|Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - February 2002||Last Modified February 13th, 2002|
Paradise Within Us
Christ the Lord gave us the Holy Spirit, and the man in whom the Holy Spirit lives feels that he has paradise within him.
Faced with this great spiritual truth, we ask ourselves, "Why is it that I don't have grace like that? -Why don' t feel that paradise?" The answer is, perhaps, because we have not spiritually surrendered ourselves completely to the will of God, and we simply live the life we desire, rather than to take the direction which Christ Our Lord clearly showed us.
How many times have we desired to have our own way (daily? hourly?); it is easy to become so proud and self-centered that we forget the need for us to become truly at peace with ourselves and with our Lord God. In order for us not to become discontented with ourselves, we must realize that as true Christians we should give our entire lives to the will of God. When we do this, through prayer, humbling the pride of our hearts before Him, yearning for our souls to truly love the Lord, then the gift of a pure mind comes to us, and we begin to find everything pleasant and agreeable.
The Holy Scriptures teach us that the Mother of God, the Theotokos, gave herself - body, soul and will - over to the will of God, saying "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." We can as well learn from the saints and holy martyrs of the church, as in every circumstance they gave themselves entirely to the God's will and purposes. When St. Nektarios of Aegina was asked to leave the Patriarchate in Alexandria because of false rumors about him, he humbly accepted the will of God, and went to Athens. There he waited with patience and in prayer for the will of God to happen. That sovereign will became manifest, and Metropolitan Nektarios became the Dean of the local Theological Seminary, and eventually the Abbot of the Covent of the Holy Trinity he founded in Aegina - and ultimately, of course, he became a saint. The person who indeed lives according to the will of God will be blessed or glorified in heaven and on earth.
Everyone who truly loves our Lord God has a strong desire to follow the will of God in all things. Therefore we find ourselves living, on a daily basis, lives "occupied with the things of God, and occupied by God", wrote St. Silouan of Mt. Athos. The grace of God then helps us to be continually in prayer. Although we may be working, talking, or doing many things, our soul is occupied, absorbed in God, and with God. No wonder St. John of Kronstadt wrote is famous diary and called it "My Life In Christ". Our lives then must be with Christ and in Christ, if we desire to have the paradise of our God within us. That paradise is manifested as a great spiritual joy, and a firm belief in the promise that, as Christians, our Lord will indeed take care of us, He will save us, have mercy on us, and keep us by His grace.
As true Christians we must be gentle in our ways, towards one another, and realize that every person we meet is indeed precious in the sight of our God. We must avoid falling into temptation of judging others, but to leave that up to God Himself, letting Him take care of every suffering soul - which He will do, with mercy. Our task - and it is a joyful and responsible one - is to pray for all those who are in need of a touch in heart, body of spirit from our merciful God. We should pray not only those who love us, but even more from those who hate us, dislike us, gossip about us. During the service of Compline in the Orthodox Church, the priest says this petition at the end of the service: For those who hate us and that love us. The response by the faithful is: Lord have mercy.
Let us now behold that God truly loves us, and He does take care of each of us - even the sinner. And let us realize that God loves us all the more, and will bestow many blessings upon us, when we follow His will, thus experiencing His paradise within us. Glory to God for all things!
(Source: St. Silouan of Mt. Athos., The Undistorted Image, Staretz Silouan: 1866-1938., Translated from the Russian by Rosemary Edmonds, The Faith Press, London., 1958).
(I would to humbly thank John Wilson Smith for his kind assistance for this article).
Humbly In Christ Our Lord,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Content written/compiled by Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes.
(c)2002 Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes