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If You Believe, You Will Become

If You Believe, You Will Become

 

Jordan Peterson is a modern day author and clinical psychologist notoriously featured in the media because of his outspoken views on controversial issues. Peterson uses biblical themes and stories when he expounds upon his views, so a logical question often is asked of him, “Do you believe in God?” In an interview with Dennis Prager, Jordan attempted to explain why he is reluctant to answer this question as one might expect. He is more comfortable answering that he acts as if God exists. In his desire to live in deed what he says in words, he realizes a person falls short of the statement ‘I believe in God’ and everything that implies. “God only knows what you’d be if you truly believed (in Him)…If you were capable of believing, it would be a Transfiguring event,”[1] Peterson explained with emotion.

A number of years ago I was perusing my church’s display of books and icons for sale. Among the holy images shone a most luminous and kind face – that of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Knowing nothing about his life story, I bought the icon. I simply wanted to be close to his warm and loving countenance. Not long thereafter while visiting a monastery, I saw his face again on the cover of a book. Once I started reading his lengthy biography, I couldn’t stop. Up all night reading, I knew I had found gold. His life bore witness to me of this mystery: it is entirely possible to be pure and beautiful and holy in this world. Most notably for me, Saint Seraphim became a hero to emulate, a friend to intercede before the Lord, and a loving father waiting with open arms to comfort and encourage.

On the great and Holy Feast of the Transfiguration, the Church revisits when Jesus took his three disciples, Peter, James, and John up to Mount Tabor to pray. He knew these three in particular had a belief in Him deep enough to accept something of the magnificent power He would soon unleash. They already believed He was the Messiah, as Peter exclaimed six days earlier “You are the Christ! The Son of the living God”(Matt 16:16).  They witnessed Him perform countless miracles and healings, saw Him cast out demons with authority; however, the depth of their knowledge was limited in the face of a limitless God. The Triune God was about to show Himself more clearly, “revealing Your glory to Your disciples as far as they could bear”[2]

One can only imagine the Beauty of this event: Jesus’ entire Being as He was praying bursting forth with light “his face shining like the sun and His clothing glistening white like no launderer on earth could whiten them”. The Holy Spirit present in the “bright cloud” that overshadowed them, and the fearful voice of the Father proclaiming, “this is my beloved Son, My Chosen, listen to Him!” (Luke 9:29,34,35)

The encounter was so powerful it knocked the disciples off their feet. Christ was no mere prophet, but The Prophet, no ordinary teacher of God’s word, but The Word of God. If this experience isn’t wonderful enough, something more miraculous is born of it: our merciful God implants His “uncreated light” within His chosen people.

There was a seeker in the time of St Seraphim’s life who was striving to understand what the aim of the Christian life was– Nicholas Motovilov. He visited the holy elder, sensing that the saint had some wisdom and some knowledge of the Truth that he could learn from. One snow-covered, frigid, winter day Saint Seraphim took Motovilov outside to talk. He expounded upon the parable of the ten virgins and explained that the aim of the Christian life was to acquire The Holy Spirit, using many examples and references to Christ’s words in the Gospel. The saint said that prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and all good works done for Christ all help us acquire the Spirit of God, but are not the ends in and of themselves. Nicholas was still not satisfied and wondered how he could be sure if he was in the grace of the Holy Spirit. What followed this holy conversation was his miraculous encounter with the Light of Mount Tabor present through this Saint of God.

“Then Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: "We are both in the Spirit of God now, my son. Why don't you look at me?"I replied: "I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache with pain."Father Seraphim said: "Don't be alarmed, your Godliness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am."

“After these words I glanced at his face and there came over me an even greater reverent awe. Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, the face of a man talking to you. You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders; yet you do not see his hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its glaring sheen both the snow-blanket which covered the forest glade and the snow-flakes which besprinkled me and the great Elder.”[3]

This is what true belief in God has the potential to produce! Soul and body flooded to overflowing with the Grace of the Holy Spirit - spilling over into others His goodness, warmth, sweetness, peace and joy. This is what it means to become a Christian according to “the measure of the stature of Christ” as hymns of St Seraphim’s feast day boldly state. This is what is possible when a person really acts in deed on the beliefs he proclaims in word. Because of the lives of Saints such as St Seraphim, not only does God know what we could be if we believed in Him, but so do we.

By Presvytera Melanie DiStefano

 

[1] Jordan B Peterson, On Claiming Belief In God: Discussion with Dennis Prager, YouTube, June 8,2019,53:44, https://youtu.be/j0GL_4cAkhI

 

[2] bls, (August 4,2013).Troparian Feast of the Transfiguration . Retrieved from http://chantblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/apolytikion-and-kontakion-for-feast-of.html

 

[3] Barnes,P.(201).St. Seraphim of Sarov's Conversation With Nicholas Motovilov.Retreived from http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx

 

 

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