Reading The Gospels
Newsletter N. 77, Matt.14, 22–34
15 August 1976
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Whenever we read the Gospel, either to ourselves or in church, do we realise that from time to time, we are repeating the very words that Christ uttered on earth? – not in the language He used, not as He spoke – but these are the words that God himself on earth uttered in a human voice, in a human language. And these words make human speech itself holy: they were spoken by a human voice but they were the words of the living God Himself become man, and the whole universe heard them, quiet, deep words which resounded throughout the world.
How terrifying it is to think that when we read the Gospel aloud, the whole of. creation listens to it with reverence, in holy awe, amazed that God, invisible, incomprehensible, our very God, speaks to us in our own creaturely (the language of the created world) language: and how sad to think that it is only man whom these words often do not reach – man for whom they were spoken, in whose language they were pronounced, man for whose sake God took flesh. How reverently we ought to listen, simply listen, even if we are incapable of understanding their depth, of bearing their weight, of responding to the challenge of these words, often so frightening for us. How, reverently we ought to listen, knowing that they are God's own words reaching us in a human tongue, resounding in the whole world.
St. John Chrysostom says that when we want to read a page of the Gospel, we should pray that God would cleanse our mind and heart, correct our will: we should wash the hands with which we touch the holy book, and we should attend with our whole being. And St. Seraphim, used to say that we should kneel when we read the Gospel because God is speaking. If the living God, tangible, palpable, were to speak to us we would kneel down, shut our eyes and open our hearts and minds. Good Heavens! Is that how we listen to the Gospel?
Today we read about a storm at sea. This is not just a story about a storm that occurred once during Christ’s earthly life. It is about any storm and every storm, about storms in history, about family storms, destructive and terrifying and about the storm which frequently rages in our hearts and minds, manifesting itself in harsh words and sometimes sweeping us into the whirlpool. And so, when such a storm occurs, we must not be afraid of it, but know that in its very heart, in the most frightening place where the powers of evil are congregating to destroy is Christ, and that all these powers of evil are dashed to smithereens against Christ as against a rock. We do not see Christ in the storm because we do not look, we do not hear. His voice in the noise of the storm because we do not listen. And when we do feel, that He is somewhere in the storm we do not say like Peter «Lord, let me step out into the storm, let me leave my comparative certainty and security, let me go right through the storm and come out beside you.» W/e could then walk on the raging waves, we could withstand the blustering winds, and if, half way across, we should be afraid, lose our confidence, lose sight of Christ, lose hope in ourselves, We could always cry out with the full force of our fear, as did St. Peter, whom we read about today «Lord, help And Christ in the midst of the storm will take us by the hand and lead us first to the boat which had been our uncertain protection and then to the firm shore. Christ both formerly, and now, and for all ages, is the same, and what is told about His life on earth applies to our life with Him, because He is with us till the end of the world.