ORIGINAL SIN ACCORDING TO ST. PAUL by John S Romanides.

ORIGINAL SIN ACCORDING TO ST. PAUL

(http://www.romanity.org)

© John S. Romanides

[ This article originally appeared in the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. IV, Nos. 1 and 2, 1955-6. ]

CONTENTS

I. Fallen Creation

II. The Justice of God and Law

III. The Destiny of Man and Anthropology

a. The Destiny of Man

b. Anthropology of St. Paul

Synthetic Observations Concluding Remarks

In regard to the doctrine of original sin as contained in the Old Testament and illumnated by the unique revelation of Christ in the New Testament, there continues to reign in the denominations of the West–especially since the development of scholastic presuppositions–a great confusion, which in the last few centuries seems to have gained much ground in the theological problematics of the Orthodox East. In some circles this problem has been dressed in a halo of mystifying vagueness to such an extent that even some Orthodox theologians seem to expect one to accept the doctrine of original sin simply as a great and profound mystery of faith (e.g., Androutsos, Dogmatike, pp. 161-162). This has certainly become a paradoxical attitude, especially since these Christians who cannot point their fingers at this enemy of mankind are the same people who illogically claim that in Christ there is remission of this unknown original sin. This is a far cry from the certitude of St. Paul, who, of the devil himself, claimed that “we are not ignorant of his thoughts” (noemata).

If one is to vigorously and consistently maintain that Jesus Christ is the unique Savior Who has brought salvation to a world in need of salvation, one obviously must know what is the nature of the need which provoked this salvation. It would, indeed, seem foolish to have medical doctors trained to heal sickness if there were no such thing as sickness in the world. Likewise, a savior who claims to save people in need of no salvation is a savior only unto himself.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important causes of heresy is the failure to understand the exact nature of the human situation described by the Old and New Testaments, to which the historical events of the birth, teachings, death, resurrection and second coming of Christ are the only remedy. The failure to understand this automatically implies a perverted understanding of what it is that Christ did and continues to do for us, and what our subsequent relation is to Christ and neighbor within the realm of salvation. The importance of a correct definition of original sin and its consequences can never be exaggerated. Any attempt to minimize its importance or alter its significance automatically entails either a weakening or even a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Church, sacraments and human destiny.

The temptation facing every inquiry into the thought of St. Paul and the other Apostolic writers is to approach their writings with definite, although many times unconscious, presuppositions contrary to the Biblical witness. If one approaches the Biblical testimony to the work of Christ and the life of the primitive community with predetermined metaphysical notions concerning the moral structure of what most would call the natural world, and, by consequence, with fixed ideas concerning human destiny and the needs of hte individual and humanity in general, he will undoubtedly take from the faith and life of the ancient Church only such aspects as fit his own frame of reference. Then, if he wishes to be consistent in representing his own interpretation of the Scriptures as authentic, he will necessarily proceed to exaplain away everything extraneous to his concepts as secondary and superficial, or simply as the product of some misunderstanding on the part of certain Apostles or a group of Fathers, or even the whole primitive Church in general.

A proper approach to the New Testament teaching of St. Paul concerning original sin cannot be one-sided. It is incorrect, for example, to emphasize, in Romans 5:12, the phrase, eph’ho pantes hemarton, by trying to make it fit any certain system of thought concerning moral law and guilt without first establishing the importance of St. Paul’s beliefs concerning the powers of Satan and the true situation not only of man, but of all creation. It is also wrong to deal with the problem of the transmission of original sin within the framework of dualistic anthropology while at the same time completely ignoring the Hebraic foundations of St. Paul’s anthropology. Likewise, and attempt to interpret the Biblical doctrine of the fall in terms of a hedonistic philosophy of happiness is already doomed to failure because of its refusal to recognize not only the abnormality but, more important, the consequences of death and corruption.

A correct approach to the Pauline doctrine of original sin must take into consideration St. Paul’s understanding of (1) the fallen state of creation, including the powers of Satan, death and corruption, (2) the justice of God and law, and (3) anthropology and the destiny of man and creation. These divisions are not meant to suggest that each topic is to be dealt with here in detail; rather, they shall be discussed only in the light of the main problem of original sin and its transmission according to St. Paul.

I. Fallen Creation

St. Paul strongly affirms the belief that all things created by God are good. Yet, at the same time, he insists on the fact that not only man, but also all of creation has fallen. Both man and creation are awaiting the final redemption. Thus, in spite of the fact that all things created by God are good, the devil has temporarily become the “god of this age.” A basic presupposition of St. Paul’s thought is that althought the world was created by God and as such is good, yet now there rules in it the power of Satan. The devil, however, is by no means absolute, since God has never abandoned His creation.

Thus, according to St. Paul, creation as it is is not what God intended it to be–“For the creature was made subject to vanity…by reason of him who hath subjected the same.” Therefore, evil can exist, at least temporarily, as a parasitic element alongside and inside of that which God created originally good. A good example of this is one who would do the Good according to the “inner man,” but finds it impossible because of the indwelling power of sin in the flesh. Although created good and still maintained and governed by God, creation as it is is still far from being normal or natural, if by “normal” we understand nature according to the original and final destiny of creation. governing this age, in spite of the fact that God Himself is still sustaining creation and creating for Himself a remnant, is the devil himself.

To try to read into St. Paul’s thought any type of philosophy of a naturally well balanced universe with inherent and fixed moral laws of reason, according to which men can live with peace of mind and be happy, is to do violence to the apostle’s faith. For St. Paul, there is now no such thing as a natural world with an inherent system of moral laws, because all of creation has been subjected to the vanity and evil power of Satan, who is ruling by the powers of death and corruption. For this reason all men have become sinners. There is no such thing as a man who is sinless simply because he is living according to the rules of reason or the Mosaic law. The possibility of living according to universal reason entails, also, the possibility of being without sin. But for Paul this is a myth, because Satan is no respecter of reasonable rules of good conduct and has under his influence all men born under the power of death and corruption.

Whether or not belief in the present, real and active power of Satan appeals to the Biblical theologian, he cannot ignore the importance that St. Paul attributes to the power of the devil. To do so is to completely misunderstand the problem of original sin and its transmission and so misinterpret the mind of the New Testament writers and the faith of the whole ancient Church. In regard to the power of Satan to introduce sin into the life of every man, St. Augustine in combating Pelagianism obviously misread St. Paul. by relegating the power of Satan, death, and corruption to the background and pushing to the foreground of controversy the problem of personal guilt in the transmission of original sin, St. Augustine introduced a false moralistic philosophical approach which is foreign to the thinking of St. Paul and which was not accepted by the patristic tradition of the East.

For St. Paul, Satan is not simply a negative power in the universe. He is personal with will, with thoughts, and with methods of deception, against whom Christians must wage and intense battle because they can still be tempted by him. He is active in a dynamic manner, fighting for the destruction of creation and not simply waiting passively in a restricted corner to accept those who happen to rationally decide not to follow God and the moral laws inherent in a natural universe. Satan is even capable of transforming himself into an angel of light. He has at his disposal miraculous powers of perversion and has as co-workers whole armies of invisible powers. He is the “god of this age,” the one who deceived the first woman. It is he who led man and all of creation into the path of death and corruption.

The power of death and corruption, according to Paul, is not negative, but on the contrary, positively active. “The sting of death is sin,” which in turn reigns in death. Not only man, but all creation has been yoked under its tyrannizing power and is now awaiting redemption. Creation itself shall also be delivered from the slavery of corruption. Along with the final destruction of all the enemies of God, death–the last and probably the greatest enemy–will be destroyed. Then death will be swallowed up in victory. For St. Paul, the destruction of death is parallel to the destruction of the devil and his forces. Salvation from the one is salvation from the other.

It is obvious from St. Paul’s expressions concerning fallen creation, Satan, and death, that there is no room in his thinking for any type of metaphysical dualism, of departmentalization which would make of this world and intermediary domain which for man is merely a stepping stone leading either into the presence of God or into the kingdom of Satan. The idea of a three story universe, whereby God and His company of saints and angels occupy the top floor, the devil the basement, and man in the flesh the middle, has no room in Pauline theology. For Paul, all three orders of existence interpenetrate. There is no such thing as a middle world of neutrality where man can live according to natural law and then be judged for a life of happiness in the presence of God or for a life of torment in the pits of outer darkness. On the contrary, all of creation is the domain of God, Who Himself cannot be tainted with evil. But in His domain there are other wills which He has created, which can choose either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of death and destruction.

