St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
Where There Is Life There Is No Death

Luke 7:11-16

This miracle reminds us of the fact that Jesus is Life and where there is Life, death has no power and cannot remain.  This miracle is for us a reminder of the resurrection.  We are all subject to corruption and death, but when our Lord Jesus Christ returns, death will be no more and all those who have died, both the righteous and the unrighteous, will be resurrected and we will all stand before the great judgement seat of Christ. 

Where the Son of God is, there is life.  When mankind was created, he was created to draw his life, not from the world around him, but from God alone.  When Adam sinned, that lifegiving link to God was broken and it was as if Adam had died.  But God in His mercy, allowed Adam to draw life temporarily from his world in order to allow for him to come to repentance.  But this “life” that we draw from our world is not true life, but rather it is only a temporary measure, and cannot sustain us in eternity.  This life, that we draw from the world around us is itself subject to corruption and death and so cannot lift us above corruption and death.  Only the life that comes from God – the life that we find in Christ, in the Holy Mysteries, in the Church – which is not subject to death and corruption, can lift us up to eternity. 

This encounter in the Gospel today is by itself a powerful reminder, a powerful testimony to the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over sin, death, and the devil.  It serves to remind us of our own resurrection.  However, it also serves as an icon, an image from which we can learn about our inner spiritual life.  There is, in this encounter, the mother of the dead boy – a widow, one who had lost her husband.  Blessed Theophylact tells us that we can think of this widow as our soul, who by its sinfulness has lost its husband – that is Christ.  Because the soul is separated from Christ by sin, it is now no longer connected to life and so the children of the soul, the heart, the mind and the will are dead.  The mind grants to the soul understanding and reason.  When the mind is alive, when it is connected to Christ, then it grasps not only worldly things but heavenly things as well.  It sees all of creation in its proper perspective and in its proper place.  The living heart, the place where we meet God, is the motive and active force of the soul, enabling it to act.  When the heart is alive, it enables the soul to resist temptation, to act in accordance with the image of God, to choose holiness over evil.  The will is that which gives the soul direction and guidance through its desires.  When the will is alive, its desires are directed God-ward and as a result we are drawn toward God.  This is the way that man was created.

But man sinned and the soul was separated from God.  There was no longer a means for the mind, the heart, or the will to be filled with the Life from God that is so necessary for their proper functioning.  Being deprived of life, they became as dead – experiencing only a shadow of life, the life drawn from the world.  The mind was darkened, the heart became chaotic and the will became self-centered.  These “children” of the soul can no longer support it in its life and desire for God.  Instead of bringing the soul to God, they cause it to drift away from God.

The darkened mind, rather than beholding the Truth revealed by God, is turned in upon itself and depends only on its own reason.  Being unable to perceive the spiritual realm, all of its input is now garnered from the physical senses.  Sight, sound, taste, touch and smell are now all that the mind can experience.  The spiritual senses are darkened and even forgotten.  The mind is crippled by this lack of input, it can no longer understand things in their true perspective and in their true place for it can only perceive the physical world.  The mind, relying on its own reason rather than upon the revelation of God, then constructs understandings that are flawed and full of error.  Because it can no longer perceive God directly the mind creates a God after its own image or in some cases discounts the existence of God altogether.  The reason and understanding of the darkened mind is no longer a reliable guide toward salvation.  It is full of error which leads us away from God rather than towards God.

The chaotic heart is pulled this way and that by its feelings.  Having lost its internal anchor which was the presence of God, the heart no longer can resist the pull of its emotions.  These emotions are at the mercy of the world to which they are attached.  Our “heartstrings” are tugged by this or that event.  Words, designed to inflame emotion, can sway our opinion and our life.  The feelings that once were guided by the presence of God, that once resonated with His Life and His Love are now at loose ends.  The heart and its feelings are no longer a reliable guide towards God.  Once the feelings were connected to the Love of God and out to the world and they resonated with energy leading the soul to that which is pleasing to God.  The feelings were anchored by and guided by the love of God.  But when they were separated from the Love of God, they no longer resonated properly, but being cut off from their anchor, went slack and out of tune – just as when the strings of a guitar are loosed or cut – they no longer hold a true note, but produce only chaotic noises.  Just as the reason of the mind can no longer be depended upon as a guide to Truth, so also the heart can no longer be depended upon to resonate with the Love of God.

