Anthony Bloom (Metropolitan of Sourozh (1914- 2003))
What kind of consolation do we need? Most of us feel perfectly comfortable in our lives and indeed in our worship and our spiritual life, and who of us is in a position to say with all the intensity and depth with which St. Paul spoke these words, “For me life is Christ, death would be a gain because as long as I live in the body, I am separated from Christ”? Can we honestly say that for us life is Christ, that all that He stands for is life-giving, all that is contrary to Him, to us is death? Can we say that we have died with Christ to everything which is alien to God? Can we say that we are alive only when the things of God come our way - prayer, deep meditation, the kind of understanding which the Spirit of God reveals to us? And so we must ask ourselves very sternly a first question: is Christ my life or not? Would it be enough for me to feel that life is fulfilled, complete to be at one with Christ in all things or do I feel that there are so many things which I love and which I am not prepared to let go off even to be with Christ?
And again, Christ is in the midst of us invisibly, mysteriously. Yes, but He is not with us in the way in which He was with the Apostles. We cannot say with
And again, in our ministry how often do we feel that we are totally, ultimately helpless, that what we are called to do is simply beyond human possibilities? In the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration in the Orthodox Church, when the priest is vested, when he has prepared the Holy Gifts, when he is about to give the first liturgical exclamation, when in his naivety he may think, “Now I will perform miracles on earth,” the deacon turns to him and says, “And now, father, it is for God to act.” All you could do, you have done, you have prayed and prepared yourself, made yourself open to God, you have vested yourself and become an image – but only an image, not the thing. You have prepared the bread and the wine and now what is expected of you is something which you cannot do, you cannot by any power including apostolic succession make this bread into the Body of Christ, this wine into the Blood of Christ, you have no power over God and you have no power over the created world. It is only Christ who is the only celebrant because He is the High Priest of all creation who sending the Holy Spirit can break through into time, open it up so that eternity can flow, indeed, make eruption into it and within this eschatological situation in which eternity fills time make possible the impossible, make bread into the Body of Christ crucified and risen, the wine into the Blood of Christ crucified and risen.
And all our function depends only on the Holy Spirit. Strength?
If I may use an image, it is that of the sail of a sailing ship. Of all the parts of the ship the sail is the frailest, the weakest and yet filled with the wind, and the word “wind” in ancient languages is the same as “spirit” “ruah”, “pnevma” it can carry the heavy structure of the ship to its haven. This is the kind of weakness, of frailty which we have got to offer to God, such frailty that He can use it freely, without resistance, and then our strength will be stronger than anything which the created world can possess. The martyrs were frail, as frail as we were, but they abandoned themselves to God and they lived and died in the power of the Spirit. We need that strength.
And then the Paraclete is the one that gives joy, the joy of entering already now into eternity, the joy of being joined to Christ in the communion of the one body, the joy of giving our lives for Him and if necessary – our death, a joy which the world cannot give but which the world cannot take away.
I will end on one example of this joy of the Spirit. I met a few years ago in
Let us therefore in all our life, whether we pray, listen to the unutterable groanings of the Spirit within us, teaching us ultimately to call the God of Heaven our Father if we are in Jesus Christ, in the words of Irenaeus of Lyon, sons of God in the Only-Begotten Son of God. Let us open ourselves and listen intently when we have got to preach, so that it should not be a work of our intellect or learning but a sharing of something which we have learnt from God. However poor, childlike, simple it may seem, let it be God’s. And when we come to the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, let us remember that we stand where no-one can stand but the High Priest of all creation, the Lord Jesus Christ and let us turn to the Holy Spirit calling Him to make the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in an act Divine which we can only mediate by faith and in obedience to Christ’s own command. Amen.