In spite of the fact that creation is of God and essentially good, the devil at the same time has parasitically transformed this same creation of God into a temporary kingdom for himself. The devil, death, and sin are reigning in this world and not in another. Both the kingdom of darkness and kingdom of light are battling hand to hand in the same place. For this reason, the only true victory possible over the devil is the resurrection of the dead. There is no escape from the battlefield. The only choice possible for every man is either to fight the devil by actively sharing in the victory of Christ, or to accept the deceptions of the devil by wanting to believe that all goes well and everything is normal.

II. The Justice of God and Law

It is obvious, according to what has been said about St. Paul’s views concerning the non-dualistic nature of fallen creation, that for Paul there cannot exist any system of moral laws inherent in a natural and normal universe. Therefore, what man accepts as just and good according to his observations of human relationships within society and nature cannot be confused with the justice of God. The justice of God has been revealed uniquely and fully only in Christ. No man has the right to substitute his own conception of justice for that of God.

The justice of God as revealed in Christ does not operate according to objective rules of conduct, but rather according to the personal relationships of faith and love. “The law is not made for a just man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners…” Yet the law is not evil, but good and even spiritual. However, it is not enough. It is of a temporary and pedagogical nature, and in Christ must be fulfilled and surpassed by personalistic love, according to the image of God’s love as revealed in Christ. Faith and love in Christ must be personal. for this reason, faith without love is empty. “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.” Likewise, acts of faith bereft of love are of no avail. “Though I bestow all my goods and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”

There is no life in the following of objective rules. If there were such a possibility of receiving life by living according to law, there would be no need of redemption in Christ. “Righteousness should have been by the law.” If a “law was given capable of giving life” then salvation, and not a promise, was bestowed upon Abraham. But life does not exist in the law. It is rather of essence of God, “Who alone hath immortality.” Only God can bestow life and this He does freely, according to his own will, in His own way, and at the time of His own choosing.

On the other hand, it is a grave mistake to make the justice of God responsible for death and corruption. Nowhere does Paul attribute the beginnings of death and corruption to God. On the contrary, nature was subjected to vanity and corruption by the devil, who through the sin and death of the first man managed to lodge himself parasitically within creation, of which he was already a part but at first not yet its tyrant. For Paul, the transgression of the first man opened the way for the entrance of death into the world, but this enemy is certainly not the finished product of God. Neither can the death of Adam, or even of each man, be considered the outcome of any decision of God to punish. St. Paul never suggests such an idea.

To get at the basic presuppositions of Biblical thinking, one must abandon any juridical scheme of human justice which demands punishment and rewards according to objective rules of morality. To approach the problem of original sin in such a naive manner as to say that tout lecteur sense concilura qu’une penalite commune implique une offense commune , and that thus all share in the guilt of Adam, is to ignore the true nature of the justice of God and deny and real power to the devil.

The relationships which exist among God, man and the devil are not according to rules and regulations, but according to personalistic freedom. The fact that there are laws forbidding one from killing his neighbor does not imply the impossibility of killing not only one, but hundreds of thousands of neighbors. If man can disregard rules and regulations of good conduct, certainly the devil cannot be expected to follow such rules if he can help it. St. Paul’s version of the devil is certainly not that of one who is simply obeying general rules of nature and carrying out the will of God by punishing souls in hell. Quite on the contrary, he is fighting God dynamically by means of all possible deception, trying by all his cunning and power to destroy the works of God. Thus salvation for man and creation cannot come by a simple act of forgiveness of any juridical imputation of sin, nor can it come by any payment of satisfaction to the devil (Origen) or to God (Rome). Salvation can come only by the destruction of the devil and his power.

Thus, according to St. Paul, it is God Himself Who has destroyed “principalities and powers” by nailing the handwriting in ordinances, which was against us, to the cross of Christ. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing to them their offences.” although we were in sin, God did not hold this against us, but has declared His own justice to those who believe in Christ. The justice of God is not according to that of men, which operates by the law of works. For St. Paul, the justice of God and the love of God are not to be separated for the sake of any juridical doctrine of atonement. The justice of God and the love of God as revealed in Christ are the same thing. In Romans 3:21-26, for example, the expression, “love of God,” could very easily be substituted for the “justice of God.”

It is interesting to note that every time St. Paul speaks about the wrath of God it is always that which is revealed to those who have become hopelessly enslaved, by their own choosing, to the flesh and the devil. Although creation is held captive in corruption, those without the law are without excuse in worshipping and living falsely, because “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead –“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the desires of their own hearts to dishonor their own bodies between themselves…” and again, “God gave them over to reprobate mind.” This does not mean that god caused them to become what they are, but rather that He gave them up as being completely lost to corruption and the power of the devil. One must also interpret other similar passages in like manner.

This giving up by God of people who have already become hardened in their hearts against His works is not restricted to the gentiles, but extends, also, to Jews. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” And, “For as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” The gentiles, however, even though they are not under the Mosaic law, are not excused from the responsibility of personal sin, for they, “having not the law, are a law unto themselves, who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and amongst themselves accusing or else excusing their thoughts.” At the last judgment, all men, whether under the law or not, whether hearers of Christ or not, shall be judged by Christ according to the Gospel as preached by Paul, and not according to any system of natural laws. Even though the invisible things of God “from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead,” there is still no such thing as moral law inherent in the universe. The gentiles who “have not the law” but who “do by nature the things contained in the law” are not abiding by any natural system of moral laws in the universe. They rather “shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.” Here, again, one sees Paul’s conception of personal relationships between God and man. “God hath shewed it unto them, and it is God Who is still speaking to fallen man outside of the law, through the conscience and in the heart, which for Paul is the center of man’s thoughts, and for members of the body of Christ the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and Christ.

III. The Destiny of Man and Anthropology

Before making any attempt to determine the meaning of original sin according to what has been said thusI. Fallen Creation

St. Paul strongly affirms the belief that all things created by God are good. Yet, at the same time, he insists on the fact that not only man, but also all of creation has fallen. Both man and creation are awaiting the final redemption. Thus, in spite of the fact that all things created by God are good, the devil has temporarily become the “god of this age.” A basic presupposition of St. Paul’s thought is that althought the world was created by God and as such is good, yet now there rules in it the power of Satan. The devil, however, is by no means absolute, since God has never abandoned His creation.

Thus, according to St. Paul, creation as it is is not what God intended it to be–“For the creature was made subject to vanity…by reason of him who hath subjected the same.” Therefore, evil can exist, at least temporarily, as a parasitic element alongside and inside of that which God created originally good. A good example of this is one who would do the Good according to the “inner man,” but finds it impossible because of the indwelling power of sin in the flesh. Although created good and still maintained and governed by God, creation as it is is still far from being normal or natural, if by “normal” we understand nature according to the original and final destiny of creation. governing this age, in spite of the fact that God Himself is still sustaining creation and creating for Himself a remnant, is the devil himself.

To try to read into St. Paul’s thought any type of philosophy of a naturally well balanced universe with inherent and fixed moral laws of reason, according to which men can live with peace of mind and be happy, is to do violence to the apostle’s faith. For St. Paul, there is now no such thing as a natural world with an inherent system of moral laws, because all of creation has been subjected to the vanity and evil power of Satan, who is ruling by the powers of death and corruption. For this reason all men have become sinners. There is no such thing as a man who is sinless simply because he is living according to the rules of reason or the Mosaic law. The possibility of living according to universal reason entails, also, the possibility of being without sin. But for Paul this is a myth, because Satan is no respecter of reasonable rules of good conduct and has under his influence all men born under the power of death and corruption.

Whether or not belief in the present, real and active power of Satan appeals to the Biblical theologian, he cannot ignore the importance that St. Paul attributes to the power of the devil. To do so is to completely misunderstand the problem of original sin and its transmission and so misinterpret the mind of the New Testament writers and the faith of the whole ancient Church. In regard to the power of Satan to introduce sin into the life of every man, St. Augustine in combating Pelagianism obviously misread St. Paul. by relegating the power of Satan, death, and corruption to the background and pushing to the foreground of controversy the problem of personal guilt in the transmission of original sin, St. Augustine introduced a false moralistic philosophical approach which is foreign to the thinking of St. Paul and which was not accepted by the patristic tradition of the East.

