Friday, January 20, 2006

Depart From Your Land

In St Stephen’s final discourse before his martyrdom, he offered a summary of salvation history. What I’m concerned with here is his recounting of God’s words to Abraham: “Depart from your land…and go into the land that I will show you” (Acts 7:3; Genesis 12:1).

That’s part of the message I received when I asked for a bit of divine guidance for the new year. I had to ponder it awhile, for I didn’t think I was meant to take it literally and leave the monastery for some new adventure. A new adventure it may be, but it must be an interior one. Perhaps God wanted me to depart from marshmallow-land and go to prosphoron-land (see the last two posts).

God is always calling us to a deeper life in Him, to fuller enlightenment, a more courageous witness, a more faithful and selfless devotion. It may be that, even if we are believers with hope for eternal life, we may reach a certain plateau, a certain level of spiritual satisfaction, comfort, or complacency—and then we’d like to stay there. But this interior plateau or “land” is not yet the Promised Land; it may still be infested with weeds and pests like selfishness, laziness, unforgiving or uncharitable attitudes, or a general spiritual lassitude. God calls us to depart from this land, and to go to the land that He will show us.

As I wondered just what that might be, I began to read the book on Fr Arseny. It occurred to me that maybe this was the land that God was showing me—not the land of concentration camps, but the land of holiness, the land of unshakable faith and trust, of love and self-sacrifice for the salvation of souls. It is one thing to depart from one land—renouncing bad habits or attitudes that hinder spiritual growth—and quite another to actually enter a new land. The land that the Lord shows us is a “place” that offers a new way of seeing things, of understanding life, of living and moving and having our being in the Holy Spirit. This transition may be just as radical as that of physically moving from one land to another.

All of this is something that God must show us, for we cannot improvise our way to his heavenly Kingdom. But in order to be shown we have to be paying attention, open and willing to learn and be led, and to meet the demands of the new land He is revealing to us. So we have to pray, to listen, to read the signs of the times and of our own personal environment, to pay attention to our worship, our reading, our relationships. Look everywhere to see what God might be showing you. For it may be subtle, realized only in the interior movements of the soul. It may also be as profound as it is subtle, as glorious as it is humble. For the departure from the land of lukewarmness to the land of sanctity is an event (or series of events) of “biblical proportions.” We have to be ready to let God take over, and then hold on tight!

So think about it, pray about it. God is always calling us to “come up higher.” What is the land from which you must depart, and what is that to which you must go? Be ready for the journey, and God will show you. And you will never be the same again.