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Spiritual life is a marathon

Δημοσιεύτηκε: Τρί Μάιος 17, 2016 9:28 am
από Νίκος
The more you progress in the spiritual life, the more the temptations and spiritual mistakes increase within you
5 May 2016


Today, it’s more necessary than ever to remind people that the final source of evil is in the spiritual life. Spirituality isn’t simply purity and moral stature. In the most hidden-away region of the spirit, there are always two sides: one light and one dark, as the Russian theologian Vassili Zenkovski so clearly set out (The Problems of Education in the Light of Christian Anthropology, Paris 1934, p. 110). This dualism in the essence of the spirit isn’t immediately obvious to those who aren’t completely familiar with the spiritual life, to those who are still concerned with the external, superficial life. But the more you progress in the spiritual life, liberated from submission to the external life, the more the temptations and spiritual mistakes increase within you. The further we scale the spiritual heights, the more the wheat of good intentions is intermingled with the chaff.

And it’s very common for the chaff to come out on top. The further we rise above common sins, in the body, the more we feel tempted to deify ourselves because of our personal victory, which we think is so great; the more we offer incense to our personal powers; and the more we’re estranged from God. If perfection rested on everyday spirituality, on self-control until the lower, external enticements were killed off, how many philosophers and sages, how many atheists and how many adherents of man-made systems for organizing our external life, would have been saved, despite the fact they scorned the very idea of God and presented themselves as examples of proof that people can be saved without the help of God. But even if the leap from a life full of bodily abuses to one of extreme spirituality without divine providence does exist, protection from spiritual evil is still impossible without God. This internal improvement of a person alone is enough to justify the teaching that, without God, we can do nothing.

The bright side of spirituality is the dominion of humility before God; on the dark side it is pride that is main demand, together with abandonment of God. So it’s clear why the bright side of spirituality within you cannot defeat the dark until you accept God, until you bow to His majesty, until you seek His aid. The more humble you are, humble before God, and the more your pride falls away, the more the bright spirituality casts out the dark. Perfect humility means total acceptance of God, the conviction that everything you achieve, you achieve with God’s help. Perfect humility means a complete eradication of pride, of the conviction that you do what you do, that you’re superior to others, that you have no need of God and other people for your own beatitude, for the task you wish to accomplish. Excessive pride means denial of God, rejection of other people and the complete victory of the dark side of the spirit.

Apart from anything else, humility is the most productive virtue of the bright side of spirituality, of moral beauty. It is what produces love of God and of other people, expelling from within us the great enemies of love, pride and contempt, and showing us God and our neighbours as being worthy of our attention and love.

Humility experiences a moment of sublime elevation into the mystery of repentance. Then it achieves a splendid victory over our own pride. But it’s a costly one. Hesitantly, stumbling over our expression and words, we raise the cudgel to deal the final blow to our pride, to our reputation in our own eyes. We perform a painful, harrowing operation, as if we were extinguishing our very self.

Herein lies the importance of repentance, in this seismic shift in our spirituality through the most difficult operation: the death of our pride and the encouragement of humility. The most precise and technical enumeration of our external transgressions has no value in itself, but only if, by doing so, we accomplish this seismic shift which shakes the whole of our being. This is why it’s not only those who commit particular sins who are in need of the mystery of repentance, but, even more so, those ‘spiritual’ people who, no matter how closely they examine their past, find nothing in it to condemn. It’s precisely in these people that pride has swollen most and therefore humility has to effect an even greater shake-up. An intellectual is no less in need of the mystery of repentance than any ordinary person. Spiritual evil is more pervasive than corporeal.

The wisdom of the Church has placed the mystery of repentance at the end of the fast. This shows us that, after our elevation above our bodily excesses, we have to heal the spirit, too. Because it’s not the body alone that sins. It may be that some, after strict observance of the commandment to fast, believe that they’re purified of their sins. The Church reminds them that there’s a sin of the spirit, against which we strike the heaviest blow with the mystery of repentance.

Only after the victory of this bright side of spirituality does the Church allow us to approach the new age of the world: life after the Resurrection.

Source: diakonima.gr

Temptations in our Life

Δημοσιεύτηκε: Τρί Ιούλ 31, 2018 8:19 am
από Νίκος
Temptations in our Life
30 July 2018


Metropolitan Ioïl (Frangkakos) of Edessa, Pella, and Almopia

Christ performed many miracles. He performed miracles on people, such as when He cured the paralytic at Capernaum, the ten lepers, the son of the widow of Nain and so on. He also performed miracles which showed us facets of His personality, such as the miracles of the Transfiguration, the Resurrection and the Ascension. Finally, He performed miracles on inanimate material, such as when He multiplied the five loaves and cursed the barren fig-tree. In today’s Gospel reading, He calms the waters of the sea and makes the wind drop.

The absence of Christ
After the multiplication of the five loaves, He told his disciples to ‘get into the boat and go before him to the other side’ (Matth. 14, 22). When He had dismissed the crowds, He went up onto the mountain to pray. In the course of His prayer, the boat got into difficulties because the sea became very choppy and the disciples were ‘beaten by the waves’. In the early hours of the morning, Christ appeared and calmed the turbulent waters. His disciples had become used to His presence. He wanted to make them realize that they had to be closely connected to Him. ‘The more anxious they became, the more they desired the presence of Christ’, writes Saint John Chrysostom. A storm arose, the wind was against them, hours passed and there was no help to be had.

The Lord wished to see how patient they were. He wanted to get them to understand how ‘to bear what befell them with courage’ as one of the saints writes. The storm at sea was training for the disciples in patience, endurance and prayer. Whenever Christ was about to grant people an abundance of Grace, He always prepared them beforehand through temptations. The Apostles were to preach to the whole world, they were going to perform miracles, Christ would give them the power to work signs and supernatural events, which is why He first trained them through temptations, so that they wouldn’t despair when they encountered difficulties and adversities. Christ’s appearance in the early hours of the morning dispersed all their fears and also calmed the sea.

Temptations in our life
There are two kinds of temptation in our life. One kind is temptations to do with faith. People have little faith in God, have thoughts of blasphemy, don’t accept the teaching of the Church, deny the sacraments and are of two minds. They’re also attacked by fornication, pride and the great passions in general. We can’t fight against these temptations properly on our own. It’s only with God’s help that we can combat the situations just mentioned. When such temptations enter our lives, we say Jesus’ prayer: ‘Do not lead us into temptation’ (Matth. 6, 13). These temptations separate us from God. We must expel immediately anything which separates us from God.

There are, though, other trials that are of benefit to us. For example, when we’re deprived of material goods, when we’re slandered, when our friends and family mock us, when our superiors are unsympathetic, when we suffer from incurable or debilitating illness, or other sicknesses which temporarily afflict us and so on. All of these trials aren’t bad for us so long as we face them in the spirit of the Gospel and with the power of prayer.

‘Blessed are those who have withstood temptation, for having been tried, they will receive the crown of life’ (Jas. 1, 12) writes the Apostle. He also says that we should be joyful when we fall into temptation. These trials are good for us, indeed, greatly so, according to Abba Isaac the Syrian. People who wish to strive and live a life of virtue are not alone in their struggle. Their burden is shouldered by God and it becomes light. We have to believe that God won’t abandon us. It’s no good believing in Christ if we don’t have any confidence in His person. We have unshakeable faith that God will intervene in our life and, in the end, will smooth over our trials, provided we don’t complain or grumble, but have patience.

God has given us spiritual weapons to combat temptations and to prevent us from falling into sloth and despair. Let us keep our attention fixed firmly on Christ, so that we don’t drown in the billows of the daily temptations of our life.