For St. Paul, Satan is not simply a negative power in the universe. He is personal with will, with thoughts, and with methods of deception, against whom Christians must wage and intense battle because they can still be tempted by him. He is active in a dynamic manner, fighting for the destruction of creation and not simply waiting passively in a restricted corner to accept those who happen to rationally decide not to follow God and the moral laws inherent in a natural universe. Satan is even capable of transforming himself into an angel of light. He has at his disposal miraculous powers of perversion and has as co-workers whole armies of invisible powers. He is the “god of this age,” the one who deceived the first woman. It is he who led man and all of creation into the path of death and corruption.

The power of death and corruption, according to Paul, is not negative, but on the contrary, positively active. “The sting of death is sin,” which in turn reigns in death. Not only man, but all creation has been yoked under its tyrannizing power and is now awaiting redemption. Creation itself shall also be delivered from the slavery of corruption. Along with the final destruction of all the enemies of God, death–the last and probably the greatest enemy–will be destroyed. Then death will be swallowed up in victory. For St. Paul, the destruction of death is parallel to the destruction of the devil and his forces. Salvation from the one is salvation from the other.

It is obvious from St. Paul’s expressions concerning fallen creation, Satan, and death, that there is no room in his thinking for any type of metaphysical dualism, of departmentalization which would make of this world and intermediary domain which for man is merely a stepping stone leading either into the presence of God or into the kingdom of Satan. The idea of a three story universe, whereby God and His company of saints and angels occupy the top floor, the devil the basement, and man in the flesh the middle, has no room in Pauline theology. For Paul, all three orders of existence interpenetrate. There is no such thing as a middle world of neutrality where man can live according to natural law and then be judged for a life of happiness in the presence of God or for a life of torment in the pits of outer darkness. On the contrary, all of creation is the domain of God, Who Himself cannot be tainted with evil. But in His domain there are other wills which He has created, which can choose either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of death and destruction.

In spite of the fact that creation is of God and essentially good, the devil at the same time has parasitically transformed this same creation of God into a temporary kingdom for himself. The devil, death, and sin are reigning in this world and not in another. Both the kingdom of darkness and kingdom of light are battling hand to hand in the same place. For this reason, the only true victory possible over the devil is the resurrection of the dead. There is no escape from the battlefield. The only choice possible for every man is either to fight the devil by actively sharing in the victory of Christ, or to accept the deceptions of the devil by wanting to believe that all goes well and everything is normal.

III. The Destiny of Man and Anthropology

Before making any attempt to determine the meaning of original sin according to what has been said thus far, it is necessary to examine St. Paul’s conception of the destiny of man and his anthropology.

(a) The Destiny of Man

It would be nonsense to try to read into Paul’s theology a conception of human destiny which accepts the aspirations and desires of what one would call “natural man” as normal. It is normal for natural man to seek security and happiness in the acquisition and possession of objective goods. The scholastic theologians of the West have often used these aspirations of natural man as proof that he is instinctively seeking after the Absolute, the possession of which is the only possible state of complete happiness, that is, a state wherein it is impossible to desire anything more because nothing better exists. This hedonistic type of approach to human destiny is, of course, possible only for those who accept death and corruption either as normal or, at most, as the outcome of a decision of God to punish. If those who accept God as the ultimate source of death were to really attribute sin to the powers of corruption, they would in effect be making God Himself the source of sin and evil.

For St. Paul, there is no such thing as normality for those who have not put on Christ. The destiny of man and creation cannot be deducted from observations of the life of fallen man and creation. Nowhere does Paul call on Christians to live a life of security and happiness according to the ways of this world. On the contrary, he calls on Christians to die to this world and the body of sin, and even to suffer in the Gospel, according to the power of God. Paul claims that “all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted.” This is hardly the language of one who is seeking security and happiness. Nor is it possible to suppose that for Paul such sufferings without love could be considered as the means to reach one’s destiny. This would fall under the category of payment for works and not eh personal relationships of faith and love.

St. Paul does not believe that human destiny consists simply in becoming conformed to the rules and regulations of nature, which supposedly remain unchanged from the beginning of time. The relationship of the Divine Will to human wills is not one of juridical or hedonistic submission of the one to the other (as St. Augustine and the scholastics thought), but rather one of personal love. St. Paul claims that “we are co-workers of God.” Our relationship of love with God is such that in Christ there is now no longer need for law. “If ye be led by the Spirit ye are not under the law.” The members of the body of Christ are not called on to live on the level of impersonal ordinances, but are now expected to live according to the love of God as revealed in clear cut distinction between soul and body, but rather to the Hebraic frame of references, in which sarx and psyche (flesh and soul) both denote the whole living person and not any part of him. Thus, in the Old Testament the expression, pasa sarx (all flesh), is employed for all living things, as well as for man in particular. The expression, pasa psyche (all souls), is used in the same manner. In the New Testament, both expressions, pasa sarx and pasa psyche, are used in perfect accord with the Old Testament context.

Thus we find that, for St. Paul, to be sarkikos and psychikos means exactly the same thing. “Flesh and blood (sarx kai haima) cannot inherit the kingdom of God” because corruption cannot inherit incorruption. For this reason, a soma psychikon is “sown in corruption” and raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” “A soma psychikon is sown, and a soma pneumatikon is raised. There is a soma psychikon and there is a soma pneumatikon!” Both the sarkikon and the psychikon and dominated by death and corruption and so cannot inherit the kingdom of life. This only the pneumatikon can do. “However, the pneumatikon is not first, but the psychikon, and afterward the pneumatikon. The first man is from the earth; earthy; the second man, the Lord, from heaven.” That the first man became eis psychen zosan (a living soul), for Paul, means exactly that he became psychikon, and therefore subject to corruption, because “from the earth, earthy…” Such expressions do not admit of any dualistic anthropology. A soma psychikon “from the earth, earthy,” or a psyche zosa “from the earth, earthy,” would lead to impossible confusion if interpreted from the viewpoint of a dualism which distinguishes between the body and soul, the lower and the higher, the material and the purely spiritual. What, then, would a psyche zosa be, which came from the earth and is earthy? In speaking of death, a dualist could never say that a soma psychikon is sown in corruption. He would rather have to say that the soul leaves the body, which alone is sown in corruption.

Neither the psyche nor the pneuma is the intellectual part of man. To quote I Corinthians 2:11 (tis gar oiden anthropon ta tou anthropou ei me to pneuma tou anthropou to en auto?) or I Thessalonians 5:23 (Autos o Theos tea eirenes hagiasai hymas holoteleis, kai holokleron hymon to pneuma kai he psyche kai to soma amemptos en te parousia toy K.H.I.X. teretheie) does not prove otherwise. One cannot take these expressions in isolation from the rest of Paul’s writings for the sake of trying to make him speak the language of even a Thomistic dualist, as is done, for example, by F. Prat in La Theologie de s.Paul, t.2, pp. 6263. Elsewhere, in speaking against the practise of certain individuals’ praying publicly in unknown tongues, St. Paul says, “If I pray in an unknown tongue my pnuema prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the pneuma and I will pray with the mind also.” Here a sharp distinction is made between the pneuma and the nous (mind). Therefore, for St. Paul, the realm of pneuma does not belong within the category of human understanding. It is of another dimension.

In order to express the idea of intellect or understanding all four evangelists use the word, kardia (heart). The word, nous (mind), is used only once by St. Luke. In contrast, St. Paul makes use of both kardia and nous to denote the faculty of intelligence. Nous, however, cannot be taken for any such thing as the intellectual faculties of an immaterial soul. Nous is rather synonymous with kardia, which in turn is synonymous with the eso anthropon.

The Holy Spirit is sent by God into the kardia, or into the eso anthropon, that Christ may dwell in the kardia. The kardia and the eso anthropon are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Man delights in the law of God according to the eso anthropon, but there is another law in his members which wars against he law of the nous. Here the nous is clearly synonymous with the eso anthropon, which in turn is the kardia, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and Christ.

To walk in the vanity of the nous, with the dianoia darkened, being alienated from the life of God through ignorance, is a result of the “hardening of the heart– dia ten perosin test kardias.” It is the heart which is the seat of man’s free will, and it is here where man by his own choice either becomes blinded and hardened, or else enlightened in his understanding of the hope, glory, and power in Christ. It is in the heart where the secrets of men are kept, and it is Christ “Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.”

It would be absurd to interpret St. Paul’s use of the expressions, eso anthropon and nous, according to a dualistic anthropology by ignoring his use of the word, kardia, which is in perfect accord with the New Testament and Old Testament writers. By using such words as nous and eso anthropon, Paul is certainly introducing new terminology, foreign to traditional Hebraic usage, but he is definitely not introducing any new anthropology based on Hellenistic dualism. St. Paul never refers to either psyche or pneuma as faculties of human intelligence. His anthropology is Hebraic and not Hellenistic.

