May 2006

Fr. Antony PortraitDear Sisters and Brothers,

Christ is Risen!

Every moment is filled with grace. He "who is in all places and fills all things" has issued an open invitation to all of us to rest in Him. It is an invitation to real life, to the kingdom "within you." The door is wide open; but our eyes unfortunately are not.

St. Nicholas Cabasilas writes that in this life we are supposed to hone our senses so that we can perceive spiritual things. If we do not, then we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven because we will not be able to bear the sight, the sounds, and the utter and complete solidity of it.

We are used to the fog of everyday existence. We perceive things through the filter of our sleepy state, eyes half opened, min distracted, spirit deadened by the cares and concerns of life, the image of God buried in the well that can no longer bring forth living water because it is choked with debris. It is for this reason that most of the "ghosts" in C.S. Lewis' THE GREAT DIVORCE who travel from hell to heaven in their celestial bus decide that they want to go back. The grass of heaven is so hard it hurts their feet, the bird songs in heaven are so loud it hurts the ears. Hell, you see, is not real. It is insubstantial, a bad, tedious and miserable dream, while heave is solid. Reality can be a shock to the system to those of us who create our own "realities" by fantasizing life away. There is nothing more real than the kingdom of God. Olivier Clement, echoing many of the spiritual writers of Orthodoxy, writes that most of us are sleepwalking through life. It is important to note that we do not need to die to enter the kingdom of God, we need to be fully alive.

Holy Pascha reminds us that the light of Christ has broken through and melted away the fog; but if our eyes are closed in sleep, we will not be able to see it. It remains for us to respond by opening our eyes and keeping them opened. Without this awakening, we are not truly alive. The Orthodox spiritual life is the way to awakening, constant vigilance and deification. All that we do in the Church is meant to serve this end to the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yours in the Risen Lord,

Fr. Antony Hughes