Christ is Love. Christ is Joy. Christ is Light. He is the illumination of our souls and out r lives. Christ is the lighthouse that defeats the darkest and blackest of nights with His Divine light, for He says, “I am the Light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” As we begin to commemorate the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord, it is fitting that this morning’s Holy Gospel reading pertains to the receiving of sight of those blind.
The eyes are of great importance to the human body. Scripture references this from a spiritual perspective revealing, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.” When we allow our mind to descend into the depths of our heart, when the eyes of our soul transcend the physical eyes of our body, we will then no longer be slaves to the passions, fears and anxieties of this world. When the eye of our heart is full of light, we too become illumined with the Divine light of Christ through His grace and love.
As Orthodox Christians we have the opportunity to live in the fullness of this salvific experience through the Divine Liturgy and the partaking of Divine and Holy Communion, by frequent confessions, by prayerful recitation of the daily prayer life and the ‘Jesus Prayer,’ ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me and save me.’ As Orthodox Christians, we are offered the tools to acquire salvation. Before we get to this work, we must wear the belt of humility. Through humility and obedience to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church, our eyes will be sound and our whole life will be graced in light. We will persevere through any tragedy, tribulation or difficulty with this light as our guide. Elder Joseph the Hesychast, a holy monk of Athos, stressed the importance of this humility and self-emptying. He said, “The helping of others, the giving of alms, and all external goods don’t calm the arrogance of the heart. Humility of the mind, the pain of repentance, and the breaking of the will, however, humble the proud spirit.” In this true humility we lower ourselves and empty ourselves and yet are filled, overflowing with Christ’s grace and love. Then our alms will be prayerful offerings of true love and not the things of a braggart. On humility, Elder Philotheos writes, “The easiest, quickest and safest path to Heaven is humility. This is the only safe path.” Abandon yourself to Orthodoxy, to your faith, to Christ and be transformed.
The Lord continues, and says, “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is your darkness!” As we see time and time again, there is great sadness and darkness in this world. The Evil One, as a cunning and sly temptress, seeks to destroy each of us in his pathetic and dangerous darkness. Elder Joseph, in his wisdom again states, "Question yourself as to whether this faith is in you, or perhaps you are led by worldly wisdom. And if you leave all things in the hands of God, behold! You have acquired faith and undoubtedly, without any question, you will find God to be your helper. And so, even should you be tried a myriad of times and should Satan tempt you to abandon your faith, prefer death a thousand times more and don’t obey worldly wisdom. In this way the door of the mysteries will be opened to you and you will be amazed how the chains of worldly wisdom previously bound you. Now you will fly with divine wings above the earth and breathe the new air of freedom.”
Witnessing such savagery as has been seen of late, in this fallen world, may lead some to feel a distance from God, some may feel doubts and that the answers are no longer in our God, but in some agenda or political solution. Light is not to be found amongst the darkness, truth cannot be found amongst lies, life is not to be found among the dead. Yet the world continues to seek the living, among the dead? There are many voices crying out from the darkness, softly whispering to us, saying ‘I am the truth, I am the truth.’ But hear me dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must stand on guard. The Truth is not to be found in the unsound eyes of darkness. The Truth is not to be found in the political and theological lies that permeate this fallen world. The Truth is not to be found in the princes and kings, nor is the Truth to be found in the halls of congress, on the walls of the internet or in the religious books of cultic groups who, with a smile, hide their venomous teachings.
Orthodoxy shares nothing with these false ideologies and false gods. It is not in arrogance that we joyously and triumphantly chant the glorious hymn, “Τις θεός μέγας ως ο Θεός ημών;” Who is so great a God as our God? Our God did not come as some mighty and powerful king, nor did He come as a mighty warrior, He did not come into the world as a thief, liar or deceiver. Christ, through His love and compassion for all of humanity was born of a virgin, in a barn, in poverty, with no place to lay his head. He was mocked, He was scourged, He was betrayed, He was tortured and yet, from the Holy Cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them.” Who is so great a God as this God? The creator of everything, who gave Himself up for our salvation, to be intimately with us. This is the God who was revealed atop Tabor, this is the God who grants sight to the blind, speech to the mute, and hope for the hopeless.
Who is the god of the heretical group claiming to be Christian who has strayed dramatically from the truth, who is the god of the atheist, and hate-filled political activist, who is the god of the vengeful and angry, who is the god of a man who reigns fire upon the innocent? The Prince of this World is eagerly at work with his demons to drag us too into the net of his deception. Our world is a dark world, the eyes of the souls of so many are polluted and dark, and rather than seeking to know Christ intimately, seeking with an intense and Divine eros this Divine light, many turn to these false religions and so they dwell in a blind darkness of despair and stew in the toxic waters of vengeance, hatred and death.
