by Protopresbyter Dr Georgios Lekkas, priest of the Holy Metropolis of Belgium
St Silouan the Athonite says that “if we do not love our enemies we cannot be Christians”, and still less so if we do not thank God for the favours he shows our friends!
When a person suffers alongside his friends and his enemies, the Holy Spirit rests in him, and even more when he rejoices in the joys of both friends and enemies. Therefore an abyss separates us from the humble love of Christ, if we cannot even find joy in the joys of our friends.
Every time a person suffers, it is a part of our body that suffers, for we have all been called to become members of the Body of Christ and we have all been made ‘in His image’. Likewise, therefore, each time that one of our fellow human beings rejoices, it is a part of our own body that rejoices. How can we not be in pain when our body is in pain and fail to rejoice when it is at rest?
If we cannot rejoice in the joys of others and do not even grieve with them, it is because we are so focused on ourselves that it is not given to us to feel within ourselves either the joy or the sorrow of God for each and every person.
The Holy Spirit, who loves them all, unites us with everyone, both those who rejoice and those who suffer, as long as we remain open to His love which encompasses all of us and all things. When you remain open to God’s love, you desire that all will rejoice, so that you can rejoice with each, but you also desire to suffer with all who are suffering, so that everyone who suffers, suffers as little as possible.
Every Divine Liturgy is ideally a synergy of all, in which each person lives through all the others. In every Divine Liturgy, and depending on the degree of humility of each one of us, each of us is called and can accommodate everyone and everything in the image of the Triune God who embraces us all.
The truly ‘functioning’ Christian is the one who learns day by day how to become smaller in order to grow, how to become empty in order to be filled, how to suffer in order to rejoice, and how to die in order to be resurrected.
Whether Christian or not, the one who (like the leader of the synagogue in the case of the crippled woman) does not grieve at the sorrows or rejoice in the joys of his own people and of others, obliges the Holy Spirit to find alternative ways to achieve unity in the world and chooses for himself the ultimate lesson, which is to be abandoned to oneself.
That is, whoever does not thank God for the joy of others and does not entreat Him to show mercy to all as well as to himself, chooses for himself the painful lesson of having to learn that he is absolutely nothing without others and without the God who supports us all.
God grieves to see us suffer, yet he also permits us to suffer, so that alternative ways are created to bring about the unity of all things, including through our misfortunes.
Sunday of the Crippled Woman, 4.12.22.
Fr Georgios Lekkas is a priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium. He studied Law, Philosophy and Theology at the University of Athens. He has a PhD in Greek Studies from the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Research Agency (2000-2005). He taught Greek philosophy in Greek Higher Education (2005-2017). His latest poetry collection, PROSECHOS ANAGENNISI (IMMINENT REBIRTH) was published by To Koinon ton Oraion Technon (Athens, 2021, 79 pages), while his essay THE SECOND WORLD. ODYSSEAS ELYTIS AND GIORGOS SARANTARIS was published recently by Ekati publications (Athens, 2022, 171 pages).