Childhood & Holiness

This essay by Romanian theologian, poet, and philosopher Nichifor Crainic (1889-1972) was published on January 1st 1938 in volume XVII of his popular magazine, Gândirea, described as one of the nation's most influential cultural publications of the interwar period. For resources that were invaluable in bringing this piece to you, many thanks to Rost Online, R. Codrescu, and D. Dimo.

I have often written: "Our time is the age of youth"; and I said with that too little. The new political concepts embedded in state organization systems go deeper - to the child. He is the angular stone in the building of another world on the old mines. For the revolutionary spirit of our time, the elders are considered anachronistic: broken bricks from the rubble that political architecture does not want to use anymore. The old man is distorted by ideologies and fallen systems; for the revolutionary seed, the baby is like the furrow gutted for the first time. It has become a state problem. To have tomorrow in the citizens, the state is looking to print today in children. In their soft paste, they strongly press the seal of political will.

In this sense, the problem of the child has a striking appearance: that of the property right over it.

The Soviets, for example, claim that the man belongs entirely to the state and therefore children are a public property. In order to achieve this nonsensical idea, the family, that is, the natural rights of the parents, and the Church, that is, the spiritual rights of God, were abolished. Only the state must have children, and be their absolute owner. But state children are actually nobody's children, and one of the fiery crimes of Bolshevism is the group of children left, raised animalized by the maids, through the gangs and cellars, killed by illnesses, eaten by rats, disfigured by misery, terrible stories of holy childhood. If the communist idea were to come to an end, the Soviet state would soon have gotten stamped on nothing, because the infant would have disappeared from its borders.

The new nationalist state has the same will to print its face on the child. But here the ethnic principle and the spiritual tradition are respected. For the new nationalism, the number is the state's force. This imposes a bright, broad, and expensive demographic policy within the family, which is honoured and encouraged. The spiritual rights of the Church are recognized to the extent that it does not contradict the interests of the state, as in Italy. Or they are denied, to the extent that they do contradict each other, as in Germany, where the resounding conflict with the Vatican has, among other causes, that of the right of spiritual property on the child.

The principle of the renewal of the world by the child, raised today to the scale of great problems of state, is the principle of any pedagogy; but above all, of Christian growth. If evil in the state is evil in society, and if evil in society is evil in man, Christian growth pursues the destruction of evil in man or salvation of sin. Here on earth, the Church prepares in souls the salvation, which Jesus Christ gives during the Last Judgment.

The Church therefore prepares one for another order of existence. In other words, the goal of Christian growth goes beyond the edges of earthly life and takes into account the destiny of man in eternity. For if we admit that man does not die for all time with his fleshly death, then his destiny is different from that of making a short shadow on the earth. The mission of the Church is part of this infinite perspective of immortality and eternity, and helps us understand in another light the new political concepts of the right to property on the child.

What is the church of the state? A natural power, bounded by the time and space conditions of earthly life. Its prerogative to dominate man exclusively and to absorb him completely in the political end implies, implicitly, the prohibition of this man from his eternal destiny and the crushing of the soul in the realm of space and time. Only a state that circumscribes human existence in the temporal value of beasts may have this claim. Thus, in its monstrous absurdity, the aspirations of the Soviet state, which denies God and the eternity of life beyond death, aroused the total confiscation of man and the transformation of children into public property. Righteous or tyrant, wise or crazy, the autocrats of history are also poor powers like the grass of the field, which either today or tomorrow is thrown into the fire. And, of course, billions of parents from the beginning of the world to this day, and other billions from now on, have not begotten and will not give birth to a Lenin or Stalin possessed with such ideas.

Man is not the blind instrument of any earthly power. And not even of any heavenly power. Man is a free being created in this world to enjoy the light of God and to choose his own destination in the future. The Church reveals its knowledge of this destination with the alternative choices of happiness or eternal torture, and brings to hand a superficial means of salvation. But it does not constrain man, precisely because he is free: it calls him precisely because he is free and embraces him if he agrees to be guided over the bridge of nothingness, into immortality. As a free creature entering the Church, he enters the beginning of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of love, and the image of that love, but concrete, reflected in time and space, are the deeds of man to his own, to society, to the state. In a Christian society organized within the state, there is no question whether man belongs to the state or the Church. The Church exists in time and space, but it is not of time and space. It is an antechamber, vast as the cosmos, a part of eternity. Gentiles and states fit together; and as thousands of nations emerge from states, all of this would take place with a spiritual content. A Christian state enters with its time and its bounded space into the eternity of the Church, and by adhering to the unavoidable destiny of man, it will be enabled to fulfill both its obligations to Cesar and its obligations to God. In this case, which is nothing but the order of the world that comes from Christ, the soul develops within the family, within the professions, within the state and within the Church. However, our life under the sun is a preparation proportionate to immortality beyond the grave, it is easy to understand why the family, professional and state framework are hierarchically subordinate to the ecumenical or universal framework, which is the Church. It is the kingdom of love, and the image of this love that is manifested in the actions of man reigns as a moral obligation to each of the subordinate parts of the hierarchy.

