Saturday, June 27, 2015

Communion with God

A Sermon given by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra at the Church of St Andrew, Athens, 1975.

The man who was brought before the Lord in today's Gospel lesson, my beloved children, is a compelling figure indeed! He was both deaf and dumb, and although he longed to communicate, he could neither hear the words of others, nor give voice to his own thoughts. Above all, he could not communicate with the Lord, to Whom he had been brought.

Faced with the great misfortune of a soul unable to speak to its Redeemer, the Saviour sighed deeply (Mk 7:34), just has He did at the tomb of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days (cf. Jn 11:38). On both occasions our Saviour sighed, because a man who is dead and buried is no different from a man who is incapable of speaking to the Lord or hearing the voice of God.

This is why the Lord addressed only one word to him: Ephphatha - Open! (Mk 7:34). Open ears and hear! Open, mouth and speak! At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak (Mk 7:35). His mouth was opened, the bonds were broken, and his ears began to hear the words addressed to him by God, Who was standing before him in the flesh.

You may think that this event, which took place long ago, has little to do with us. But it seems to me - and I have always been moved by the thought - that all of us are deaf and mute with respect to God. How many of us can say that we've spoken to God, and that God has heard us? How many of us can say that we've heard the words of God; that we've received within ourselves the deep impressions of the divine voice? On the contrary, we are deaf mutes, forever silent and unhearing though standing in the presence of God.

Let us consider, my beloved, the meaning of the word "Ephphatha" - "Open!" Let us consider how God addresses this word to us; let us see how our bonds can be broken, and how we can enter into communion with God.

When we stand before God, we know that, in order to hear and be heard, we must enter into a personal dialogue with Him, and this can only take place by means of the intellect. God is spirit (cf. Jn 4:24), and He communicates Himself to man spiritually, addressing Himself to man's highest spiritual faculty: the intellect. When we open our mouths and cry out to God, God hears us, because He receives the waves of the mind which pulsate outward like sounds from the mouth.

It follows, then, that for my intellect to speak to God, it must first of all turn towards Him. Such a turn is necessary because the intellect is in constant motion, it is forever being side-tracked, thrown off its course, endlessly shifting its focus upwards and downwards, this way and that.

As a result, communication with God requires a movement towards God. It presupposes a passage of the intellect to the creator of the intellect, an exhalation of the mind to the source of inspiration (cf. Gen 2.7); a movement to Him from Whom the intellect came forth, and to Whom it naturally returns.

My beloved, communicating with God requires that the intellect be kept in a certain tension, as if I were about to release it from a sling, and send it flying to God directly, without any deviation from its path. It requires, in other words, an exclusively dedicated movement of the intellect, in which the intellect is free from all thoughts, feelings, concepts, images, and indeed from anything whatsoever that might absorb it, attract its attention, and make it go astray.

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