In the novel, Laurus, by Eugene Vodolazkin, the monk Amvrosy, is questioning the elder, Innokentey about time. Innokenty says time is not closed but open, like a spiral. “There are events that resemble one another, continued the elder, but opposites are born from that similarity. The Old Testament opens with Adam but the New Testament opens with Christ. The sweetness of the apple that Adam eats turns into the bitterness of the vinegar that Christ drinks. The tree of knowledge leads humanity to death but a cross of wood grants immortality to humanity. Remember, O Amvrosy, that repetitions are granted for our salvation and in order to surmount time.
Do you mean to say I will meet Ustina again?
I want to say that no things are irreparable.”
The direction of Amvrosy’s life has been to somehow atone for the love of his life Ustina’s death during the labor and still born delivery of their son when he was young. Amvrosy’s life was dedicated to the healing of thousands of people. Yet he could not escape the lasting guilt for his and Ustina’s sin. For both their living and bringing forth a life into the world outside of marriage and his for denying her the appropriate care during childbirth which ultimately leads to her and her child’s death. It is a powerful novel of redemption.
As we approach the third Sunday in Advent and our preparation for the remembrance of the Incarnation of the Son of God, the words of Elder Innokenty evoke a powerful message. Many aspects of life have become uncertain. The foundations of our civilization have been crumbling. What was once considered sin is now considered good and so on. Many of these events are out of our control. Yet there are things that are within our control.
Here in lies the wisdom of the elder. There are opposites born of similarity. Adam…apple…tree of knowledge—Christ…vinegar…the Cross. “I want to say no things are irreparable.” Sometimes it is easy to look upon life with a view that what has happened has happened and it can’t be repaired. Yet, in Christ our author wants us to see that nothing is irreparable. I think this is the point of the spiritual life. Earlier in the book the elder tells Arseny (Amvrosy—you will need to read the book) that faith always encompasses movement. Faith is not static. It causes the one who believe to action to grow nearer to the One in whom one places faith. Faith is the beginning of a journey and the journey of the soul is what I think Volodzkin’s novel points.
The journey of the soul is not instantaneous as AW Tozer points out in Pursuit of God. It is not a journey that can be improved upon by easy answers. It is patience, perseverance, courage, faith, hope and love. As we have begun a new year in the Church in this the Advent season, we continue patiently to await the new aspects of transformation in our ever continuing spiral toward Christ. Remember, in Christ, nothing is irreparable. Where are the opposites born of similarity in your story?
By Father Ron Longero Christ Church of the Sierra in Reno