On Being Born of Spirit

A Word on the Gospel Reading for Bright Thursday

Photo: http://catalogueofstelisabethconvent.blogspot.ru Photo: http://catalogueofstelisabethconvent.blogspot.ru

Under cover of darkness, obviously not wanting to be seen, comes one of the Jewish rulers, Nikodemos by name, occupying a high social position. He comes to Christ to personally hear from Him words of extraordinary doctrine, about which they were everywhere speaking. He comes to ask of the Savior questions jostling around in his heart.

The Savior, eyeing this man’s good intentions, answered him with words mysterious: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3). But what is this birth from above? The Savior again repeats and answers, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). It is not hard to see in these words a reference to the Sacrament of Baptism. And then the Savior elucidates to Nikodemos how he can embrace this mystery of the birth from above.

Grievously languishing is that human soul created in the image of God, having not within itself the spark of the Divine, which can be kindled by the grace in the Sacrament of holy Baptism alone. But everyone of water and Spirit reborn, has within himself life—life mysterious, not wholly explicable by human words.

The Spirit of God teaches a man humility, that is, the awareness and sense of one’s own infirmity. Grace sometimes conceals its actions, but sometimes God’s grace powerfully acts on a man, as if returning to him his wings, enlightening his mind, making every word of prayer coming forth from his lips a fiery arrow, soaring into Heaven.

And especially through touching the Sacraments of Repentance and Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ we comprehend just how deep is the human heart, and how mysterious our soul.

The Savior did not long extend His speech, but nonetheless conveyed to the meek and simple of heart Nikodemos about that He is the expected and awaited Messiah of Israel, that He is not only Man, but God. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself (Jn. 12:32). The Savior had in view His ascent upon the Cross, undertaken for the redemption of mankind from sin, and His Ascension into Heaven after His glorious rising from the Tomb.

And we, lending ear to the contents of this mysterious evening discourse of Christ the Savior with Nikodemos, will remember its main words: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). Having in the Sacrament of Chrismation the holy anointing of the Spirit, we are children of the flesh no longer, but children of Divine grace, and therefore we must always attend to our souls, ever acknowledging our own weaknesses, and pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, humbly awaiting, as long as the grace inherent to us is cleansing our hearts…

Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov
Translated by Jesse Dominick

Alekseevsky Monastery

20 апреля 2017 г.

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