The following excerpt from St. Silouan the Athonite, begins with a quote from the saint, and is followed by the comments of Archimandrite Sophrony.
It is given to our Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit to fathom the mysteries of God, and she is strong in the holiness of her thought and her patience.
The mystery of God which the Church understands in the Holy Spirit is the love of Christ.
The holy thought of the Church is that all men should be saved. And the path she treads towards this holy end is the path of patience – that is, of sacrifice.
In preaching the love of Christ to the world, the Church calls all men to the fulness of Divine life but people do not understand her call, and repudiate it. When she bids men keep Christ’s commandment and love their enemies, the Church finds herself caught between conflicting forces who naturally vent their anger upon her when she crosses their course. But the Church, actualizing Christ’s mission on earth – the salvation of the whole world – purposely takes upon herself the world’s anger, just as Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world. And as Christ was persecuted in this world of sin, and had to suffer, so the true Church of Christ must also be persecuted and suffer. The Lord Himself and the Apostles spoke of this spiritual law of life in Christ, and St. Paul put it in plain words when he wrote, ‘Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12).
And this is always and everywhere so in the whole world, where only sin exists.
If I might be so bold as to offer a few of my own words – even in lands like our own where there is no particular civil persecution of the Church – we still find that when we resist sin, something pushes back against us. We feel the pressure and presence of sin anytime we resist it. Thus in our Lenten journey, the more we struggle the greater the “persecution” we encounter. The more we seek to forgive, the harder forgiveness becomes. The more we seek to love, the harder love becomes. That is why our words are obviously of so little value – they come easily.
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