A few nights ago, I was admiring the mountain valley that we live in as it was illuminated by the moon light. I thought, “The moon is so bright tonight you could almost read a book with its light.” But at the same time there was something missing.
The moon reflects the light of the sun, but is not a source of light itself (as we all know). No matter its brightness, it fails to provide heat, warmth, or nourishment for life on this earth. The sun, however, provides light, life, and beauty.
So often I am like the moon.
I know the truth (to some degree); I frequently read the scriptures and the saints. But simply reading about these people provides little benefit. On my best days, perhaps I shine like a full moon and provide a little light of truth to others. But like the earth blocking the moon from the sunlight, there are many days that “earthly” cares and thoughts block the Light from ever reaching me or others around me.
The saints, on the other hand, are like the sun. They have been purified, illuminated, and shine forth brightly with the light and truth of Christ Himself within them. Not only does their light (their speech and lives) contain truth, but it contains warmth and life as well for they are full of love.
The moon shines light with no warmth; and in conversations I find it somewhat easy to shine truth with no love. But even that image of truth is diminished, for like the moon my reflection is dim.
But the saints shine forth with love that embraces and brings life to humanity and the entire cosmos.
When they speak truth, it is filled with Grace, purity, and brightness. They do so out of love and a deep, painful concern for the well-being of their fellow human. They read the scriptures and the fathers, but spend even more time communing with God in their hearts.
When I speak truth, it is more likely so that I may feel like I am more “right” than the next guy, to justify myself or my behavior, to be liked by others, or even to have someone click “Like” on my social media posts.
I can cover up my tracks with excuses such as: “I’m defending the truth,” “this is hard love,” or “I’m sticking up for what is right.” In fact, I can convince myself that I am practically a saint and my pale moonlight is pure sunlight. But it is all in vain.
May the Lord help us to only speak truth with pure love, and when we cannot do so, to remain silent and pray, especially for our own purification and salvation. May He also come alive in our hearts through His grace and our own efforts to be purified of the passions so that we can be illumined with His love continuously.
They said of Abba Macarius [the Great] the Egyptian that one day he went up from Scetis to the mountain of Nitria. As he approached the place he told his disciple to go on ahead.
When the latter had gone on ahead, he met a priest of the pagans. The disciple shouted after him saying, “Oh, oh, devil, where are you off to?” The priest turned back and beat him and left him half dead. Then picking up his stick, he fled. When had had gone a little further, Abba Macarius met him running and said to him, “Greetings! Greetings, you weary man!”
Quite astonished the pagan priest came up to him and said, “What good do you see in me that you greet me in this way?”
The old man said to him, “I have seen you wearing yourself out without knowing that you are wearing yourself out in vain.”
The other said to him, “I have been touched by your greeting and I realize that you are on God’s side. But another wicked monk who met me insulted me and I have given blows enough for him to die of them.” Abba Macarius realized that the priest was referring to his disciple. Then the priest fell at his feet and said, “I will not let you go till you have made me a monk.”
When they came to the place where the brother was, they put him onto their shoulders and carried him to the church in the mountain. When the people saw the priest with Macarius they were astonished and they made him a monk. Through him many pagans became Christians. So Abba Macarius said, “One evil word makes even the good [become] evil, while one good word makes even the evil [become] good.”
*Taken from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward. Pg 137.