Life in temporality is therefore in correlation with life in eternity, if man adheres to his destination beyond the age. Once this adherence is proclaimed, no man belongs entirely to another man because they all belong to God as His creatures.

This truth, which we seek to strangle in these present days of greedy dictators of life and death, appears in the sovereign light of the holy Gospel. Asked about the durability of marriage, Jesus Christ affirms her indissoluble ties, a link to the mysterious rank of the Church. The love between man and woman becomes holy not so much through its passionate purity, but by the fact that it brings forth life, giving birth to new generations. What attitude does the Saviour have toward these new generations, which the Gospel tells us immediately after the conversation about marriage? People brought their children to Jesus to touch them with his hands and bless them. But the disciples, believing in their naivety that this mob of the crowd would bring annoyance, argued with their parents.

"And Jesus, - says the evangelist -, seeing this, was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."

And taking them into his arms, he laid his hands upon them, and blessed them for their sakes."

The meaning of the Saviour of the children, in this scene of our dear God, becomes a normative principle in Christianity. We understand that there is a spontaneous magnetism between Jesus Christ and children. He has open arms to all the children of the world, and these children are pushed towards him by a secret power in their souls. In the icons depicting the triumphal entrance to Jerusalem, the children are the ones who receive it with burning enthusiasm and the green branches with which they pay tribute are like extensions of their tender souls into the air. But it is in these icons a detail of a loving beauty: the first is a child, who starts with an infinite gentleness and kisses the foot of the Saviour on the donkey. The painter has concentrated in this detail all the deep enthusiasm and all the childhood gratitude in the world for the coming Son of God.

Do we have the right, parents or political dictators, whoever we are, are we entitled to hinder this spontaneous and deep magnetism between Jesus Christ and the children? "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these," He commands us. And the meaning of these words is that, above us, the children belong to Jesus Christ.

And there is yet more truth that unfolds from this evangelical scene of the blessing of infants. Namely: Of all ages, children are especially preferred by the Saviour, and before them all are given the kingdom of heaven. In the mysterious logic of this preference, the mature people are addressed by the following condition: "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all!" And this baby, who is only a young man, is raised on his arms by Jesus and, over the heads of all, is shown to mankind as an example of the Christian model! If you are advised by your old man's pride, it seems almost outrageous that you have to offer the mind of a child to win the love of Jesus Christ.

And yet, this is the royal law of our Christianity. You really have to come back to the minds of the children to find the line of the great destiny beyond death! In Christianity, the measure of the perfect man is not the elder, but the child. Not the baby who must be like us, instead we must be like infants. This measure of religiosity, which Jesus Christ gives us, seems bizarre for our usual ways of discernment, because we immerse culture in religion. In culture, it is a progressive human phenomenon, an incessant accumulation of ideas and new knowledge, thus the child cannot be our measure. He is a charming ignorant, which we must gradually raise to our level of instruction. However, the process of religion takes place in the opposite direction to the process of culture. What is the point of view of the Christian child, newborn in this world, and reborn through the mysterious bath of Baptism? It represents absolute simplicity and absolute purity in its purpose. The beauty of his nature, still untouched by the passions of the world, his virginity, his spirit still not knowing evil, the lily of his heart, all such things make this being an angel in the flesh, intended only as a smile and an endless joy. This initial innocence, however, will not last forever as incorruptible. Tendencies to passion will progress successively with the growth and development of the instincts of human nature. The entire secret of Christian education lies in the continuous endeavour to provide the instincts in man with normal function for his good and that of his fellow men, and not to let them deviate catastrophically into passions. For the instincts in man are like two-edged weapons: normally guided at the helm by the will, they lead the way to the great destination beyond death; left to degenerate into passions, they lead in the opposite direction of perdition. Education, which is, in particular, the heroic exercise of the will, consists in the continuous effort to keep man at the sublime level of purity and simplicity with which he once came to the world as a babe. Thus the measure of human virtue is the child. We could say, without being mistaken, that we are so much Christians as we have been able to keep this within ourselves until the end of our lives.

