The icon from within the spiritual depths of our being is the image of Christ. It is the Life of our life, the most precious treasure which we must not lose but uncover and multiply. This image darkens when we commit sin, but we can paint this countenance of Christ through virtue.
When Christ’s image is within you, and you are aware of His presence, the longing for God is born in your heart. Christ’s presence in your heart creates that state of permanent longing for spiritual heights, for God. Therefore, he who has learned the beauty of Orthodoxy will never renounce Orthodoxy; he will never be scandalized by someone’s deeds or any trial but will remain steadfast because he drinks from this longing and lives according to the icon from within—the icon of Christ. When the Christian continually beholds Christ’s image, his life is, as St. Gregory of Nyssa said, a permanent progression from beginning to beginning toward endless beginnings.
We are called Christians not only because we were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but also because through the water of Baptism, Christ our God formed in our hearts, according to the words: “Form the image of Your Christ in him who is about to be born again” (Service of Holy Baptism). And St. John the Evangelist affirms, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4.4). So, no matter how small we are, how despised or humiliated or cast aside, we carry Christ within us and glorify Him. That is why, when St. Gregory the Theologian cried out from the ambo of the church in Constantinople, “Christ is born; glorify Him! Christ comes from heaven; go to meet Him!” he meant that there is no time to waste, but that we are called to ascend spiritually!
We, the Christians of today, have the saints before our spiritual eyes. The Lord indwells the saints who experienced the longing for Him and called out to Him. We, seeing how the longing and the divine love dwelt in them, are kindled by the same longing and the same love. And we live the joy of their fellowship in the Church of Christ.
Without the presence of Christ in us we are akin to a lightless candlestick, an abandoned church about to collapse. For only the soul of the Christian who is adorned with the beauty of longing for God and with the divine love can partake of the renewal of mind and soul through them.
What ought we to do? Let us search deeper as Christ the Lord said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep” (cf. Luke 5.4). Launching out into the deep, delving into depths means going step by step, humbling one’s mind. Among the great virtues placed aloft by all the Holy Fathers is the virtue of humble mindedness, which is never lifting yourself up in your mind; never thinking that you are better than another, that you are happier, that you are more beautiful, that you are stronger but seeing yourself as you are. Humble mindedness generates the other virtues, and man lives what Saint Isaac the Syrian confessed, “He who sees his sins is greater than he who sees angels.”
Uncover and paint the image of Christ in your heart! Receive in yourselves the light of Christ’s image, which is the peace and joy of the heart.
Archimandrite Melchisedec Velnic
Abbot of the Holy Putna Monastery