The Abbot’s Notebook for April 19, 2017

Blessings to you! Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia! Sometimes for me, just to get through all of these celebrations is a challenge. This year, I did not preside at anything and so the challenge was less. I still preached a couple of times. And by the end of Easter Sunday I was really tired. Nevertheless, what is a celebration if we don’t put any energy into it?

As I was reflecting on God’s goodness, I also was reflecting on my weak and inadequate response to His goodness. But, when it comes to celebrating the Resurrection, our Lord wants us to put behind us all that not joyful. Saint John Chrysostom wrote about this around the year 400 AD and reminds us that when we celebrate, we should celebrate and not be looking back in sadness.

Surely there is truth in this: when Christ comes into our lives and we become ever so slightly aware of it, we should rejoice and be glad and look at Him and not at our failings! This does not deny our failings but tell us that our attention should be on Christ and not on ourselves.

Easter! The Resurrection! Christ truly raised from the dead! Even today so many people cannot really believe that Jesus died and was raised.

Part of our faith is believing that which looks unbelievable. When I think of those first women who went to the tomb and saw it empty, I can understand that their first thoughts may not have been: “He is risen!” Perhaps one of them thought that, but most likely they were simply confused and wondering what had happened. But when the Angel tells them: “He is risen,” they believe and start running to tell the men. The men, of course, doubt them and want to go and see for themselves the empty tomb.

These Gospel stories are so believable because they reflect our own, human way of thinking. There is nothing wrong for us to be human in the same way as the early believers! On the other hand, they change from doubt and wonder and hope into full believers and that is what we are called to do.

For my own life of faith, as I look back at the path on which I have walked my life, I see all of the same responses and reactions: doubt, wonder, belief, amazement, more doubts and the more belief. Faith is a continuous reality in our lives. It is not something that is static. Faith is a dynamic relationship with the living God. That dynamism at times seems pretty low and at times has seemed almost non-existent—but it is still there, nudging us along the road of life and inviting us to keep growing in faith and in the works of faith. Our faith is put to the test when things happen to us that we don’t understand or when things happen to others that make no sense to us.

Faith is a way of putting meaning into what has happened, what is happening and what will happen to us and to others. Yet, in order to put that meaning in place, we must be patient. First we believe and then, often very slowly, we come to understand what God wants of us or of others. What God usually wants is simply our love and works of love.

For us who believe, that faith constantly assures us that “all shall be well,” even when it does not look so very good to anyone else. The reason that all can look terrible and yet we believe that all shall be well is because we believe that the full meaning of life cannot be found in this life but in a life in the world to come. Thus, even if in this life, I suffer and things go wrong—this life is not the meaning of life itself. Our faith never means that everything in this life will be wonderful or will even have a happy ending in this life. Our faith tells us that the full meaning of life is only found after our death in this life.

This faith allows us to struggle with sin and believe that God will ultimate cleanse us from all sin. This faith allows us to be poor, to be treated badly and to endure all kinds of awful things—but to know that in the midst of all trials, we cling to the Lord and love everyone because that is what true life is about. If we are in a war zone, if we are attacked by terrorists, if we lose our fame or our reputation—none of that matters because Christ is with us and is risen and keeps inviting us to believe that with HIM, all shall be well.

This kind of faith does not take away the meaning of this life. Rather, it shows us the real meaning. Our actions here have deep and lasting meaning and that is why we struggle against sin and seek to live as Jesus did. We fail over and over in this life, but at another level, each of those failures because a joy if we continue to seek the living God and rejoice in Him.

Christ is risen! Let us be glad and rejoice. Christ is risen! All the earth resounds with His praise. Christ is risen! He is the full meaning of our lives.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip