Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Little Spiritual Help #7: Striving Upwards

Fr. Alexander Men,
Russian Orthodox Priest, Author, and Neomartyr (+1990)

I shall never forget the remarkable words about truth spoken by the simple Himalayan mountaineer Tensing, the Sherpa who climbed Everest with [the New Zealander] Hillary. He said that we must approach mountains with reverence, and God in the same way. Indeed mountains demand a certain mindset in order to grasp their magnificence and their beauty. Truth lies hidden from people who rush at it without reverence, who set out unprepared, disregarding the dangers, precipices and crevasses.

It is the mark of human history to strive upwards. You may well object: think how many steps there have been leading downwards. Yes, of course; at first glance there are more steps leading downwards; more people who have fallen and rolled down into the abyss. But the important thing is that human beings have all the same kept attempting to climb to this summit above the clouds, and the greatness of humanity lies in the fact that people have the capacity to reach the peaks of intellectual and spiritual contemplation, to reach what Pushkin called "the neighborhood of God. "

Human beings have two countries, two homelands. One is our own country, that place where each of us was born and grew up. But the other is that hidden world of the spirit which the eye may not see and the ear may not hear but where, by our nature, we belong. We are children of the earth and at the same time visitors to it...and contact with God is possible...Christ calls people to bring the divine ideal to reality.

Father Alexander Men, Christianity for the Twenty-first Century (lecture given September 8, 1990 - the night before he was murdered).

Russian version published in 1992; English translation from Christianity for the Twenty-first Century: The Prophetic Writings of Fr. Alexander Men, Edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Ann Shukman, pages 181,183 & 185. Continuum Publishing, New York.


Josephus Flavius said...

Any chance we could get full (Settings -> Site feeds -> Full) RSS feeds? :)

Fr. James Early said...

Done! Thanks for the tip.

charlene said...

Fr. James,
This is a beautiful piece. We are part of this world, but we aren't. I like the autor's likening it to having two homelands. I live in the greater Houston area of Texas, of the United States of the World. I have to be here in Texas for right now, but I know that one day I will move to a new home in that other country. I am preparing for that move, even though I hope it will be quite awhile before I make the change. I talk with some of the people who have already made the move -the blessed Theotokis, St. Cecilia, St. Joseph, and of course the country's royal King. I am so amazed that this Lord always has time for me, the lowest of the lows. A number of us make a short visit each week to this wonderful place during Liturgy. Even though there are many things here in Houston that I love, it is always hard to return home again after those visits. In order to move to Paradise, I will have to pass a citizenship exam BEFORE being granted resident status. The interseting part is that I actually take the exam while living here in Texas, and I don't know if I have a day or 25 years to complete it. Most of it is application of the concepts I learn about my new country through scripture reading, readings of the Holy Fathers, modern Orthodox theologians, and such. I will be graded on how I have treated others, especially the poor and others in need. Other sections cover the quality and frequency of my prayer and worship; obedience to my church; humility,repentance and confession; and whether I treated others with the same tremendous kindness, generocity, mercy and love that God and the people He has sent into my life have treated me. The good news is that my Lord really WANTS me to pass the exam, and has arranged for me to receive free tutoring both through my church AND from the Holy Spirit. I sure pray I make it.

Fr. James Early said...


What a beautiful comment! Thank you for sharing. And your analogy is perfect! Spoken like a true professor!