In both the Old and New Testaments, one finds the expression, to pneuma tes zoes (the spirit of life), but never to pneuma zon (the living spirit). Also, one finds psyche zosa (the living soul), but never psyche tes zoes (the soul of life). This is due to the fact that the psyche, or sarx, lives only by participation, while the pneuma is itself the principle of life given to man as a gift from God, “Who alone hath immortality.” God gives man of His Own uncreated life without destroying the freedom of human personality. Thus, man is not an intellectual form fashioned according to a predetermined essence or universal idea of man whose destiny is to become conformed to a state of mechanical contentment in the presence of God whereby his will become sterile and immobile in a state of complete self-satisfaction and happiness (e.g., according to the Neo-platonic teaching of St. Augustine and the Roman scholastics in general concerning human destiny). The personality of man does not consist of an immaterial intellectual soul which has life of itself and uses the body simply as a dwelling place. The sarx, or psyche, is the total man, and the kardia is the center of intelligence where the will has complete independence of choice to become either hardened to truth or receptive to divine enlightenment from without. The pneuma of man is not the center of human personality, nor is it that faculty which rules the actions of men, but rather it is the spark of divine life given to man as his principle of life. Thus, man can live according to the pneuma tes zoes or according to the law of the flesh, which is death and corruption. The very personality of man, therefore, although created by God Himself, remains outside of the essence of God,a nd therefore completely free either to reject the act of creation, for which he was not consulted, or to accept the creative love of God by living according to the pneuma, given to him for this purpose by God.

“The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the spirit is life and peace.” Those who live according to the flesh shall die. Those who mortify the deeds of the flesh by the spirit shall live. The spirit of man, however, deprived of union with the vivifying spirit of God, is hopelessly weak against the flesh dominated by death and corruption–“Who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” And, “the law of the pneumatos tes zoes (spirit of life) in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Only those whose spirit has been renewed by union with the Spirit of God can fight the desires of the flesh. Only those who are given the Spirit of God and hear Its voice in the life of the body of Christ are able to fight against sin. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

Although the spirit of man is the principle of life given to him by God, it can still partake of the filthiness of fleshly works. For this reason, it is necessary for Christians to guard against the corruption not only of the flesh, but of the spirit, also. The union of man’s spirit with the Spirit of God in baptism is no magical guarantee against the possibility of their separation. To become again enslaved tot he works of the flesh may very well lead to exclusion from the body of Christ. The Spirit of God is given to man that Christ may dwell in the heart. “Now if any an have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” To have the Spirit of God dwelling in the body is to be, also, a member of the body of Christ. To be deprived of the one is to be cut off from the other. It is impossible to be in communion with only part of God. Communion with Christ through the Spirit is communion with the whole Godhead. Exclusion from the One Person is exclusion from all Three Persons.

“The works of the flesh are manifest…” “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Such people are enslaved to the power of death and corruption in the flesh. They must be saved from the “Body of this death.” On the other hand, those who have been buried with Christ through baptism have died to the body of sin and are living unto Christ. They are no longer living according to the desires of flesh, but of the spirit. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance–against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

It is clear that, for St. Paul, the union of man’s spirit with the Spirit of God in the life of love within the body of Christ is life and salvation. On the other hand, to live according tot he desires of the flesh, dominated by the powers of death and corruption, means death–“For the mind of the flesh is death.” St. Paul is dealing throughout his epistles with the categories of life and death. God is life. The devil holds the reins of death and corruption. Unity with God in the Spirit, through the body of Christ in the life of love, is life and brings salvation and perfection. Separation of man’s spirit from the divine life in the body of Christ is slavery to the powers of death and corruption used by the devil to destroy the works of God. The life of the spirit is unity and love. The life according to the flesh is disunity and dissolution in death and corruption.

It is absolutely necessary to grasp the essential spirit of St. Paul’s usage of the words, sarx, psyche , and pneuma, in order to avoid the widespread confusion that dominates the field of inquiry into Pauline theology. St. Paul is never speaking in terms of immaterial rational souls in contrast to material bodies. Sarx and psyche are synonymous and comprise, together with the pneuma, the total man. To live according to the pneuma is not to live a life according to the lower half of man. On the contrary, to live according to the sarx, or psyche, is to live according to the law of death. To live according to the spirit is to live according to the law of life and love.

Those who are sarkikoi cannot live according to their original destiny of selfless love for God and neighbor, because they are dominated by the power of death and corruption. “the sting of death is sin.” Sin reigned in death. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed. So long as man lives according tot he law of death, in the flesh, he cannot please God because he does not live according to the law of life and love. “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be.” In order to live according to his original destiny, man must be liberated from “the body of this death.” This liberation from the power of death and corruption has come from God, Who sent His own Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to deliver man “from the law of sin and death.” But, although the power of death and sin has thus been destroyed by the death and resurrection of Christ, participation in this victory can come only through dying to this world with Christ in the waters of baptism. It is only by dying in baptism and then continuously dying to the rudiments and ways of the world that the members of the body of Christ can become perfect as God is perfect.

The importance that St. Paul attributes to dying to the rudiments of this world in order to live according to the “spirit of life” cannot be exaggerated. To try to pass off his insistence on complete self-denial for salvation as a product of eschatological enthusiasts is to miss completely the very basis of the New Testament message. If the destruction of the devil, death and corruption is salvation and the only condition for life according to man’s original destiny, then the means of passing from the realm of death and its consequences to the realm of life, in the victory of Christ over death, must be taken very seriously. For Paul, the way from death to life is communion with the death and life of Christ in baptism and a continuous life of live within the body of Christ. This new life of love within the body of Christ, however, must be accompanied by a continuous death to the ways of this world, which is dominated by the law of death and corruption in the hands of the devil. Participation in the victory over death does not come simply by having a magical faith and a general sentiment of vague love for humanity (Luther). Full membership int he body of Christ can come only by dying in the waters of baptism with Christ, and living according to the law of the “spirit of life.” Catechumens and penitents certainly had faith, but they either had not yet passed through death, in baptism, to the new life, or else, once having died to the flesh in baptism, they failed to remain steadfast and allowed the power of death and corruption to regain its dominance over the “spirit of life.”

In regard to St. Paul’s teaching concerning baptismal death to the rudiments of this world, it is interesting to note his usage of the word, soma , to designate the communion of those in Christ who constitute the Church. The word, soma, in both the Old and New Testaments, apart from Paul, is used predominantly to designate a dead person, or corpse. At the Last Supper, our Lord used the word, soma, most likely to designate the fact that He was to pass through death, while his use of the word, haima, was to show his returning to life–since, for the Old Testament, blood is the element of life. Thus, at the Last Supper as at every Eucharist, there is a proclamation and confession of the death and resurrection of Christ. According to the presuppositions set forth by St. Paul concerning baptismal death, it is very possible to describe the Church as the soma of Christ no only because of the indwelling of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the bodies of Christian, but also because all the members of Christ have died to the body of sin in the waters of baptism. Before sharing in the life of Christ, on must first become an actual soma by being liberated from the devil in passing through a death to the ways of this world and living according to the “spirit.”

Synthetic Observations

St. Paul does not say anywhere that the whole human race has been accounted guilty of the sin of Adam and is therefore punished by God with death. Death is an evil force which made its way into the world through sin, lodged itself in the world, and, in the person of Satan, is reigning both in man and creation. For this reason, although man can know the good through the law written in his heart and may wish to do what is good, he cannot because of the sin which is dwelling in his flesh. Therefore, it is not he who does the evil, but sin that dwelleth in him. Because of this sin, he cannot find the means to do good. He must be saved from “the body of this death.” Only then can he do good. What can Paul mean by such statements? A proper answer is to be found only when St. Paul’s doctrine of human destiny is taken into account.

If man was created for a life of complete selfless love, whereby his actions would always be directed outward, toward God and neighbor, and never toward himself–whereby he would be the perfect image and likeness of God–then it is obvious that the power of death and corruption has now made it impossible to live such a life of perfection. The power of death in the universe has brought with it the will for self-preservation, fear, and anxiety, which in turn are the root causes of self-assertion, egoism, hatred, envy and the like. Because man is afraid of becoming meaningless, he is constantly endeavoring to prove, to himself and others, that he is worth something. He thirsts after compliments and is afraid of insults. He seeks his own and is jealous of the successes of others. He likes those who like him, and hates those who hate him. He either seeks security and happiness in wealth, glory and bodily pleasures, or imagines that this destiny is to be happy in the possession of the presence of God by an introverted and individualistic and inclined to mistake his desires for self-satisfaction and happiness for his normal destiny. On the other hand, he can become zealous over vague ideological principles of love for humanity and yet hate his closest neighbors. These are the works of the flesh of which St. Paul speaks. Underlying every movement of what the world has come to regard as normal man, is the quest for security and happiness. But such desires are not normal. They are the consequences of perversion by death and corruption, though which the devil pervades all of creation, dividing and destroying. This power is so great that even if man wishes to live according to his original destiny it is impossible because of the sin which is dwelling in the flesh–“Who will deliver me from the body of this death?”

