Many thanks to the Choir “Rejoice” for their singing today. It was lively, prayerful and in the spirit of Pascha. “Rejoice” is a small choir, but our strength is not in numbers, but in the spirit. Where the spirit is alive, everyone benefits. Without the spirit, thousands may gather, but to no avail.
We may not have a full church today but worry not. Little goes a long way. Even when only a handful of believers remains, we should rejoice. We can still dispel the clouds that hide the sun from our view and make us believe that there is no light or that we are powerless and poor. On my way here, I felt I had no energy even to walk. But then it occurred to me that if I had no strength to go along, God would give it to me. All we need is to put our trust in the Lord, not in ourselves. The joy of a full life in Him will be ours. Nothing else will matter – not even the clouds, or the difficulties of our lives.
But many are still living for the day, struggling for their survival. Beggars cannot be choosers, they say. Yet the joy is always out there.
Our celebration of the Sunday of the Paralytic is a good reminder of that. I told you this story several years ago, but I would like to share it again. I was giving Communion to a woman. Ever since her student years, she had been lying paralysed in her bed. She said to me: “It had been lying like that for 30 years. I was a student in my first year when it happened. At some point, I felt that I could not carry on any longer.”
She prayed to the Mother of God and asked her: “What is the point of all my suffering?” And she heard her say, "It is the way of this world.” She took her words on faith, but sadly, most of us would not be prepared to do the same.
The world is a large hospital, and we all need the Doctor to heal our spirits. Ironically, the people who need help the most often think that they are in perfect health. All too often, we will not listen to our doctors because of our pride. I wish we all knew the gravity of our condition, but instead, many of us say, "these doctors do not know anything. I am not going to listen."
How much longer does one have to spend in sickness before they meet the Lord? No-one knows. The Lord takes care of us all the time, but we can only meet Him when we are prepared to say, “Lord, I will do whatever You will tell me, and go wherever You will direct me. I will follow You”. To say so honestly, we must deny our old selves, let go of all the small change and trivial pleasures of this world. We must realize that true joy comes from the Lord and that it is worth more than all the worldly pleasures combined. We should be willing to give them up without hesitation to let our hearts rejoice in the Lord.
What are we waiting for? Some omen, some visible miracle? Bubbles in the water or a vision of an angel? Let us not waste our time anymore because Christ is already in our midst. He is right beside us. He wants our spirits healed. He knows the right way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and He invites us to go along. He would hate to see us ramble. If we choose to follow him, He will bring healing to our spirits, and we will progress quickly.
But frequently, we stand and look around in indecision. We pity ourselves and complain about our lives. We compare ourselves to others and regret about things that others have achieved, but we have not. Let us not deceive ourselves any longer – we will have achieved everything we needed in our lives by meeting God. There is nothing else to be said or done – we already have everything we need for our everlasting life!
We worry about the successive ‘waves’ of the pandemic hitting us one after another. But we need to have more faith instead. The illnesses of our spirits are much more serious than those that any virus could ever cause.
Visitors to Moscow are telling me that the Coronavirus restrictions there have been relaxed, and many people over sixty-five are relieved. They can now go out, sit on the bench under the sun. They can go to church. They are returning to life, and it is a great joy for them. Yet many people here are still self-isolating. They are not listening to others – their superiors at work, their loved ones at home, elders, saints or prophets.
They disbelieve, mistrust and refuse to listen or take advice. They think that they have freedom and can do whatever they like. In truth, they are tied hand and foot because they have succumbed to the sin of pride.
I remember being present at the filming of a documentary about Elder Nikolai Gurianov. Some older women there were planting a tree. Elder Nikolay came to give advice, but they did not listen. “Relax, Elder. We know how to do it better than you,” they said.
Out of pride, not only do we isolate ourselves from others, but we estrange ourselves from God as well. To break our self-isolation, we need to look for God's will, knowing full well that it does not always coincide with ours. We must be able to say, "Let Your Will be done", no matter how painful it might be for us not to do our own thing. We must listen to God when He says to us: “Go in a different direction. Do a different thing. Do not do your will, as it will not ultimately be to your benefit.” We must listen to God to gain freedom and inner peace.
Do God’s will, and there will be no accidents in our lives. No longer will we go out and catch a virus from somebody else by chance. A Christian will accept his illness as a necessity and an experience in humility. No illness is an accident. Looking at the ill and the departing, one asks oneself, “what was God’s will for them?” At that point, it becomes clear to us that all things that happen in our lives are providential, and not even a hair of our head will perish without God’s will.
We have our intentions, but may God’s will prevail. So let us continue our journey. Let us follow the way of Christ and His resurrection tirelessly. We have many good things to which we can look forward. The fullness of our life in this world and in eternity is reflected in the church cycle. Living by this cycle is a great way to appreciate the joy of living in God. It would be sheer ingratitude to complain, after all that, that we are unhappy or have not been given our just reward or appreciation. So let us say to one another: “Christ is Risen! Truly He has Risen!"
Glory to You, O Lord, Glory to You!
Do we realise the importance of articulating before God the actions that are essential and indispensable for us...?
Christ is Risen! The Paschal season is going on, and we keep fighting for the joy and the hope that we can hear in the words “Christ is Risen!” We want to affirm this truth about God and the fact that He defeated death.
The reality is often different from our wishes. It is cruel to say to someone who is terminally ill, "You are going to get well." Instead, to talk to the person about their eternal destination is to express deep and genuine love.
Bowing before an icon, we do not worship matter or the talent of the painter, but the Creator of Matter. We venerate the Mother of God and the saints. Every human being is an image of God, and therefore an icon.
More likely than not, we will not see our situation in the same way as the Prodigal Son did. Perhaps our path towards holiness should start with an exercise in introspection.
At some point in our lives, we will find God’s grace and make steady progress in our spiritual and worldly lives. Our hearts will rejoice. Hope and faith will dwell in them, and there will be no room for despair.
In most cases, we know the truth about our dignity but are too afraid to say it. Instead, we say to ourselves, reassuringly, "I am doing okay." We must be born again. I wish that all of us could be reborn with a new idea of dignity and beauty.