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Athos Monks[play]
Th. Vassilikos[play]

Ascetic Feat of Fellowship.

To live a Christian life is to walk in light. Blinded by the daily cares of our lives, we do not see and do not realize the fullness of our mission on earth and the fullness of the gifts given us by God; we donít even know ourselves. The gifts of our soul are left unused. We see ourselves and other people as powerless and say, "We are insignificant average people. What can we do? We should only try to earn our living." Thus belittling ourselves we often weaken our will to act, even though we are not little and not weak, but each one of us has a mission. Every human being in this world has a purpose and is Godís messenger on this earth. The Lord needs every soul, and every one of us is responsible for his own life, as well as for others. The issue is not our insignificance, but our unwillingness to assume responsibility. We often say, "Thatís none of my business. Let someone else do it." By saying so we shift our responsibility onto others, thus blaming others; this causes us to be judgmental, which in turn leads to divisions.

To a large extent our life depends on ourselves. Since we are Godís messengers on this earth, each one of us has an influence on what is going on around him and thus on the world. If evil will neutralizes the power of good, then a will freed from sin has a great significance.

Every day we interact with various people, and in this interaction we can either show our worse side, or our better side. Unfortunately, we normally do not show that light and good that we have inside ourselves. The gifts we have are neutralized by the mundane nature of our life. We often do not know the values of our soul, and that is why our soul becomes somewhat darkened. Because in order to fulfill our purpose, we need to have our internal eyes opened, and only then will we see in our soul those values that are hidden from our internal sight. We need to discover those values in ourselves and help others discover them in themselves. Helping others to discover themselves, we get to know ourselves deeper. This is where fellowship with others is useful: it is our school of salvation and spiritual effort. Avoiding interaction with people is not always beneficial for a Christian.

In isolation a human being almost always becomes deficient. The more he separates himself from others, the more lacking he becomes. Living a solitary life, we cut ourselves from the common life, from the life of a whole body, and in this isolation we dry out because we are not being nourished by the common life. But when we interact with people, our undiscovered powers come into action. Thus fellowship with people enriches our soul, which blossoms when we get closer to others. An individual can compensate for what he is lacking by interacting with the whole body of humankind. People are Godís flowers; we should learn, like bees, to collect honey from these flowers, to enrich ourselves from individuality of others and open ourselves for others.

Often it is hard for us to interact with others, but we are called to a common life, and fellowship with others is a duty of a Christian. We can benefit a lot from every contact with another person. If we pay attention to those around us, then we will definitely find valuesólight and good. There is something beautiful in every human being, and it is only our sinfulness that prevents us from seeing that beauty. We meet people and most often evaluate them incorrectly, looking only at their outward appearance. We say, "This person is good looking, and that one isnít." Often, when we see some shortcomings in a person, we stay away from him, taking his external appearance for his essence; we judge him without trying to overcome the obstacles separating us. We like to interact with people who are pleasant to us, when we naturally like one another. It is hard to talk to a person against whom you have a prejudice, but it is this difficulty that we must overcome.

The Lord wants to gather us together, but the evil one is trying to separate us. When we overcome separation, we recognize in each other that one and only thing that we have from God; the thing that comprises our strength and brings us good in life. Sin has placed separation throughout humankind. When people gain victory over sin, they get closer to one another, because they return to their original state of common human natureóone whole body of humankind. But sin steals from us. When we fail to overcome what separates us, we donít see true life of others, but their mask, which we incorrectly take for real. Our separation and isolation distorts our life.

Normally it appears to us that we meet people by chance. Of course, that is not so! The Lord places us next to each other in family and in society so we can enrich one another, so that by having interaction and friction with one another people can light up the sparks of light. The Lord says to us, "Here is your task. I have put you in touch with this person. There is a talent in your heart that I gave you. Open that talent." Sending every soul into this world, the Lord gives it some talent and an area of activity, so the soul can blossom in its spiritual life. Because each individual is spiritually unique, if he fails to open up his spiritual treasure, it will be a spiritual death, disappearance of Godís light in that point of existence. That is why every one of us must care for his spiritual world to allow Godís light to shine in that world and not disappear. Why are we so unwilling and slow in using those powers that are in us? When we fight sin in ourselves, we allow seeds of good to grow in us; we weed out evil from us, and thus help reduce evil on earth. Even the smallest effort on our part breaks our inactivity, awakens the good that is dormant in us and manifests it.

Talents are given to everybody. The Lord will ask every one of us, "Why didnít you do what you were supposed to?" Everyone in his life must uncover and multiply the talent given to him by God. Usually people say, "I have no talent." By this they mean the talent of a scientist, an artist or a statesman. But far more important are the talents of the heart given by the Lord to every human being, such as for example friendliness and compassion. It is up to us to uncover these talents as natural qualities of our soul. Of course, these talents can be uncovered only through live interaction with others. We are tied to one another with various ties, and we must use these ties to create unity of life. It is painful to realize that so many people complain about being lonely. Indeed, separation from others depresses a human being, while unity, on the other hand, provides encouragement, because then the person feels that he is not lost in this world. Unity among people is a rope connecting earth to heaven, to God Uniting. Unity that comes from the heart of one person to that of another is actually directed toward the One center, God, because unity among people is life, and separation is death.