To share in the love of God, without any concern for one’s self, is also to share in the life and truth of God. Love, life and truth in God are one and can be found only in God. The turning away of love from God and neighbor toward the self is breaking of communion with the life and truth of God, which cannot be separated from His love. The breaking of this communion with God can be consummated only in death, because nothing created can continue indefinitely to exist of itself. Thus, by the transgression of the first man, the principle of “sin (the devil) entered into the world and through sin death, and so death passed upon all men…” Not only humanity, but all of creation has become subjected to death and corruption by the devil. Because man is inseparably a part of, and in constant communion with, creation and is linked through procreation to the whole historical process of humanity, the fall of creation through on man automatically involves the fall and corruption of all men. It is through death and corruption that all of humanity and creation is held captive to the devil and involved in sin, because it is by death that man falls short of his original destiny, which was to love God and neighbor without concern for the It is only when one understands the meaning of death and its consequences that one can understand the life of the ancient Church, and especially its attitude toward martyrdom. Being already dead to the world in baptism, and having their life hidden with Christ in God, Christians could not falter in the face of death. They were already dead, and yet living in Christ. To be afraid of death was to be still under the power of the devil–II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” In trying to convince the Roman Christians not to hinder his martyrdom, St. Ignatius wrote: “The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition toward God. Let none of you therefore, who are in Rome, help him.” The Cyprianic controversy over the fallen during times of persecution was violent, because the Church understood that it was a contradiction to die in baptism and then to deny Christ for fear of death and torture. The canons of the Church, although today generally ignored as an aid to understanding the inner faith of the ancient Church, still remain very severe for those who would reject their faith for fear of death. Such an attitude towards death is not the product of eschatological frenzy and enthusiasm, but rather of a clear recognition of who the devil is, what his thoughts are, what his powers over humanity and creation are, how he is destroyed through baptism and the mystagogical life within the body of Christ, which is the Church. Oscar Cullman is seriously mistaken in trying to make the New Testament writers say that Satan and the evil demons have been deprived of their power, and that now leur puissance n’est qu’apparente. The greatest power of the devil is death, which is destroyed only within the body of Christ, where the faithful are continuously engaged in the struggle against Satan by striving for selfless love. This combat against the devil and striving for selfless love is centered in the corporate Eucharistic life of the local community–“For when you assemble frequently epi to auto (in the same place) the powers of Satan are destroyed and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.” Anyone, therefore, who does not hear the Spirit within him calling him tothe Eucharistic assembly for the corporate life of selfless love is obviously under the sway of the devil. “He, therefore, who does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride and condemned himself…” The world outside of the corporate life of love, in the sacraments, is still under the power of the consequences of death and therefore a slave to the devil. The devil is already defeated only because his power has been destroyed by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ; and this defeat is perpetuated only in the remnant of those saved before Christ and after Christ. Both those saved before Christ and after Him are saved by His death and resurrection, and make up the New Jerusalem. Against this Church the devil cannot prevail, and by this fact he is already defeated. But his power outside of those who are saved remains the same. Satan is still “the god of this world,” and it is for this reason that Christians must live as if not living in this world.

Concluding Remarks

The modern Biblical scholar cannot claim to be objective if his examination of Biblical theology is one-sided, or governed by certain philosophical prejudices. The modern school of Biblical criticism is clearly making a false attempt to get at the essential form of the original kyregma, while remaining quite ignorant and blind to the very essence of the Old and New Testament analysis of the fallen state of humanity and creation, especially in regard to its teachings concerning the natures of God and Satan. Thus, one sees the anti-liberal tendencies of modern Protestantism, accepting the method of Biblical criticism and at the same time trying to salvage what it takes to be the essential message of the Gospel writers. yet, in all their pseudoscientific method of research, writers of this school fail to come to any definite conclusions because they stubbornly refuse to take seriously the Biblical doctrine of Satan, death and corruption. For this reason, such a question as whether or not the body of Christ was really resurrected is not regarded as important–e.g., Emil Brunner, The Mediator. What is important is the faith that Christ is the unique Savior in history, even though very possibly not resurrected in history. How he saves and what he saves men from is presumably a secondary question.

It is clear that for St. Paul the bodily resurrection of Christ is the destruction of the devil, death, and corruption. Christ is the first fruits from the dead. If there is no resurrection there can be no salvation. Since death is a consequence of the discontinuation of communion with the life and love of God, and thereby a captivity of man and creation by the devil, then only a real resurrection can destroy the power of the devil. It is inaccurate and shallow thinking to try to pass off as Biblical the idea that the question of a real bodily resurrection is of secondary importance. At the center of Biblical and patristic thought there is clearly a Christology of real union, which is conditioned by the Biblical doctrine of Satan, death and corruption, and human destiny. Satan is governing through death, materially and physically. His defeat must be also material and physical. Restoration of communion must be not only in the realm of mental attitude, but, more important, through creation, of which man is an inseparable part. Without a clear understanding of the Biblical doctrine of Satan and his power, it is impossible to understand the sacramental life of the body of Christ, and, by consequence, the doctrine of the Fathers concerning Christology and Trinity becomes a meaningless diversion of scholastic specialists. Both Roman scholastics and Protestants are undeniably heretical in their doctrines of grace and ecclesiology simply because they do not see any longer that salvation is only the union of man with the life of God in the body of Christ, where the devil is being ontologically and really destroyed in the life of love. Outside of the life of unity with each other and Christ in the sacramental life of corporate love there is no salvation, because the devil is still ruling the world through the consequences of death and corruption. Extra-sacramental organizations, such as the papacy, cannot be fostered off as the essence of Christianity because they are clearly under the influence of worldly considerations and do not have as their sole aim the life of selfless love. In Western Christianity, the dogmas of the Church have become the object of logical gymnastics in the classrooms of philosophy. What is usually taken as natural human reason is set up as the exponent of revealed theology. The teachings of the Church concerning the Holy Trinity, Christology, and Grace, are no longer the accepted expressions of the continuous and existential experience of the body of Christ, living within the very life of the Holy Trinity through the human nature of Christ, in whose flesh the devil has been destroyed and against whose body (the Church) the gates of death (hades) cannot prevail.

It is the mission of Orthodox theology today to bring an awakening to Western Christianity, but in order to do this the Orthodox themselves must rediscover their own traditions and cease, once and for all, accepting the corroding infiltration of Western theological confusion into Orthodox theology. It is only by returning to the Biblical understanding of Satan and human destiny that the sacraments of the Church can once again become the source and strength of Orthodox theology. The enemy of life and love can be destroyed only when Christians can confidently say, “we are not ignorant of his thoughts.” Any theology which cannot define with exactitude the methods and deceptions of the devil is clearly heretical, because such a theology is already deceived by the devil. It is for this reason that the Fathers could assert that heresy is the work of the devil.

End.

Unseen Warfare Cap 14-15 By St Theophan the Recluse and St Nicodemus the Hagiorite.

Cap 14. What to do when the higher, intelligent will seems to be entirely overcome by the lower will and by the enemies

If you feel sometimes such a strong upsurging of sin that resistance to it will seem impossible and the very zeal to oppose it will appear exhausted, take care, brother, not to give up the struggle, but rouse yourself and stand firm. It is a subterfuge of the enemy, who, with the thought that resistance is hopeless, strives to undermine your firm stand and by making you lay down all your arms to force you to surrender to him. Make your mind see this subterfuge of the enemy more clearly and do not give ground. For so long as your will does not incline towards this passionate urge you are still among the victors, the fighters and slayers of the enemy, even if your sympathy is already ranged on the side of the passion. Nothing and nobody can force your will or steal victory from your hands and overthrow you against your will, no matter how obdurate and bitter the war waged in you by the enemies of your salvation. God endowed our free will with such power, that even if all a man’s faculties, the whole world and all the demons rose up in arms against him and attacked him, they could not compel it. It is always left free to desire what they offer or demand, if it so wishes, or not to desire it, if it does not wish. On the other hand, for this very reason his will bears the responsibility for everything and is subject to judgment. Remember this well: no matter how weak and exhausted you may feel, you cannot find excuses for inclining towards a passionate suggestion. Your conscience will tell you the same. So the stronger the attacks the stronger the resistance you must prepare, and never abandon this resolve, repeating on all such occasions the words of command of one of our war leaders: “”Watch ye, stand fast, quit you like men, be strong” (I Cor. xvi. 13).

