Becoming Whole

We Must Embrace Our Material Self, Together With Our Soul

Unlike angels, who are entirely spiritual beings, God has made each of us as creatures dwelling in a material world. To be whole, we must worship God both in body and soul. This teaching is central to our Christian faith and is an affirmation of the sacramental nature of this material world. Because of this truth icons have played a central role in Christian history, for they proclaim Jesus Christ’s physical reality as God Incarnate.

Our Lord told his disciples that “he who has seen me, has seen the Father”. Icons depicting the Holy Virgin show the Christ Child with bare feet, reminding us that he walked the earth among us. He (the Logos) through Whom all that is was brought into existence, condescended to take on our flesh and walk among us. He joined His divinity to our humanity, that we might become gods.

The Lord Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and rose from the dead in this material world. He broke bread with disciples, ate fish with his friends, and invited His Disciple Thomas to feel the wound in His side, after His holy resurrection. Most of the miracles He performed were in the nature of physical healings.

At the Last Judgment the Lord’s words, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you gave me shelter, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”, will echo in our minds. It is through our care for others that we will be judged. It is in our demonstrated love for others that we show forth our own personal love for God. The Lord asked the question, “How can you love God Whom you’ve not seen, when you do not love your neighbor?”

Because of the Incarnation, our prayers must not be allowed to be centered in the head. Our use of icons while praying, keeping our eyes open that we may behold the beauty of God’s creation, bring our whole nature, both body and soul, into the material world wherein we were born. This physical nature of prayer is what connects us to our true self, which is composed of both body and soul. This is where God reaches down to embrace us. Cutting off the physical world (eyes closed) does not bring us closer to God.

Icons are wonderful aides in our communion with God because they serve as bridges to Christ and links with the Holy Virgin and the saints. They are by no means necessary, for sitting on the top of a mountain, or walking on the seashore, eyes open, allows us to behold the beauty of God’s creation, and His love for us, His children. The beauty of an icon and the glory of God’s creation can be windows for us into eternity.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photo: Father Paul Volkoff, together with a group of men from Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Seattle, spent the day with us.

About the author

Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

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