So, here is why we should not confuse the process of culture, which is a progressive increase in knowledge, with the process of religion, which is the effort to keep alive the dignity of that righteousness with which we enter world through Baptism. In culture, the scholar is the measure of the child; In religion, the child is the degree of the scholar. The highest heights of human genius are poets and philosophers, heroes and saints. Each of them realizes in his own way something out of the pure soul of childhood. The poet and artist in general manifests himself in his creation as a child who makes the tools of the game and the fictions of imagination an ideal world, distinct from our real world. The philosopher struggling to answer the last questions of existence remains, intellectually, the only child among us all. For if we have given up trying to answer the last questions and seeking the supreme reason of things, these questions in which the philosopher is so gravely involved are exactly the same that the child throws to the mystery of this world, barely in the midst of it. The hero commits the great exploits that he imagines with child ignition and sacrifices himself without restriction with the native generosity of the infant. All these incarnations of human genius represent in various ways leaps over the real world, and these jumps can be taken as native impulses in child psychology. For if there are tendencies to adapt oneself to the conditions of the real world in which one exists, - adaptation, which pedagogy calls the process of imitation, - it is no less true that in childhood there are strong tendencies to overcome this world, to leap beyond what is real. What is, for instance, the taste for the amazing, the universal attraction that fairy tales hold for children, than a proof of this tendency to jump beyond what is real? In my humble opinion, the mythology of fairy tales, which absorbs the incomparable attention of all children more than any historical story, conceals in her attraction the profound adherence of the child's soul to the supernatural dimensions of existence. In a fairy tale, the child's instinct seeks its destination beyond death. But a fairy tale is only a palliative that quenches the thirst of this metaphysical instinct. Only religion can fully please him. Therefore, among all the culminating events of human genius, the one who fully and sublimely realizes childhood is the saint.

A saint is a perfect Christian but at the same time a perfect child. This statement, in order not to remain a simple paradox, compels us to seek the common elements in both the being of the saint and the being of the child, on the basis of which we may better understand.

Are there really such common elements?

Let us recall that we have said above concerning the spontaneous inclination of the child to Jesus Christ, as is clear from the words of the Gospel: "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them." Undoubtedly, this involves nothing but an attraction and an initiative from the childish soul to divine things, to the supernatural dimensions of the Saviour’s person. If it did not exist, then the words "permit them" and "do not hinder them" would make no sense.

This attraction to the supernatural and to the divine can be seen in infantile psychology and the taste for fairy tales, which are but a palliative and artistic suggestion of the world beyond, but it can be noticed especially by the terrible questions of the child about the last things and of the mystery surrounding the visible world. These early questions, so precocious, and prior to any practical concern, make up a fundamental feature of the soul. They express the instinctive desire to identify the world into which it has come in its just proportions and to overcome its adherence to the divine. Plato seeks to explain this adherence through the theory of reminiscence, a memory left in the soul from a supposed previous existence in the higher world of the divine ideas. His explanation, however beautiful, is unacceptable from the point of view of Christian truth. Other philosophers explain their adherence to the divine through the theory of innate ideas in the soul or the Kantian a priori forms. However varied these philosophical attempts, they have a common theme in the recognition that the human soul comes into the world with the inclination to adhere to the divine things beyond the world. This native urge to search and this need for accession and adherence is the sound foundation of religion, that is, of the living bond between man and God. Some thinkers call religion, for this reason, "an instinct deeply entrenched in the human soul." Others say the same thing when they call it "the essence of the human soul."

Christian doctrine teaches that the individual soul is created by God for every being born in the world, and in this soul as pure as snow, the image and likeness of the Creator is embellished. The image of God contains the intelligence of man or his spirit, and his likeness carries man's will to work good. This teaching agrees, in fact, with the common theme of the philosophical explanations about the adherence of the soul to what is divine. The child is a metaphysical scholar by the thirst for absolute answers of his virgin spirit, and a moral being through spontaneous and deliberate generosity, which flows from his innocent heart to the world. The spirit, bearing the divine image, and the heart that bears the resemblance, are, if we can express ourselves, the contact organs of man with God. Spirit through understanding or knowledge; heart by love or deed.

