Divine Liturgy in Veljusa ( 13.12.2009 )
He Must Increase, but I Must Decrease
You see yourselves, children, in what spirit does
The reflection on his love and his relationship towards Christ the Lord cannot but bring us compunction and repentance. Let us recall once again the mentioned Gospel event and his words: And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:26-30).
Now, see with what powerful and unbeatable testimony does the Godman, too, respond to him: “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Here “has not risen” means “has not risen—nor will ever.”
Saint John the Baptist as a person is an unreachable wonder and a spring of wonders! From his relationship towards Christ and towards his disciple, the Holy Apostle Andrew, we can draw and define the whole structure of relationships between Christ, the spiritual father and the spiritual child—that is, more precisely, the relationship of the spiritual father towards Christ, towards his spiritual children, as well as towards other spiritual fathers.
Today we see things happening contrary to what is indicated in the Gospel: we see “spiritual fathers” who strive to keep people among them by blackening before them the other spiritual fathers; who insist on certain eternal obedience and idolatrous relationship between the spiritual father and the spiritual child, without explaining to their followers the perspective of spiritual development; they keep their spiritual children in some kind of spiritual isolation, not allowing them any contact with their “competition;” or they create around them certain apocalyptic and paranoid atmosphere in which they present themselves as the unique genuine way and salvation, as well as other similar egocentric manifestations that are pure missing of the Gospel Spirit. Naturally, such unhealthy union cannot last for a long time.
Also, in a Diocese, whatever the Episcope does, he must do it in the name of Christ, while the priests must do all in the name of the Episcope, since they have delegate tasks and services. The priests spiritually guide their spiritual children on behalf of the Episcope and they must not attach them towards themselves but towards the Episcope, and the Episcope towards Christ—“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). What happens in practice is all but what is proper. The Church of Christ in this world and age is Episcope-centered organized and it functions in an Episcope-centered way.
When we are building a relationship with people of the world who are not yet Christified, we are doing it to the extent of their relationship and growth in the Lord. We should not become attached towards such people in a worldly manner because the demon will strike them instead of us, and through them he will also hit us (because we are worldly attached to them), and thus we will harm both these people and ourselves. Thus, under the guise of our care for people’s salvation steals us our desire for the world. In the end we will all suffer damage, some even up to losing the acquired small faith. Even if we wanted to, we cannot properly bind ourselves with the people of the world of our own initiative all up to the accomplishment of the struggle for a life in exile.
What do the words He must increase, but I must decrease mean on our personal spiritual plane as well? These words mean that our old man, bound by passions, must decrease, while the new, in Christ, man must increase and that to the fullness of the stature of Christ in the Church—till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). We know that this comes to happen only if, under the supervision of our spiritual father, we bring into line our spiritual life and struggle with the level of our spiritual development. The spiritual father must lead his spiritual child to his/her illumination, afterwards the spiritual child personally follows Christ—wherever He may go.
Children, you should know this, too: one’s relationship towards one’s spiritual father goes through three levels: eros—a relationship that is more sentimental and physical than spiritual; friendship—a relationship that is more spiritual and less physical, sentimental; and love. And it is one thing to understand only with your reason what I have said to you so far, while it is yet another thing the grace of God to reveal it to you. Invoke the prayers of your spiritual father that the second may happen to you.
Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica
(as recorded by the Sisters)