I am very excited, I have just discovered the writings of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh!
I distinctly remember my dear unlettered mother going on about him when I was a feckless teenager. Of course, I didn’t listen to her, I was a standard teenage ass (whole) and I still wonder how she had ever heard of him, he being a Russian Orthodox Bishop, of all things, and she a mere suburban housewife with a part time auxiliary nursing job.
Anyway, this morning it entered my head to discover who this strangely titled guy was-he died on my mother’s 75th birthday in 2003. What a lucky expedition this has proven to be! Here is one of his sermons from 14th October 1990, the feast of the:
Protecting Veil of the Mother of God
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Time and again we ask ourselves what is the aim of the Christian life: what can we do to be true Christians? A simple, but very realistic reply is to say “Fulfil all the commandments, and you will be a Christian”.
And yet, we may fulfil all the commandments, we may feel that we are right before God, but if our heart is not in what we do, we have not done what a Christian is called to do, to be, because the commandments which Christ left us are not drilling orders. In the commandments He reveals to us what we should do if our heart were pure, if we communed with God, if we were true to ourselves. These are the things — He says — that should become natural to you, and therefore, you can judge yourselves by comparing not your deeds to the commandments, but your heart to the inspiration that would make them natural. And so it is not simply by doing things that this is achieved, but by becoming the kind of person for whom these things are their true nature; in other words, by willing to be the true, undistorted image of Christ.
But where do we begin then? It is easy to be doers — how can we change our hearts, how can we find inspiration indeed to do it? If we think of God, if we think that God has so loved us that, to use the words of Saint Paul, He came to save us while we were still His enemies, that He gave his life that we may live free from evil; then what should be our first reaction, our first response? I think, at that level we should say, “Let my whole life be evidence to God that I have understood: understood that He believed in me and felt it was worth giving His own life for me, that He hoped that I would respond, and He loved me unto life and unto death.”
If we have understood this, not only the love of God, but the faith He has in us, the hope He has placed upon us, then our first step should be to build our life in such a way as to be a joy for God; if we only could think of our lives as a way of giving God a little joy — not the exulting joy of perfect victory, but a joy which a mother, a father, a guide has when a child, a youth, a grown up man or woman says, “I do understand, I have understood, and now all my life I will strive to show my understanding”. And showing our understanding of God’s love, of God’s faith and hope does not consist in singing praises to Him; it consists in making all our life a hymn of gratitude, so that seeing what we do, how gradually we become new people, how our hearts, full of gratitude and of joy, make us shine with an inner light, then we will have begun on our spiritual life.
There is a passage in the Gospel, in which we are told, “Let your light so shine before men that seeing this light they may give glory to the Father Who is in Heaven…”. What is this light which we must reveal, unveil, let freely shine around us? It is not our own light, it is not manifesting our intelligence, our human warmth, our talents; it is becoming so filled with what is God’s, so transparent to His light, that His light may shine freely, and not be kept, as it were, in the darkness of our soul. Again, — it is the only way we can cast light, share light with others, because our talents, our intelligence, our hearts, may well be below those of others, while this light is life, this light is enlightenment, this light can help others to become new.
So let us begin with simply being actively grateful to God, — actively grateful: not emotionally, but in deed, to the core of our being, in every thought, in heart, in our will and action.
To me, these are the simple sagacious words of a Saint. I strongly suspect that God is no respecter of denominations, and that when He chooses a soul to speak for him, he doesn’t necessarily choose a Roman Catholic.
Please visit Metropolitan Anthony’s website to read more of his sermons, and his interesting biography.