April 21, 2014

Let Us Purify Our Senses!

The mysterious stillness of the Paschal night, the heart is seized by a familiar joy in anticipation of "meeting Christ." The air is cool, the streets deserted. A gentle light like the dawn descends upon the soul and a pleasant warmth embraces the heart. It seems as if one actually hears the distant song of the angels in heaven. Closer and closer their singing inclines towards the earth:

“The angels in heaven O Christ our Savior, sing of Thy Resurrection”

Trembling with unearthly rapture, the soul strains to approach Christ. And then a new song loudly bursts forth, a song of victory: "Christ is risen from the dead..."

The angels in heaven sing and people on earth join their voices:

"... Grant that we, too, on earth may with pure hearts glorify Thee!”

All genuine, exalted and holy joy related to the glorification of God is possible only when the heart is pure. From a pure heart the angels glorify God; from the depths of a pure heart the Most Holy Theotokes cried out: "My soul doth rejoice in God my Savior!" (Luke 1:7).

Do we have such purity of heart that we can rejoice in the Lord's Resurrection and fittingly glorify Him? Alas! at one time our soul was clothed in a divinely woven garment of absolute cleanliness and purity, but of our own free will we ripped, soiled and flung aside this bright vesture, and our soul was darkened, our heart became sullied with sins and passions, our vision became clouded; cast down, and no longer reflected that radiant joy.

It is true that deep within the soul, like a precious treasure, there remain traces of its pristine beauty and innocence; but even these are constantly being forfeited, scattered along the road of life. Set amidst the world's deceptions, our life is like a sea agitated by a storm; now our passions, now the evil spirits, rise over us like raging waves in a mighty effort to engulf our soul and deprive us of that precious treasure of the heart. It is a rare individual who has not suffered shipwreck in this world and whose "treasure" has not been destroyed. But the unfailing love of the Heavenly Father for the sake of the Redeemer extends to us a helping hand; and, having granted us purity and innocence in the Mystery of Holy Baptism, restores them again and again in the Mysteries of Confession and Communion through which we are united in the most intimate way possible with Christ our Savior.

The Divinely-wise Fathers of the Church also call the feast of Pascha a Mystery. On this feast we spiritually and even bodily, as it were, partake of the joy of the Resurrected Christ; when the cleansing and renewing grace of God makes itself felt in the soul, awakening in us pure feelings and exalted actions from the heart; when we must make a special effort to glorify the Lord "from pure hearts," i.e., to strive with angelic, childlike purity of heart to meet Him coming forth from the grave.

But again and again we ask ourselves: how is it possible to acquire that blessed purity of heart when we are constantly sinning, constantly defiling ourselves, constantly faced with our moral corruption? "Who shall be pure from uncleanness?" asked the righteous Job, and then answered: "Not even one; if even his life should be but one day upon the earth" (Job 14:4). "We are all unclean!" cries out the Prophet Isaiah (Is. 64:6). The pure eye of the All-Holy God detects perverseness even in the pure and holy angels (Job 4:18). What then can we say about ourselves who drink iniquity like water! (Job 15:16). Where can we obtain purity of heart? How can we acquire it here on earth when even the angels in heaven do not possess it in fall measure? It cannot be that the Lord would demand from us what is impossible, when, for example, He says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). This means that to achieve purity of heart is possible for us.

In the Paschal troparion we sing, "Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the inaccessible light of the Resurrection,..."

It is difficult for us to thoroughly cleanse our heart and soul from all sinful impurity. Nevertheless, on this Bright Feast we can -we must- "purify our senses" in some measure, so as to behold Christ," to see Him in the glorious light of the Resurrection, to sense in our hearts that grace-filled brightness.

"Let us purify our senses"! Here we have in our hearts malice, pride, envy, vainglory and the like. Let us cast them out of our souls, at least during this Light-bearing Festival; let us forget about these dark feelings; let us unburden ourselves of the heaviness that comes with the remembrance of wrongs; and let us feel how pleasant, how joyous and bright the soul becomes without them! Then Christ will be resurrected in our souls, and we shall hear His greeting, "Rejoice!" And then we shall truly behold Him in the wondrous light of His Resurrection.

"Let us purify our senses!" How easy it is to do this, especially now when the mysterious grace-filled power of the Feast and the wondrous enchantment of the Paschal service wholly embrace our souls, transport our hearts to heaven and raise us up to God. Who has not experienced this paschal feeling; whose soul has not been carried far from earth into the ineffable paschal night; whose heart has not been melted by the divine paschal service; who has not forgiven his brother at the time of paschal greeting! It is not in vain that this Light-bearing Feast makes such a deep impression upon the soul during childhood, preserving itself through the period of youth and reviving in old age. And with the remembrance of this Feast, one is always seized with wonderment, as if the angels are singing in heaven, and a holy joy fills the heart.

“Let us purify our senses!” On the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ let us experience that grace-filled state which comes with a pure heart, and let us try to recapture this feeling at other times in our life; let us chase away from our souls malice, cunning, jealousy, and other evils; and let us cleanse our hearts form movements of the passions. In so doing, we shall approach Christ – with each day, each hour, until, on that day when we depart from this earth, He greets us with the word, “Rejoice!” and later says to us, “Thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord” (Matt. 25:12). Amen

Source: Translated from the Russian periodical, Kormchi, Moscow, April 13, 1913.