My journey of salvation is like standing in the surf. Some days the wind is calm and the waves tiny, no taller than my ankles. Then, suddenly, the wind kicks up, and set after set of giant waves crash against me. I must hold my ground and lean into them or be driven to the sand beneath them. The realizations (I hesitate, here lately, to use the word “revelation” for fear of being presumptuous) come in this way at times and hardly ever as solitary. It is not a “one-thing-at-a-time” thing.
It is, at one-and-the-same-time confusing and clarifying. Confusing in that there is a “sorting through” to relinquish what no longer fits and a reordering of what does belong in light of what has been revealed.
This tumultuousness requires me, to change the analogy, to receive this “new view” of “what is as it truly is more fully,” and struggle to let go of how I “have viewed” “what is.” This has its confusing and frustrating aspects. There is a necessary “not knowing” into which I find I must live for a time until the assimilation/integration gets worked out. “Change” really means “mature.” It is not that something has been added. It is, rather, that what I have understood has been corrected or my vision clarified so I can see what was hidden to me before. Adjustment, turning, letting go, and laying hold of are required. In essence, repentance. Not just a changed way of seeing but with it, by grace with faithful struggle, a more fulfilled – Truthful Way of engaging in Life.
I am invited to trust more fully. Active/invested stillness instead of an exhausting attempt to “figure it all out” in some way.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicode’mus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew.” The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.’” (John 3.3-8)
Among the sayings of St. Seraphim of Sarov are these:
“Acquire the Holy Spirit and a thousand around you will be saved.”
“… the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.”
Father Boris Bobrinskoy, in his book, The Compassion of the Father says:
Living the life of Christ, letting oneself be penetrated by His Spirit, by His breath of mercy, constitutes Christianity. According to the Bible, that means acquiring the bowels of compassion and tenderness of the Father. According to the second chapter of Philippians, it presupposes having the same feelings as Jesus Christ, not in the sense of mimicry or external imitation, but a true “transfer” on a plane more important and fundamental than the psychological level. A transfer of presence, of life center, of grace and love must operate in us so that we might live in Christ, and Christ might live in us. Certainly, this transfer operates in a global, constant, and progressive manner, through the sacramental life, love, prayer, and faith. For us Christians, the Church is the place of apprenticeship of this transfer: its entire pedagogy, its sacramental and liturgical transmission, its spiritual methodology, and its ascetic experience of the inner life, what the Fathers call the unseen warfare against the passions.
What is required, in order for me to be a Christian? In essence, nothing less than a rebirth of my entire consciousness and its content. I must relinquish the entirety of what I “know” in all senses of that term for the “knowledge” of God and all things through Him in all senses of that term. There is, finally, no room of fitting the square peg of the Way, Truth, and Life into the round hole of my current consciousness and its content. My all-encompassing vision-conception-comprehension-interaction with and of reality must be crucified and die and a new one born that will mature. Not once but unceasingly – at all times and in all places. Nothing can fall outside the influence of this, the saving work of God. Cost what it will, lead where it may in the context of the Holy Tradition as I give myself to it oh so gradually but faithfully as I can at any one moment, intent on yielding to it more and more as I have the courage, by grace.
I am, thus, reminded, awakened to what is True and the Life I already possess in which I am painfully maturing. This is the shape and direction of my saving journey. I am on the Way. I struggle toward the fulfillment.
John Behr’s articulation of the movement of theological reflection in The Mystery of Christ, is, for me, the articulation of what I call my spiral journey of salvation. One new friend has called salvation more of a “pulsating point.” I like that image too. I will probably adopt it as part of how I see my life in Christ. (Thank you Fr. Seraphim.)
“When the disciples encountered the risen Lord and began to understand the truth of God that he reveals, and indeed is, they were also confronted with the reverse side of this revelation: the truth that they had abandoned him at the time of his Passion… This encounter with the Lord and the subsequent recognition that one is a sinner, but a forgiven sinner, is the basic movement for further theological reflection.”
I struggle onward to have my words and life communicate the Truth. If, in any way, my words do not reflect the Holy Tradition, forgive me.