Self will and obedience (On the feast day of St Euthymios) – Part II20 January 2016
We are pleased to find such examples in the lives of our holy Fathers, since the same issues concern us. A monk always dallies with such troublesome thoughts. The elder’s advice remains a dead letter and you begin to question his judgment: ‘Is he right in saying this, or is it because it suits him?’ Thank God our Fathers did not avoid describing all the symptoms, the reasons and the precise meaning of events so that we have enough examples to learn from.
Let’s consider now the fatherly affection and the child’s love. Let’s take an ideal family as an example. How is the father disposed towards his children, whom he has reared in the best possible way? And what is the children’s attitude towards their father? You have a faint idea about all this. Even if you have no personal experience, you have seen or heard of such a relationship. This family is connected with love, which is the fragrance of Grace overflowing from the Lord’s all love. The Lord is not the One who has love or from Whom love flows. He Himself is Love. John, the safe keeper of the deepest mysteries, describes the Lord and calls out that ‘God is Love’ (A John 4, 8). He does not say ‘God is called ‘Love’, or He is the ‘source of Love’ but ‘God is Love’. He is the absolute Love (αυτο-αγάπη) and ‘he that abides in love abides in God and God abides in him’ (A John 4, 16). Therefore, if we start at this point then all our relationships will become truly loving. We submit to the Lord not because we are afraid of Him, but because we love Him. We respond to His love because ‘He loved us first’.
Therefore obedience is the true sign of genuine love. Genuine love is only verified through obedience.
When you love someone you know that you are ready even to incite him to express a request so that you will comply at once. Once you do this, you feel at ease. Obedience, which is one of the basic principles of our monastic order, is nothing but love put into practice.
We have the Church and the Holy Fathers in the place of the Lord, whom we are not able to see with our human eyes, As Jesus said: ‘The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10, 16).
We only care how to give rest to the person on whom we depend. Our complete reliance on our spiritual father, the Elder, is based on the love we have for the Lord. The acolyte ought to imitate our Jesus who became ‘obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2, 8).
Our dependence and submission is necessary most of the time because our nature, our position, our circumstances, various persons and things demand it. Which of these was at work in the case of Word Lord? The motto ‘Nothing is similar to the greatness of the father’ has become the absolute example of submission and obedience for all created beings, so that we, who have been exiled from eternal life because of our rebellion and our own selfishness, will learn that it is only through this door that we may return. Our Lord has taken upon Himself the role of the perfect acolyte not briefly but for the entire time He was present amongst us. As it is has been prophesized: ‘I was not rebellious; I turned not backward’ (Isaiah 50, 5). Even in circumstances when one might say that He could have objected or offered an excuse, He didn’t do it. Instead: ‘I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting (Isaiah 50, 6). These events help us understand the essence of dependence and obedience. Unless we grasp this, we are running on empty. We ought to be prepared since the times are wicked. Let us ‘be dressed ready for service’ with self denial and have ‘our lamps burning ‘ with the zeal which the divine grace will set alight once we demonstrate our genuine intent in this way. Let us exploit every occasion to demonstrate with the way we live that we genuinely believe and love our Jesus and that it is because of our faith and our love that we live in this way and that nothing else matters to us; neither do we put our faith in anything else, since we do not possess anything in this world.
We have abandoned the world in order to become ‘dead for the world’ as it was prophesized: ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate, touch no unclean thing’ (2 Corinthians 6, 17) and ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6, 18).
Let us pray that the remembrance of this great symbol, St. Euthymios, who is like a professor to the monks, gives us the opportunity to take brave decisions and see things properly so that the supplications of our fathers bear fruits for us since ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’ (James 5, 16). If we prepare ourselves in this way then the prayers of our fathers will indeed be powerful and effective. Our Jesus says: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3, 20). If one doesn’t open the door I will leave and knock at another door. Let us then oblige and have our door not just ready to open but already opened, so that He doesn’t even need to knock, but enter straight in. Amen.Source: Γέροντος Ιωσήφ Βατοπαιδινού, Διδαχές από τον Άθωνα [Elder Joseph the Vatopaidan, Teachings from Mt Athos], Εκδόσεις ‘Το Αγιον Όρος’ Θεσσαλονίκη, 1989, Transl.: Philothei