A wonderful instruction is offered in today’s Apostolic reading, brothers and sisters in the Lord, about the unanimity and accord with which Christians should fulfill the labor of faith and love required of them.
There are many reasons from modern social life why we need to be reminded of such an instruction: People seem to be trying to push each other off the face of the earth, biting and devouring each other, according to the Apostle (cf. Gal. 5:15), and killing each other. The murderous breath of death blows everywhere. But even in a society that seems to be of one mind, living the same life, devoted to one cause, how many causes there are for mutual grief, anger, secret malevolence, envy, and finally, homicidal hatred!
And here the holy Apostle points to the love of Christ as a cure for these spiritual ailments. Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us (Rom. 15:7). This acceptance of each other should consist of mutual condescension and patience. We then that are strong (who consider ourselves as such) ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself (Rom. 15:1-3). So, when you see a neighbor’s flaw, cover him and don’t try to make your brother’s flaw more obvious with a word of condemnation, ridicule, or otherwise, so as to further aggravate his grief. When you sense anger and hatred within yourself, consider whether you’re pleasing yourself by tormenting your neighbor, forgetting about love for your brother. You who have seen so few sorrows in life thus far, who have heard so few slanders and reproaches, look to Christ, of Whom it is written: The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon Me (Ps. 68:10), or: For My love they are My adversaries: but I give Myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded Me evil for good, and hatred for My love (Ps. 108:4-5).
This is the highest example of love and patience. The holy Apostle Paul also points to the source where we should draw the strength to love people and to endure hatred from them. This source is Holy Scripture: For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Rom. 15:4). In particular, the Holy Apostle points to the book of Psalms, citing the passage we’ve already mentioned about Christ: The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon Me (Ps. 68:10). And truly, what a rich source of comfort, what a school of patience this book is, with such a vivid outline of the great feats and spiritual struggle of the Divine Sufferer!
How often He Himself spoke with the words of the Psalms and poured His soul out into them! Thus, at the Last Supper, when His soul was troubled at the sight of the disciple who was preparing to betray Him, He indicated the traitor with the words of a psalm: He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me (Jn. 13:18, Ps. 40:10). When His soul was grieved unto death in the Garden of Gethsemane, then He prayed: Not My will, but Thine, be done (Lk. 22:42). This prayer is like a repetition of what He said earlier through the Psalmist, who depicted His Divine sufferings: I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart (Ps. 39:9). When the reproaches and slanders of people who hated Him in vain, when the sins of the whole world weighed on Him, and when deep inner sorrow enveloped His soul, as if the waters ha[d] come in to [His] soul (Ps. 68:2), then the words of the psalm, in which all this was written, served as a reinforcement for His exhausted spirit, and He exclaimed: I thirst (Jn. 19:28), testifying to what was written about Him in the Psalms: They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink (Ps. 68:22). When darkness covered the land from the sixth until the ninth hour, signifying that the pangs of death (Ps. 114:3) had embraced the soul of the Divine Sufferer, then a painful cry broke forth from it: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Mt. 27:46, Ps. 21:2). If Christ Himself constantly bore the Divine teaching of the Psalms in His heart, then cannot we derive all the more great benefit for ourselves from this book? This is how St. John Chrysostom depicts this benefit:
Nothing can so delight and inspire the soul, free it from the bonds of the flesh, and arouse it to love of wisdom like the Divine psalmic hymns. In the Psalter you will find innumerable benefits. Have you fallen into temptation? You will find the greatest consolation there. Have you fallen into sins? You will find countless healings. Have you fallen into poverty or some other misfortune?
You will see many harbors. If you’re a righteous man, you’ll find the most reliable reinforcement there; if you’re a sinner—the most potent means of correction. If you’re puffed up by your good deeds, you’ll learn humility there. If sins plunge you into despair, you’ll find great encouragement there. If you’re rich and famous, the Psalmist will convince you that there’s nothing great on Earth. If you’re afflicted with sorrow, you’ll hear consolation.
If you see that some people enjoy happiness here unworthily, you’ll learn not to envy them. If you see that the righteous endure misfortunes on par with sinners, you’ll find an explanation. Every word there contains a boundless sea of thoughts.1
But besides the Psalter, there are the sacred writings of the New Testament, yet more important and instructive. We have the Divine book of the Gospel, which depicts, as if in a majestic picture, the deeds of love, ascetic labors, and sufferings, and the death on the Cross of He Who is best and beyond compare with the other “sons of men.” We have the instructional Apostolic epistles, where the model of the perfect Christian life is presented in its entirety, applicable to various occasions in life.
Meanwhile, aren’t these books completely unknown to many of us, like a treasure hid in a field (Mt. 13:44)? Is not the content of the books used in the Church in the Divine services, which depict the experiences of the spiritual life of the best people, Christian saints, even more hidden to us? Do we know the stories of the lives of the Church’s innumerable saints? May this spiritual treasure of these writings, which is hidden from us, be more precious to you! Even unbelievers have found an irresistible attraction in these books, have found their lost peace of soul through reading them, have encountered the sole truth of social relations that they’d been searching for for so long but had never found anywhere. And may our souls, which preserve faith, or so we think, come to imprint upon themselves the salvific lessons from these books all the more often, by reading them daily, or by engaging in spiritual talks, or prayerful reflection!
St. Seraphim (like many other saints) constantly read the New Testament, which can still be seen in the Diveyevo Monastery he founded. From this reading he drew a rich source of consolation not only for himself, but for many others who came to him. And when you again disperse to your remote villages2 to be a light for the people and sow the seed of the word of Christ in their souls, and to do the work of Christ amidst the sorrows life, should you not first enlighten the eyes of your souls with this word, and learn to find in this word a source of comfort among the sorrows of life, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures, according to the Apostle, might have hope (Rom. 15:4)?