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God's Work in Us - H.E. Metropolitan Kyrillos of Milan

A translation of an excerpt from a sermon delivered by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Milan.

My beloved, I thank God with all my heart for this great blessing and this great grace, and His Grace Bishop Abakir was attempting to direct your attention from Sweden to Milan; truly tremendous efforts were undertaken in these countries, and we are grateful to His Grace that with God’s work and the labor of those who serve with him, the service grew and multiplied, and you have not yet seen anything — you will see many things, and God will bless, and the diocese will possess a sweet fragrance that will be enjoyed by all of the surrounding countries, and it will carry out a mission that all the people will [experience], and it will undertake a heavenly work from which we can all benefit.


We as fathers always serve God, knowing full well that God knows how to work with both the worm and the whale; with both a crow and a dove. God works in the turbulent sea and the calm sea. Perhaps the most significant story that conveys to us this message — that God is the one who works, not us, and that we are merely people who observe the work of God with us […] — before the grace of the episcopacy, it was easy for me to deliver a sermon on blessing, for instance, and speak about God’s blessings. I would speak about what I would read in the Scriptures. But after God’s work with the person, he is able to say: “I have seen the blessing; I have touched the blessing; I have held onto the blessing; I have felt the blessing.” The one story that can easily lead us to recognize this, that God cares for both the one who serves and the one who is served, and cares for the edification of souls — is the story of Jonah the prophet and the great people of Nineveh.


When you sit and contemplate this story, you will find that it is a beautiful one — God, the great teacher; God, the great governor; God, who “longs for the salvation and deliverance of everyone,”[1] desires to find everyone returning to Him. He desires houses of prayer; He desires houses of purity; He desires houses of blessing.[2] So what does He do? He calls a mischievous person, perhaps a mischievous servant, and tells him: “Come, Jonah, and go to this or that place.” Jonah knew God very well and understood Him, so he rebelled, and God then began to remedy Jonah’s problem so he would then remedy for Him the problem of the great Nineveh. What did God do? He gave him a lesson, as the Good teacher, in mysterious ways. All of creation moved so that the great Nineveh would be changed and so that Jonah would be changed. He escaped, but God pursued him. He went to sleep, and God woke him up. They brought him up from beneath: “Come here! What are you doing? Where are you from? What is your name? Where did you come from? Where are you going? Tell us about yourself.” And at the very end, we find that God began to teach him, and that every time he rebels, God teaches him not by means of a person but by means of a small plant that grows above his head, so that he loves it and rejoices, and then the plant is taken away by a little worm so that he becomes upset and depressed and tells Him to take his soul. He was by disposition a bit grumpy. He was easily angered and easily felt suffocated [by his circumstances]. And at the very end, the result was that the one who served was God.


We do not know how to serve. It is God who serves through us. Just as His Grace told us. His Grace said that none of us serve — God is the one who serves in us. And God is the one who serves by us. And God is the one who serves with us. Without Him, we cannot. Yesterday we celebrated the enthronement of His Grace Bishop Luka in Geneva, and we as bishops recalled a few things about our pastoral work, whether bishops or priests [or] servants, and we always express our conviction that “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).


Forgive me, but logically speaking, if I could do something, would God interfere? He would not interfere. But as His Grace said, if I cannot [do something], then God will intervene. If I tell God, “come intervene,” He will intervene. And this is very clear in God’s providence. It is clear that He comes to the one who cries out to Him. God comes to the one who calls for Him. Whether the priest or the bishop or the servant, all of us, before we serve, we tell God: “We want you to support us; without you we can do nothing.” And as the Psalm says: “the Lord will hear you” (cf. Psalm 20:1). If you ask for Him, He will come. And in our nature, we must always seek God and draw near to Him. And for every one of us who comes close to God, this is evidence of his love for God.


Some people love God for the sake of selfish gain. Some people love God to gain His protection or because they are afraid of Him, lest He torture them. But some people love God for the sake of God Himself. For this reason I will remind you of a beautiful saying of one of the saints. He told God, “God if I love You due to a selfish desire for the Kingdom, prevent me from it. If I love You for fear of the suffering of Hades, burn me with it. But if I love You for the sake of Your love, confirm me in Your love.”


When we serve, we serve for the sake of love. When one of us is asked, “why do you serve?” There is only one sound answer: “the love of God renders me incapable of being silent.” Why did His Grace join the monastery? Because the love of God was enflamed in his heart. He wanted God. This is undeniable. He had a job, a workplace, a community, a home, and the means by which he could establish his own home. And the same applies to his brothers the bishops and the fathers the priests who consecrated themselves and left their jobs for no reason except to enter the vineyard of the Lord. The love of God renders them incapable of being silent. I cannot be silent! I have tasted Him and I therefore want to lead others to also taste Him.


Even as I speak to you now, the desire of my heart is not that I deliver a sermon. All of my heart’s desire is that God will dwell in your hearts and that He will fill your hearts. This is the desire of my heart. I know that God dwells in this house. This is the house of the Lord and the Lord of the house is in it. It is called the house of the Lord, and the Lord of the house dwells within it. So all of my thoughts concern these two things. I am coming to the house of the Lord to meet with the Lord of the house. This is what occupies my mind — that when you and me and all of us are in his house, we are wholly concerned with God who dwells in this house. We want God. We do not merely want to greet Him in His house, but we want to tell Him: “we long to be like the Virgin Mary, about whom we say in the [Midnight Praises], ‘she is exalted above than the cherubim and more honored than the seraphim, for she became a temple for one of the Trinity.’[3]” When the Virgin was a child, she entered into the house of the Lord, and in the fullness of time she became a temple for God. If we all come here and meet with God, who is present in this place and fills all places, who is uncontainable by any place — if we meet with God here, we must leave having also been filled by God in our hearts.


How can one leave the house of God and feel that he is lacking anything unless he did not meet God there? The service of the father priest, the service of the father bishop, the service of the brother servant, all of these services concern one goal — that we are all united with God. Without Him, we can do nothing.


The second thing is: who is the one who changes the people? What changes the people is the beauty of Christ in us. This is what effects the change in the people. Do we not hear about Abba Antony, “it is enough for me to see your face?”[4] You look at Abba Antony and say, “it is enough for me to see your face.” Why? What is in you, Abba Antony? He is preoccupied with God. He is wholly concerned with God, and the image of God has become imprinted upon his face and in his whole person. I love a saying of St. Habib Girgis: “the image of God is not imprinted in your heart unless your heart is as clear as water.” The image of God is not imprinted in my heart or yours unless our hearts are as clear as water. So we come to the house of God to purify the heart, so that it is pure, clean, and spotless. And not only does the image of God become imprinted in the heart, but when the heart is pure and clean and spotless, we also see God Himself.


Without God, we can do nothing, as I have told you.


[. . .]


Please find the full sermon at the following link:

Cover Image: His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Milan of blessed memory (left) with His Eminence Metropolitan Arsenius of Minya of blessed memory (right), to whom he was a faithful disciple and alongside whom he served for many years in Minya and its surrounding regions prior to his reappointment to Milan, Italy. Image Original.

[1] cf. ⲡⲓⲟⲩⲱⲓⲛⲓ, An ⲁⲇⲁⲙ Doxology for the Lord Jesus Christ in the Coptic Orthodox Church, 11

[2] cf. Litany for the Assemblies in the Coptic Orthodox Church

[3] The Wednesday θεοτοκια of the Midnight Praises of the Coptic Orthodox Church, 6.3

[4] cf. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Anthony the Great, 27

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