The saint is a perfect Christian because of his adherence to divinity or religion, which is an instinct originally in the soul of the child. He lives fully in the ultimate state of consciousness. At the height of the Christian faith, the saint passively fulfills the will of God: a happy passivity, similar to the one in which the child, smiling upward, receives the mother's milk or, even more, with the same open face and the head back, happily receives the answers of religion to the last questions, asked by an aspiring metaphysical curiosity. The beginning of life and the ultimate end of its perfection are thus linked in the same note of common happiness adherent to the divine, when the childhood meets on the same high plane with holiness.

But the candour of childhood is a state of the pure soul's nature through the bath of Baptism, while the altar of the saint is a state conquered by the overwhelming endearments and casualties of an entire life. The degree of childhood purity decreases indefinitely with adolescence, with youth, with men and the elderly, if man is allowed to fall ill. Just as the waves of the sea grind on the unimaginable shore of stone, so the waves of life destroy with time the block of candour of childhood. The struggle of the saint is to maintain the original level of candour. It often resembles Sisyphus' labours to raise the rock to the top of the mountain, to roll down again from there and then to rise from the valley to the top. Only a complete victory brings the saint to the measure of the child who he was himself right after Baptism.

What is holiness and how does it resemble childhood?

Within Christian doctrine, there are two things especially that make man capable of holiness. One is the simplicity of the spirit, and the second is the purity of the heart.

Simplicity of spirit is also commonly referred to as poverty of spirit. Those who are poor in spirit are blessed by the Saviour with the happiness of living in the kingdom of heaven. Those who are pure in heart are blessed by him with the joy of seeing God. The essence of the nine blessings spoken in the Sermon on the Mount is actually reducible to these two, and these two are in fact one and the same, because being in the kingdom of heaven and seeing God means one and the same thing. Only the ways to get there are distinct, because at one moment it is spirit and then the next it is the heart.

The spirit is the one who knows.

The heart is the one who loves.

Religion is the knowledge and love of God practiced at all times.

The knowledge of God is conditioned by the simplicity of man's spirit or its poverty. What does this poverty or simplicity mean? The directive of our spirit is to learn the truth. In the noble work of this discovery, the spirit is loaded with the endless varieties of knowledge, with the images, the representations, and the ideas of all things falling within its preoccupations. The constraint of these intellectual elements often causes the wandering of the spirit, which can take as truth what is not in reality, and leave unnoticed the truth that it seeks. The saddest and most eloquent example of the wandering spirit is that of the semidocti1 who, possessing a certain amount of insufficient knowledge, is sure he possess the truth itself. The semidocti's characteristic is that he does not realize the limits of human science, and he takes as absolute what is fragmentary and relative. For the pursuit of man's perfection, semidocracy is always a misfortune. Another difficulty arises, for example, with the endless variety of knowledge that makes up our modern culture. A man's lifetime is not long enough for the spirit of even the lightest of thirst to know, to encompass this culture as a whole. But the powerful spirits who have succeeded in encompassing in a broader synthesis the whole of human knowledge, are increasingly aware of the relativity of science. The true scholar becomes modest and begins to doubt his own science. The words of the wise Socrates: "What I know is that I don't know anything," is a conclusion to which a few men arrive at after knowing everything that can be known. With Christian expression, this discovery of limits to human knowledge is called "scholarly ignorance." But this scholarly ignorance, found at the end of science, puts us on the path of simplicity of spirit or poverty of spirit. The absolute truth which is God Himself, after which human knowledge thirsts, can be discovered in a more direct way within ourselves. Our intelligence or reason or conscience is the very image of God, imprinted on the soul. The discovery of this image in us is the discovery of the truth we seek. But this discovery requires a continuous discharge, to exhaustion, of all images and secondary ideas accumulated in spirit. The operation of their elimination is called the simplification of the spirit. Only so isolated in his inner loneliness, that is, depleted of all secondary images, can our spirit find God in the primordial image or in the divine idea of it. If culture is said to be what remains in the soul after forgetting all that we have learned, then all the more we can say of God: we will have it all the more in us the poorer we are in terms of the images absorbed from the outside world. For if God is a simple spirit, he can only be known by a perfect simplicity in the human spirit. But by reaching out to God in this way, the learned man in fact possesses the native simplicity of the child. Sacred ignorance or poverty in spirit is essentially the same ignorant sainthood of the newcomer in the world, who, free from any science, comes through instinct to God. Whoever knows God knows everything. For the scholar, this central idea illuminates and organizes within fair limits all the secondary elements accumulated by science. In terms of the moral perfection of man, in relation to the destination beyond death, science holds value only in as far as it helps one overcome the world in which he lives.

To better illustrate this idea, let us imagine that we are making a trip to a mountainous landscape, wanting to reach the highest mountain peak. Before we ascend it, we have to go up and down the hills. Every hill conceals our view of the top of the peak, and we often think we have arrived when we are, in fact, only halfway up. Only when we really reach the top of the mountain and look down upon the whole landscape under the unlimited horizon do we realize how many times we have deceived ourselves along the road and what the real proportions of the surrounding hills are in relation to the great height from where we look out. Likewise, God is the supreme height to which the human spirit ascends, and only when we get to Him do we realize the small proportions of things in this world. Knowing Him, we know them better, because everything is known only when we consider it in relation to the cause that produced it. And God being the cause of all things, their true significance is only revealed to us after we know Him. This discovery leads us to poverty of spirit or simplicity of spirit. To the child, this state is native. The saint must achieve this state by renouncing the ideas of things in favour of the royal idea of God.

What do we need to understand now by a pure heart?

Through the heart, we understand that part of our soul where feelings are born, and where the impulses to action start. When we say that someone is a 'heart of hearts', we understand that he is a man who immediately vibrates to the suffering of another and helps him without a moment's anticipation. A good man is the one with a good heart; the evil man is the one with an evil heart. Good or bad, our passions cling to the heart. If we hate someone, hatred pushes us to hurt them; if we love him, love pushes us to do good. The heart, therefore, plays a decisive role in the deeds and in the qualification of man. That is why Jesus Christ attaches to it such great significance for Christian life. Our fate beyond death is decided by our heart. This is the overwhelming price of the education of the heart.

The only thing we need to know about the education of the heart is that it cannot be undertaken in isolation, but it needs the rudder of good reason or spirit. A spirit who has not come to know God will lead his heart after a misunderstanding, for if a spirit is convinced that the greatest asset in the world is wealth, his heart will cleave to wealth with all his passion and man will work accordingly, exploiting his peers to gather wealth by any means. On the contrary, the spirit that has come to know God and knows that the greatest good is the fulfilment of the divine will, shall guide his heart and direct his passions for this purpose. Knowledge is the guiding light of the passions of the heart. In ignorance, passions are messy: we often love what is not worthy of love, and we hate what we should love. Passion left by itself is blind.

God's knowledge attracts the love of God to our heart. But just as the spirit has to be simplified to reach God's knowledge, so the heart must be purified to fully love it. The purification of the heart means the strangulation of all the evil impulses within it. Only a pure heart can truly love God. Just as the sun is only clear in the clarity of a water cistern, so too can we only see God in the deep of the tear of a pure heart.

But Christian love follows the same path as Christian knowledge. When we know God, all things in this world are enlightened by him. Similarly, when we have come to love God, all the workings in the world will look good and worthy of love. For God is infinite love, and His love encompasses both the strong and the weak, the righteous and the sinful. Like God, the true Christian, who is the saint, will consider the world worthy of love for all the beauty and kindness of her, and worthy of forgiveness for all the sin that disfigures her. The man who rises up with this heart of love, realizes the harmony and beauty of heaven in his soul and truly lives in the kingdom of God.

Do we not see in our children, in the candour of their being, in the simplicity of their spirit, in the righteousness of their hearts, in all their fleshly creature something of the beauty without match that is paradise and heaven with its angels? The fragility of their bodies, like a spindle from another world, the smile we call the roar of their mouth, the overpowering light of their innocent eyes, their chirping as the unseen birds, left somewhere far, in paradise, everything suggests a corrupt anterior world of sin, dominated by harmony, love and endless light. Dostoyevsky says that if there is anything left in our world that reminds us of the beauty of heaven, it is the sweetness of the spring leaves, it is the chirping of the birds, and the eyes of the children. Give me all the life found in the eyes of a child, and I would see no more than the happy light of divine heaven.

This overwhelming gift has only the saints and the children on earth. Children, of their simple and righteous nature with which they come to the great mystery of God. The saints - from the end of a lifetime of becoming like the children.

