Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened; I will give you rest. . . . Learn from me: I am gentle and humble of heart; . . . my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mt. 10:28-30).
Thus, the Lord Christ calls us to come to Him and find rest from the daily pressures of our times. We have, nevertheless, to accept the fact of the yoke - the cross that we must pick up to follow Him. The burden need not be beyond our strength, for He is gentle and, in His humbleness of heart, He asks us no more than we can bear, but what we give must be given whole heartedly, with nothing held back.
Life is full of contradictions; the positive and the negative are close to each other; pain and consolation, sorrow and joy, strife and peace. Rest can only be enjoyed after exertion. The way to resurrection is the way of the Cross and the grave.
To understand the wonder of the Resurrection as fully as we can, we first must accept not only the teachings and sufferings of our Lord, but also His death. The first fact of the Resurrection was an empty tomb in which a lifeless body had lain. The Word who had created all and given life to all accepted death at the hands of His creation - a greater humility than this cannot be conceived of. Yet, it was from that grave that eternal life issued forth; death was overcome by death so that all humanity could inherit eternal life.
Jesus said, "A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else it remains nothing more than a grain of wheat; but if it dies it yields rich fruits" (Jn. 12:24 ). Every seed brings forth according to its kind. In Christ, the seed is life; thus only life could resurrect.
The feasts of Pascha and Pentecost lie a short time behind us now. We have rejoiced in each, yet these are not past events. Every Sunday is a Paschal feast. The Holy Eucharist is not only a reminder of the Lord's death, but it is the starting point of our redemption, for God is with us even unto the end of the world.
Jesus Christ continually calls us, "See where I stand at the door knocking; if anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him. . . " (Rev. 3:20). But we must open, we must leave off what we are doing and run to the door; knowing full well of our unworthiness to have Him beneath our "roof," we still dare to do so because of His love for us. "That love resides, not in our showing any love for God, but in His showing love for us first" (I Jn. 4:10 ). Not for our beauty or our goodness, but because we are His creatures whom He formed with His own hands, into whom He blew the Spirit of life.
As we had hopelessly gone astray, beyond repair, God sent His only-begotten Son to redeem us with His own flesh and blood, taking us back to Himself. St. Athanasius says, "The Logos became man that we may become gods."
We can answer His call only in utter humility, in fulfilling the law of love of God and our neighbor. In our love for God we cannot abandon our brother, for he, like me, has the same Redeemer. Who am I to ignore one for whom Christ died? How can I love myself more than God who lowered Himself for me? I can but serve where He called me. "Merely to stand on the steps of God's house is better than living with the wicked" (Is. 84:10).
What else can the monastic do than answer that call, repent of his blindness and deafness and lack of love in unceasingly seeking the gift of prayer.
Christ calls us not to mere existence, but to life itself.