In the writings of Dostoyevsky, we read these spectacular lines: "People spend a lifetime reinventing and conceptualising themselves, but not living." What an apt description of what happens to us when our hearts are fixated entirely on the worldly perspective! With God, we do not need to reinvent ourselves. We are all performers in the symphony of life, where He is the Conductor. Our voices sound clear and beautiful in this divine performance.
Individuals and whole generations have a background of transgressions; we have all succumbed to the deadening illusion of a life full of vain hustles and false hopes. Too often, we choose to live by our will, not the will of God. Yet, by the miracle of His Divine Touch and love, we can all break free from the shackles of this world; we can open our eyes to the Divine Beauty that brings us to change our lives in fundamental ways.
The Venerable Mary of Egypt did more than alter her lifestyle and circumstances. Her life is an inspiring example of a breakthrough from darkness to the Divine Light. She shows the way for those who wander and search, who come to the door of the Church but do not enter, and those already at Church.
Saint Mary of Egypt is a model of repentance that makes a revolution in our lives and changes us entirely. To repent as she did is like realising that all the things we had held dear to our hearts were a pile of worthless imitations, an illusion and a grand deception.
Once, someone asked a question to a Christian saint, "How can we tell the action of God's grace?" He answered: "To have grace is to withstand the unrelenting storm of passions and desires." Saint Mary of Egypt found grace by hating her past life of sin and breaking from it. Grace led her to the other bank of the Jordan and find a new life there. She departed from a life of adultery to a life of abstinence. She was blind, and she saw the Divine Light. From meaningless existence, she ascended to the life of God's Truth.
Likewise, God's grace acts on people nowadays, leading them to the other bank of their Jordan. Grace brings them to the Church from nightclubs. Self-loving egoists learn to love others. From filling our stomachs with the pods from the pigs, we rise to nourishing ourselves with His Divine bread.
Yet grace descends on the hearts of those who search, stung by the terrifying distance that separates them from God. Mary, a sinner, suffered when some invisible force blocked her from entering the temple to bow to the Life-giving cross. "The abomination of my evil deeds was stopping me," said Saint Mary. Only the pure at heart can see God.
The drama of the human soul unravels between heaven and hell, light and darkness. A saint has no insurance against a fall. A robber can walk through the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven if he repents. Judah, a disciple of Christ, betrayed Him. But the robber on the cross who repented received the promise of heaven.
A sage once said to his friend, "Did you know how many spring wells are scattered around a desert?" The Lord will take us by our hand and lead us across the barren desert of our lives like He did Saint Mary of Egypt. He will show us the Divine Springs of His truth. All we need is to keep a repentant spirit and have faith and inspiration. As we move along, we will hear on our way, like Saint Mary of Egypt did, in her progress, "Cross the Jordan River, and you will find peace."
Hegumen Tikhon (Borisov) of Optina Pustyn
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