Fr Rafail’s Talk – 31st October 2010, St. John the Baptist Monastery – Essex

Am primit şi o traducere în engleză a cuvântului (părintele a ţinut omilia în limba greacă) de la prietenii din Nepsis, traducerea a fost realizată de Rebecca Sava, de asemenea îi mulţumim.

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Fr Rafail’s Talk – 31st October 2010, St. John the Baptist Monastery – Essex

I noticed when I first came here again that we are many here together but we never know when it will be the last time that we are all here together. We are together and I find all brothers and sisters here, but everyone ages and is older, many have passed away ever since last time, elders left, 9 years ago father Eiriniaos left and father Symeon left also.

Where have they gone to? We still do not know and don’t understand, but we will leave too, and let me tell you, this is the only mystery/amazing thing in our lives. Where are we going? We see the end of our lives as death, and because there is some truth in it, but also due to our unfaithfulness….we are not faithful. Like a baby in its mother’s womb…it is there until it matures, becomes an adult. And when he leaves the womb of his mother, if you think about it, he dies. A baby is born, leaves his mother’s womb…the same will happen at the end of our lives. We die when we leave our mother’s womb…..does anybody want to return to the mothers womb? We had a quiet life there, we didn’t pay tax or debts, but we do not want to return and I don’t think anybody who has gone would like to return to this life. Many poets have famously said: nobody returns back to this life. We would, again, start this life with all these troubles. A psalm says: God made us for no reason, but the prophet speaks of us, the unfaithful ones, I think….do we think that God is so silly?… would He make so many people different to us….does He need us in order to light a fire in hell because He has no match to light it with? No…..God is love and love is the epitome of all the virtues…humility is the first virtue … love without humility is not love.

But wisdom and knowledge and power….love includes everything…that which God calls love…because we have a different understanding. We understand love but not the way God does. And the reason for our life is to go into the mind of God….to understand what God has done, how it is in His mind….and that’s when we will see a big miracle. In history, generations are born, ancestors, fathers, sons, prophets, martyrs, all these and people who are close to us. And with every generation, God harvests us. All my life, for example I was young…and then, all of a sudden, I don’t know what happened :)….I am coming to the end of my generation…who will be the next to go? It is the harvest of God…… when we come to the end of our life, He takes us. The human being is born in history, he passes time in this life, then God takes us and He only thinks of one thing…how to bring us into His life, and the only thing that has value in this life is to understand the mind of God, His plan. What is life? And this life is not now. We don’t yet have true life. It’s a start…where we make our choices…and after the fall of man, the point of life is not to know the snake of Adam but to distinguish between good and evil, and knowing good from evil…to choose the good. Because evil is not important, it’s not a choice; what is evil? The evil doesn’t exist….because the only thing that exists is what God made…God didn’t make evil…What then is evil? Because it exists for sure, it is a distortion of a good that God made…evil is a lie and, in this lie, if humans live in this lie…they live in something that doesn’t exist and when they go to eternal life? Will he stay in this lie? Do we think we will be like the apocalypse says of the devil, of the monster: he was and he is not, but he is? What is this? This is the lie. I will tell you in a different way. It is… life is…like the verb ‘to be’, really, we have not yet come into the ‘to be’, we ‘exist’; what does it mean to exist? Our life is a beginning…we are under a beginning….from this viewpoint, God doesn’t exist, the atheists say that, God is existence.

God is a guided journey. God does not need a guided journey, God ‘is’ from the beginning, He is the beginning, He has no need for a beginning. God is existence, He is the way which leads to ‘being’, to go into the Truth. The commandments of Jesus, but also the commandments of the Old Testament, are not ethical things, they are ontological rules. They are words which reveal to human beings the Truth. If we understand the commandments not only as ethical things, but as a way of life, to go into the Truth of life, and what leads to this true’ being’, especially in John the Evangelist’s Scripture…Jesus says many times that the word of the father is/leads to eternal life. The Word of God is Christ Himself….the Word of God is a hypostatic person…we will understand this at some time, not now…..and it is a special thing to understand this before we die….to go deep into the meaning of life before we die.  I will talk about this later.

