LOVE

“However hard I try, I find it impossible to construct anything greater than these three words, ‘Love one another’ — only to the end, and without exceptions: then all is justified and life is illumined, whereas otherwise it is an abomination and a burden.”

~ St Maria Skobtsova of Paris

Keeping Pascha

“We have celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and I am thinking about what has inspired believers in our church during the last one thousand years. Today is exactly the day when we must ask the question, like believers before us: Why are we living on the earth? Why are we working hard? Why are we trying to have a good time? Why are we suffering? What is the meaning of life? There are many theories, many explanations from all the philosophers, but none of them fulfill us. All of them stop at the point of death. But our soul longs to keep living. It wants to be eternal. It wants to live without end. Life has meaning only if there is eternal life. If there isn’t eternal life, no matter how beautiful your life, at the end it is just poor life. It’s a pity sometimes to stand before a dead person who worked hard in life, did good works, suffered, was in many battles, but in the end saw no meaning, and he is dead and no one can help him. Great Solomon wisely said that the living dog is more blessed than the dead human. So we are happy, we are blessed, because we believe in eternal life. We know that the life of people is not life only until death. The soul doesn’t disappear. It lives. It lives forever. This is so whether you believe it or not and it is true whether you want it or not, true whether you are a believer or an unbeliever. So no matter what kind of life you lived before death, you enter eternal life, and not only your soul but your body. We come into eternal life in both body and soul.
We celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and we rejoice in it. And we see in it not only His resurrection but our resurrection.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the same as our resurrection. We believe that. We believe that in Christ each one of us will stand up. Many people do not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ or in the resurrection of anyone. I don’t want to give them proof or argue with them. The main thing about their conviction, the thing their unbelief is founded on, is that it’s impossible for a dead person to come back to life. How can it happen? How can something that is just dust and bones live again? And what about bodies that are now only ashes? Or were cut into many pieces? Or were eaten by beasts or fish? How can such people’s bodies be made whole and come back to life? Our brain can’t overcome this dilemma. How is it possible? But then we can ask another question: What about everything that exists? All this beauty? There are so many things we don’t understand and can’t explain. Most things we can’t explain.
What do you think? Isn’t this huge miracle we live in as big a miracle as the resurrection? Do you think creation is easier than resurrection? If God is strong enough to create everything from nothing, to create the whole world and the whole universe, do you think it is difficult to resurrect what He has already created?
So don’t be discouraged by anyone who says it’s impossible. God has the power to create everything.
“So, brothers and sisters, we believe in eternal life. But it isn’t an easy belief. It is a belief that gives us responsibilities. We have to realize that each person, whether or not he wants God, must answer to God for his life–what he did, what didn’t do. He must stand judgment. It is a weakness not to believe in eternal life. Even if you don’t believe, it is no justification when you stand before God with sins and horrible deeds. Don’t imagine that you will be unjudgeable.
Our people have lived by great ideals. The big ideal that has been living in our people for a thousand years is to live in God’s truth. Not human truth. God’s truth. Our ancestors mostly wanted to live according to God’s truth. They suffered greatly. Many terrible things happened. There were dreadful persons. But somehow, no matter what sorrows there were, they were still trying to live according to God’s truth.
We need this too. God’s truth has to lead us. We have to have a spiritual life even if we are surrounded by an unspiritual life. We need to have Christian families even if we are surrounded by families that are breaking down. We need to work hard and sincerely, not for praise or money, but for the heart and soul of our neighbors.
Let us not think about bread for ourselves. Bread is something we need, yes, but the person who thinks about bread for himself has lost the spiritual dimension of life. But if he thinks of bread for his neighbors, then he is leading a spiritual life–a life of love, a life of caring for others. This is the spiritual life.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only a joy for us, it is a great responsibility and a great task. It leads us to prepare for the Last Judgment. Let the Resurrection fill our hearts with belief in eternal life so that truth can take root in our hearts. Let us not only think about it in our minds but feel it in our hearts.”
~ Metropolitan Filaret, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, Kiev

Within Reach of Eternity

“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and blossom as the rose.  It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.”(Isaiah 35:1-2)
“Only if the sky can forgo its stars, earth its grass, honeycombs their honey, streams their water, and breasts their milk, will our tongues be able to renounce their praise of the saints, in whom God is the strength of life and the fame of death.” (Saint Paulinus of Nola, 405A.D.)
“Even the earth and sand over Saint Nektary’s grave are imbued with the wondrous grace of God.  The Saint’s spiritual children recounted the following incident to me.  One old woman lived in Moscow in a small wooden house.  Seeing a huge construction project of many-storied buildings around her, and fearing for her little house, she began to beg for Saint Nektary’s intercession.  Sprinkling earth from the Saint’s grave around her dwelling, she began to pray earnestly to the Saint that he would help her to remain living in her little house, in which she had lived for so long.  And a miracle occurred.  The huge construction project reached her house, stepped over it, and kept going.  Only after her death was this house demolished.
I often had occasion to be the guest of an old woman who lived in Moscow on Mir Prospect Street in a wooden house.  She also did not want to move to another place.  She sprinkled earth from Saint Nektary’s grave in her room, and begged him to protect her.  And she continued living in that house up to her death.  Now imagine this, when she had reposed the house was torn down, and in it place, located practically in the very valuable city center, a flower garden was built.  I saw this with my own eyes.”
(Miracles of Saint Nektary of Optina, by Archpriest Leonty, Rector of Holy Transfiguration Church)
My dears, the Saints are close.  “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”  We live immersed within, and interpenetrated by, the spiritual world, the heavenly realms.  “Commune with the righteous”, Saint Isaac of Syria counsels, “through them you will approach God.”  The saints show us how to live.  They are theology incarnate.  Contact with the holy, communion with Divine Grace, is a tangible, palpable aid in life.

In the words of one mathematician and scientist:  “The distance between us and the spiritual world, the world of saints and angels, is considerably less than our outstretched arm.” (Boris Rauschenbach *)

With God, our soul touches eternity and it is as if the fabric of this material world were torn and the door to the eternal world opened — where there is no death, no loss, no illness, no time, and then nothing of this world can make you believe that the world is nothing more than mere matter, complex and simple chemical reactions, and a mere recurrence of living and dead substances.
The Saints are not an escape into a bygone age.  They are a strength of faith and courage on the path of Christian struggle. By tapping these well springs of sanctity, our hearts learn to burn with love for Our Lord Jesus Christ.
(*Boris Viktorovich Rauschenbach, 1915-2001, was a preeminent physicist and rocket engineer, who developed the theory, and instruments, for interplanetary flight control and navigation in 1955-1960s.  He is also notable for his studies in Christian Theology and Theory of Art)