by St. Theodore the Studite
Given On the 5th Sunday of Great Lent.
Brethren and fathers, because winter has passed and spring has arrived, we see creation flourishing again; the plants are flowering, the earth is growing green, the birds are singing and everything else is being renewed; and we take pleasure in all this and we glorify God the master craftsman who transforms and changes creation year by year, and it is reasonable to do so. "Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made" [Rom. 1:20].
It is our duty not just to stay where we are, but to advance further and to examine carefully for ourselves the logic of creation. How? Because this renewal has winter as its cause. It would not have reached its prime had it not first undergone snows and rains and winds. And so it is with the soul; unless it is first snowed on by afflictions, troubles and difficulties, it will not flower, it will not fruit; but by enduring, it bears fruit and partakes in a blessing from God, as it is written: "Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, partakes in a blessing from God" [Heb. 6:7].
Therefore, brethren, let us also endure every affliction, every trouble, every trial which assails us both visibly and invisibly. The fast we are drawing out as we hunger and thirst and are otherwise made wretched, so that we may bear fruit and partake of God's blessing; and not only that, but that we may nourish and welcome Jesus as our guest. For just as we enjoy the sight of creation, so He too enjoys the ripe beauty of our souls. What are the fruits? "Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-mastery" [Gal. 5:22]. By these He is nourished, by these He is entertained. And blest the one who nourishes Him, because he will be nourished by Him with eternal good things; and blest the one who receives Him as his guest, because he will be received by Him as his guest in the kingdom of heaven! Indeed! So if someone is to receive a king as his house guest, he rejoices and is extremely glad; how much more then someone who receives the King of kings and Lord of lords as his house guest. That he is received is clear from what He himself has said: "I and my Father will come and make our abode with him" [John 14:23]. And again: "One who has My commandments and keeps them, is the one who loves Me; the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I shall love him and manifest Myself to him" [John 14:21].
Therefore, since such are the promises, let us not only bear, but let us endure with joy all things, both those that are present, those that are whispered about, and those that are expected, as we listen to the Apostle when he says: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is the Church" [Col. 1:24]. And again Saint James who says: "My brethren, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" [James 1:2-4]. Do you see then that in trials there is joy, and in tribulations gladness? For these are the things that are exchanged where God is concerned; and this is how the saints led their lives; this too how we, by doing violence to ourselves and yet greater violence, and by living our life in their footsteps, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.
1. The Greek has literally ‘the hour of our souls’, but the word can also connote ‘beauty‘, ‘ripeness’, ‘the bloom of youth’, ‘spring-time’. Hence, for example, the derivatives ‘beautiful’ and ‘ripe’.