Monday, September 3, 2012

Wisdom from Metropolitan John, part 3

All over the world, people are alone. Although they live in big cities, among millions of people, still they are alone, because being alone is not necessarily being alone physically. Divorced from God, we are becoming isolated from each either – and even in our own families. There are people who live in deserts, but they are together with other people, because they are in communion with God. And there are people who live in cities, yet they are alone. Loneliness is a great suffering and a real unhappiness.

Remember the paralyzed man in the Gospel? He was living in the city, where there were maybe a million people during the festival, and still he was alone. He told the Lord: “I have no one to put me into the pool.” And millions and millions of people are alone like him. Who will reach out to these people? Who will put them into the pool of salvation? And how can these people relate to each other if the light of Christ is not given to them? Without the light of Christ we cannot built a community. Living together is not the same as being together. People in prison live together but they are not a community. It is the duty of every Orthodox Christian to be close to every lonely human being.

. . . I remember an 80-year-old lady who told me she had not spoken to anyone for three months. She had nobody to talk to, and you can imagine her spiritual state, being alone and abandoned by all, in our city where Orthodox Christians are the majority. Imagine – we can be in the midst of people and still be alone. It is the duty of every Orthodox Christian to be close to every lonely human being. Only by being together and building a real community can we be true Christians – unus christianus nullus christianus.

Preparing for eternity
It is necessary to give a witness to the world because, in today’s world, we have lost the meaning of eternity. People today think only of life’s problems, which often dominate everything they do. Usually we live no more than 100 years in this world, and do almost nothing for what is most important thing. Look at what people do for their retirement. They pay for years and years, so that they can receive something for a few years. But what do we do for our eternal retirement?!? And this eternal retirement will come! And soon! We have to focus on this other, because if we lose this perspective, we lose our souls. It sounds like a paradox but as much as we see our life in the dimension of eternity, only then can we can understand and enjoy our present time. When we lose the perspective of the eternity, we do not understand and cannot enjoy the present time, because we drown in it.

Meaning in life and death
I remember reading Man’s Search for Meaning by the famous psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. During his time in a Nazi concentration camp, observing both himself and those around him, he wrote, “I saw in myself and in others that the basic need for a human being is not pleasure, as Freud thought, or power, as Adler thought, but it is the need to have a reason to live and a reason to die.” And only faith can give these two reasons. Only a life in Christ can give us a reason to live, and can give us a reason to die. If we have both these reasons, our life will be full. And if our life is full, regardless of any difficulties we face, we will have joy.

All of these quotes and those in the two preceding posts of this series come from Metropolitan John's article, “Giving a Witness of Faith to the World”, which was based on the Missions Lecture he delivered last year at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

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