Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh


26 June 1988

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

How great must have been the faith of the Centurion who came to Christ asking for a healing of his servant, whom he loved, who was faithful to him. He  heard Christ say, ‘I shall come and work a miracle in thy home’, and he could answer, ‘Don't come! A word of Thine would be enough to restore the health of my servant!’

This is an event of the life of Christ; it is an event that touched not only the Centurion, not only his servant, but every member of the household. He came without Christ, and the servant was healed.

Who of us, in dire,  agonising pain is capable of turning to the Lord, present Him his request, ask Him to show mercy and to manifest His power, and when the Lord says to us, in our hearts, ‘I shall come, I shall work this miracle for you’ - who of us would have the courage to say, ‘No, Lord! Thy word is enough!'...

We have the Gospel, we have the example of the Saints of whom many, many built a life of saintliness on one saying of the Gospel which they took se­riously and to which they devoted all their energies, all their life. We have the Gospel, a word, that word that can heal a life, that can transform
people, that can transfigure relationships, and human souls, and human lives. Who of us ever said to the Lord, ‘Thy Gospel suficeth unto me’? And how often we turn to the Lord and say, ‘Yes, Lord - I have read it all, but come Thyself, speak to me, speak a word which is not written, speak a word that would like iron or fire penetrate into my heart! Speak again, again, again, Lord!’.. And so, we pass by the whole Gospel, all the message of God, all the example of Christ, all that we see in the Apostles and the later Saints because we want a new revelation, a new word.

And you remember also how, when Christ commanded His disciples to cast a net into the sea and this net brought a multitude of fish, Saint Peter suddenly saw Who He was. He had heard it all, he had heard the Sermon on the Mountain, he had been with Christ from the beginning - and he saw only dimly who He was. At  that  moment, the moment of a material miracle he realised  Who  was in his boat, and he said, ‘Lord, leave this boat! I am a sinner, I am unworthy of Thy presence!’

And again, who of us, at moments when the Lord came close to us, have the thought of saying such words, realising because of the holiness of Christ, the holiness of God, how unworthy we are of Him, of His life, His teaching, His example, His death, His descent into hell, to the very rock bottom of evil. And this hell is not only an image; isn't it within us? Isn't there in us a darkness that needs more than enlightment - the Light of God, God, the light of the world.

Let us think of what we hear. I have just come back from Russia, and when­ever I come, I am awed by what I see there. Not by great services, but the people who for more than half a century have carried the burden of the cross, and how awe-inspiring - I was to say, how humiliating it is to one to has to speak to people whose  life  is a preaching of the Gospel, while one's own is a shame of Christ. Yes, it is true what the Gospel says that by our words shall we be judged, saved or condemned. How frightening it is to  have  by duty, by necessity to speak words of truth and to know that every word condemns you.

And so, when a priest comes out, makes a sign of the Cross, putting himself under the protection of the Crucifix, the death, the sacrificial love of Christ - pray for him who is to declare the Gospel, perhaps unto judgment and condemnation of self - and for the salvation of you souls. And then perhaps this prayer will sustain the preacher, and the preacher speaking God's own words, helped by the grace of God, may sustain your life and help you to reach Christ, not him: suddenly to realise that the preacher does not exist - there is only a message. Remember! Saint John the Baptist was not called a ‘preacher’ who proclaimed the word of God; it is said of him ‘a Voice, shouting in the wilderness’. It was not a man, it was a message. Receive the message, pass by the messenger, and receive the message as Christ describes, as good earth that engulfs the seed, feeds it and brings fruit, fruit of life: not of feelings, not of thoughts, but a life which is that of God incarnate, Christ's life in us. Amen.

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