Today we remember Seraphim, a Russian monk who, after making vows and being ordained a priest, lived as a hermit much like the desert fathers. Word spread about him. People visited, and he received them with much charity. People remember Seraphim for listening well and sharing wisdom.
A wise teacher or monk or friend listens closely, refrains much from speaking, and gives a word for today. The friend may discern or know more, much more, but their own wisdom shows in speaking what is appropriate and what is possible today for the one for whom they care. As Jesus says in our gospel lesson: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)
It is like a teacher who has a sense of the school year and the development which occurs for her students through progressive units of study. She encourages students as they discover today, knowing full well how the next unit will challenge today’s insights. As a wise teacher, she knows the path, where the students are, and what word, insight, or push they can handle today. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
Oh, that we could bear them, that we could handle the answers to our questions! We want to know now, not wait. But if we had known back then the challenges we would face today, would we have continued on this way?
Our founder Richard Meux Benson wrote: “We cannot bound into the depths of God at one spring; if we could, we should be shattered, not filled. God draws us on.” There is not only wisdom but mercy in being told only so much, mercy which respects our capability. What mercy when people like Seraphim listen to us closely, refrain much from speaking and share what is appropriate, what we can bear.
God draws us on today. God will draw us on further tomorrow, a good amount, an amount we can bear. What wisdom! What mercy! What love!
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