Friday, August 29, 2014

"Do not send me any more messengers..."

It is fitting that today, as we are only two days away from the end of the Byzantine liturgical year, we celebrate the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist.  It is the end of the liturgical year...John's work is done...he now gives up his life and allows Jesus to take the leading role.  John has spent his life preparing himself and others for the revelation of the Messiah.  He has pointed Jesus out to the people of Israel.  They will no longer need any more prophets; they have now been given the Messiah, the Son of God, Himself!

In his Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross writes of this longing to receive the fullness of God Himself:

Ah, who has the power to heal me? 
now wholly surrender yourself! 
Do not send me 
any more messengers, 
they cannot tell me what I must hear.

Jesus calls John the Baptist "the greatest born of woman," but even this greatest man to be born pales in comparison to the Son of God.  John is the "friend of the bridegroom"--the "best man," as we would say at a wedding today.  John says,
"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.  He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:29-30).
Just as the "best man" isn't the one the guests come to see and honor, John cannot tell us what Jesus has come to tell us, but as he decreases he can point to Jesus.  As we come to the end of the liturgical year, what do we need to let go of--whether external or internal--in order to receive the Divine Life that God is offering us, so that everything about ourselves draws others to God?

In the monastery, at the start of the liturgical year we receive from Mother our "obediences"--our tasks, or chores--for the year.  Some of these obediences we enjoy and some are a struggle for us!  By trying to carry out these obediences faithfully and joyfully, we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us.

Let's all make an effort to let go of something at the end of this liturgical year, and at the start of the new year, September 1st, let's ask God to fill us with His love in a deeper, more complete way.

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