My wife and I had opportunity for a morning’s conversation with Archimandrite Zacharias of St. John’s Monastery in Essex during our recent trip to England. The conversation ranged from the general to the private. One segment has been a constant meditation for me since that morning. It concerned comfort.
Fr. Zacharias noted that God “wants to comfort us.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (2Co 1:3 NKJ)
The Son is Himself the Comforter, the Spirit being “another Comforter” (Jn. 14:6).
This dynamic goes to the heart of repentance, which in many ways is the root of our true existence (so far removed from a legal and moralistic understanding). For it is when our hearts are broken and do not run away or hide that we can call on God to comfort us. And He does.
That comfort is the gift of His own life within us, a sharing of His own joy and love. The hardness of our hearts creates walls and obstacles that refuse to be comforted. In our suffering and pain we enclose ourselves and the ego anxiously seeks to escape (which is the source of most of our sin).
The Fathers wrote about the cycle of pain and pleasure that dominates us and creates the distorted passions within us. The seeking of pleasure brings pain from which we run towards pleasure only to find more pain and the cycle continues.
And so the Scriptures tell us that a “broken and contrite heart God will not despise” (Psalm 51). But we flee from a broken and contrite heart, refusing the suffering.
Fr. Zacharias said that instead of turning aside from this suffering, we should remain in that brokenness and call out to God to comfort us. I have had opportunity (as do we all) to practice this since the conversation. All that he said is true.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. (2Co 1:3-7 NKJ)
May God comfort you!