Orthodox America


  God’s Call to Salvation


by Fr. G. Diachenko

 

…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.  (Mark 1:15)

What a blessed time it was when, from the very lips of the Saviour Himself, the word sounded forth: Repent. Fortunate were those who heard this teaching. This sermon was not that of an ordinary teacher, nor even of a prophet--but of the sweetest Jesus, a sermon of incarnate Love.

How could one not listen to such a sermon ! How was it possible for one's heart not to be moved, not to shed tears of repentance? My dear brethren, what if this blessed time were with us now? What if the Saviour appeared amidst us now and said: Repent. I think every one of us would fall down to His most pure feet, and, washing them with tears of contrition and covering them with fervent kisses of burning love, would only repeat with heartfelt sighs: O Lord, I repent; accept my repentance . Lord, I repent; remember not my sins... Would this not be so, my dearly beloved ones? Oh, if this could only be! But do not forget that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever, remember that now, just as then, He ceaselessly calls out to us: Repent:

Do our hearts readily respond to this voice of Divine love? Repent! Our inattentiveness sometimes reaches the point that we do not hear it, although this voice of the Lord, calling us to Himself, speaks out to us everywhere and at all times. Here we are not talking about the holy temples where the voice of God is clearly heard; neither are we talking about the Holy Gospel in which we are so plainly given to know the will of God. We need only to look carefully at ourselves and our surroundings, or to attentively observe the nature which surrounds us;--both here and there we can hear the voice of the Lord calling us to Himself.

 The Lord calls us to Himself through our own selves. Know ye not, says the Apostle, that ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Cor. 3:16)? And if this is so, what further need have we to show that the Lord calls us to Himself through our very nature? Through Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:18), possessing as His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). What then can we say about all our good thoughts and kind feelings? Are-these not signs of the Spirit of God? And the unearthly which gladdens our heart after a good deed. or the pangs of conscience which torment us for our sins; those sighs which sometimes tear from our breast, or tears of contrition which at times fill our eyes--what is all this if not the powerful voice of Him Who .says of Himself: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. if any man hear my voice and open the door,. I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me (Rev, 3:20).

St. Barbarus was a frightful thief; three hundred souls perished at the hands of this cut-throat, including two priests ! Who could have thought that such a man, hardened by all these killings, could ever come to repentance? Sin is powerful, but the grace of God within us is yet more powerful, ln the midst of all the murders and noisy carousing with his comrades, Barbarus did not hear the voice of God within himself, but when he remained alone in the cave, when he entered the chamber of his heart, then within himself, so loud and powerful did the convicting voice of God sound in the reproaches or his conscience, that Barbarus was at once converted. Likewise the righteous David and Moses the Black were changed from angels of darkness to angels of light--by hearing the voice of God.

My dear brethren, this voice of God sounds within us too, but to our great misfortune, it frequently produces no action; just as in church, the words of God are often spoken, but sometimes they do not penetrate our hearts, and even pass by our ears. The Lord once called to fallen Adam: "Adam, where art thou?" Adam heard the voice of God, but instead of answering with contrition of heart and acknowledging his guilt, he thought to hide from the Omnipresent One amongst the trees of paradise.  Don't we do the same? Sometimes we hear in our hearts, "Adam, where art thou?"--"Sinner, where are you? Another step--and you will fall into the abyss; take heed, stop," But instead of taking heed and stopping, we run from the warning voice of our conscience and think to muffle its soul saving voice with the noise of worldly distractions and pleasures. And the voice of God in us remains fruitless.

The Lord calls us to Himself through various circumstances of our lives. Our life is a school in which the Lord acts upon us as a wise educator upon his students. In order that the students might succeed in their lessons, both of science and morality, the instructor at times praises them and at times punishes them, or brings them into contact with someone who could have a beneficial influence upon them. A similar thing happens to us. The Lord pours upon us His mercy: He gives us wealth, clothes us with strength, crowns us with honor and glory--for what other reason than that we might turn more often to Him with a thanksgiving prayer, that We might share our abundance with His lesser brethren, that we might use our strength to defend the innocent and our power to wipe away the tears of those less fortunate?. Is all this not His calling out to us: Follow me! Good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler over many things; enter, thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matt. 25:23). The righteous Melania of Rome knew neither the amount nor the value of her riches; but she did know for what reason the Lord showered her with such wealth, and what her right hand received from Him, her left hand distributed to His brethren. In this way St. Melania's wealth was a trumpet by which the Lord called her into His heavenly kingdom.

Concerning poverty and want there is little need to say anything. If there were no thunder, the people wouldn’t cross themselves, as the saying goes. Thou Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day  (II Cor. 4:16) says the Apostle. And who has not experienced this? When are we more humble, more devout, more moderate in our desires--than in times of sorrow and need? When the Prodigal Son, as the Gospel relates, had his father's inheritance, he only drank, ate, and made merry in a far country; taking no thought of his father or his homeland; but when he had dissipated his riches, when he became hungry and could scarcely obtain husks fed to swine --let alone beg a piece of bread--only then did he feel the whole import of his situation; then he remembered his father and threw himself into his embrace. Oh, if only we were more mindful of all the various circumstances of our lives, how often we would hear the Lord saying to us: Repent.'

And have you paid sufficient attention to those persons with whom the Lord has brought you into contact? Children! You have parents who have given you life and upbringing. Parents! You have children preparing for you rest and consolation in your old age. Husband! You have a wife who shares your joys and your sorrows. Friends! You have close ones who give you good advice, who are concerned about your happiness and comfort you in sorrows... Tell me; are not these obvious messengers who loudly proclaim that the Lord Himself by the power of love is entwined in the bosom of your family, that He sent you such people for which you must eterna1ly thank and glorify Him? Are these not our earthly guardian angels, through whom the Lord Himself guards and sustains us on the slippery path of life?... St. Niphont, in the flower of youth, at first amazed everyone by his rapid successes in learning and virtues, but later, he gradually became so accustomed to a debauched life that he was unrecognizable; idle talk, drunkenness, stealing, fighting, profligacy--these became his favorite occupations. He was reproached, threatened, but he was hardened like a rock, But the Lord is merciful! One day Niphont's old friend Nikodim met him and. looking into his face, so altered by his debauched life. said to him in astonishment: "My friend! I hardly recognize you; your f ac e--it's frightful!" He didn't say much, hut his words had such profound effect on the youth, that he changed his life, and pleased God by such a righteous life that he was vouchsafed by God numerous revelations. In a similar manner the Lord called to Himself the holy martyr Justin and the righteous martyr Eudocia. And so He calls to Himself each of us, sending us kind people and guides,

The Lord also calls us to Himself through nature which surrounds us. During His earthly life, He Himself often pointed out things in nature as though it were a book which contained many useful lessons for us. We need only to look at it in the right spirit of piety and before us is opened up a whole school of righteousness.

For this reason one Holy Father said, "I have no need of books. I have one large book in which everything needful is written--this book is nature." This is why, when the holy martyrs Sts. Christina and Barbara looked attentively upon the magnificence of the heavens, they at once abandoned their faith in the false gods and confessed the One True God.

Let' us, dear brothers and sisters, open our ears and hearken to the voice of God calling us ever closer to Himself. And let us not overlook those seemingly insignificant means by which God calls, remembering the example of Elijah who heard the voice of God not in the wind, neither in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in a still small voice.

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