“Keep your mind in hell and do not despair”
It began with the fact that I “stumbled” about the words of the apostle: he who abides in God must do what He did (1 John 2: 6). What does it mean? What did he do? Reading the Gospel, I face a completely different reality than the one in which I live. Not to have chapters whereabouts, “leave the dead to the dead” and go to proclaim the kingdom of God, not have two clothes and food for tomorrow, meet everyone as “my joy” and give comfort, and not seek comfort from others – so I would have to live today?
It would seem that Christ calls for some simple things (and the apostle John says that the commandments are “not heavy”): I saw a hunger – feed, in need – give yours, don’t judge, act with others as you want them to . There is only one question: why do not I personally do this? Why don't I give my jacket to the homeless, although I know that I can buy another? Why not give my phone to any teenager from a large family – after all, hand on heart, I will manage with the simplest model? Why do I often seek support and comfort from others, and never seek anyone I can comfort and support?
There are two non-intersecting planes of consciousness. In one, I live, make plans, plan a family budget, read what I find interesting, “improve efficiency” … On the other plane, I know that all this doesn’t matter that I have to strive for something else: humility, pure prayer, non-attachment, oblivion of self, sincere service to others.
And I, as a person, are stretched between these two levels: ideals in one plane, and life in another. I know “as it should be,” but I spend no more than 5% of my time and effort on this. And I understand it, and I continue to do so.
Am I the only one?
I would venture to ask: is it only the case that I do not fulfill the commandments badly? Was it not the saints who dedicated 100% of their time and energy to the execution of the commandments experienced the same thing?
It was said about Abba Sisoe that when he was dying, and the Fathers were with him, his face became clear and he said to them:
– Here came Abba Anthony.
And after a while he said:
– Here came the face of the prophets.
And his face shone even brighter, and he said:
– Here came the face of the apostles.
And again the radiance of his face became even stronger and he seemed to be talking to someone.
– Who are you talking to, father? – the elders asked him.
“Here come the angels,” he replied, “carry me away, and I ask them to leave me some more to repent.”
“Did you not repent enough, Father?” – the elders say to him.
“In truth,” he answered, “I don’t even know if I made a start.”
Then everyone understood that he was perfect. And again his face flashed like the sun, so that all were frightened. But he said to them:
– Look: the Lord comes and says: "Bring me that vessel from the desert."
And immediately Abba betrayed the spirit. And like lightning flashed, and the house was filled with fragrance.
"The Code of the Divine Speeches and Doctrines
God-bearing and Holy Fathers … "
Perhaps it can be said that the closer a person is to God, the brighter he feels this gap, the clearer is the impossibility for him to come closer to God “close to”?
Let us recall once more the words of the apostle: “they must act as He did,” and the words of Christ “be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt.5: 48). Wait, so I’m offered not just to do some good things and not to do bad things, but to be like Christ in this, without any discounts! Be perfect like God ?!
God has no “good enough” concept. You can not be a Christian "for four"; God is jealous. Nor can I count on the fact that in earthly life I will reach the upper bar, I will become perfect like God; I am doomed to always be "untill". How to live with it? If there is not that humility that Abba Sisoi had, how can we accept that this division between “real” and “ideal” life will remain with me forever?
“Keep your mind in hell and do not despair,” the Lord said to Silvanus of Athos. Perhaps we are called to constantly feel our separation from God, to dwell, as it were, in hell, away from Him, to be called to this duality, separation? This is an intolerable, painful feeling, and judging by the writings of the saints, the closer we are to God, the more acutely we will feel our separation from Him. Why is this all about?
I will say this. I will never become an ideal husband, that is, I will not give my wife the optimal measure of love, support and freedom she needs. We will have conflicts, misunderstandings, mutual disappointments. But despite all this, I can – and in reality it is – to be happy with her today. And I can correct my behavior in such a way that this happiness is at least less destroyed, or even created – say, to talk with her more often and refrain from throwing socks. And although I will not reach the ideal even in these two points, and at times or constantly I will feel my unworthiness, our marriage will continue and, I hope, will even develop. And even bear fruit 🙂
Also in a relationship with God. Although I will never become an ideal Christian, my relationship with the living God already exists, and they give me a lot, if not to say everything. And I can do something to develop and maintain these relations, and to refrain from something that destroys them; in other words, keeping the commandments will bring me closer to God.
Carrying this tragic distance from God, “keeping the mind in hell”, I, nevertheless, should not despair, because I can still do something, although I know for sure that I will never reach perfection.
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