EINAI (TO BE):  What does it mean that God ‘is’, He doesn’t exist but He ‘is’? This is something beyond existence. The first time that God gave a name to Himself for men was with Moses. Before Moses, the few that knew the true God were the sons of Abraham. The Jews knew him as God, the father of us, but also people of other faiths knew him as their father. But Moses, the prophet, wanted to know Who is this God….he said to Him: when You send me to take them from Egypt, Who will I say that saved them? What is Thy name? What does a name mean? A name is bigger than how to call somebody…it is the meaning of somebody…..God changed the fate of Abraham, He changed his name as well…. so the name of God is an apocalypse of what God is. So, when we name children we must take it seriously, because it is the meaning of that person, not just a way of calling them. So God said to Moses “you shall tell them that <<He Who is>> sent me”. He said ‘It is only I, Who truly is.’ Thousands of years after, St. Evangelist John wrote something more, which he added to the revelation of God. God is Love. And this love is something from God’s name. What does life mean? What does love mean? Without love, we are individuals.  What are individuals? The individualism of humanity. But if we become a person, a hypostasis…so, an individual who can live eternally, we must gain love….therefore, the point of our life is to acquire love, love which is the beginning of true eternal life. True love is the condition of hypostasis – the condition of not knowing death – and love contains all the virtues, if we slowly gain a virtue……humility, obedience…..all the virtues, but we must understand that they are all to lead us towards love. Love is the end. Then, we can die without dying. Father Seraphim brought Elder to the end of his life. He could not walk…he was physically wretched, but spiritually he was full of life. In those days where he began every talk with ‘ I don’t know how I am still alive….I’m happy that God has let me live still”, he would talk about death every night, he said a human cannot die…We await, as we say in the Creed, ‘and life eternal’. What is faith in eternal life? Faith is love, it is a condition of hypostasis where we can see beyond death. Faith sees beyond death. Most people think this is a fantasy, but we believe the invisible and for those who believe, miracles may happen. God can respond to faith. Faith is love. God responds to love because He is Love. Love for God who is Love. Faith, hope and love. Living in faith, we gain hope. We begin to see this invisible God. You begin to act like you believe and that makes you believe. Slowly, coincidences happen once, twice, but something has happened: you begin to understand that this God, Who does not exist, acts like He exists, faith increases and this is when we begin to have hope. What is hope? Maybe I cannot die; maybe God loves me even though I am a sinner. And in this hope, our asceticism towards God becomes stronger because now we have hope. We have seen that faith can transcend death, now not only we feel something because we have hope we can run faster, there is not a weight upon us. Hope has led us somewhere. This somewhere is love and love is perfection. The journey of our life is the journey of lacking, of not being whole. We are still on our journey, but the end of our journey, when we mature, must be when we have obtained from God, from God’s grace, enough of the taste of love, where we are reborn into the other life which is not so other as we think, because we have no experience. But those who had experience, we realize it is not other, it is God. We must be within God. But we must go into God starting from this life. All the meaning of our life is to find the road of that journey, the journey towards eternity, to repent, to get away from death, from this lie, a birth which is never born, an existence which does not exist. This is the point of our life: to get away from this lie, where we are reborn. Why is there no death for the person that goes into this other life? We must get there to feel this different /other place and abandon this world, where we love people and it is difficult to abandon people we love, but it is only temporary, we will see them again. The elders did not abandon us, when they go to the other life, they see all of us, they pray, we will meet them again; many of us have met them still until a certain point. Like St. Siluan said, they see our lives, they are as God is. It is not perfect; they are still awaiting the resurrection from the dead. What is resurrection? It is the resurrection of the bodies from the earth? How? God does bring back to life our corpses. What do we chant whenever we bury our beloved’s bodies? We say the earth of God and the fulfillment of the earth. What is fulfillment of the earth? To feed it with our bones. The earth is of no use to God, He does not need it to eat lettuce. Earth for God is us, and as a human buries treasures in the earth in order to protect them from thieves, God does something similar and we see when He said to Adam, ‘you will return to the earth’ and the earth covers him, this earth from which He made his body. Our sinful bones are treasures for God, which He hides under the earth until the day of resurrection; we will rejoice with a joy that now we cannot imagine; let God give us at least some hope. We can observe the journeys of the great Father Siluan and Father Sophrony: St. Siluan asked God: why don’t the demons let me pray with a clean mind? And God said to him ‘demons go to the proud’; he was praying for 15 years and this was God’s only answer after 15 years. He said to God: my soul has seen that You are merciful, tell me what to do. God says: You said that I am merciful and that your soul has met me, trust me, have hope. This is a journey where you must trust in God. He did and started to pray and sing that he would stay there in the darkness eternally; He said: my mind has cleared from the demons and sinful thoughts.

Sinful thoughts come from spirits, good and bad spirits. God has even said to have faith in Him in hell. St. Siluan did this and the Holy Spirit confessed in his heart and he was saved. He went through the journey of life until the end and he had only one thing to beat- his pride – and God revealed how to transcend this.

