It never ceases to astound me what a striking contrast exists between earthly events and their interpretation based on worldly knowledge, and the understanding of these same events based on heavenly wisdom and knowledge. So great is this contrast that even where two people are witnesses to the same words or events, little can be shared in the common experience. By the grace of God all things are given new meaning and life to those who hear His Word.
Progression and Regression
Human intelligence has the capacity to thwart us, to cheat us, to mislead us. To suggest that we are progressing when in fact we are regressing and set on a plane of a steep decline. It seems that all sources of worldly knowledge, logical frames of reference and our interpretations, carry the capacity to interfere with the acquisition of what has been freely offered by God. What God offers is encumbered in no way except by our own self serving nature and delusions about ourselves and the world around us. If we put our own interests aside we will find that God allows us to follow those things which are beyond our human understanding and reasoning. We do then what does not come naturally in the world, so that the world can by no means understand us. We should contemplate this carefully, for it is nothing short of miraculous; that by the grace and love of God, those who learn to love Him are transformed by faith to fashion their lives according to His wisdom, which surpasses all understanding. To be united to God changes the course of our life forever; and by placing our trust in Him, we are shown a direction which our human frail nature can not of its own accord construct. There is real mystery involved in the relationship God has allowed us to share with Him. This gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us and to transcend the application of our intelligence and worldly energy beyond its natural boundaries and limitations. The Lord transforms our weakness to strength. For God fills those vessels that have been emptied of pride and that have called on Him for protection in the fight against all evil. St Paul heard the voice of the Lord in his pain saying to him “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
When the Lord Dwells in Us
When the Lord dwells in us, our indifference is transformed to compassion and love for one another. Our earthly pursuits are transformed to heavenly pursuits. By the grace of God we are transformed into instruments through which God is glorified by the works of salvation. These works are the active power and energy of God working through us, His people, for the salvation of the world by the spreading of His Holy Word.
From early childhood to adulthood, parents compare their children with others in respect to their academic achievement, sporting performance, successful careers and so on, but all this counts for nothing if the gifts that are evident, or not so evident, are not nurtured and directed to serving God. It seems that in this day and age all is given to feeding, clothing and educating children but little is done by way of their spiritual upbringing. The result of this is evident amongst our young people who appear to possess little or no knowledge of their faith but seem to know much about worldly affairs. Their claim to Orthodoxy is without foundation because Orthodoxy requires the application of “correct worship.” In many cases there is a complete absence of any worship.
We live without thanksgiving to the Most High. This is because we apply the gifts given to us to serving our own ends, self interests, glory and power, and do not use the gifts to serve and glorify Him who came to save us.
Living Dangerously and Recklessly
If our lives are not God centred, we live dangerously and recklessly. But those who have no knowledge of God cannot perceive this danger, because they live in peace and harmony with the world. Their lives complement the world’s so that they are unable to respond to God’s loving voice, for they have become strangers to Him. Our Lord told us “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11) “He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. And when He brings out His own sheep He goes out before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.”
I was recently speaking to a medical specialist who greatly valued his work in improving people’s lives by restoring their physical health. He takes great pride in his work and his good record with the patients of his practice. Unfortunately however, (though it worries him none) despite his interest to extend and improve the quality of life of his patients, he shows no interest in life beyond death, only life before it; thereby valuing the finite and not the infinite. People who think like this cannot acknowledge or value the prospect of life after death. For them, life after death is not a concern, most probably because they perceive they have no direct control over it, or that there is no truth in it. Unbeknown to them all their life’s works are rendered worthless.
It is not intelligence that brings us to the knowledge of the truth, far from it: intelligence may in fact lock us in to temporal outlooks. The knowledge of the truth can only be revealed by God to a meek and humble heart. This is something, which the world cannot comprehend because the truth is only revealed to us through faith and humility, which is not based on intellectual capacity or human reasoning but a softened and repentant heart. The world on the other hand, is interested in exalting the person, whereas the heavenly kingdom demands humility and love. The Lord declared this to us when He said “I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”
Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou