At some stage, the biblical Simeon began to doubt that a virgin could give birth to the incarnate God, and then the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ of God. A pious and devout man, he waited for many years for this prophesy to come true, hoping that His meeting with the Lord would take place someday. Finally, when he was old and infirm, he came to the temple at the behest of the Holy Spirit and saw the Holy Virgin with the Infant Jesus in her arms. When Simeon held the infant, he breathed with relief. All his doubts disappeared without a trace. It was the moment of his meeting with the Lord.
The Meeting of the Lord is the feast of our coming together with the Saviour. It is an event that opens our eyes to the reality of our salvation in the incarnate Lord, as it did for the righteous Simeon as he observed Him resting in the arms of His mother. It affirms that we can all unite with Him if we so wish.
So how may we know if we have met Jesus in person? There are no words to describe such a meeting in theory. The only way to know is to live it and experience this meeting first-hand. The slightest dents and scratches on an otherwise smooth surface become visible in the bright sun. Likewise, our slightest sins, infirmities and imperfections will come out in the presence of the Lord. His light makes visible to us our deception, pride, wrath and jealousy. Our meeting with the Lord becomes our source of joy when we acknowledge the weakness of our spirit, but also keeps alive in us the trust that our Saviour has not rejected us. By keeping our minds in hell but not despairing - as Saint Silouan of Mount Athos taught - we will find hope and reassurance.
But today, most people view their relationship with God with pragmatism and expect their meeting with Him to fulfil their everyday wishes and solve problems. Nothing can be further from the truth. Even the best, most humble and generous desires that we ever could imagine, may not do us much good if fulfilled. In Pushkin's "Tale about the fisherman and the fish", the fish refused to run the fisherman's errands indefinitely, even though she owed the fisherman her life. But God owes us nothing; it is us who are indebted to Him. Still, many people see him as some helicopter parent coming to fulfil our desires at their first request. Sadly, they pass this perception on to their children, thwarting their discovery of the true God, the giver of eternal life.
On one of my visits to a parish in my diocese, I saw a display of children's letters to God. As I was reading the letters, one of them caught my eye. It was from a nine-year-old boy. He wrote, "Lord, I have written to you several times, but I have not heard from you once. Do you still care?" These naive words of a child mask a distorted view of the relationship between man and God that the boy must have learned from the world of adults. I would tell him that he was right in sharing his thoughts with the Lord, and that keeping a conversation with Him was the best thing in life he could do. But I would also say that underrating the Lord as if He were some friends who had not met his execrations was not a good idea. The righteous Simeon waited 300 years but did not complain once. Instead, he spent all this time preparing himself for this most spectacular event in his life. Lastly, I would suggest that the Lord could also have some expectations from him, like reconsidering his attitude to Him or finding genuine faith.
In another letter, I read: "Lord, You created money, but in our family, we do not have any!" How would I respond to that child? I could say that money was not an invention of the Lord, but of the people. The Lord loves the rich and poor equally. He wants us to learn to be merciful and help those in need. One does not obey the will of God by being indifferent to the pains of another, and material wealth does not always bring us peace and joy. I would also point out that money cannot buy us some of the best things in our lives, like the beauty of the sunrise, unselfish friendship, or the love of our parents.
People who spend all their lives crying over things they do not have may never know what it is to be happy. To live happily, seek out the opportunities to help another, give your life to others by assisting those in need, and do not expect praise, gratitude or other rewards in return. Be charitable for the sake of God, simply because He wants us to be kind and caring. By following this advice, you will accumulate the richness of the spirit, which, unlike material wealth, no one will be able to take away.
"I am so tired," wrote another ten-year-old. "I study all the time, but do not know why I do it." He shares with God his problem - finding meaning in his life. He does not seem to find the external good to justify his work and effort. What reassurance could I give him? To promise him an easy life would be misleading and unfair. We all encounter difficulties, obstacles and sorrows at every stage of our lives. But they are not pointless. They can bring us closer to God and lead us to some positive purpose with which we came into this world. Studying can be arduous and it can test our endurance, but it is our only way to acquire the knowledge and skills to be of service to others. But through our hard work at studying, we also make interesting discoveries and increase our chances of eventually finding an occupation that we would find exciting and joyful.
The Lord is all-powerful, and He can perform any miracle He chooses. But it is not our purpose in life to seek fulfilment of our every desire. We live to break out from the prison of our passions and sin and fulfil the Lord's will by achieving unity with Him.
And when we meet Christ, as the righteous Simeon did, His limitless love for all people will lift all questions and doubts of His benevolence. As we progress in our journey, let us count on God's help. But let us also remember the importance of our own effort to bring forth our meeting with God, the ultimate event in our lives.
Kliment, Metropolitan of Kaluga and Borovsk
Saint Nicholas continues to teach us valuable lessons and has many more in store for the people today, and for generations to come. He lived a long time ago yet today he is still one of the most widely known and revered Christian Saints.
On September 8th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. This wonderworking icon is one of the most venerated in Russia and, according to tradition, dates from the dawn of Christianity.
As we pray for our dead, we remember that all the living will enter eternal life in their time. We also realise how vain and fragile our earthly lives are, how finite are our worldly comforts and wealth, how small are many of our daily concerns.
On 28 November, we enter the Nativity Fast in which we prepare ourselves for the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord by focusing on abstinence, prayer and almsgiving. The fast lasts until 7 January.
As the feast day of Saint Vladimir the Great of Kiev is approaching, we are preparing to sing at the all-night vigil and the Divine Liturgy the hymns glorifying his great feat and his apostolic ministry in this part of the world.
May 23rd (June 5th) is the day when the Orthodox commemorate a very special Belarusian saint, St Euphrosinia of Polotsk. As you may know, the abbess of our Convent bears the saint’s name, which means that it is her name day as well.
The birth of the Holy Theotokos is very special. She bore and brought into the world our Saviour, son of man and son of God. Through her, humanity reestablished the intimate connection to Him in the flesh and blood.