Church New Year
Sunday 3rd September 2000
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This week all children start school; and we will pray for them, at the end of the Liturgy, for the grace of the Holy Spirit to come upon them, to enlighten their minds and enliven their hearts to the knowledge that will be imparted to them not only by their teachers but also by the intuition of the Holy Spirit.
When we think of studies we think in a very material manner: of knowledge that can be acquired and may become useful in life. There is a great deal more in knowledge. There is the knowledge of the things which we discover and there is the knowledge of the Lord who made them. When we think of an icon we can see in it an image of Christ, of the Mother of God, of a saint, of an angel, but at the same time all icons are not identical with one another, because each of them carried the seal of the hand that painted them in the knowledge of God and of things holy which the painter possessed. And so it is also with the world that surrounds us. By studying this world, by looking at it not with greedy eyes but with eyes of detachment, with a desire to understand this world, we not only discover its secrets, but we also discover the mind of the Maker.
There is a passage in the works of St. Irenaeus of Lyons: when speaking of the Fall and of the fact that men turned to the Tree of Knowledge instead of communing with God alone, he says that here also there was an act of divine wisdom and providence. Because by discovering the beauty, the complexity, the richness, the incredible richness of the world which God had created, we can come, if our hearts are whole and our minds are clear, we can come not only to the knowledge of the material world that surrounds us, but also of its Maker, in the same way in which I said a moment ago that by contemplating an icon we commune with the person represented in it, but also with the experience of God that was possessed by the painter and which he projects in the icon.
And so there are two ways in which we can discover the world in which we live. On the one hand we can live by communing with God, in prayer, by following His advice, by becoming His disciples, by communing with Him; and also by communing with the world He has created by an ever deeper understanding of it. Let us therefore pray that the children, small or big, who will now start their studies, may discover two things at the same time. On the one hand, the richness, the beauty, the complexity, indeed the unfathomable mystery of the world which they will have to study; and also, in and through it, the wisdom and the mind of its Maker, the Living God. Let us pray that their studies should not be only of things material but that the things material should unfold before them and reveal at the very depths of them the presence and the wisdom of the Living God. Amen.