THE PHILOKALIA

by Fr. Jonathan Hemmings

 

Gen. 1:3, 4, 31: "And God said "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; … and God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good."

God's creation is good and beautiful. Yet Adam in his disobedience and pride damaged this perfect world and marred his God-given image. Creation fell with Adam and the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans writes (8:28):

"For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now."

The "groaning" is a yearning or desire for transformation to be eternally in harmony with God's rule as it was in the beginning before the Fall. Yet, creation has not totally lost the beauty the Creator bestowed upon the world. Whenever man responds to the grace of God there is a re-creation and that initial relationship is restored. For man is essentially a eucharistic creature and his soul longs for the life giving waters of God to quench his thirsty soul. The soul is at peace when it worships and gives glory to its Creator. Reflecting the light of God is the true nature and purpose of man and is at the heart of what we mean by "glory."

One hears of the monks of the Holy Mountain of Athos purifying the very air they breathe with their unceasing practice of the Jesus prayer and playing with the animals who come to the monks in trust and friendship in order to be fed. Staretz Amvrosii, a renowned ascetic of the Russian Church tells this story:-

"A certain devout Christian had a myna bird in his house, which he was teaching to speak. The bird also learned the words " Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me," which the Christian repeated often. One summer day the bird found the window open and flew out into the street. Then a hawk saw it from on high and rushed towards it. The bird surprised by the attack, instead of another cry, cried out the prayer and the hawk-a wonderful thing! — pulled back at once as if someone was chasing it away."

"What do we notice here?" the staretz asked. "That even if the Jesus prayer is said unconsciously it has results and makes possible the impossible." So we see that Divine Grace is attracted by prayer and operates not only upon the soul but all creation. The presence of the All Holy Spirit fills man with a yearning for His Creator and creation. He restores the immortal language of love divided at Babel; He brings a compassion and a broadening of the heart for all nature; He encourages in man an embrace for that stewardship that God intended for His image-endowed creatures. Such an opening of our heart to the Paraklete fills our senses with the beauty God has given to His world.

Luke 12:27: "Consider the lilies how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

Even the flowers of the field give glory to their Creator. We too should immitate this glory by our simplicity, humility and generosity of spirit. Our obedience to the Divine Will makes us beautiful for God.

Illustration 1: There once was an old man whose hard life had made him bitter, resentful, mean and consequently isolated. Some new neighbours moved into the next door flat and bought him a beautiful bunch of flowers. This kind gesture touched the old man's heart and he said to himself: "I must go and buy a vase in which to display these lovely flowers." So he did. He put the vase of flowers on the window sill and he noticed how shabby the curtains were. so without delay he went and bought some new ones. Soon he was buying carpets, repairing furniture, painting the walls and decided to invite his new neighbours around for a meal. That one beautiful gesture became not only a critic on his dismal surroundings but a catalyst that changed his whole attitude to life. It is important to try to do something beautiful for God every day of our lives for Our Lord Jesus Christ is the most beautiful gift to us and He transforms lives.

Illustration 2: A mother visiting her son away at college was saddened at seeing some rude posters on his bedroom wall but instead of criticizing her son she left an Icon of the Theotokos and an Icon of the Saviour in his room. The next time she visited him the posters were gone and had been replaced by the Holy Icons. When Christ enters into our lives the beauty of His presence makes us ashamed of our sins and moves us to repentance. Christ's presence makes our lives more beautiful and good. The fragrance of His grace lingers like incense making our lives holier. Why don't you buy some flowers for someone today and see what happens! Their face will light up with joy and their smile will be a wonderful testimony to the truth that we are indeed eucharistic creatures reflecting the beauty of Our Creator. "Come Lord Jesus Christ enter my life today and make it beautiful. Glory to You O Lord Glory to You. Amen."

 

July 1999

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