The will which was once conformed perfectly to the will of God – reflecting in its movement the movement of God’s perfect will.  The desires of our will were attuned to the desires of God’s will and so it directed us in the path of complete and perfect harmony with God.  But the will now no longer conforms itself to the will of God, but rather it seeks to conform the world to itself.  In turning in upon itself, it has become warped.  The will still desires to become like God, however, now rather than seeking to conform itself to God, it seeks to supplant God. The will no longer leads toward God, but is twisted and leads in an inward spiral towards itself, always seeking to serve its own wants, its own desires.  In its warped and twisted state, it leads not to God, but away from God. 

It is important here to note that in our “natural” fallen state, we cannot rely on our own understanding to show us the truth, nor can we trust our own feelings to express the love of God, nor can we follow our own will if we wish to follow that of God.  If we do rely on our understanding, our feelings or our will, we will fall far short of the likeness of God and will be led astray.

The mind, the heart and the will, once they are separated from God, are dead and can no longer support and lead the soul to union with God.  And as long as this separation remains, the soul is bereaved, for her children, who were to be her help and support, are now lost to her.  But there is hope for on her way to bury her children, she encounters Christ.  He resurrects the dead and restores the connection of the mind, the heart and the will to God.  The mind can now perceive God, but will it give up its own constructs and allow itself to be reshaped and reformed into the likeness of God?  The heart can once again resonate with the love of God – but will it allow the sweet music of the Love of God to replace its own music of free wheeling emotions?  The will again is joined to the will of God, but will it conform to that will or fight against it seeking to retain its self centered twisted shape? 

Christ comes to our soul and restores to us the link between God and man in our mind, our heart and our will.  In order to rejuvenate these children of the soul so that they are again useful guides to sharing the Life that comes from God, we must turn aside from our “natural” inclinations – for those “natural” inclinations are natural only to the fallen condition in which we are separated from God.  Our “natural” inclinations must be retrained and in order for this to occur, the mind, the heart and the will must be reformed so that they once again reflect their union with God. 

How is this reformation brought about? The mind, upon which we rely for our understanding and reason, must surrender all of its natural fallen understanding and reason and follow at first in blind obedience, the law of God.  It must start from the beginning, setting aside all of the self made constructs and ideas – what we call “common sense” – in order to adopt instead the “Divine sense”.  Until the mind is reshaped and reformed into the mind of Christ we cannot trust it as a reliable guide. 

The heart must also be reformed.  The emotions which are used to flailing around after any and all stimulus, must be brought under control and reconnected to the love of God.  They are then stretched taught and constrained to carry the harmony of God’s love.  Again obedience is necessary – for our feelings have to be retaught how to feel.  Only by forcing ourselves to feel according to God’s instructions can we then learn how to feel in tune with the love of God.

The will is probably the most difficult of all to reform.  It is so twisted and so curved in on itself that first it must be straightened and then it must be molded to the will of God.  This straightening is accomplished by denial of self and ascetic effort.  By practicing self denial, the inward, self centered twist of the will is slowly straightened out.  Once it is straight, then obedience to the Law of God can take over as the means by which the will of man is conformed to the Will of God.  Until this happens we can not trust our own wants and desires but rather we must substitute the wants and desires provided for us by the Church.

Christ, when He comes to us, reconnects us to Himself – He “resurrects” our mind, our heart and our will.  But it still remains for us to put this resurrection into practice to accept the Life that we receive from this renewed spiritual connection and allow it to replace the pseudo life that we have created for ourselves.  This we do by setting aside our own ideas, our own common sense, our own understanding, our own feelings, our own desires, our own will and living instead by obedience to the Body of Christ, His Church.  This obedience then re-trains our mind, re-tunes our heart and re-forms our will so that we can become like Christ.  In this way we take on the Life of Christ and enter into His Kingdom.