Thus keeping your will inflexible against the uprising of sin and ranged on the side of the demands of the higher will, bring into action your spiritual weapons, one after another. The chief among them is prayer. Make it your inspiration, saying: ‘ The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident’ (Ps. xxvii. 1, 3). ‘I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name forever” (Ps. xliv. 6, 8). ‘ Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary.Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us’ (Isaiah viii. 12-14, 9, 10).

Thus inspired, do what a warrior in physical warfare does sometimes when he is hard pressed by the enemy; he steps back a little, to find a better point of vantage and see more clearly how best to speed his arrow at the heart of the foe. So you too, collect your thoughts within, and, re-establishing the consciousness and feeling of your nothingness and of your impotence to achieve by yourself what this moment demands, appeal to God to Whom all is possible, calling for His help against the attack of passion with warmth of trust and tears, saying: ‘Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake’ (Ps. xliv. 26). ‘Fight’ (my Jesus) ‘against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. . . . Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back V and brought to confusion that devise my hurt’ (Ps. xxxv. 1, 2, 4). ‘Holy Virgin, do not let me yield to the enemies and be vanquished by them. 0 my guardian Angel, cover me with your wings against enemy arrows, and with your sword strike them down and cut them off from me.’

Persevere in these appeals and help will soon come. At the same time, keep acute attention on yourself. The foe knows the power of such appeals to God and hastens to forestall them, or spoil them by inciting senseless complaints against God for having allowed such enemy attacks and such danger of downfall to assail you. In this way the enemy strives to prevent or stop your appeals to God and make you unworthy of God’s help. As soon as you notice such an ungodly impulse, hasten to re-establish the true and sincere conviction that ‘ God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (James i. 13, 14). Then, examine carefully your preceding deeds, feelings and thoughts, and you will find that it is they that gave birth to the inner storm, which put you in this dangerous position. The enemy defamed God, and covered up your own shortcomings. By faith you must justify God in yourself and, by reasoning, cast off the flattering veil, with which the enemy has covered you. You must shed the load of inattention and self-indulgence, repent and confess your inner sin to God and return to the appeals we have indicated, which will bring back God’s help, since He is ever ready to come to your assistance, especially on such occasions.

After this, when the inner storm has died down, the struggle should proceed in accordance with the general rules of unseen warfare, which have been mentioned in part already.

Cap 15.

War should be waged ceaselessly and courageously

If you want to gain speedy and easy victory over your enemies, brother, you must wage ceaseless and courageous war against all passions, especially and pre-eminently against self-love, or a foolish attachment to yourself, manifested in self-indulgence and self-pity. For it is the basis and source of all passions and cannot be tamed except by constant voluntary self-inflicted sufferings and by welcoming afflictions, privations, calumnies, persecutions by the world and by men of the world, failure to see the need of this pitiless attitude to yourself has always been, is and will be the cause of our failure to achieve spiritual victories, and of their difficulty, rarity, imperfection and insecurity.

So this spiritual warfare of ours must be constant and never ceasing, and should be conducted with alertness and courage in the soul; they can easily be attained, if you seek these gifts from God. So advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbour against you, and of the innumerable hosts of the demons, think on the other hand of the infinitely greater power of God and of His love for you, as well as of the incomparably greater hosts of heavenly angels and the prayers of saints. They all fight secretly for us and with us against our enemies, as it is written: ‘The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. xvii. 16). How many weak women and small children were incited to fight by the thought of this powerful and ever ready help! And’ they got the upper hand and gained victory over all the wisdom of the world, all the wiles of the devil and all the malice of hell.

So you must never be afraid, if you are troubled by a flood of thoughts, that the enemy is too strong against you, that his attacks are never ending, that the war will last for your lifetime, and that you cannot avoid incessant downfalls of all kinds. Know that our enemies, with all their wiles, are in the hands of our divine Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose honour and glory you are waging war. Since He Himself leads you into / battle. He will certainly not suffer your enemies to use violence against you and overcome you, if you do not yourself cross over to their side with your will. He will Himself fight for you and will deliver your enemies into your hands, when He wills and as He wills, as it is written: “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee ‘(Deut.xxiii. 14).

If the Lord delays granting you full victory over your enemies and puts it off to the last day of your life, you must know that He does this for your own good; so long as you do not retreat or cease to struggle wholeheartedly. Even if you are wounded in battle, do not lay down your arms and turn to flight. Keep only one thing in your mind and intention—to fight with all courage and ardour, since it is unavoidable. No man can escape this warfare, either in life or in death. And he who docs not fight to overcome his passions and his enemies will inevitably be taken prisoner, either here or yonder, and delivered to death.

It is not without profit to bear in mind also the purpose for which God is pleased to leave us in this state of war. This purpose is the following. In the days of old, when God led Israel into the promised land, He did not order them to destroy all the peoples dwelling there, but left five tribes alien and hostile to Israel— first, to prove the chosen people and to see how firmly they believed in Him and faithfully kept His commandments, and secondly, to teach His people the art of warfare (Judges ii. 21-23; iii. 1-2). In the same way, He does not destroy all our passions at once, but leaves them in us, letting them fight against us till our very death, for just the same purpose, namely, to prove our love for Him and our obedience to His will, and to train us in spiritual warfare. The blessed Theodorite speaks of this in greater detail. God, he says, does this for the following ends: (a) to prevent us falling into carelessness and negligence and to make us watchful, diligent and attentive; (b) to remind us that the enemy is ever ready to attack us, lest we unexpectedly find ourselves surrounded by the enemy and overcome by passions; (c) so that we should always have recourse to God, asking and hoping for His help; (d) so that we should not be proud, but should think humbly of ourselves; (e) so that we should learn to hate with our whole heart the passions and enemies, who so tirelessly attack us; to prove whether we keep to the end God’s honour, love and faith; (g) to urge us to a more strict observance of God’s commandments, so that we do not overlook the least of them; (h) to learn from experience the great value of virtue and so never to consent to ‘, abandon it and fall into sin; (i) in order that constant warfare should give us the possibility to gain greater and greater crowns; (j) that we should glorify God and shame the devil by our patience ‘… to the end; (k) that we should get accustomed to warfare during ‘ life and so not fear it in the hour of death, when we are to be subjected to the hardest of all attacks.

Thus, since we are always surrounded by so many enemies, whose hatred of us is so bitter, we can expect no peace or respite from them, no cessation or postponement of attacks, but must be ready for an onslaught at any moment and, when it comes, must immediately engage the enemy with courage. Naturally it would have been better, if we had not originally opened the doors of our being and let enemies and passions enter our heart and soul; but since they have already found their way into us, we cannot afford to be negligent, but must arm ourselves against them to drive them out of us. They are shameless and stubborn and will not leave, unless driven out by force.

Copyright St Vladimir Seminary Press.

Cap 13. On how to fight against the dumb sensory will, and on the training necessary for the will to acquire experience in virtues. From Unseen Warfare by St Theophan the Recluse and St Nicodemus the Hagiorite.

Cap 13. On how to fight against the dumb sensory will, and on the training necessary for the will to acquire experience in virtues

Every time your free will is acted upon and pulled on the one hand by the dumb sensory will and on the other by the will of God, voiced through conscience, each of them seeking to conquer it, you must, if you are sincerely to strive for good, use suitable methods on your part to assist God’s will in gaining victory. For this purpose, then:

(a) As soon as you feel impulses of the lower, sensory and passionate will, you must immediately use every effort to resist them and not allow your own will to incline towards them, however slightly. Crush them, cut them off, drive them away from yourself by an intense effort of will

(b) To achieve this more successfully and with a better result, hasten to kindle in yourself a wholehearted aversion to such impulses, as to your enemies, who seek to steal and destroy your soul— be angered with them.

(c) At the same time do not forget to appeal to our Lord Jesus Christ, our Helper in all endeavour, asking for His assistance and protection, and for the strengthening of your better will; for without Him we can succeed in nothing.

