Thursday, 21 January 2010

Turning the heart to God

"The beginning of a grace-given Christian life is established in baptism, but few people preserve this grace for long. Most Christians lose it. In their actual lives, we see that many people are more or less corrupted; they have principles which are not sound, but which were permitted to develop and take root. Others may have good principles, but while still young these people - whether according to their own inclination or because they were seduced by others - forget about these principles and gradually get used to what is harmful. Such people no longer have the true Christian life within themselves; they must begin it anew."

Those words were written in the 19th century by a man called Saint Theophan the Recluse, a Russian Christian in his book "Turning the heart to God". And how true they are! When we were - if we were - baptised (or christened) as babies, God gave us something of His wonderful grace to bring us into the Christian faith. We were made members of Christ's body, the Church, just as under the Old Covenant boys were made a part of Israel through circumcision. But in all too many cases most of us fell away. Whether through our parents or/and godparents' lack of understanding about what was expected of them they failed to bring us up in the faith. So we fell away. We lost the grace that was given to us. We became corrupted by the world, conforming to its pattern of living, and lived as we wanted rather than how God wanted us to live. In St. Theophan's words we "gradually (got) used to what is harmful." But there is a way back. As the prodigal son discovered in Luke 15:11-32, we can and must "begin it anew". That is 'repentance'. And as John called the wayward children of Israel back to God (Luke 3:1-18) and Jesus after him (Matthew 4:17), God is continually calling us, His wayward children to turn to Him and begin again, and again and again.

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