From The Blog

Mission Monthly – June-July 2008

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have to come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

The Gospel of St. John 6:68-69

I attended the Monona Memorial Day parade with Anthony and a few others from church. After two (long) hours of floats, marching bands, candy throwing and advertising, I can honestly say I was notably impressed by the outward show of patriotism that was created by the hundreds of people, under the sentry of dozens of American flags lining the street, seemingly united in celebration to honor those who have defended our freedom and “American” way of life. I was, however, also saddened; knowing the difficulties and disunity our country is going through spiritually, politically, economically, morally, environmentally, revealed to me the superficial side of this “parade”. The above words of the Apostle Peter, and the context of this conversation, came to mind and reminded me that as thankful as I am to be American, being an American does not answer the most important questions of this life or the life to come. In an odd way this Memorial Day reminded me why I am a Christian. I would love to further meditate on this but the following words of Archimandrite Sophrony from his book, His Life is Mine, capture many of my thoughts:

“The world continues to flounder in the vicious circle of its material problems—economic, class, nationalistic and the like—because people refuse to follow Christ. [So many people] have no wish to become like Him in all things: to become His brethren and through Him the beloved children of the Father and the chosen habitation of the Holy Spirit. In God’s pre-eternal Providence for man we are meant to participate in His Being— to be like unto Him in all things. By its very essence this design on God’s part for us excludes the slightest possibility of compulsion or predestination. And we as Christians must never renounce our goal lest we lose the inspiration to storm the kingdom of heaven. Experience shows all too clearly that once we Christians start reducing the scope of the revelation given to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit, we gradually cease to be attracted by the Light made manifest to us. If we are to preserve our saving hope, we must be bold Genuine Christian life is lived ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4.23), and so can be continued in all places and at all times since the divine commandments of Christ possess an absolute character. In other words, there are and can be no circumstances anywhere on earth which could make observance of the commandments impossible.

“In its eternal essence Christian life is divine spirit and truth and therefore transcends all outward forms. But man comes into this world as [a blank slate], to ‘grow, wax strong in spirit, be filled with wisdom’(cf Luke 2.40), and so the necessity arises for some kind of organization to discipline and co-ordinate the corporate life of human beings still far from perfect morally, intellectually and, more important, spiritually. Our fathers in the Church and the apostles who taught us to honor the true God were well aware that, though the life of the Divine Spirit excels all earthly institutions, this same Spirit still constructs for Himself a dwelling place of a tangible nature to serve as a vessel for the preservation of His gifts. This habitation of the Holy Spirit is the Church, which through centuries of tempest and violence has watched over the precious treasure of Truth as revealed by God. (We need not be concerned at this point with zealots who value framework rather than content.) The Church’s function is to lead the faithful to the luminous sphere of Divine Being. The Church is the spiritual centre of our world, encompassing the whole history of man. Those who through long ascetic struggle to abide in the Gospel precepts have become conscious of their liberty as sons of God

“In Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit God gave us the full and final revelation of Himself. His Being now for us is the First Reality, incomparably more evident than all the transient phenomena of this world. We sense His divine presence both within us and without: in the supreme majesty of the universe, in the human face, in the lightning flash of thought. He opens our eyes that we may behold and delight in the beauty of His creation. He fills our souls with love towards all mankind. His indescribably gentle touch pierces our heart. And in the hours when His imperishable Light illumines our heart we know that we shall not die. We know this with a knowledge impossible to prove in the ordinary way but which for us requires no proof: since the Spirit Himself bears witness within us.”

In truth Memorial Day is nothing more than a “transient phenomena of this world.” I can think of no better time to be reminded of these important thoughts as we celebrate Pentecost and the calling of the Apostles, and us, to the only life that is True: as Christians seeking to “become conscious of [our] liberty as sons of God.”