(d) If these three inner actions are sincerely practised in your soul, they will never fail to give you victory over evil impulses. But this would mean only driving the enemies away. If you wish to strike at their very heart, then, if it is feasible, at once do something opposed to the suggestion of the passionate impulse and, if possible, resolve to do so always. This latter practice will finally free you completely from the renewal of the attacks you experience. I shall illustrate this by an example. Supposing someone has offended you in something whether great or small, and has aroused in you a movement of displeasure and irritation, accompanied by a suggestion of retaliation. Pay attention to yourself and hasten to realise that these movements are bent on enticing you towards evil. Therefore take up the attitude of a warrior on the defensive: (a) Stop these movements, do not let them penetrate any deeper and on no account allow your will to take their part as though they were right. This will mean resisting them. (b) But they still remain in sight, ready for a renewed attack. So rouse aversion against them, as against your enemies, and be angry with them for self-protection, until you are able to say sincerely: ‘ I hate and abhor lying” (Ps. cxix. 169), or: ‘I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies” (Ps. cxxxix. 22). This will be a great blow for them, and they will retreat, but not vanish. Then: (c) Call to the Lord: “Make haste, 0 God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, 0 Lord” (Ps. lxx. 1). And do not cease calling thus, until not a trace of the hostile movements remains and peace is restored in your soul. (d) Having thus regained peace, do to your offender something which would show your kind and conciliatory disposition towards him, such as a friendly word, some timely favour, and so on. This would mean following the advice of David: ‘Depart from evil, and do good” (Ps. xxxiv. 14). Such .actions lead straight to acquiring the habit of the virtue opposed to the passionate movements which had troubled you; and this habit strikes them to the heart and kills them. Try to forestall, or accompany, or conclude these actions with an inner resolve, which would make such passionate impulses for ever impossible in the future. For instance, in the foregoing example, consider yourself worthy, of every insult and bring yourself to welcome every kind. of insult and calumny: welcome them and be ready to receive and accept them with joy as the most salutary remedies. In other cases, try to incite and establish in yourself other corresponding feelings and dispositions. This would mean driving the passion out of your heart and replacing it by the virtue opposed to it, which is the aim of the unseen warfare. I will give you a general indication, suitable for all occasions, in accordance with the guidance of the holy fathers. Our soul has three parts or powers—the thinking, the desiring and the excitable. Owing to their corruption, these three powers give birth to three corresponding kinds of wrong thoughts and movements. The thinking power gives birth to thoughts of ingratitude to God and complaints, forgetfulness of God, ignorance of divine things, ill-judgment and all kinds of blasphemous thoughts. The desiring power gives birth to pleasure-loving thoughts, thoughts of vainglory, love of money and all their numerous ramifications, belonging to the domain of self-indulgence. The excitable power gives birth to thoughts of anger, hatred, envy, revenge, gloating, ill-will, and generally to all evil thoughts. You should overcome all such thoughts and impulses by the methods indicated above, trying on every occasion to arouse and establish in your heart good feelings and dispositions opposed to them: in place of unbelief—undoubting faith in God; in place of complaints—a sincere gratitude to God for everything; in place of forgetfulness of God—a constant deep remembrance of the ever-present and all-powerful God; in place of ignorance—a clear contemplation or mental examination of all the soul-saving Christian truths; in place of ill-judgment—faculties trained to discriminate between good and evil; in place of all blasphemous thoughts—praise and glorification of God. In the same way, in place of love of pleasure —every kind of abstinence, fasting and self-mortification; in place of vainglory—humility and desire of obscurity; in place of love of money—contentment with little and love of poverty. Again, in place of anger—meekness; in place of hatred—love; in place of envy—rejoicing with others; in place of revenge—forgiveness and a peaceful disposition; in place of gloating—compassion; in place of ill-will—well-wishing. In short, with St. Maximus, I shall condense all this in the following propositions: adorn your thinking power with a constant attention to God in prayer and knowledge of divine truths; the desiring power—with total self-denial and renunciation of all self -indulgence; the excitable power—with love. If you do this, then, I assure you, the light of your mind will never be dimmed and wrong thoughts will never find place in you. If you arc active in setting up such good thoughts and dispositions in yourself morning, evening and at all other hours of the day, invisible foes will never come near you. For then you will be like a general, who constantly reviews his troops and disposes them in battle order; and enemies know that to attack such a general is impracticable.

Pay most attention to the last point, namely, to actions opposed to those dictated by passionate thoughts and to setting up feelings and dispositions contrary to passions. Only by this means can you uproot passions in yourself and achieve a safer position. For so long as the roots of passions remain in you, they will always bring forth their offspring and thus cloud over the face of virtues, and at times completely cover and banish them. In such cases we are in danger of falling once more into our former sins and destroying all the fruits of our labours.

Therefore know that this last means should be practised nut merely once, but often, many times, constantly, until you smash, disorganise and destroy the passionate habit against which you tight. Since this habit has acquired power over your heart through frequent repetition of certain actions, which satisfy the passion dwelling in the heart, opposing it in the heart is not enough to weaken and destroy this power; you must use actions which are contrary to your former ones, actions opposed to the passion, smashing and destroying it. Their frequent use will banish the passionate habit, kill the passion which stimulates it and plant in the heart the virtue opposed to it and a habit of corresponding actions. Moreover—and I shall not waste many words on this, , since it is self-evident – to acquire good habits it is necessary to perform a greater number of right deeds, than the number of evil deeds required to establish bad habits; for bad habits take root more easily, since they are aided and abetted by the sin living in us, that is, by self-indulgence. Therefore, however hard, however difficult it may seem to you, to perform such actions, opposed to your passions, because your will for good is still weak, and because of the resistance of your passionate self-indulgent will, you must never abandon them, but must compel yourself in every way to practise them always. However imperfect they may be at first, they will still support your steadfastness and courage in battle, and pave the way to victory.

I shall add another thing: stand wakeful and, collecting your attention within yourself, fight with courage. And fight not only the great and strong, but also the small and weak stirrings of’ your passions. For the small open the way to the great, especially when they have become a .habit. Experience has many tunes confirmed the fact that when a man pays little attention and care to repulsing small passionate desires from the heart, after he has overcome the great, he is subjected to sudden and unexpected attacks of the enemy, so impetuous that he is unable to hold his ground in battle and his downfall is more grievous than those of old.

Moreover I remind you of the fact that you should cut off and kill every passionate attachment to things which, although permissible, are not indispensable, as soon as you notice that they weaken the intensity of your will for good, distract attention away from yourself and disorganise the good order you have established in your life. Such are, for instance, taking walks, evening parties, conversations, new acquaintances, meals, sleep and other such things. You will gain much profit from this, by thus training yourself to self-mastery in all other things as well; you will become stronger and more expert in struggling against temptations and will avoid a great many snares of the devil, who knows how to spread his nets on these inoffensive paths, and, I assure you, your actions will win God’s favour.

So, beloved, if you follow my advice and undertake such holy tasks with alertness, be assured that in a short time you will achieve success and will become spiritual in truth and actual deed, instead of deceitfully and only in name. But know that to oppose yourself and to compel yourself is here an immutable law, which excludes all pleasing of yourself even in the spiritual order of life. If you introduce into it, or choose exclusively deeds which please you, even if they belong to the spiritual order of things, you will ruin your work. You will labour, but in place of real fruit, you will get a sterile flower, and you will not be firmly established in anything spiritual. You will seem to have something spiritual, but in actual fact it will not be so. For all truly spiritual things are produced by the grace of the Holy Spirit; and this grace descends only on those, who have crucified themselves in sufferings and voluntary privations, without any self-pity, and have thus become united with our Lord and Saviour, crucified for their sakes.

Copyright St Vladimir Seminary Press.

Unseen Warfare by St Teophan the recluse & St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain . Cap 11-12

Cap 11.

Second temptation in the hour of death— through despair

The second temptation in the hour of death, by which the enemy strives finally to strike us down, is fear at the memory of the multitude of our sins. This fear cannot be avoided; but it is mitigated by belief in the redemption of our sins by the death on the cross of Christ our Saviour. The enemy obscures this faith and fans the fear of our sins, so as to stifle all hope of salvation and strike us down with hopelessness and despair. So, my brother, prepare yourself beforehand to repulse this attack, and resolve even now to grasp firmly in your hand our victorious standard— the cross of Christ, when you approach the gates of death. In other words keep firmly in your heart the faith in the redeeming power of our Lord’s death on the cross. If, entering the gates of death, you actually experience attacks of hopelessness, hasten to realise, first of all, that they are works of the enemy, and not the natural results of the recollection of your sins. This recollection brings humility, contrition and heartfelt grief at having offended the just and merciful God; therefore, although it brings fear, this fear does not extinguish the hope of God’s mercy, and being mixed with it, produces a daring trust in salvation, removing all sense of being cast out. If you know this, you will always recognise, as coming from the devil, every recollection of sins, which has the power to oppress and cast you into despair, extinguishing all hope of salvation and striking you down through fear of being cast out. Once aware of this it will not be difficult for you to have hope beyond hope, which will banish all despair.

