Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lord, it is good for us to be here...

We only know that He has opened wide His wounds to let us inside,
 and there, if nowhere else, we are safe.

I was deeply moved by one of Brother Romanos' post from a few weeks ago titled 'Home', but I haven't had a chance to write about it till now. I have been thinking recently about what home means and I'm always reminding myself of the beautiful Greek word nostalgia (nostos=home, algos=deep longing). We all feel this nostalgia when by our sin we are exiled into a strange place, just as when the Israelites were captives to the Babylonians, saying, 'How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?' We feel this nostalgia when we are alone and we are hurting, as it is written in Genesis: The LORD God said, "It is not good for man to be alone...". I'm reminded of the journey of the long-suffering Odysseus back to his homeland, to Ithaka and Cavafy's poem of the same name:


Home is the place where we feel most safe, where no-one and nothing can hurt us. The three disciples who witnessed the Tansfiguration felt like they were home and thus Peter said to Christ, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here...'.  We are not always close to home, but it will always have a special place in our hearts. Christ asks us to let Him into our home and into our hearts, so that we may enter His home.

Romanos writes:...for some, home is a place to throw down your things, dump yourself into a comfortable chair, and try to blot out the memories of the day by immersion in television or a computer game. For some, it’s a place where there may be food laid out on a table, or left sitting on the stove, where you might hear somebody call out, “Supper’s on the table if anybody wants it!”

It may be a place where you’re afraid to come home, because the criticism you encounter there is a 24/7 experience, where you feel disapproved of, pushed around, and in general made to feel less worthy than you’re made to feel even in the world. “Don’t do that! Don’t touch this! Hey, that’s mine, hands off! You’re messing up my kitchen (or bathroom, or livingroom)!”

Sometimes it’s even a place where the people you live with are always on the edge of hinting, by gestures if not by words, “Are you still here? Why aren’t you out on your own already?” It seems like they just can’t wait to get you out. And why? Can being alone really be that much fun? Always an unwanted guest, sometimes even in your own house. That’s what it can be like for some people, even for Christians.

What do we want? What do we expect? Does the golden rule not apply here? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or even its silver equivalent “Do not unto others what you would not want done to you.” As C. S. Lewis says, there’s been no shortage of good advice around since the beginning of human history, yet we never seem to take it. And the golden rule is no mere advice, it’s the words of Jesus Himself.

The holy Apostles teach us to “give way to one another, just as we give way to Christ” (cf. Ephesians 5:21). What do we think this means? It’s not another legalism, though we might want to make it one. It’s a word of encouragement to us, to be humble, welcoming and supportive of others, in whom Christ lives, and for whom Christ died, to love others as we love ourselves—something we can only do if we really do love ourselves, because a friend is another self.

A perfect example of making “home” a reality is shown in the ikon called “the hospitality of Abraham.” He and Sarah were camped out at the oak of Mamre. He was sitting in front of the tent. Out on the horizon of that desolate landscape he saw three figures approaching.

Did he wait for them to come closer?

Did he pick up his blanket, go back into his tent and pull the flap over the opening, pretending to not be at home?

No, he didn’t.

He went running towards the three figures and when close, he bowed before them, much as the Japanese do today, and offered to make them comfortable, to let them rest, refresh themselves, and be fed in his humble home. He called them, “my Lord,” and then made good his offer, with Sarah’s help, to welcome them “home,” be it ever so humble. He never thought of himself, only of his guests.

Even before Christ came in the flesh, here was a man on the lookout for God coming to visit him, and He did, and in a manner that suggested something more than we could have guessed. Even though God is One, He is also Love and therefore must be more than One. Abraham made his guests feel at home, made them feel as though they belonged there, as we sometimes say without really meaning it, “Mi casa es su casa.”

I want where I live to be home, not just for me, but for anyone who knocks at my door.

Home, because the door is never locked.
Home, because anyone can take off his shoes and coat and sit down anywhere.
Home, because whatever is in the kitchen is to be eaten.
Home, because there’s always a spare pillow, blanket and bed.
Home, because your thoughts and feelings are as much respected as my own.
Home, because you are safe here, just as I am, from the world’s guile.
Home, because Jesus lives here with us.
Home, because you know that I want to be with you.

How can we make home a reality for ourselves and for others?

How can we make Christ welcome, since He is in our midst?


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

What a surprise to see my words here! I am honored and humbled, and the thoughts you expressed in this post are very worthy, especially revealing the roots of the word nostalgia, and how that relates to something greater than merely daydreaming about the past. We are all born with nostalgia for our true Father whom we haven't personally met yet, and for that homeland we were made for, yet have not yet entered. It is this nostalgia which draws us, and all men if they let it, Home to Christ.

I replaced the song by Cat Stevens that was playing on my blog when my post "Home" was up for obvious reasons... Time marches on, and I also wanted to return my visitors back to the real Home, not just to the longing for it. Hence the wonderful chant Isaïa Chóreve. But that song by a Greek turned Muslim (he wrote it before his surrender to Islam) still does say a lot, at the heart level, and I still love the songs of Stephanos Dimitrios Georgiou (aka Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam) and continue to pray for him to return to Christ.

Thanks, brother, for your open and hospitable heart, and for the good you are doing in publishing your blog.


FOCUS UNSW said...

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from others who understand this better than myself!