Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh


10 October 1967

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

If so hard, so absolutely exacting are the claims of the Gospel, who then can be saved? This is the question which the Apostles asked from the Lord, and His reply was both encouraging and also so disheartening, for those who wish to achieve things with their own strength. He said, this is impossible for men, but all things are possible for God. There is a breach of continuity as it were between things heavenly and things earthly; things earthly never grow to become heavenly; heaven must come down to us for us to be filled with what heaven is. The Spirit is not the highest point of our soul, the life of eternity is not simply the fullness of the life of time. Things of God are divine and we can only receive them, possess them as a gift, not reach out to them or conquer them simply by growing heavenwards; when we try do so, we build a new Tower of Babel and we go astray and we do not reach to heaven.

But how then can we become capable of receiving what God is ready to give? In the Epistle of St Paul, we are told that it is grace Divine that wrote all that the Apostles wrote, that it is the power and the action of God Himself and not human sagacity and strength and cleverness, so that the only way in which we can fulfil our vocation and become what we are meant to be, citizen of heaven, sons of God by adoption, is to become capable of receiving the grace of God which is given us so freely, so generously, but which we receive with such scarcity because our hearts are narrow, and we are closed. We must learn to open up, to become receptive and this is what St Paul meant when He said, in the words, spoken to him by the Lord Himself. "My power is made manifest in weakness". It is only when we become receptive that the divine power can become active, otherwise we block the way to God's actions. But it is not only weakness. We all are weak, but we are not at all receptive; there is a special way in which we must become weak in order to be receptive and I will try to explain it or to hint at it by three examples.

The first is not far as it may seem from concrete, strict reality. If you remember that in Scripture, the word which we read “The Spirit” means the blowing of the wind, the blowing of God, the action of God, then this example will perhaps make sense: when we sail a boat, we become capable of directing it thanks to the wind that blows; if we display a sail, this sail is capable of catching the wind because it is frail, because it is supple, because it can be directed into any direction by the wind himself. We must only learn so to dispose it as to catch the wind. This is a first type of frailty which is helpful for us in our search of God, be supple and yet learn to be perceptive where the wind blows, where the spirit breeze and open wide so as to be filled with it, so as to allow to be filled with it, so as to allow the Spirit Himself to direct the course of our boat. But very often our weakness is still there and yet we try to be strung and wise and active and it prevents God from doing what He could easily do if only we did not help in an untimely way. You have certainly seen how a little child is given his first lessons in writing: a pencil is put into his hand, the mother takes both the little hand and the pencil into hers and moves. And so long as the child does not know what the mother intends to do, as long the hand is limped in the mother’s hand how beautiful are the lines! Straight, free. But a moment comes when the child imagines that he knows what the mother intends to do and then the child becomes helpful, it pushes and it pulls and the lines go wrong. This is also what we do continuously: the Lord is trying to direct our hand, to make us write the right story of our life in the Book of Life, but we imagine that we know better, that we know exactly what He intends and we are so helpful! And so ugly is the writ in this Book of Life. If only we can learn to have our hand directed until we truly understand what God means to do, until we truly understand what the lines are and what the writ is! But we do not and our imaginary, our very frail strength appears to be strong enough to blur what God is writing with His hand. These two examples show that we must be frail with intelligence, frail with open mind, frail with all the suppleness we are capable of, watchful; and then we will learn first and become creative afterwards. Strength and limitation, strength and deadness always go together; life and frailty are always associated to each other.

An old writer gave an example of this when he said: look at an oak, how strong and powerful, and yet, how little life there is in the trunk and how protected, and yet imprisoned this life is by the trunk; and look at the vine: how frail the little branches and the terminal twigs are, and they are full of life... This is what we must learn, to acquire this wide, this intelligent understanding, weakness and frailty, to discern the pattern of the divine writ and then, the salvation comes because salvation lies in the perfect harmony there is between the will of God and the will of man, the full harmony between Him who is all things, and us, who are called to become partakers of the divine nature, partakers of the life divine.

May God grant us to overgrow our weakness and our illusory strength, to unlearn the false creativeness that has made the world in which we live so frightening, and to learn that alert, vigilant suppleness and frailty through which God can work freely and build the Kingdom of God, beginning and within the city of man. Amen.

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