Митрополит Антоний Сурожский

All Saint’s Day

On the first Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate the day of All Saints. Is it not the right moment to ask ourselves what makes a saint? What are the conditions necessary for a person to grow to that stature to which each one of us without exception is called? When St. Seraphim of Sarov was asked this question, he answered that the only difference between a sinner who could not find the path to salvation and a saint (a sinner likewise, but who finds the way to the Kingdom of God) was determination. The saints are those who have understood, as we ourselves do in moments of enlightenment, that man’s vocation is indeed so wonderful and so great that it outgrows earthly things, that it is as great as the glory of God, for according to the Scriptures we are called to be partakers of God’s nature. We are called to be members, living particles in the complex, divine Body of Christ; we have been given the Holy Spirit in order that we should be temples of this Spirit, the place where He lives, which He inhabits, from which He shines and radiates and acts. We are called to be the children of God in His Only-begotten Son, but all this is unattainable by human effort and contrivance. It can only be given to us; yet given only on the condition that we can receive what we are given, and to receive God is often a terrifying thing, because when God enters our lives, our destinies, much, very much in them must change. Truth must shine forth, love must conquer, compassion must be born, humility must come, together with everything that we admire so much in the lives of saints and yet fear so in our own lives. And so we are faced with the question how to find this determination in ourselves, how to develop it. Father Alexander Yeltchaninov, one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time, says in his journal that if we want to become completely pliable in God’s hands, obedient to His will, alive in His life, we must begin with the simplest things. Whenever we feel a good urge, whenever we feel the sudden possibility of doing good, we must do it at once, quickly and urgently, without leaving time between the thought and the action to suggest to ourselves, wickedly, that it can wait, that perhaps it is not really necessary, that the person of whom we are thinking may not be worth so much care and attention and goodness. And yet the whole point is in this. A saint is not one who vegetates, but one who is in action. And we are called to stop vegetating, to stop living in a dream, half asleep, and to respond quickly, vigorously to all that is good, beautiful and vital in us and around us. To achieve this, obedience is necessary: obedience to the word of God, to the voice of our conscience, to the active call of our souls. It must be quick and immediate, leaving no opportunity between the idea and its fulfilment to allow us to put it off indefinitely. Then obedience must be wholehearted. Often we start on some good work but tire of it very quickly, get bored with it; but the person whom we are helping still seems to need us for some reason, and instead of treating him with love, we begin to treat him with bitterness: does he really still need more love, more care, more attention? Finally, obedience must be indiscriminate; we must not ask ourselves whether we want to do good to a particular person or not, do we want to bother about another one or not, is it worth it, is he worthy? It is sufficient for a person to be in need for us to hear God saying “well, you go and do it for him”, and if we do it wholeheartedly, quickly and joyfully, we shall gradually learn to be sufficiently active, responsive, vigorous, prepared for obedience, so that when the Lord demands more of us we can respond with determination “Of course, O Lord”, and perform the task. In this way, moving from small things to greater and still greater, and finally to the really great acts of holiness, a man become such as we see the saints, by whom we are filled with wonder, by whom we are filled with wonder, by whom we are moved, whom we are called on to emulate in spirit and in our lives, to emulate in the living flow of love. Let us try. Let us begin with the smallest things and the Lord will lead us by the hand to greater achievements by the power of the Holy Spirit, by His inspiration and His strength. Amen.

 

Published: NEWS LETTER

No. 40

June 1973