaits us at the end of our journey, but even a step closer to God creates a lot of joy for the soul as it brings relief to its torment at the hands of sinners. Little by little, one begins to lift oneself from the abyss of sin that had only recently appeared to be the place to be and the way to live, a life that 'everybody else' seemed to be living. Following this path is a conscious attempt to stop our wild living as slaves to our selfish desires and to reach out to God, the Only One with the power to take us out of the dark kingdom of sin. Progress is difficult, and one will stumble and fall multiple times along the way; however, because the soul can feel its closeness to God, it will not rest at peace when it strays from Christ's way.

Inside oneself, one never stops the search for the Saviour. Following God's path often means acting against one's intentions and desires as conceived by our worldly mind.

The Divine Providence is beyond our understanding, but as Christians, we should strive to know it throughout our conscious lives. God will not disclose the path destined for us at the outset. He is taking great care to tread carefully as he steers us gently towards our salvation. Once the soul has become stronger and more certain of God's goodness and as it becomes more capable of following God to a place of hardship, its determination is put to the test. Although this can be painful, the soul will be emboldened by its faith that God loves it and will comfort it whenever needed. It may be said that God is leading one towards one's individual Calvary Cross, the cross that one may end up bearing throughout one's life journey. Whenever the soul may feel too exhausted and powerless to continue, God will give it new strength through the Holy Sacraments of the Divine Church, and the journey will proceed, empowered by God's love. The path of God's love is the path of renouncing sin and accepting God's will. No person can complete this journey on his or her own, but God will accompany the soul to the gate of eternal life. This is the kind of life to which we all aspire. God prepares us for this transition, by teaching us humility, patience and forbearance. The sin that is resting within us will resist, and we must make a great personal effort to defeat it. God desires salvation for everyone, but people have free choice and may decide to shun God only to remain in the shadow of their desires and selfish selves, away from God and their neighbours. Having trust in God and experiencing God's love can keep the soul from falling into despair and having to wage a battle with itself.

The Divine Providence is Christ himself who is saying to us: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). We can learn from the Scriptures about the kind of people we should aspire to be; by taking Holy Communion, we can experience what we should become in order for God to act within us. The face of our future selves is revealed to us by the Holy Icons.

The Divine Providence is leading us to purity, immortality, victory over death and eternal life; already, it is filling a Christian life with Divine Light and giving meaning to it.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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