What Should Be in Every Communicant of the Holy Mysteries Who Received the Lord in Them; and Who Does Not Have the Lord Within
Homily on the first week of Great Lent
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (Jn. 6:56). Rejoice, O reverent communicants! True are the Lord’s words, and so undoubtedly is the Lord within you after you receive His Holy, Pure, and Life-Creating Mysteries. But brothers, the Lord who came to dwell in us cannot remain without witness in this inward activity, just as He cannot remain without witness in His outward Providence—He … gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). He Himself said, 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). So—do you meet with the Lord, and the Lord with you? I pose this question to you because there is perhaps no one here among you who has not already taken Communion of Christ’s Mysteries. Well then, has what should be the obvious fruit of this most glorious Mystery begun in you?
The Lord has come, and He brought the Supper with Him. He brings all spiritual goods unto salvation, of which He is the only source, and gives them to the soul to taste. Enter within, and look.
“The Lord is light.” He brings light to the soul that has received Him. It is as when a bright lamp is carried into a room, and the room and everything in it, from the great to the small, becomes visible along with the lamp itself and its bearer; thus does spiritual light illumine the soul that has received the Lord. This is the light of knowledge, and the understanding of the whole Economy of our salvation. Our nothingness and helplessness is clearly recognized in it, as well as God’s great condescension for us, which saves us with all the truths attending it: the truths of the Trinity one in essence, creation and Providence, our fall, the Incarnation of the Son of God, His death on the cross and resurrection, the order of the Holy Church, the relationship of the heavenly with the earthly, and the inheritance prepared in heaven for the faithful who strive to live according their faith; in a word, the whole body of saving truths. These truths are also known to us always, as Christians. But as long as we do not enter into life in Christ, this knowledge remains external. The Lord has come, and mingles these truths not only with the mind, but with our spirit’s entire existence, so that neither a shadow of doubt nor a moment of forgetfulness remains afterward. But as truly as light now encompasses us and illumines everything around us and we recognize this irrefutably, so he who receives the Lord with his mind consciously stands in those truths, and remains in them inseparably, acting in the sphere that is natural to him. This is how it should be for every communicant of Christ’s Mysteries, who has received the Lord in them. But is that how it is with us, brothers?
“The Lord is an all-enlivening power.” He brings spiritual power into the soul that has received Him. The sick man, paralyzed and lying in bed, barely raises his arm, barely speaks, and barely opens his eyes. But after receiving healing he begins to walk with a feeling of strength and fortitude, and acts not only painlessly, but eagerly—like the paralytic who was healed by the Savior, who took up his bed and walked, leaping and praising God. Thus also is a sinful soul morally paralyzed, but when it receives the Lord it feels spiritual fortitude and strength; that is, it feels an inspired zeal for everything good, and for the keeping of every commandment of God, without ever being overcome by hindrances external or internal that come from passions and bad habits, and not cut short by laziness or procrastination. We always do a little bit of good, but we do it when it comes into our hands, so to say, and when it does not demand any sacrifice or particular effort. But here, a powerful energy is reborn, which directs all our thoughts, desires, and intentions only to what is pleasing to God. This is expressed not only by liveliness, but by a certain irrepressibility in good and pious works that experience neither weariness nor satiety. This is how it should be for every communicant of Christ’s Mysteries, who has received the Lord in them. But is that how it is with us, brothers?
“The Lord is peace.” He brings peace into the soul that has received Him. As the Lord with His almighty word calmed the great storm and on the Sea of Tiberius and brought great peace, comfort, and gladness to the Apostles in their turmoil, so also, once the Lord has come to a soul usually agitated by many thoughts, desires, enterprises and movements of the heart, that soul is filled with deep spiritual calm, imperturbable by anything from outside or from inside—a calm that provides an opportunity to clearly hear the still, small voice, whether it comes from heaven or from the earth. This is not immobility, but harmony and regularity of all the movements of our soul in all its aspects, which acquire their quality within and express themselves outwardly by steadiness in all movements, and by the way they order all their affairs without being perturbed over anything they might meet. This is how it should be for every communicant of Christ’s Mysteries, who has received the Lord in them. But is that how it is with us, brothers?
“The Lord is a warming fire.” He brings spiritual warmth also to the soul that has received Him. Just as one entering a warm room from the cold feels the warmth pleasantly enfolding his whole body, so does the soul wrap itself in spiritual warmth like clothing after receiving the Lord in the Most Pure Mysteries. From above comes God’s goodwill, reconciling him, behind him is the expiation of his sins, before him is the assurance of an ineffable inheritance, peaceful association with the unseen and the seen. These are rays of that spiritual warmth that descends into the heart and produce there a fervency of spirit, drawing there all the powers of our nature. Thus is a sturdy habitation built within the heart to contain the uncontainable. This warmth brings a sweetness, a paradise of sweetness, a spiritual treasure, for which one would be ready to give everything he has only not to lose it but to keep it forever. This is how it should be for every communicant of Christ’s Mysteries, who has received the Lord in them. But is that how it is with us, brothers?
Thus, the light of knowledge, the power of inspiration to do good, peace of soul, and sweet warmth are the main witnesses to the Lord’s dwelling in the hearts of true communicants of the Supper by which He permeates the soul that receives Him. Hearing this, more than one of you might become indignant in spirit and ask, “So, does that mean that if someone does not see such witnesses in himself he does not have the Lord in him?” I will not falsely reassure you—no, he does not have the Lord in Him. And I will take this even further: because he does not have the Lord in him, he has no salvation.
Just the same, see that you do not alarm yourself with false fears. Perhaps these good things are not in their perfected form, but they have begun to ripen. Then we have to say that they are there. The day does not light up in an instant, but at the first glimmer of dawn, everyone knows that night has passed and day has come. A flower or tree does not grow in a moment, but as soon as the seed gives sprout, we know that the life of a new plant has begun. A sick man does not stand up suddenly, but nevertheless, once medicine is found and his strength begins to return, we know that his recovery is under way. Reason this way about the fruits of receiving the Most Pure Mysteries, which witness that the Lord has come to abide in us. They are not there in full strength, but perhaps they are there elementarily. Have patience and abide in that state in which you can expect their complete manifestation, and you will receive what you long for. You ask, “How can we know that we have at least these beginnings?” I answer that if there is concern for salvation and labors toward everything that brings salvation, know that the Lord has already begun His work in us. Continue the work you have begun with patience and you will see that what was begun is being completed. But if there is none of this, it means that there are no beginnings, either. Carelessness and laziness over salvation is a clear sign that the life of the spirit has not yet begun, and everything has to be started over again. By the way, do not despair in this case either. Life is still given to us so that we would come to our senses and repent. This has to be done. There is still the favorable time of the fast left. Use it, and let us take care to complete the course of our treatment in preparing ourselves for Communion as is meet! Then, having made peace with the Lord in the Sacrament of repentance and having received Him in the Most Pure Mysteries, we will begin the work of life, which ultimately leads to light and perfection of spiritual good things that witness that the Lord is in us and we are in Him. Amen.
St. Theophan the Recluse