"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Tuesday 1 January 2013

THE WAY TO HOLINESS by Fr Andrew Lemeshonok, Spiritual Father of St Elizabeth's Convent, Minsk. (Orth)

Fr Andrew Lemeshonok, co-founder of St Elizabeth's Convent and of the "White Sisters" of Mercy in Minsk, with a "Central Asian Sheepdog" puppy, a race of guard dogs bred by the nuns.

The light of Christ enlightens all. Holiness is sanctification of the life of an individual with the love of Christ. Repentance is the way to holiness. It is through repentance that man receives graceful help and dares to go to the Light, to reveal his sinful illnesses, his infirmities. One's soul suffers from seeing his sins, it suffers because it cannot see its own God-created beauty. This pain and suffering teaches man to hate the sin. A man opens his eyes and sees that the sin does not bring joy or satisfaction. The sin deceives and kills his immortal soul. This is why repentance is the courage of the soul which does not hide from God, which does not try to deceive herself, to justify herself and hide behind others' backs. A person follows the Light consciously, understanding that he is going to suffer because of what he shall see. However, he believes in God's love, he believes that the Lord will be able to heal his sins, to give him power to defeat and hate the sin, and to sanctify his life.

Holiness is the norm of life for a Christian. Holy things to the holy! The Holy Church exclaims so before the greatest Sacrament, the Sacrament of Communion, communion of man with God. God is holy, and therefore a man who unites with God also becomes holy. Man hears that he is already defeating the order of his nature, and that he is already in the eternity. “Servant of God is partaking of the Eternal Life” means that the death and everything that is temporary, perishable and transient, is defeated.

It is in the Church of Christ that man is nurtured and learns to live for the sake of the Eternity, learns to live with God and build all his earthly relationships through God. “Christ is in our midst! He is, and He shall be!” - this is what priests say before the communion of the Holy Mysteries; and we start having Christ before us and in our midst so that we could begin a new life and new relationships through Christ, so that we would submit everything we have, all our lives, into God's hands. By trusting God man becomes free, he becomes free from within. Man is no longer bound or chained with his own personal interests, desires and wishes. He wants the same things that God wants; he wants to fulfil God's will, he looks for God's will because he understands that even if it does not coincide with his own desires, even if his heart protests and does not want to accept this will of God, it is still much better and more trustworthy than our desires and emotional states, which push us into this or that direction day after day. Man needs a solid foundation on which to stand in this world when temptations, sorrows and stresses come and make us feel desperate and hopeless.

This is why we build our lives upon the rock, and this rock is Christ. In fact, when man finds God and understands that God is near in each moment of his life and in all situations, he is able to hope for God's help and salvation. Likewise, when man loses his connection to God, he becomes desperate and depressed, he loses all his strength, and it seems to him that the sin has separated him from other people and from God for ever.

The Church nurtures us and prepares us for the eternal life, like a loving mother. This life becomes real for every believer even now, in this transient world. When we come to church and participate in the Divine Liturgy, in the Sacraments of the Church of Christ, we can feel the Eternity, we enter the Eternity because we ought to leave all transient earthly cares at the threshold of the church.

The sin makes an individual inconsistent, it divides man within himself. One's mind cannot stay still, emotions run wild and make one lose peace within his heart. It is on his way to God that a person brings himself to reason, tries to bring his mind, his emotions and all his heart together. Man is created in order to allow God to dwell in him. God leads our lives when we humble ourselves, when we reconcile with our neighbours, when we begin to value what we have got.

Grace is given to the humble. This grace, the Holy Spirit, directs the life of that person. The person does not suffer because of his problems and does not waste his time thinking what he should do and where he should go in this life. He begins and ends his every single day asking God, “Thy will be done!” His heart becomes a compass that helps man find his path to salvation. The heart is deep, and when it is peaceful, the person tries not to lose this peace and not to make his neighbour lose this peace.

Our journey to the Heavenly Kingdom continues, and like babies, we learn to make our first steps, to say our first words to God our Heavenly Father. These words connect us with the Eternity. There is God's Spirit in these words. We feed our soul with penitential prayer and praise, we start to talk with God inside our hearts, and the worldly noise must not silence down this talk. Prayer becomes the word of life, the new life, the life where there are no ups and downs and disappointment, which is so typical of the earthly life. This is how our life gradually becomes holy and sanctified. We escape the darkness of sin, we stop hiding under the masks of hypocrisy and people-pleasing, we come to realise that God watches over our every step and that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. And this is why we learn to live in God's sight. Our every thought and every word are our steps towards the Eternity. We must remember that each person is going to answer for his life, for each day he lived and for each idle word he uttered. So we ought to spare our words and to hold them precious; we start looking for God who will always be by our side and who will lead us to resurrection from the dead.

Our journey to the Heavenly Kingdom is our journey inside our hearts; it is the way of dying (when our old man dies) and rising from the dead for the Eternal Life, for sacrificing all our lives to our Creator and for making our entire lives filled with service and ministry. “Love God and thy neighbour” - these words become the most important in our lives. We do not love anyone because sin dwells in our souls; but when we struggle with our sins and make attempts to overcome them, the Lord teaches us to love, the Lord reveals His love, which become the fountain of everlasting life for us. Then we all become one, the entire Church becomes one Body of Christ. The people whom the Lord leads into the church, change; it is the love of Christ that changes them; it enters our hearts and sanctifies our lives. This is why the Church exclaims, “Holy things to the holy,” this is why She calls us to praise God with one mouth and one heart; this is why the Holy Fathers used to call the Church “heaven on earth” because even here on earth we can enter into the Eternal Life and are sanctified by this Light of Love, which defeats the darkness of this world and resurrects man for the new life.

I want to have a number of Fr Andrew' sermons printed in this blog in the future.  I hold him in great respect.  Perhaps, one day, we will be able to publish them in book form 
for my article on Fr Andrew, click HERE

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