The Light of the World ( 09.02.2008 )
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven…” (Matt. 5:14-19)
“No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 8:16)
The light in question we have all received on the day of Holy Baptism. It is the grace of the Holy Spirit! Since we have not been raised from our tender age in the spirit of Orthodox life and struggle, Divine grace has remained hidden under the deposits of sin, under the hardened insensitivity of our heart. Therefore we must come to believe, repent, confess, get back to spiritual struggle, fulfil God’s commandments, pray, partake of the Body and Blood of Christ… The aim is that we remove from our heart, through proper spiritual guidance, in obedience, one by one the layers of defilement, so that the grace we have received at Holy Baptism can be manifested. Grace will gradually transform our life and make us all light: our thoughts, our word, our deed. This graceful light, which is a gift of the Lord Holy Spirit, is the sole true seal and testament to our proper spiritual struggle and true witness to Christ the Godman to the glory of our God the Father.
One who has lit a lamp, at the first stage of his spiritual development—purification, is he who has sufficiently purified his mind’s energy. This purification is also called first beholding of uncreated divine light.
When the lamp lit is not covered with a vessel, it means that the one who has sufficiently purified the energy of his mind, does not use the first beholding of uncreated light—which takes place in the mind and reason—to judge and condemn his fellowman. Judging and condemnation is a sin, and sin dims the light i.e. the purifying grace.
Now, when the lamp is not put under a bed, it means that the first light is not used merely for intellectual building up, but for complete transformation of all the powers of soul and body. The use of the first light solely for intellectual building up first limits its operation (being put under a bed), and then also completely dims it. Knowledge puffs up and creates splits, whereas love humbles and unites into a union.
When the lit lamp is set on a lampstand, it means that the first light is used for realization of one’s own sins and doing away with them. In that manner the process of purification of the heart from the passion continues its course.
By continuous persistence in proper struggle, at the second stage of our spiritual development—illumination, begins the more concrete purification of the essence of the mind, too, which is in the heart. When it is sufficiently purified, what happens is opening of the heart, manifestation of uncreated grace, and prayerful descent of the mind in the heart. This is a gift of God.
The purification and illumination of the mind’s essence is also called second beholding of uncreated divine light. The light set on the lampstand—our heart—can work freely now. In this light we can easily observe every movement of heart and soul, as well as the thoughts that wish to enter from outside. In this light, passions, which still exist in the heart, are much easier to control. This light can already hardly be covered with a vessel and dimmed; it takes a fall into a great sin for this to happen. There is even lesser possibility to put it under a bed, since the need of intellectual knowledge at this stage is insignificant. And remember: God does never light this lamp for it to die out later, but He “sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light!” If the light flares up and intensifies through permanent endeavour of abiding in mind-and-heart prayer and through the struggle for love towards the enemies, then it leads its ‘owner’ to the third stage of spiritual development, named ‘deification’.
Correspondent to this stage is the third, genuine beholding of uncreated divine light, even with the transformed physical eyes. The beholding of uncreated light can be found in the Holy Fathers—I think it was Saint Maximus the Confessor—also as contemplation of the logoses of beings. In this light all humanity is seen and experienced as the one Adam, and the catholic dimension of life penetrates into and encompasses the whole creation. The word of the deified becomes miracle-working: “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12). The Lord says about this light: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden”—not only from them who enter the house i.e. the Church, but also from all who stand outside.
This true beholding of uncreated divine light is necessary for the spiritual father to lead properly his spiritual children. Nonetheless, on the other hand, experience shows that the progress in spiritual life still to the greatest extent depends on the spiritual child’s free will. It is up to you whether you will exert yourselves in the prayerful struggle a little, constantly, or not at all. Your spiritual father, with his word in power and shining example gives you strength, hope and light in your hearts; he nurses you in his heart, but he cannot enter inside you and struggle instead of you.
With the beholding of second light, with illumination, one can also be a spiritual guide into spiritual life. However, the first beholding of uncreated divine light is not enough. It is because he who has that light is still in the period of purification of the heart from the passions, and it is exactly for what this light serves him. All until the heart opens to the mind-and-heart prayer i.e. all until it is still bound by passions, there is no qualitative difference between, for instance, a monk and a worldly man. Until that moment the monk is still blind spiritually! And, the blind cannot guide another blind man all by himself, for both of them will fall into the ditch of delusion. In exceptional cases, when the Church needs it, the monk who is at the first stage may function as a spiritual guide, too, if there is a visible tendency to further purification, also if he himself is under the guidance of a spiritually practiced father.
Yet, what is important for the one who is at the stage of illumination? Such one must not personally aspire towards priestly ranks and must not nourish within him the desire to become a spiritual guide, although he has the inner back-up for that. Attainment of perfection, attainment of deification—of both body and soul—beholding of uncreated light must remain to be his primary aim. Only out of obedience to the Church, and if he has inner confirmation inside him, he may temporary seemingly abandon his basic goal and commit himself to the priestly and spiritual father’s duty and to serving his fellowmen. It does not mean, though, real abandonment of the basic aim, but merely striving for it in aggravated circumstances. Anyway, he should work honestly and conscientiously for some time and find a replacement as soon as possible so that he does not carry that heavy burden, too, on the way that is anyhow narrow and hard.
What can we say about them who yearn after priestly ranks and after the position of a spiritual guide, although they are still unillumined and are still captives to and led by their passions? And, what about them who received what they had asked for by God’s permission, through a man? Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy…!
(as recorded by the Sisters)