Icon “Not Made By Hands” – J58
When we think about how to be conformed into a Heavenly life here and now so we can live a Heavenly life in all eternity, we often think of prayer, fasting, mercy towards others, and all the blessed virtues that the Christian life holds dear. These are indeed honorable and needful, but there is an underlying basis that every virtue depends upon, and must be the focus for us to be Heaven bound. This is simple and profound: it is humility. It is the lowering of ourselves in our speech, action, and thought in all things.
It does not require great deeds, heroic efforts, intense concentration, or constant restraint in the way that we think of improving or refining our will, mind, and body. It is more basic, more basic indeed. It means that we are willing to see our self as less, smaller, compliant, and so, dependent on God, and then seeing others as more worthy. It is the deflation of our proud view of who we mistakenly see as ourselves. The key is to realize that we have lost looking at the beauty of the icon that God made in our creation, into His Image and Likeness, and substituted a false mask of vanity and pride instead. All we have to do is lower the mask and live.
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 18:3) What does He mean by being converted? It is more than just reciting a creed, or even following all of the outward parts of Christianity. This conversion means we are changed into the condition of those who live in Heaven, to become like the Saints and Angelic Powers that live there. Yet for us this is something practical, something that we can do every day, every hour, and every minute if we are aware enough to choose it. Jesus continues to explain how to do so when He says, “Whosoever therefore who shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 18:4) Great powers, great deeds, great thoughts and feelings, all these we can leave behind in our imagination. Let us take up instead the small and humble way, and so shine like all those that are so richly endowed with childlike humility in the firmament of Heaven. O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us!
“And whoso shall receive one such little child in My Name receiveth Me.” (Matt 18:5)
The Monastics at St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and at the Convent of St. Silouan
and the Faithful at St. Nicholas Church
and the Staff at Orthodox Byzantine Icons and St. Isaac’s Bookstore.