For many people today, just having one mother is a blessing; but I have been greatly blessed by our Lord to have had two mothers. How many of us can declare to have had such a gift? How many can lay claim to such a boast as I can? To have been nurtured not by one, but by two mothers, who loved and cared for me. It is something that I am completely and totally unworthy of because these two mothers I did not deserve.
In the book of Genesis, in the account of Creation, Moses recorded that for each day God created something magnificent. He created the heavens and the earth, He made the firmament in the midst of the waters and let it divide the waters; He let the earth bring forth grass; He made the stars; He let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures and let the birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens; God created great sea creatures and ever living thing that moves. Like a Divine Artist the Lord created freely; like a potter He molded the clay of the earth. And to this day, everything in nature belies God's Divine handiwork. When God had finished creation He beheld Creation and declared that it was good.
However, when He came to the creation of man, some of the fathers of the Church said that the Lord paused and took counsel with Himself. The question we must ask ourselves is why did our Lord pause before He created man? He did not do so when he created the heavens; He did not do so when He created the birds, the fish or the cattle. But with man God paused and reasoned with Himself because what God was to create was no mere animal, confined and defined solely by his instincts; but man whom God decided to name in His image, in His likeness.
To man God gave the ability to love and to love freely. It is because of this that God paused and reasoned with Himself because the ability to love and to be loved involves a risk. And that risk is rejection and even separation.; And so God paused before He created man because God knew that if He created man it would involve the risk of being rejected by man himself; the risk of a love not returned; the risk of man's separation. And as if to show the deliberation, scripture says in the Book of Genesis that God said "Let us make man in our image according to our likeness." And after God created man, God again beheld all of His creation and declared that it was not just good, but very good.
For many of us the fear of being rejected by another can be so strong that we never reach out in order to prevent others from reaching in. I knew long before I decided to get married that I wanted to serve in the Church. However, I was unsure as to whether I should be a monastic priest or a married priest. I was torn between the two. After much prayer I realized that the only reason why I did not want to get married was because I was afraid of the pain that I would have to experience if my wife were to die before me. I was afraid of letting someone into my life because I as afraid of the pain that I knew I would encounter. I saw the pain of my grandfather when my grandmother died. I saw the pain others experienced at the loss of their loved ones. I way the pain that my father experienced after losing two wives. And for me it was something that I did not want to experience. I thought that by becoming a monk I could possibly avoid becoming so close to another that I would be able to avoid the pain of separation, which is the risk of loving and being loved.
But when I realized that even as a monk one cannot run away from love. As a Christian, love is supposed to encompass our whole life, whether we live as monks or not, whether we marry or remain celibate. As St. Paul states in his first letter to the Corinthians "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself; is not puffed up; doesn't behave rudely, doe not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things,. Love never fails."
And so today, I stand before you as a married priest, realizing my vocation as a married priest. I chose to love and to be loved; risk the pain of separation, rather than living with a fear of being loved and avoiding the risk and pain of separation, but never realizing the fullness of Christian love.
This is why our Lord paused before He created us. God knew that by giving us a free will that we would have the freedom to reject Him; that we would have the freedom to separate ourselves from Him. God considered the risk and He chose the risk of real love, the risk of our rejection of Him, the risk of our separation from Him, even the risk of the death of His Son on the cross for us. For all of us, the pain of separation that we experience with the falling asleep of our loved one is the risk that all of us take when we fall in love with someone. But I am here to tell you that for all the pain that we experience at the death of someone we love, it is worth even the briefest moments of love that we shared with them and they with us.
The Rev. Fr. Luke Mihaly is pastor of the Holy Trinity Russian Orthosox Church in Danbury