Unity among people is good, and it brings us the joy of life. It is a law of life, and people unavoidably suffer when they break it. We are all created in the image of God. This means that we are united by the image of God. Coming together, we can gradually achieve unity of thought, soul and will; the unity of which Christ said, "As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us" (John 17:21). Yet in our mundane life we do not even consider our duty to look for the gifts we have from God, which can really bring us close to one another. We take separation as true existence and do not make an effort to break it. The state of separation deprives us of joy in our everyday life and prevents us from uncovering our true value.

We hear all the time: "There are no good people." How come? There are people amongst us who have education, intelligence and treasure of soul, and it is only because we are hiding inside the shell of our mundane life that we do not see it, thus hiding our talents and those of others. We are lazy slaves. We say that we cannot multiply our talents, even thought it is said, "Knock and it shall be opened unto you." We ought to look for a treasure in each and every heart. People often search for treasure, but not spiritual treasure, and it is spiritual treasure that we ought to look for. Someone might ask, "Why?" Letís answer: "In order to get richer." We notice only peopleís outward appearance and take from them external things, but we donít notice and donít search for a treasure that each person has inside. We should be looking for the talent of heart; this treasure is a source of good. But how do we go about doing it? To do this we ought to exert effort and work hard. As a Russian saying goes, "Without working you canít even pull a small fish out of a pond." If even greatly talented people, having received a gift from God, have to labor hard to realize their potential, then an average person ought to work even harder.

When we approach a person, let us look closely at his heart, which is the center of a human being. Christ said that everything comes out of the heart: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil" (Luke 6:45). Goodness of heart is a gift from God, it can be multiplied tenfold, and it is easier to build up virtue upon the goodness of heart. St. John Chrysostom says, "Miracles do not consist in doing great and marvelous deeds, but when an evil person is transformed into a good oneóthat is a miracle, for it is then that the laws of nature are broken, an old person is discarded, and a new creature is built through fight against sin." When a person struggles against sin, he is perfected, i.e. becomes closer to God. By defeating sin in oneself, a person opens up the better aspects of his soul, at the same time discovering a treasure in another person, who did not even suspect that such a treasure existed. When burdened by sin, a person is afraid of other people, he does not walk through his life joyfully. He is thinking about how to avoid meeting certain other individuals. Having defeated sin, a person will easily approach others and share his goodness with them. If we look inside a person, we can see his true self. This is not easy, but we ought to force ourselves to do it.

When we are on good terms with people, we are illuminated with sparks of light; we receive something invisible which gives us life. The Lord sends us into this world, so that we can manifest the riches of our soul. If we gather all the small grains of good and light given to us even that will be a lot. If we gather specs of light, then we will also become saturated with light, and our hearts of stone will light up. This process of searching for light is a moment of spiritual enlightenment: then the beauty of what we are searching for fills our soul with beauty. While looking for a treasure in our soul, we will inevitably pluck the thorns and weeds out of our heart, and this cleansing is a true good, which will give us joy of life. This goodness is a step toward beholding God, as the Scripture says, "The pure in heart shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). By having such individual moments of bliss a person is preparing for himself a place in the abode of light.

Divine light that we discover in ourselves makes us able to see spiritually, and when we can see, we are not going to invest all the resources of our soul into things that are insignificant. With divine light, as if with a flashlight, a person lights his path, and then he will see the same light in others. This light is present in every individual, but it is hidden by darkness, so that we cannot see it in others. When we feel this light, we kind of wake up, and everything changes around us, and the attacks of the enemy are rendered powerless. When illuminated by divine light, we turn our soul to God and gather the scattered rays of light into focus; then we not only shine ourselves, but we also evoke light in others.

When we have problems in relationships with others, when the evil one causes turmoil in our heart and fills it with darkness, then we ought to call God for help, invoking His name in our thoughts. Being possessed by a passion and walking in darkness, a person can do and say a lot of stupid things. We should turn to the Lord as quickly as possible, and He will dispel darkness with His light. By this creative act of turning to God, a person calls upon light, and the light from God comes into his heart, i.e. the Lord Himself descends into the heart, enlightens it and begins to reign in it. When God lives in the heart, then darkness is overcome, and this victory brings us into another realm of existence, a new joyful life. Peace and joy dwell in our hearts, and then we begin to feel the unity for which our soul thirsts so much. Working for the Lord, we are sort of transformed, entering into the realm of light, and the Lord Himself dwells in us, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).

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