Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wisdom from Metropolitan John, part 2

Speaking the Truth
We know how costly the phrase “Thus says the Lord” was in the Old Testament. People didn’t want to hear it. Kings and people liked false prophets because they said what they wanted to hear, and we are often the same. We often do not speak the truth because we are aware that people will not accept it. So we tell them what they want to hear. By doing so, we are lying to them, and so becoming false prophets. We must be aware that our duty is to be the prophets of the Most High, and this is surely a costly office. Speaking the truth is always is costly, and people do not do it for that reason. But this cost is nothing compared with the joy we receive from the Lord. Why? Because we have spoken the truth, and speaking the truth is very important. In these days of lies and half truths, people desperately need the truth, and if we do not speak it, who will? My beloved sisters and brothers, try always to speak the truth. The truth always heals, and it will heal us and others.

Freedom and Boundaries
We have to teach people about the crucial things of life: life, death, freedom and so on. Now we have freedom to worship in Albania and people are free, at least outwardly. But freedom, like anything else, can be abused. People were not used to freedom and we had to teach them that the freedom should have some boundaries – not to limit their freedom, but to help them to be free. I tried to give them some examples. In Albania, the roads are mostly in the mountains and some of those that run alongside precipices have railings or walls for protection. These are not to limit the freedom of the drivers, but to protect them. So too, the boundaries set by God’s commandments are not to limit our freedom, but to help us, to save us and to make us free. All the commandments – “Don’t do that, don’t do this” – are to help us.

The Light of the World
The world today is in a deep confusion and in spiritual darkness. “You are the light of the world”, says the Lord. Without the light of God it is very hard to build other people – and this not only for Albania but for the entire world! Sometimes in Albania, it was more obvious because the destruction was physically apparent, but many times the destruction is spiritual and we do not see it, because we do not have spiritual eyes. And it is our duty, if we really believe that we have the light of Christ, to share this light with others. The world needs this divine light. Without this light the world becomes a scary place. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”, says the Lord. Commenting on these words the holy Bishop of Ochrid Nikolai Velimirovic writes: “As long as he is in a man’s soul, he is the light of that man. As long as he is in the midst of a people, he is the light of that people. As long as he is in a school, he is the light of that school. As long as he is in a workshop, he is the light of the work and the workers. Anywhere, from which he withdraws his presence, a total darkness prevails: the human soul without him becomes a hell; a people without him becomes a pack of famished and ravening wolves; a school without him becomes a poison-factory of folly; a workshop without him becomes a place of grumbling and hatred. And think of hospitals and prisons without him – they become dark caverns of despair! Indeed, whoever thinks on the days of his life, of days without Christ and days without him, this man has in himself a witness to the truth of those words of the Lord’s: ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’” Now, more than ever the world needs the light of Christ. The greater the darkness, the greater is our need for light.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wisdom from Metropolitan John, part 1

After Fr. Luke returned from his most recent visit to Albania, his next several daily meditations opened with short quotations from Metropolitan John of Kor├ža. The first three of these quotations are reprinted below. More will follow.

Preaching with Words and Life
People are not impressed by words, because we can say anything but mean nothing. We transmit the Good News through our personal life. People are touched by this. I remember reading about a holy bishop from this region from 200 years ago. There was a Muslim agha, a Turkish lord, who was friends with this bishop, and one day the Muslim decided to become a Christian. The bishop asked him, “Why? I never preached to you about Christ.” To which the agha responded, “Yes, you didn’t preach to me with words, but you preached each day with your life, and from your life I have understood you have the Truth.”

Sanctification through Sacrifice
We have to serve to people with courage regardless of sacrifices. Sacrifices for the sake of Christ will not harm us, but they are the only way to reach him. Sacrifice is not an end, it’s a means. Like the cross, it’s not an end in itself, it’s a means. The end is the resurrection. As Archbishop Anastasios says, “The Resurrection is not an event that happened after the cross, it’s in the cross.” And the sacrifice is the means of sanctification. The meaning of the two words is the same. Sacrifice: sacra (holy) and fic, a form of facere (make). The same meaning is in the word sanctify, sanctificare: sancta (holy) and ficare, another form of facere (make). So in order to sanctify something, we should sacrifice. Sanctification does not happen after but in the sacrifice.

Sharing the Light of Christ
We have to share our faith and the light of Christ with those in darkness. If we really believe in it, we will share it. Unfortunately, the reason why we don’t try is maybe because we don’t believe, because our words are only on our lips and not rooted in our hearts. Someone who has tasted the divine light of God, and has experienced the joy that comes from this light, will find it difficult not to share it with others. I can say that if we share the light of God with the others, it is a sign that the light is in us; if we don’t share it, it is not.