This is a re-post from May, 2011. I’ve been thinking of Metropolitan Alexander and his faithful priests and people a lot lately…
As I work, I sometimes look up at a large photograph on the wall of my cubicle—I am a technical writer and translator—of Metropolitan Alexander of Nigeria, seated at a table with three of his native clergy of the Orthodox Nigerian church. I really like this photo a lot, because it is free of any hint of churchly opulence. There are four men seated on one side of a table. In front of them is an array of bottled soft drinks and a few pineapples and bananas. Yes, this is Africa.
Each of the men has a different look on his face, but all seem possessed of a contentment and earthly happiness that defies explanation. How they can even be sitting there together like that defies explanation. The photo to me is an ikon of the undoing of the curse of Babel when the tongues of mankind, and thus their races, were divided. It is an unassuming photographic image of the spirit of Pentecost, that day when all tongues, all races, were reunited.
Man tried to reach heaven by his building higher.
Heaven instead reaches down with invisible fire.
Ordinary men, in fact, ordinary boys in men’s bodies, boys whose eyes are on Jesus, each looking at Him in his unique way, each hearing within His unique call, and yet seated together in expectation. Looking from one face to another I see, boyish happiness, youthful hope, quiet introspection, and an almost divine impatience for the open road. These are men such as Jesus once called in Galillee, men such as He calls today, not full of themselves, empty for Him.
I may never come with them on their missions, though my heart follows them with its eyes, and my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God our Savior, for He has regarded our lowliness, and anointed us and clothed us with His mercy, to distribute to those around us, whoever they are, what He has paid so much for, yet what He gives us all for free. Whether on mission in a foreign land, or at home, the man next to us, or the woman, is our neighbor.
I want to be and to remain as simple, as silent to the flesh and aloud to the Spirit, as these are, my brothers, who have heard the call and said ‘Yes’ to whatever the Lord asks, and to be nothing more than a boy, trusting and obeying his Master’s word.