Tuesday, October 4, 2016

With his eyes open

“Remember who your teachers were…”
2 Timothy 3:14

[Originally posted on September 5, 2010.]

Here follows a word of Truth that I found this morning at Pandelis' blog FOCUS which I want to share with my readers and keep for myself close at hand. With few words, it says much. This morning as I awoke I was thinking about the Truth, how difficult it is to express it in human language. Yet here is Fr Alexander Men, patiently and daringly speaking it. Glory to You, O God, glory to You, who have done wonders in Your saints!

The question is simple, brief and clear. Made in the image and likeness of the Creator, man finds meaning in life as he draws near to his Prototype. This is both the meaning and the goal. You see when we open up the Kingdom within us, Eternity begins to speak in us. And then we raise ourselves above vain pursuits, we cease to be slaves of circumstance, and we bravely stand against misfortunes which bring us down. This is not because we're indifferent or cold. The Christian isn't a stoic; he can suffer, but endures his sufferings through God's strength and not his own. In this way the meaning and goal of life is a forward and upward progression. It is not complacency, as some might think. We think of complacency as a rose-colored attitude towards our surroundings, when we close our eyes to evil and think that everything is wonderful. That's not how it is. Man must understand the tragic nature of life; he must look upon this tragic nature with his eyes open and at the same time remain standing—indeed not only remain standing, but move ever onwards and upwards. Our life becomes meaningful only as we move upwards, despite the fact that physically and mentally we descend as we grow older and weaker.

The image above is the detail of the face of Christ on the ikon crucifix in the church of San Damiano, near Assisi, Italy. It was standing under this ikon of the cross that Francesco of Assisi heard the first words of his call, "Rebuild My Church which, as you can see, is falling into ruin." Thinking that the call meant to physically rebuild the ruined church in which the cross hung, Francesco did exactly that. Only later did the nature of his call become apparent, as the Lord unfolded it in the events of his life. The contrast that lay at the heart of Francesco's call, made in the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, is a contrast of images: a three-dimensional carving of a dead Christ robed as a king with eyes closed nailed to the cross, with a two-dimensional ikon of a living Christ clothed in suffering with eyes open nailed to a cross upon which other human figures are also written. To Francesco, as well as to all of us, this contrast is presented to us: To be satisfied with a dead, unseeing religiosity of man-made proportions, or to let ourselves be renewed daily by contact with a living, seeing Christ whose Cross contains everyone whom the Father draws to Him. To be spiritually still-born, dead and blind as a statue, or to be spiritually alive, seeing and participating in the crucified Life as living ikons.

Father Alexander Men has hit the nail on the head for me,
as has Francesco of Assisi,
and all the saints that I have met on this road to Calvary.

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