St. Theophan, the Recluse declares “The chief end of our life is to live in communion with God. To this end, the Son of God became incarnate, in order to return us to this divine communion, which was lost by the fall into sin. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we enter into communion with the Father and thus attain our purpose.” (LettersTo Various People, p.24)
If St. Theophan is right, then any normal person will desire to know God as his chief priority. And Jesus says that “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) So, learning how to live my physical life now in a spiritual way is what it means to be a normal person. All week we’ve been exploring the same passage from John’s Gospel. I’ve never tried this before in our daily devotionals, so I’m praying it will help you. Let me know.
Let’s find out more of the Implications in our passage from John 31-15:
At that time, there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nikodemos, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nikodemos said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, and you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nikodemos said to him, “How can this be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Yesterday we said the first implication of the Lord’s Conversation with Nicodemus was we have to abandon the “too small” thinking we live in a merely physical world. Today, we move on to Implication #2: Embracing a normal Orthodox life means integrating the physical and the spiritual in your everyday life!
C.S. Lewis famously said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world!”
The Church instructs us to allow the spiritual disciplines to heal our desires and to create a more profound desire to know God and live in His Kingdom as His companion. But we won’t be able to do any of that if we remain disconnected from the “WHY” behind this wisdom. Getting our passions tamed and healed is the purpose of these spiritual disciplines like Prayer, Fasting, and Generosity. And isn’t it interesting and instructive that these spiritual disciplines ALWAYS have a physical expression? Prayer – standing at my icon corner and making prostrations. Fasting – well, that’s easy. This discipline regulates what I eat physically. And, Generosity isn’t just a kind disposition (although it certainly is that) but the actual investment of my Time, Talents, and Treasures to serve others.
Every one of these disciplines in the purposeful, attentive, and active follower of Jesus UNITES the Physical and the Spiritual to mature me into a whole human person created in God’s image to become LIKE Him!
So, a “Normal” Orthodox life embraces the wisdom Jesus gives Nicodemus when He teaches him that to be truly human and complete means being born of water and the Spirit. The Divine Mystery of Baptism is, again, another place where the Physical and the Spiritual unite to make us truly persons fit for God’s Kingdom. All the Divine Mysteries do the same, and waking up to this wisdom is exactly what Jesus means when He tells Nicodemus “The Spirit blows where it wills.” And when I humbly and courageously keep this eternal insight in the front of my living, I am transformed by God’s grace to be who I really am!
This treasure of “Normal” living is given to us through the gift of the Church and the spiritual “medicine” she offers us constantly. And my willingness to live this “Normal” Orthodox life. Are you living a “Normal” Orthodox life? Are you attentive to the spiritual side of being physical? are you willing to accept the implications of this sen=minal conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus?
Tomorrow, the 3rd and final Implication
P.S. You appeared to the world today, and Your light, O Lord, has left its mark upon us. With fuller understanding, we sing to You: “You came, You were made manifest, the unapproachable light.”