Childlike faith

26 November OS 2020 – Wednesday of the 10th Week of St. Luke, St. Alypius the Stylite, St. Nikon Metanoeite(“Repent Ye”), St. Stylianos of Paphlagonia, St. Innocent of Irkutsk

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Today’s daily Gospel reading is Luke 18:15-17, 26-30

And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

St. Theophan the Recluse writes that, in order to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, we must have faith with a whole heart, unimpeded by the misuse of the intellect:

…How is one to receive [the Kingdom of God] as a little child? Here is how: in simplicity, with a full heart, without a moment’s thought. A rational analysis is not applicable in the realm of faith. It can have a place only on its threshold. As an anatomist divides the whole body into its parts but does not see life, so also reason, no matter how much it deliberates, does not comprehend the power of faith. Faith itself provides contemplations which, on the whole, show that faith completely satisfies all the requirements of our nature, and obliges our consciousness, conscience, and heart to receive faith. They receive it, and having received it, do not want to break from it… – from Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 262

The saint is not saying that there is no room in an Orthodox Christian’s life for intellectual pursuits, academic studies. He himself was highly educated. What he is saying is that at some point the discursive intellect, having been satisfied that there is nothing unreasonable about our Faith, must accept that there are realities outside its realm of competence, that there is an entire realm of knowledge (real knowledge, not fantasies or myths) accessible only to the spiritual intellect, which is activated through the act of faith and through prayer, in cooperation with the power of the divine grace that energizes in the mind and enables it to transcend not only ignorance (which is contra-natural, below nature) but also the real knowledge available on the natural plane. There is an entire cosmos inside each human soul, an entire universe of things to be known and experienced, which is larger than the entire realm of the visible universe studied by human science.

The saints, in their earthly lifetimes, were content, indeed eager, to suffer many deprivations in their visible lives, in order to experience the happiness of this invisible life, which is actually more real, more solid – so to speak – than the visible.   It is the life of the Real Self, the person God wants me to be.   It is the Kingdom of God, which, according to the word of the Word Incarnate, is within us.   The desire to live in this other realm, the realm of the really real, has motivated countless souls for the past 2,000 years to flee worldly society and embrace the monastic life.   And to those of us living in the world, it also constantly beckons, and if we are in any way Christians, we know from experience the truth of St. Augustine’s statement, that the heart is made for God, and it is restless until it rests in God.

When we come up against the apparent impossibilities of living a Christian life in the midst of this world which is perishing, this should not paralyze us but rather console us – God is allowing things here to become impossible for us so that we will realize that our real life is there – hid with Christ in God.   At such moments, let us have recourse to fervent prayer, until the light dawns in our hearts, and we are at peace, knowing how to live this day and what to do next.   Like little children, we have to take baby steps, for in the spiritual realm we are indeed toddlers at most, and the only way to proceed is to let our Heavenly Father hold us by the hand.

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