February 3, 2022

Homily on the Reception of the Lord (and How to Attain the Blessing of the Reception of the Lord) - by St. Theophan the Recluse

By St. Theophan the Recluse

(Delivered on February 2, 1861)

What a touching picture the Reception of the Lord presents us! The aged elder Symeon holding the infant God in his arms, on both sides of him is Joseph the Righteous and the Most Holy Virgin Theotokos; not far away - Anna the Prophetess, an eighty-four-year-old woman of fasting and prayer. All eyes are fixed on the Savior. In it they disappear with attention, and from it they drink the spiritual sweetness that nourishes their souls. You can judge how great was the blessing of these souls!

But, brethren, we are all called not only to a mental representation of this blessedness, but to the actual tasting of it, because all are called to have and carry the Lord in themselves and disappear in Him with all the strength of their spirit. And so, when we reach this state, then our blessedness will not be lower than the blessedness of those who participated in the Reception of the Lord. Those were blessed after having seen; but we shall be blessed having not seen, but believing. Pay attention. I will briefly show you how to achieve this. Here is what you should do.

1. First of all, repent. Remember that in the spiritual life nothing can be done without repentance. Whatever one seeks, let repentance be the beginning of everything. Just as it is impossible to build houses without a foundation, and just as without clearing the field it is impossible to sow or plant on it, so without repentance nothing can be done in our spiritual quest, no matter what you do without it, everything is in vain. So, first of all, repent, that is, mourn all the bad things you have done and decide on one thing that is pleasing to God. It will be the same as turning the gaze and the whole body on the path to the Reception of the Lord and the first entry on this path.

2. Then, keeping a constantly unchanging feeling of repentance, arrange for yourself such a kind of life and behavior that at every step you take or at every movement, the Lord and our Savior is, as it were, prescribed in your attention. Such an order will arrange itself in you if:

a) everything that you do, you will do for the glory of the Lord and Savior, for the sake of Christ. Here, of course, not only great deeds, but any action in general. For looking and hearing, silence and speaking, eating and drinking, sitting and walking, work and rest, everything in general can be dedicated to the Lord and sanctified by His All-Holy Name. Since there is not a minute that we are not behind some business, then, having settled down in this way in your affairs, you will constantly receive the Lord, turning all your deeds to His glory.

You can fulfill this and receive the fruit from this all the more conveniently, if at the same time:

b) in the order of your daily affairs, insert the rites of prayer - both in church and in the household, and generally make it a law to be strict executors of every rule of the Holy Church to the smallest iota, without vainglory and misinterpretation, in simplicity of heart. As the content of every prayer is the Lord and our appeal to Him, then by doing it or participating in it, you will receive the Lord in the sympathy and delights of your heart.

c) you fill the gap of your remaining time by reading the Scriptures about the Lord, or listening to a conversation about Him, or by your own reflection on Him and on the great work of salvation accomplished by Him on earth, then you yourself will see that neither inside nor outside of you will remain nothing that would not bear a reminder of the Lord, would not direct His attention to yours, would not exhaust your spirit to receive Him without superstition and false interpretations, in the simplicity of the heart.

3. We must not, however, forget that all these labors and studies are only preparatory. We must not stop at them alone, but we must strive further. Just as the subtle elements of life come from food that we take in a rough form, so from these activities, visibly accomplished, tangible, the finest dispositions or aspirations to the Lord should be formed in the spirit, namely: under the labor of consecrating all deeds to the Lord, the aspiration of all desires should dedicate our souls only to the Lord; under the fulfillment of all prayers or participation in divine services, sympathy should be formed in the heart only for the Lord; reading and hearing the Scriptures about the Lord should be based on the willing striving of our mind's attention to the one and only Lord. Those labors are the cultivation of the field, and these strivings are the reaping of what is sown; those are the trunk and branches, then their mutual Reception after this is arranged by itself. Since then, our spirit will begin to taste the blessedness of Symeon the Righteous, that is, it will begin to carry in the arms of its desires and aspirations the Lord, Who is their complete saturation and satisfaction. This is what is called tasting the Lord, resting in Him, standing before God noetically, walking before the Lord, unceasing prayer - the subject of the labors, desires and searches of all the saints of God. Then their mutual Reception after this is arranged by itself.

I wish this blessing to all of you who are now celebrating the Reception of the Lord. If someone, complaining, said: "The fruit is desirable, but the work to get it is too hard," he can be answered like this: "Well, there is an easier way, or a simpler way. Here it is! Repent; then, zealous for the fulfillment of every commandment of God, walk relentlessly before the Lord, striving towards Him with all the attention of the mind, with all the feelings of the heart, with all the desires of the will. Having settled in this way, you will soon receive the Lord. He will enter into you and rest in you, as in the arms of Symeon the Righteous. There is no longer any possibility to lighten the work necessary in the search for the reception of the Lord with anything else. The Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" - strongly and powerfully can help in this work. But, again, not by itself, but under the condition of striving all the powers of our spirit to the Lord! - "Be sober and watchful" (1 Peter 5:8). “Seek those things on high ... and let your life be hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3). - Then, having become "one spirit with the Lord" (1 Cor. 6:17), you will see and embrace this Lord, and "your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joys from you" (John 16:22), neither in this age, nor in the future. Amen.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.