Wherever one serves the Lord and the Church, it is there that he finds joy and rest. This is the law and the criterion. The distinguishing feature which makes the man truly attracted and renders him unable to resist this inconsolable power, this mystical calling which will not hesitate to ask for even the ultimate sacrifice. What our Lord in John’s Gospel mentions as the highest of all sacrifices: «Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”, (John 15:13). Therefore, it is until there that one has to walk…
Yes, even as far as there, in these dark paths of death, which, though, hide in them the Light and Peace of Christ. When one looks at the Crucified Christ, behind the real pain of our Lord, behind His full of blood face and His firmly shut eyelids, His bloodstained Most Holy Body, one can distinguish three things: the first is obvious and, of course, it is nothing else but the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. The second is immediately visible after the first one, and it is the form of His Most Holy Body which, though nailed to the Holy Tree, with modesty and humility takes His last breath on earth, His arms open, ready to embrace man, His child, who at that moment becomes His enemy and puts Him up on the wood of the Cross, which until then was considered utterly dishonorable. This is how our Lord delivers His spirit. This is the reason why the Wood which takes His form is consecrated, and now becomes the overwhelming and noble trophy against the devil. Finally, behind all this, if one wants to look carefully, one will distinguish two great things: Peace and Rest. «This is the day of rest». Indeed, there is no other greater donation, other expectation, other ending than the rest which the fine iconographer depicts on the face of Crucified Jesus.
These three things, sacrifice love and rest of the soul, are the ultimate criteria for the choices we make in our life. Where one finds them, one should never let go of them but should keep them as something truly valuable, which will shine in front of them and help them go through the difficult times in life.
Ankilibe. Our few personal belongings have been loaded into the pirogue. I help our two guides, faithful lads of our coastal parish, to drop it into the water of the Indian Ocean. Golden blue sea! The wind, tired of blowing for so long, weak as well as aged but not forgotten companion of the South, comes and kisses the sail of the pirogue that we have already raised, and with as much strength has been left in it, blows it to the opposite shore. The burnt by the sun and the salt bodies of our two faithful guides, figures I had forgotten, are now passing again before my eyes, fighting with the sea, and driving the pirogue with the paddles where God really wanted …to the opposite shore.
Soalary. The opposite shore of the Bay of Toliara. It is late in the evening now, and all of us tired, disembark at the shore. We leave the pirogue on the beach and keep on walking. Anxiety reaches its highest point. We go through the village market. People can hardly remember you. Your feet are sinking in the sand, and now you are standing outside the hut of one of the catechumens. The voice comes out easily but your guts are burning inside of you as your anxiety is growing. «Where are you! I am the priest. «The father’s figure bashfully appears in the dark. He approaches me and greets me. He does not seem to have realized what is going on around him. He comes closer and embraces me. His arms tighten up around me. «Father, we did not expect to see you again.» We stayed up until late at night and we were talking. He was a father to seven children, one of whom, a little boy, had a hernia. Before I left, I had given him some money to have the child operated but I had also told him to pray for his child because God could heal it. The father, a simple-hearted man, said that during my absence, he had not forgotten my words and that his child had been cured without being operated. Simple, pure hearts, hearts that we, the people of the modern world, have denied and forgotten. People with simple faith; poor creatures that struggle really hard to support their children and family. However, it is these people who see the miracle. We have ceased to see the wonders of life. The miracle of God.
Now in the poor but so beautifully and warmly prepared hut, I can hear the sound of the waves of the Indian Ocean. The images seem to be rolling like a movie inside of you. The serene song of the sea. The children’s laughs. The catechetical sessions in the makeshift grass huts that are used as temporary churches. The sacred services underneath the «kili»trees, the traditional trees of the south. The people’s complaints. The poor mother who is trying to breastfeed her little toddler from her withered breasts and asks for a little money to buy rice, some medicine. The songs of our youth, our festivals, the confessions under the sun, the baptisms, the diseases, the dangers, the hands of the robber, our dead children, the tears, the pain, a whole life!
The sun is already rising and the bodies, dark figures, like the spirits of the people who you loved and who followed you to the distant land of ordeal, now come to life beside you, and you see them again struggle along with you so that you can reach where God really wanted!
Fr. Polycarpos of Hagia Anna