Who is so great a God as our God, who embraces His rebellious creation as the Good Shepherd, not breaking the legs of the scattered sheep, but gently and ever so lovingly carrying His flock home upon His shoulders. In Genesis, it was God who breathed the life and spirit into His creation through the nostrils of Adam. Our Lord came to save all of humanity from the snares of the Evil One and from our fallen selves. Our God is a patient God, He waits and knocks gently upon the door of the chamber of our heart, ever so softly. The Lord wants us to be like the angelic ministers in heaven, the angels sing praises to the Lord and expect and seek nothing, but to simply glorify their Creator and God, to be with Him. The world around us is full of rebellion and chaos, yet in Christ there is peace and order. ‘Let everything that breathes praise the Lord,’ ‘Πάσα πνοή αινεσάτω τον Κύριον.’ Who is so great a God as our God? A God of forgiveness and love, peace and salvation? As the hymn concludes, ‘He alone workest wonders, and there is no other.’‘Συ εί ο Θεός, ο ποιών θαυμάσια μόνος.’
The prince of this world wants nothing more than for man to turn away from the True God and devour one another with fiery arrows. Elder Joseph again says, “The enemy, Satan, as his main goal is to hurt our faith and to humiliate man as a traitor and denier. If he manages to do this, he dampens man’s desire and zeal. Everything takes place for the sake of faith, but at the same time, faith upholds all things. If faith is shaken, then all things quiver and the front line bends.”
The voices of betrayal crying out, ‘I am the truth, I am the truth,’ are lies! There is but one Truth and we know Him, and in Him do we have life. Christ is the ultimate example of how we are to live. The Apostle Paul reveals that even while we were still in enmity against God, while we were still enemies against God, we were reconciled with Him, while yet sinners, Christ died for us and we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son and the gates to His heavenly kingdom have been opened unto us. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be unto you.’
Seek first the Kingdom. Seek first the Kingdom. Seek First the Kingdom of God. After the fall of Adam and Eve, the Lord revealed Himself quietly at times and slowly. In the wind, in thunder, in a voice, eventually sharing His name with His creation ‘ὁ ὢν,’ ‘I AM’ and then through His incarnation, Mankind was again standing face to face gazing into the eyes of our Lord. We too once looked at one another face to face, now we look at screens. I encourage you, out of love to disconnect from the internet and connect with one another. Turn off the computers, the cellular phones, the emails. Rather than thinking about what we will post on the walls of the internet and what catchy phrase we can include with a pound sign attached to it, let us learn again to pray for one another, to love one another, to look into each other’s eyes once again and share one another’s joys and achievements, burdens and sufferings. Let us learn again to pray for the salvation of the world by crying out to our Lord, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner.’ Stir the waters of your baptism, by allowing the grace of the Holy Spirit to enter the deepest chamber of your heart, in this way you will be transformed and illumined. Do not waste a moment of the time that you have left, seize it like it is the last bit of breathe you will ever take on this earth. Be transformed through God’s grace and flee from the ways of the world. Hurry, waste not a moment! Come while you can, today is the day of salvation! Fall before the feet of our Lord as He hangs from the Cross and be washed clean in the prayers of His merciful blood running upon our heads and rejoice in His Glorious Resurrection. Pray unceasingly to the Lord that all creation will come to know Him and glorify Him, that you will come to know Him, that each of us will come to know Him intimately, in a passionate and intimate way. Pray that the eye of our soul will be pure to receive the Light of Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. That one day, we will all, all of creation, with hearts ablaze with love for Christ, unto the ends of the earth, may exclaim and joyfully chant together in unison, ‘We have seen the Light, the True Light,’ ‘Εἴδομεν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν.’
As Saint Seraphim shares, “Save yourself and thousands around you too will be saved.” Let us together seek first the Kingdom of God, as Elder Amphilochios used to say to his spiritual children, “My children, I do not want paradise without you.” Encourage one another in prayer and through love. Embrace the peace offered to us by Christ Himself, let us love one another, those who love us and those who hate us. In this way, the eye of our soul will see more clearly, with Christ’s Divine peace, and we will become transformed and illumined with the grace of the Holy Spirit and a light which cannot be explained in words, but experienced fully, by dwelling in the fullness of the truth in the Holy Orthodox Faith.