Excerpt from: Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition

15. A Parable

There was once a great city, in the centre of which stood a very tall building, whose top was lost in the sky. It was said that everyone who reached the top was very, very happy. You would have thought that everybody would have wanted to get to the top. But such was not the case.

There were some who lived in parts of that city who had never even seen the tall building. Still others had seen it, but did not know what was inside. Yet others, though they had heard about how pleasant it was at the top, either did not believe it or else simply refused to go and look, saying that they preferred to stay where they had always been.

Nevertheless there were great crowds milling about the building. Many tried to enter it, yet somehow never managed to, even though the doors were wide open. They said the doors were too narrow. Some of them would try to enter through a window or look for other doors. They never succeeded. Some would peer in through the doors out of curiosity, others would actually go in, but quickly come out again, saying that they did not like the look of the ground floor.

Inside, on that ground floor, there were throngs of people scurrying about, very busily. Some of them were looking for the lifts that had been installed to replace an ancient staircase, the remains of which could be seen in the panelling of the lifts. Many people found the lifts and got in; however the lifts were out of order and did not go very far. Some realised this and got out of the lifts in disgust. Certain people got out and began looking to see if there was not somewhere another ancient staircase.

To their surprise, there, not far away for those who bothered to look, there was indeed another staircase, and there were many people who were already going up. Unfortunately there were those who, having found the staircase, did not go up it. Some of them simply stood there, admiring the carpet; others stood looking at the woodwork, comparing it to that in the lifts. Still others just stood there at the bottom writing books about what it was like at the top - though they had never been there. What imagination!

Of those who started going up the staircase, a certain number kept looking around and would then come back down. Of these some would complain that it was too hard to go up. Others complained about other people who were going up the stairs, many of whom, apparently, did not speak English.

And yet there were others who went up their stairs and did not come back down, and there were many who went right up to the top. I know, because a cloud of witnesses has told me so. And although I am still at the bottom of these stairs, I am determined to start going up and not look back.

And how about you, will you come with me?

September 1987

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