But, do not try to imagine ourselves like the elder; this is not at our level: to imagine God in hell and not be sad, this is not the way, fantasies of pride. The Elder said that many tried to live in this way and finished being crazy. But the elder said that maybe we have come to an era where humans can be saved if only we are hoping in the times of misery. This world has no hope: we do not know what true hope is unless we have Godly grace; from the womb of our mother we only know misery; misery is not being able to see towards my resurrection, even I had a hope that maybe God would have mercy for me and maybe I too can be saved, but I could not see myself risen. Things have deteriorated for humanity since the First World War. We cannot see hope because misery is in our skin. In this world without hope, the only thing I could say to many is have hope, God is omnipotent (all powerful) and loves us, but I saw something else, something in the words of St. Siluan which is closer to our level, we can understand it: in all the difficulties of our life we can remember this word – this is not yet the world of misery (no faith). At our level, we live sometimes in hell – maybe God is closer to us? In every life, we all live hell and we all feel that we are lost, but God is closer to us then, so we can take advantage of the times of misery and find God there. I cannot tell you how, I tell you something that I have seen in my life and in others and what is hell? Hell is sin. When we are in hell, God is closer to us. Why? Whenever we sin it is not something new, I am a sinner, this is in my nature, if then I accept that I am sinner I begin to become true; If I believe this in my conscience, that I am a sinner and I am far from God, there is nothing that can bring me closer to Him, if we accept this, then God Who is Truth is near us and we can feel our resurrection because God came close to us.

Once, a child came to confess to me with fear: the child did something small but he viewed it as big. I read him the prayer, he was around 7 years old, he was so happy after the prayer that he ran out the church and he said to me, father, now I can run, not only run but I can fly! Where is the mystery, that even in difficulty he had enough faith to believe that he must confess? He understood that he was a sinner and accepted that he was, and that is the truth, that I am of hell, there can be no mercy for me because I am sinful, but the truth for us has a name: This is Christ, the Word of God is Truth. We are not close to God. God is close to us. To be saved is the work of God not of man. God does the hard work, we merely must choose. I am sinful: I have a bad idea and I know it’s bad: I see I cannot have the good and be the good. Then, I say something to God and God will show me how to make another step in this journey.

In a passage it says: for man to see his sin is the beginning to seeing the truth, he has begun to see; many see in confessions; I see I am so bad; the important thing is to be able to see this sin. To see it and to reject the bad and choose the good even if you can not obtain it, reach it to hope towards it, to pray for the good, this is prayer.  This is the choice of man, the good; so, to confess his sins means he rejects the bad, he cannot get out of it but he wants the good that he doesn’t do and does not want the bad that he does: but there is a power inside me forcing me to do the bad I do not want; but great thing is that I don’t want the bad, that I want the word of God.

In the end, I wanted to say this. There are three periods within the life of man: the time within the womb of the mother, the time we are passing now and eternity. In the womb of the mother, the cells grow until they are mature and can come into this world. Our life is still not life, it is a type of ‘pregnancy/gestation period’ until we are reborn into this other world. Our spiritual mother is the church. We are in the womb of the church, but we do not know that this is the true world, just like a fetus doesn’t know when it is in the womb of the mother until it is born. Our growth within this womb happens with the commandments of God, we add a spiritual cell to our spirits, when we are reborn, we will get out of this body and it will go to the earth but the soul lives. The soul is a spiritual body. Until we regain our bodies and live wholly, we will have this spiritual body, a condition with which we can live in this world. And what is this condition? Love. It includes everything, sight, hearing, everything for this world. Therefore, we come to this world, our environment in the womb was water, we come to the air, this is like a liquid but it is lighter, we breathe air, we passed from water to air, from the darkness of the mother’s womb, to the light. You see, there is logic. The great thing now is the word of St Siluan to hold this as an anchor of hope: God’s love is such that it cannot abandon, He never abandoned anybody; those who were lost, God abandoned them, but God never abandoned anybody. This is an anchor of love. God’s love does not, cannot change, his love cannot abandon, in the more intense moments God is near us, and we hope for God to give us in every situation, the mystical words which we have need for. I hope that in these situations we find that God is nearer to us than at the times in which we are happy.

So please hope for me, and I hope for you within the power of prayer. And we continue our journey, we will be separated sometimes, I do not know when the next one will go. Death is tragic, but there is no tragedy. God is omnipotent and this is the delicate thing about Him. God help you all with your sorrows and give you the joy and hopefully we will all be there, together, in front of the door of Paradise, to live the eternal life.

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