Too often we place our hopes in words and human thinking. But, can human thought or words ever gain for us what we seek?
St Gregory Palamas says,
If someone attempts to touch the stars with his hand, even though he is tall and stretched his arm further than the rest, he is almost as far away from those ethereal heights as men of much shorter stature, the difference not being worth mentioning. In the same way, on subjects transcending words, eminent speakers are not significantly better at saying something than anyone else. Who can attempt to treat of matters which utterly defy all words without being seen to give away beneath the weight of these topics, like those reputed to have boasted they could counterbalance the weight of the universe, or those in the myth who attempted to make their way up to heaven? Men who make such an attempt are as far from the truth as their aims are beyond the grasp of human minds and speech, being outside the spree of this world, based far above the earth and its surroundings, and reckoned among things holy and divine.
Saint Gregory goes on to offers as an example the Mother of God. What were her words? How was she prepared for the incredible task God gave to her?
Words can be helpful in our early stages of our spiritual development to point us in the right direction, but then comes the need to go beyond all words to know Truth. We need a healing of our soul so we can be in continual communion with God and do His will. Then all of life, no matter how difficult the situation, becomes bearable. To gain this communion with God we cannot simply read and read, expound and expound with words. We need to take action to purify our passions from dominating our soul and then learn to follow what it commands of us. This is a state of love which comes not from words but from our heart.
The path of the Orthodox Life is one that is focused not on words or doctrines, surly it is grounded by sound doctrine, but is focused on a life of repentance. Beginning with faith in the Good News of the Gospel, coupled with a recognition of our sinful state, our condition that is less than what God has intended for us, we must focus on our perfection with the help of God’s saving grace.
How? Do we need to have exalted words? No. We need to be joined with Christ in His Church, to give our best effort to follow His commandments, and to participate in His sacraments for our healing. We need to pray daily, participate in the prescribed fasts, and follow the guidance of a spiritual father who knows the path to unity with God.
Let’s not get too engaged in the meaning of words, or even in the analysis of Scripture. With faith, let’s seek to heal our souls through the healing sacraments, prayer and fasting. Our souls are crying for healing and liberation from our passions and our dedication to the things of this world. Let’s allow ourselves to be lifted above all words and receive what cannot be put into words. This is the path to unity with God and our salvation.
As we enter the arena of the Great Fast, let’s use the tools the Church gives us wisely. Let’s push ourselves. Let’s deny ourselves that we may know ourselves. Let’s together long for the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.
Reference: Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Gregory Palamas, p16