One of the lessons you learn quickly at the shore is about the life-expectancy of sandcastles:
It is very short.
There are simple reasons for this sad fact. The first is that sand isn’t the best building material. It doesn’t hold together for long, and it falls apart under its own weight. You can make a sort of slurry out of sand and ocean water, and fashion some pretty small and detailed shapes. But the water dries and the shapes fall away into dust.
The second reason takes place even faster. It is the sea itself, when the tide comes in. The water level rises. The ocean around the castle doesn’t take long to seep in: it doesn’t just filter in through the cracks -- it flows in between every single grain of sand. So no matter how clever or massive is your design, the tide will win, and the castle will lose.
We see this played out every afternoon on the shore. Every kid digs deeper, and builds higher walls, and some even design channels that try to accommodate the waves. But nothing lasts longer than a few days. And none survive the tide.
Life is like a structure, and it’s up to you as to what building materials you will use and where -- or upon what foundation -- you will build it.
And just like a sandcastle, the tide will surely come. Because the ocean of Life is Time, and the tide is the Last Day.
* * * * * * *
This is a beautiful life, even with all its challenges. The very act of taking in a full breath of air, drinking a glass of cool water and walking outside under the sun and into the breeze is enough to be happy to be alive.
Everything in the sky and on the earth “is full of His glory.” They show Beauty in all its infinite, glittering array. And the whole reason why Beauty is the very “language” of God’s Love is become it is completely unnecessary. It is purely impractical. It is gratuitous. “Beauty” is “over the top.” God delights in speaking beauty. His peace -- which is the experience of His beauty -- can be only a gift. We can never purchase it, or deserve it, or demand it, or manipulate God to pay us with it in exchange for something He wants from us. God is never “obliged” to do anything for us. We are completely unnecessary to Him. He never “needs” us or any of His creation.
God’s beautiful peace can be only a gift. And because it is a gift, it is given only in Joy.
The thing to do here is to breathe, feel your heart beat, look at the face of a friend, walk in the woods, drink cold water, taste fresh baked bread, feel the evening cool wind on the porch with the lights down -- all of this should be understood as the artistry of the Holy Trinity, painted in splendor, as a divine gift of joy to you.
Jesus is beautiful. The Cross is beautiful. The Resurrection is beautiful. The Transfiguration on the mountain is beautiful. The Dormition of the Virgin is beautiful.
This is our Christian life of orthodox peace. It points to the obvious fact that should grow deeper with Time: all of this beauty is only the beginning. As time goes on into eternity, this beauty and peace is a gift that will unfold and become higher and more complex, breathtaking and emotionally over-whelming: we will never want eternity to stop, once it begins in splendor at the Last Day.
And it never will.
* * * * * * *
This is what we are created to think and to feel and to believe. In Eden, Adam and Eve knew no difference between thought, feeling and belief. For them, it was all one and the same. There was no separation between thought, speech and action. It was all one.
Time for them was a friend. It could only increase joy, beauty and peace.
And because of the Incarnation, the Cross and the Resurrection, we are now restored to the Reality of Adam and Eve. They had nothing in Eden that we do not -- or cannot -- have in our hearts.
This is the meaning of salvation.
This is what the Apostles taught.
This is the foundation upon which the Apostles built.
This is the only material for castle-building. It is the only foundation that can stand in Time. It is the only structure that will remain in the Tide, and persist at the Last Day.
Time brooks no falsehood. Only the beautiful Word of God will stand.
This is Orthodoxy.
* * * * * * *
So the Apostles, from Day One, always taught the God is the Holy Trinity -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They always taught that the Trinity is a completely unified fellowship of self-giving love -- and love so infinite that it spills out infinitely into all of creation as omnipresent love.
They always taught that the Second Person of the Trinity became man, and that Jesus Christ is completely Divine and completely Human. And that He died on the Cross and cancelled the gravitational curse of Sin. And He broke the authority of Hell, and turned Death into Sleep.
The Apostles always taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, rests upon the Son and is sent by the Son to His Church. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are the Body of Christ.
The Apostles always taught, too, that we worship God in Liturgy, in the beautiful form and peaceful language we learned in Holy Tradition. They taught that we are deified in liturgy and prayer and Sacrament -- especially Baptism and the Eucharist. It is unthinkable to the Apostles that there could be any possibility of Christianity without communing in the Body and Blood of the Lord in liturgy, on the morning of the Lord’s Day.
They taught that it was through the Apostolic Succession of the Bishops that Holy Tradition was preserved as beautiful, as peaceful, as joyful. Other people tried to change the Gospel. They turned it into something violent or domineering. Something reserved only for a select few. Something that didn’t demand self-sacrifice. Something that perpetuated pride, anger, lust and greed.
This is why St Paul said in his epistle to the Corinthians that “ … no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It was the Word of God Who taught the Apostles what to teach.
The only Foundation.
The only Orthodoxy.
The only Castle by the Sea.
* * * * * * *
If you dream tonight that you are a child on the sand,
building a castle by the sea:
How will you plan to build on the shore,
a shelter that will stay throughout the night,
And in the morning, after the tide, still stands?
Will you follow the others and build with ease,
with plastic bucket and shovel,
Piling up convenient mounds within arm’s reach, as others do?
Or, will you think and remember, and listen to some advice
From successful castle-builders of good known stock,
And festoon your castle walls
with happy shells and driftwood sticks --
Against the others, you build upon a rock?