A man is healed only through love
Life in the Church, in Christ is an endless miracle. Not just in the sense that healings happen in Church. One of the main miracles of our Church is that any person is able to find salvation in it: a former robber, a pagan, a sinner. The Church recevies everyone in her bostom, and sanctifies and redeems everyone. What does it mean, though, that the Church receives all? First of all, it means that Christ Himself receives in His embrace every person coming to Him. Church, too, is all of us. And the fact that the Church receives all means that we receive all people the way they are. As bishop Afanasios of Limassol says: "Church is an embrace. The Church will comfort you, not hit with a fist. And a Christian's heart is like a garden. A Christian can receive and comfort each person coming to him."
This is how the Church of Christ is different: every man finds comfort and support in it; every person draws strength in the love of others, in order to walk on the path of salvation.
And so, I'd like to tell you a story about a Serbian ascetic: about how the love of the brethren helped him to become a saint. We are talking about a well-known spiritual father, elder Thaddeus. He had a very difficult childhood, and he grew up timid and very vulnerable. As he later described himself: "Because I was very much afraid of people, I could not grow spiritually for a long time." This was before he entered the monastery in Milkovo. And here is what he is relating:
"In the world my name was Fomislav. When I came to the monastery in Milkovo, my first obedience was at the vineyard, I had to guard it. Once I fell asleep and did not notice that thieves had stolen the grapes. I wake up and see that there are no grapes. I became afraid, and in fear was I waiting for the coming of the steward; he came, he saw everything, but he didn't say anything to me. The next day he comes to me and says: "Dearest Foma, the priest has blessed to give you a new obedience. You'll be tending the sheep." And that's how I became a shepherd. But here, too, I got into trouble. I was given an Horologion, so that I would learn to read it, while I tended the sheep. But reading the Horologion, I began to fall asleep once again, and when I woke up, I looked around: where are the sheep? All of them have left. I jump up and go looking for them. The sheep meanwhile had gone to the field, broke through the fence and ate up all the owner's beans. When the owner saw what the sheep had done, he went to the monastery to complain to father archimandrite. Father Amvrosiy asked the steward to compensate for the loss, and that was it. But did any of the monks say anything to me? None of them, nothing! Such were the brethren of our monastery. The Heaven in the earthly monastery was acquired by all-forgiving love."
So gradually, thanks to the love of the brethren, to their consideration, absence of judgment, Fomislav, the future father Thaddeus, acquired spiritual strength and began to change. From a sickly and timid youth with time he became an ascetic, an instructor for many people who would come to ask for his advice from every corner of Serbia.
A person is encouraged and given strength for spiritual life not by austerity, not by the so-called justice. A man is encouraged by love and leniency. For all of Christians it is essential to accept his neighbor the way he is: never to judge or to reproach, never to let another person know that he is deficient in anything. This is how elder Emilianos talks about how we are called to treat a weaker person:
"Do not ignore him, as if he has no flesh, nerves, heart, or the past. This man is your brother. Just as you would take care about a sick member of your body, in the same way take care about him, because he is in need of it more than anybody else."
Let us remember one spiritual law: the fewer rebukes, denunciations, and reproaches, the more love. And where love abounds, there passions are healed and virtues are acquired much faster. And each one of us must do everything that the others would feel emotional comfort, would believe in themselves and could aim all their strength towards God and virtue. It is especially critical in our days. A modern man cannot prosper spiritually, if he does not meet love and support in others.
To support each other, to expose love is not hard at all. As Fr. John (Krestyankin) used to say, a flower does not need a whole ocean of water to be poured over it. One cup is enough. In the same way, it often suffices for a person to get a smile, a caring, kind glance, one word of praise and gratitude to feel joy and a rise of spiritual strength.
Love, nobility, magnanimity, and leniency towards every person work a miracle in our life. We acquire peace and harmony in our everyday life, and we firmly, confidently, and peacefully make our way towards the Heavenly Kingdom. As St. Nikolai the Serbian says:
"What is our Church? It is a ship of salvation that is taking not slaves but the children of the King into the Kingdom of Heaven. Our Church is the communal journey of free and loving people. The loving souls rejoice in their fellow-travelers as brethren, as themselves. Just like the Lord, they burn with the desire for everyone to be saved. They look at themselves as at insignificant members of the mysterious and great body of the Church whose head is Christ. And so in harmony and joy do they travel, as if a flock of birds migrating south – into the Kingdom of Divine light and parental warmth."