If we analyse the feeling of love that surrounds our children, we discover two special elements in it: one is the happiness that unfolds from their purity which is broken off from another world; another is the concern that this purity will be defiled and will melt away due to the wickedness of our world. By looking at them, we are more aware that we are no longer like them, and we want much less that they ever become like us. Like them - it's a happiness; like us - a pain. Only one who knows the child understands how far he has departed from the purity with which he came into the world and feels rising from the depth of his being a longing to become a child again. The longing for childhood, which the poets are so insistently singing, is the nostalgia for the candour of a lost heaven. And only he who knows himself well, only he who sighs in the inner roots of the righteousness of another time, sees with horror the prospect of the withering and the corruptions that await the living child.

These sentiments of a bifurcated heart must be at the foundation of the education of new generations. The true educator's toil is not to make children like us, but to save them for the rest of their lives in the simplicity of the spirit and the cleansing of the heart with which they came into the world. A new generation is a new spring of mankind. And it is surely fated to be withered if we want it to grow in our likeness. There is only one means of saving it: when education, fundamentally reformed, will raise the child in the image and likeness of God.

If the earthly life unfolds between the cradle and the tomb, the life of the Orthodox Christian takes place between Baptism and Holy Communion. By Baptism we begin, through Holy Communion we end up. If, in the flesh, we are born of a mother in the family and race, by spirit we are reborn in the Church in the communion of the love of the sons of God. The baby immersed in the baptismal bowl is an Adam created again and restored in the spiritual heaven of harmony with God. In its pure and simple nature, the grace of the Church buries in man powers proportionate to the destination beyond this world of man. So great are these powers that the baby who dies baptized, is received in heaven as perfect. Baptism therefore suddenly places us at the higher level of holiness. That is why the Church is a saint-maker and is conflated with the Mother of God: Maica Domnului. But in the unfolding of life, this sublime paradisiacal state does not hold its own, because man is free, and grace buried in him does not hinder that freedom. Within free will is the ability to choose heaven or hell. In other words, contained in our freedom is the ability of baptismal energy and the natural energy in us to either cooperate, or refuse to work together. Obviously, in the newborn and those reborn in the Church, all these powers are innocently ignorant of one another. But, in Orthodox terms, the issue of educating man during his development is nothing more than the endeavour of preserving in us the level of grace that was given to us through Baptism. Christian education is the cooperation of will with the energy of grace in us. In Baptism, this collaboration is not seen, but it is well seen in the secret of the sacrament of Communion. No force is required of the child to give him the baptismal grace; but a whole series of endeavours is required of man to reach the Eucharistic grace. And if we notice that Baptism is given once and for all, and the sacrament is repeated continuously until the last hour of life, what is the deep purpose of this church ordinance?

Given the incessant landslides of the human nature, what is the Communion with Baptism other than the sudden lifting of personal life again to the initial level of grace? Baptism is the sublime level of holiness; Communion is the spiritual lever, which always raises us up to it. The secret of a truly Christian education lies in the relationship between these two holy mysteries, one in which we begin life, another through which we continue and perfect it.

In Orthodox theology, among others, the question was whether holiness or moral perfection is a grace equal to or greater than Baptismal grace. Some tend to believe that holiness, as the crowning of Christian life, would overcome the peak reached by Baptism. Others, however, are convinced that both represent an equal level of grace. By accepting this latter opinion, childhood appears akin to holiness. So I did not create a paradox when I said that the baptized baby is a saint, and the saint on the highest peak of virtue realizes the paradise of childhood. Between this Alpha and this Omega of Christian life, is the equal peak of grace on whose line the zigzags of human moral consciousness flow with their descents and ascents. What else is, therefore, in theological terms, the essence of Christian education than the attainment of the consciousness of the baptismal grace that dwells in us? This consciousness of grace gives us the inner feeling of the presence of God in us that is the feeling of love, of the divine kingdom in the soul, of the anticipated taste of the happiness of eternal heaven. That is why the great saints, who are the great mystics of Orthodoxy, sum up holiness or perfection in the simplicity of the spirit and purity of the heart. Through the simplicity of the spirit we come to the knowledge of grace; through the purity of the heart to divine love.

The universal rule of Orthodoxy is that we can really love only what we truly know: through knowledge only, we come to love. The mind is that by which we know the image of God from ourselves; the heart or will is that through which we love His resemblance. The last word of the mystic, which culminates in the theological disciplines, is that, on the basis of God's image, we rise to its likeness.

  1. semidocti is one who has little, or only superficial knowledge. An English equivalent was not forthcoming.

Source: Thermidor magazine