ON SUFFERING

My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and SaviorJesus Christ.

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

ON SUFFERING
By Nicholas Arseniev

The world is continuously passing away, and we long for something that is immutable. But perhaps even more than by this passing away, we feel baffled BY THE MYSTERY OF SUFFERING. Is it necessary? It surrounds us on all sides, we meet it at every step. We are simply intruded upon by the news the impression of suffering rushing upon us from every quarter, e.g. out of the daily newspaper: with so many persons burnt alive, so many drowned, so many dashed to pieces in an air crash. We are really at a loss how to understand the meaning of all that, how o accept it, how to be reconciled with this course of life, this order of the universe, where such things can and do happen continuously. We feel we cannot agree with that; we are filled with horror; we are struck dumb; we are full of an internal protest…

"…Our hearts are faltering with pity, and wincing under the thought of those torments suffered by others. But are we more compassionate than God? How then can He allow such things to happen? This is the most troubling question which can be put to our religious conscience. Let us try to realize the full scope of this problem and feel the scrutiny of the point and see to answer…

"…The Christian answer is the message about the Suffering God or rather more than that: His"REALLY HAVING COME" to SHARE OUR SUFFERING UNTO THE DEPTHS OF DEATH, AND THAT ON THE Cross. This sheds NEW LIGHT on the whole question, and not only on this question but on the whole reality of the world’s life. There is no explanation coming first; there is this fact coming free: He IS SHARING OUR SUFFERING, HE IS HALLOWING OUR SUFFERINGS BY His Presence, by His participation therein. Here there is explanation, but rather A NEW REVELATION, SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW, ASTONISHING, INCOMPREHENSIBLE, TAKING US TOTALLY ABACK, PARADOXICAL AND UNEXPECTED AND–TRUE. Here lies the answer, not the theoretical answer (I mean, in the first place) but the PRACTICAL, THE REAL SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM. His DEATH and His SUFFERING on the Cross are THE REAL SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM.

GOD proves Himself to be OF BOUNDLESS, UNTHINKABLE, UNFATHOMABLE, AND ACTIVE MERCY, OF SELFLESS, SELF-SACRIFICING CONDESCENSION. He is not only compassionate but also much more: the Son of God DIES FOR OUR SAKE, IN ORDER TO SAVE US AND TO HALLOW OUR DYING AND OUR SUFFERING.

Is this an answer? Yes, I think, it is: because WE ARE NOT ALONE. Even in our being left alone WE HAVE HIM WITH US, SHARING OUR BEING LEFT ALONE, IN THIS CRY OF DEATH-AGONY: "My God, My God, wherefore hast Thou forsaken Me?" Death and torments can mean that He bears company with us; they become His Presence and His Fellowship with us. We have here a new vital center, a new spiritual–and very real–REALITY. But how difficult does it usually seem for us to attain it!

There are TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES to the problem of suffering from the Christian point of vew, and both are necessary. Yes, more than than thats: they are, from this Christian point of view, most intimately connected with one another.

The first approach is to be deeply struck, deeply haunted by the suffering of the fellow men, and even more–by the suffering of all creatures, Saint Isaac the Syrian, perhaps the greatest among the ascetic and mystical writers of Eastern Christianity, speaks of this immense compassion which takes hold of a heart that approaches the summits of perfection. "What is a compassionate heart?" asks, and he answers:

It is a kindling of the heart for all creation–for mankind, the birds, the animals, even the enemies of the Truth andd for all that is. And when he thinks of them or contemplates themk tears stream from his eyes because of the power of mercy which moves his heart with great compassion. And the heart feels itself trouched, ,and he cannot endure to see or hear a creature suffer any harm, even the slightest pain. And he offers them, even for those who hurt him, continuous prayers, and tears, that they might be saved and strengthened. Even for those that creep in the dust does he pray–out of the immense compassion which is poured out into his heart without measure, following the example of God…

"…Our fate n the future world WILL DEPEND ON THE SHARE OF LOVE SHOWN BY US TO OUR FELLOW MEN. "BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE TO ONE OF THOSE LEAST AMONG MY BRETHREN, YOU HAVE DONE IT TO ME." We see THE PRESENCE OF THE SUFFERING CHRIST IN OUR SUFFERING BRETHREN. And if we cannot help them by a visible external action, if we cannot alleviate their suffering with our own means, we can and we must intercede for them, with all the burning of our love, as Saint Isaac the Syrian depicts it: INCESSANT PRAYER, KNOCKING AT THE DOOR OF HIS MERCY. No rest, no self-complacent relation, but go on knocking, with THE FIRM TRUST that He will hear, that He WILL SAVE…

"…On the other hand, there are some glimpses, "THROUGH OUR OWN SUFFERING." Unknown depths and realities are suddenly opened before us, and we come to see and feel things which we never suspected before. The Son of God Himself in His agony at the garden of Gethsemane prayed to His Father, THAT THIS CUP MIGHT PASS FROM Him, but He added: "BUT NOT AS I WILL BUT AS THOU WILL." And it is only natural for us–it is even the NORMAL ATTITUDE–THAT WE SHOULD PRAY GOD TO RELIEVE US FROM SUFFERING AND MISFORTUNES AND SORROW. But we are led to guess and to feel and to recognize more: THE WILL OF GOD, WHIICH IS BEHIND THE SUFFERING AND IS SPEAKING TO US, ADDRESSING US DIRECTLY THROUGH IT. Concerning the brethren (our fellow men) we must continue ASKING GOD TO RELIEVE THEM. Here, in our own case, it is only natural that we pray God TO RELIEVE US FROM THE EVILS; BUT MORE IS REQUIRED FROM US: WE HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE WILL OF GOD SPEAKING TO US EVEN THROUGH OUR SUFFERINGS–AND PERHAPS ESPECIALLY STRONGLY THROUGH OUR SUFFERINGS–AND BE READY TO SUBMIT TO IT: "THEY WILL BE DONE!" NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS THOU WILL." And here we come near to the center of the Christian revelation, of the revealed mystery: THE SENSE OF LIFE, THE SENSE OF THE WHOLE OF HISTORY IS GIVEN IN THE VOLUNTARY SUFFERING OF THE SON OF GOD, IN THE TOTAL SUBMISSION OF HIS WILL–"OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH, EVEN THE DEATH ON THE CROSS" –TO THE WILL OF THE FATHER.

Once we have accepted our lot AS COMING FROM GOD AND HAVE BOWED TO HIS WILL, AN UNEXPECTED FORCE WHICH WE COULD NOT IMAGINE OR THINK OF CAN STREAM INTO US AND SUPPORT AND COMFORT US AMIDST HORRORS AND PAINS. And then we can even some to feel the bliss of bowing to His Will. Yes, more than that: THE BLISS OF SHARING THE PASSION AND THE AGONY AND THE SELF-SACRIFICE OF THE SON OF GOD. And this is not words only. This can–and must–become A REALITY, AS WE HAVE MANY EXAMPLES THEROF. And this gives sense and meaning to our suffering: IF IT BECOMES A PART OF His suffering, by OUR FREELY ACCEPTING IT. [Source: Revelation of Life Eternal]

__________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Thngs!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +

With sincere agape in Our Lord’s Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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