“It may seem an extraordinary thing to do, to sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor. Actually, however, it is a natural action. It is like going back to creation, to our own birth itself. When Job had lost all his possessions he did not think what had happened to him was anything abnormal. He soothed the pain by saying; ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return (Job 1.21).’ As if to say: ‘All that has happened is that I find myself as I was when I was born.’ It is natural for human beings to be deprived of everything, to end up with nothing but their own bodies. But it becomes much greater than something simply natural if someone does it voluntarily, for the love of God. It is like death. To die for the love of God is martyrdom. When Adam and Eve were created they did not possess anything. Not only did they not have any wealth, they did not even have any clothes. They were like a child which comes naked from its mother’s womb. They were in the position which Job describes. They were as Paul has said: ‘We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (1 Tim 6.7).’ Let people look at their beginning and their end, and try to be like that also during the time between.” St. Philoxenos of Mabbug, Homily 9, 338ff. (SC44).
Naked we enter the world and naked we shall leave. Though we spend our lives in constant pursuit of external clothing, we should seek the robe of Immortality that is the Holy Spirit. To the extent that we die to this world and those passions which chain us, we draw near to allow in The Spirit of Truth. We seek not to simply escape the world as though it were evil in some dualistic sense of matter vs spirit. Rather we seek to bring the world to fulfillment in Christ. As a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2.9) we are to offer the creation back to Him Who has gifted it to us, in thanksgiving (Eucharistia). Rather we often find ourselves chained to these elements as though they will become fountains of life for us. St. Philoxenos is very clear here that we shall leave naked, that is, we shall leave bereft of the coverings we have made for ourselves thinking they would allay all our ails. Let us put on Christ as He has put us on that we might partake of the True Life. In this way, through our ascetical struggle (for this is the commission of all Christians and not simply monks), we shall fulfill the words of The Lord where He teaches,
“Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4. 13,14.
Leave a Reply