Homily by the late Bishop Mitrophan (1909-2002)
Do we, does each one of us Christians, believe in God’s love, which stretches over and covers the entire world and each one of us? Deists—and many Christians—say, “I believe in the Creator of the world, but I don’t believe he plays a role in the life of the world.” St. John Chrysostom says that those within the bosom of Christ’s Church who reason in this way are worse and more dangerous than unbelievers. We may boldly, and without fear of error, add to the words of this “Teacher of the Whole World” that the rejection of God’s Providence—that is, the rejection of God's continued care for the world—contradicts reason.
My dear ones, we know that the Creator’s plan for the world is a loving plan. And therefore it is impossible for God the Creator to deprive the world of His care.
The Holy Scriptures clearly and plainly confirm the Creator’s untiring care for man and for the world. “You give them—both animals and men—their food in due season,” (cf. Ps. 145:15), says the Psalmist David; and the longsuffering Job—the rich and famous man who was afflicted with solitude, poverty and plague—shouted out as he lay in his sores: “Life and love you granted me, and your providence has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:12).
Armed with the eye of faith, we say with complete conviction that God has the last word!
The Old Testament tells us the story of how God cares vigilantly for the forefathers (cf. Gen 26:3ff; 28:15), and how the mystical and guiding action of God’s Providence appears throughout history. The story of Joseph, the all-comely, clearly illustrates this; the evil perpetrated by Joseph’s brothers is transformed and serves God’s plan of salvation. When his brothers approached Joseph in Egypt for bread, Joseph said to them: “So it was not really you but God… Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people” (Gen 45:8; 50:20).
All of the Old Testament prophets, proclaiming God’s almighty power, say that the Creator provides eternally, distributes to all and gives power to those whom He wills (see Jer 25:7-ff).
The wise Solomon says, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand,” and “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer is from the LORD” (cf. Prov 16:1 and 19:21). All of the holy books of the Divine Revelation are inspired with the surety that “man proposes, but God disposes.” Without God all the strength and all the efforts of people are in vain. Thanks to Him, the Good Shepherd, His sheep confidently walk the path toward happiness, even when they are in the midst of darkness.
Having quoted the witness of Holy Scripture, we think of our people. The leaders of our time discount any thought of the participation of the Creator in the life of the world, but we, armed with the eye of faith, say with complete conviction that God has the last word! Our Lord Jesus Christ, underlining the action of God’s Providence in the world, revealed to us that God is our Father. He revealed that God’s Providence, guiding people and entire nations through the midst of trials, demands constant loyalty from us and calls us, calls every person, to be His co-laborer. It is this that leads to the defeat of the evil that reigns in the world. God’s Providence in the world is apparent, beloved, in the entire course of history. It establishes man in hope and demands that man would be God’s co-laborer in this world. Amen.
Knowing a little of Bishop Mitrophan’s life makes his insights on God’s Providence all the more powerful. In 1936, Mitrophan Znosko-Borovsky was ordained a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church in Kholm, Russia. Strict toward himself, affectionate and forgiving toward others, he was truly a good shepherd, giving his life for his sheep. Father Mitrophan saved many from death behind the walls of the NKVD during the Soviet occupation of Byelorussia. He also saved Jews, hiding them from fascist executioners and placing himself in mortal danger. He arrived in America at the age of fifty, already possessing an abundance of pastoral experience and many harsh life lessons (the early loss of his mother, famine, persecution at the hands of the Polish authorities for Orthodoxy and “Russianness,” brutal interrogations by both the NKVD during the Soviet occupation of Brest and by the Gestapo), tempered by life’s hardships, yet still full of strength and energy. Father Mitrophan’s consecration to bishop took place in Montreal on November 24 (November 11 O.S.), 1992. He was the vicar of the Eastern American Diocese with the title of Bishop of Boston the last nine years of his life.
(An unedited version of this homily (translated from Russian) can be found at: http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/2010/06/11/on-providence-homily-by-bishop-mitrophan/and every effort has been made to seek out any possible copyright on Bishop Mitrophan’s writing.)
This article is originally originally found on page 15 of the printed edition.