How we shall stand before God (Part 2)

What, then, my dear friends, should our stance be in view of this paradise, which is both within us, and of which we are a part? How does one live in paradise? Naked, but not ashamed (Gen 2.25). And what does it mean to stand nuked before God? It means to approach God in simplicity, naturally, artlessly, spontaneously, stripped of our shallow complexity and complications. Adam and Eve loved God naturally, without affectation, without constraints, without tortured second thoughts and calculations. They were naked of all those things, and thus they were free. And this is why candidates for baptism are stripped of their clothes. This is why nakedness is at the heart of the monastic tonsure, both in the exchange of garments and in the cutting of the hair. In early times, both monks and nuns had all of their hair removed at their tonsure, in semblance of the nakedness of Adam and Eve before God. And that is what it means to be a monk or a nun: to reject every bond with the world, to lay aside every growth of sin which clings so closely (Heb. 12.1). Monks and nuns should not clothe themselves in the garments of social relationships; they should be shorn of all opinions, empty of information, desires and experiences. They should forget everything, leave everything, because nothing in the world is of any value in a monastery. And we are not afraid or ashamed of the nakedness to which God wants to bring us, for it is a state of purity and blamelessness. The concern of the monk is to worship and praise the creator, to stand before God in the paradise of the Church, and join his voice to those of the angels. The work of the monk, the means by which he tills and cultivates the garden (Gen 2.15), is prayer, spiritual study, and his relationship with his spiritual father. The ground he cultivates is the earth of his heart, which he finds when he goes into his cell and shuts the door and prays to his Father Who is in secret (cf. Mt 6.6). The deeper he digs, the more he will strip his intellect of all thoughts, memories, and images that darken his mind and cloud his heart. He will increasingly come to reject all those things that bind him to the world, that seek to imprison him in what is petty, human, and vain. Why? Because he knows that all of these things are thieves that seek to steal God from him. Adam had open and ceaseless communication with God until the serpent came between them. The serpent’s aim was to destroy Adam’s relationship with God, to steal Adam’s glory, and to bring paradise to ruin. But the serpent got more than he bargained for, since he was utterly trampled down by Christ, the new Adam, and now the doors of paradise stand open to all. Do not, then, let the serpent of evil thoughts come between you and God.