Hope beyond hope plunges a man into contemplation of the Divine mercy, into whose infinite depths a man endowed with it casts the great multitude of his sins, with a firm conviction that God desires and seeks not our ruin but our salvation. The only sure foundation on which this conviction can gain strength at any time, and particularly at that time, is the boundless power of the death of our Lord and Saviour on the cross. Therefore, since we must always seek the protection of this cross, how much more must we do so then! Here is a fitting prayer to address to your Lord and God on entering the gates of death: ‘ 0 Lord! Many are the reasons for me to fear that, in Thy justice. Thou wilt condemn me and cast me out for my sins; but still greater is my daring hope of Thy forgiveness according to Thy infinite mercy in Christ Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer. So I beseech Thee to spare me, Thy poor creature, in Thy infinite goodness, for though condemned by my sins, I am washed by the priceless blood of Thy Son and our God, to glorify Thee forever. I give the whole of myself into Thy hands: deal with me in Thy mercy. Thou alone art Lord of my life.’

Cap 12.

Third temptation in the hour of death— by vainglory

The third temptation in the hour of death is through vainglory and self-appreciation, which moves a man to rely on himself and his own works. Therefore never, and especially in the hour of death, let your attention dwell on yourself and what is yours, giving way to satisfaction with yourself and your works, even if your progress in virtues were greater than that of all the saints. Let all your satisfaction be in God, and place your hope wholly on His mercy and the sufferings of our Lord and Saviour; belittle yourself in your own eyes to your last breath, if you wish to be saved. If some good deed of yours happens to come to your mind, think that it was the work of God in you and through you, instead of your own, and that it is entirely due to Him.

Take refuge in the protection of Divine mercy; yet do not allow yourself to expect it as a reward for the many and arduous struggles endured or for the victories you have gained. Stand always in saving fear and sincere conviction that all your efforts, struggles and endeavours would have remained vain and fruitless, if God had not taken them under the wing of His benevolence and had not helped them and worked in them. So put now your trust in this merciful benevolence.

If you follow this advice of mine, be sure that in the hour of death the enemies” attacks will fail and a free road will open before you, by which you will pass with joy from the earthly valley to the heavenly Jerusalem, the home you longed for.

St Theophan the Recluse, On Prayer, Homily 4

Theophan the Recluse, On Prayer, Homily 4

Written by Theophan the Recluse Delivered 20 December, 1864

Three times I have spoken to you about prayer1: about how to read prayers with attention, about how to ascend to God mentally and in your heart, and how to stand constantly before God with a burning spirit. The Lord instructed us in various degrees and types of prayer, so that each, according to his strength, could be a partaker in the goodness of prayer. For the work of prayer is a great work. It is, as I have said, the testimony of the spiritual life, and also the food of the spiritual life. Therefore one must work towards perfection in prayer more than all other things.

I have reminded you how to succeed in each type of prayer. Now I want to remind you, as a warning, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to succeed in prayer, if we do not at the same time work on other virtues.

If we compare prayer to a perfume, and the soul to a bottle for perfume, then we will understand that as perfume does not keep its fragrance in a container full of holes, also the soul cannot continue to pray if there is a lack of virtue. If we compare someone who prays to the whole body, then we see the following lesson: as it is impossible for a man without legs to walk, even if the rest of his body is healthy, so it is impossible to approach God, or reach God in prayer, without active virtue. Look in the apostolic teachings, and you will see that in them prayer does not stand alone, but together with a whole host of virtues. For example, the apostle Paul arms a Christian in spiritual battle and dresses him in the full armor of God. Look at what this is: The belt is truth, the armor is righteousness, the shoes are the gospel of peace, the shield is faith, the helmet is hope, the sword is the word of God (Eph 6.14-17). Such weapons! After all of this he places his warrior in prayer as if in some sort of fortress: “pray at all times in the spirit with all sorts of prayer and petition” (Eph 6.18). It is, of course, possible for prayer alone to defeat all enemies, but in order to be strong in prayer, one must be successful in faith, hope, truth, righteousness, and all the rest. In another place, the same apostle adorns the soul with bridal clothing as the bride of Christ, saying, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3.12-16). In many other places in the word of God, prayer is bound up tightly with all the other virtues, as their queen, after which they all strive, and which draws all of them after itself, or even better, as their fragrant flower. As it is necessary for a flower to be covered with leaves as well as having a stem, branches and root, in order to attract attention, it is also necessary for prayer to be accompanied by other good spiritual inclinations and labors in order to blossom like a flower in the soul; faith is the root, active love is like a stem and branches, and labors of a spiritual-physical nature are like leaves. When such a holy tree is planted in the soul, then in the morning, and in the evening, and during the course of the day, according to its state, the flowers of prayer will freely blossom and fill all of our inner chambers with fragrance.

I remind you of all of this, so that no one would think: “I labor in prayer, and that is enough”. No – one must work and be zealous for all things together, both praying and working at all the virtues. It is true that it is impossible to succeed in virtues without prayer, but it is also necessary to work at the virtues while praying, so that the prayer can show its cooperation in these virtues. In order to succeed in prayer, one must pray, but the labor of prayer should be used as the means to virtues. One must be concerned about all things, and always strive to be on the right side. The same thing happens in a clock. A clock works properly and shows the correct time only when all of the gears and other parts inside are complete and in their correct place, and joined together properly. This is the same in our inner spiritual mechanism: the striving of the soul will be true like an arrow, directed straight toward God, when all other parts of the soul are whole and are established in their correct places, so to speak, put in place by virtue.

I will teach you what sort of virtues should surround your prayer, or what sort of prayerful, virtuous life a Christian should plant in himself, not in my own words, but in the words of the holy hierarch Dimitri of Rostov, who briefly lists these things in the following instructions (from Christian Spiritual Instruction, part 1, p. 288):

1. When you wake up, let your first thought be about God, your first word be a prayer to God your creator and keeper of your life, Who is always able to give life or destroy it, who can strike with illness and heal, and who can save or destroy.

2. Bow and give thanks to God Who raised you from sleep, and Who did not allow you to perish in your sins, but with long-suffering awaited your repentance.

3. Make a start for better things, saying with the Psalmist: “I said, now I have made a beginning” (Ps. 76.11) For no one completes the path to heaven except he who makes a good beginning everyday.

4. From the morning pray like the Seraphim, act like the Cherubim, and be surrounded with angels.

5. Do not waste time any longer. Do only those things which are necessary.

6. In all deeds and words, keep your mind in God; do not write anything in your mind except Christ, and let no image touch your pure heart except the pure image of Christ our God and Savior.

7. Awaken yourself to the love of God in all things, whenever you are able, especially say to yourself with the Psalmist: “in my meditation a fire was kindled” (Ps. 38.4).

8. You desire to love God, Whose visitation you always see and gaze upon with your interior eyes, therefore turn away from all evil deeds, words, and thoughts. Do, say, and think all things honorably, humbly, and with the fear of a son.

9. Let meekness with praise and humility with honor be together. 10. Let your words be quiet, humble, honorable, and useful. Let silence decide the words that you say. From henceforth, let no empty or rotten word escape your lips.

11. If something funny happens, allow yourself only a smile, and this not often.

12. You will fall into prodigality through anger, wrath, and arguing: keep yourself moderate in anger.

13. Always observe moderation in eating and drinking.

14. Be condescending in all things, and God will bless you, and people will praise you.

15. You must pray about your death, which is the end of all things.

See what sort of wonderful life is taught to the praying Christian. It is true that in one place we have spoken more about prayer, that is, of mental and heart-felt turning to God, but in another place, other virtues have been mentioned, and yet without all of them together, it is impossible to get a foothold in prayer. Let everyone strive in knowledge: standing in prayer and exercising is according to your instruction. How can you stand to pray if you are weighed down with intemperance, or carried away with anger, or if you do not stand in peace, or you are distracted by work and lack of attention and so on? If we are to avoid these things, then we are to strive to attain the opposite: that is, virtue. For this reason, St. John of the Ladder speaks of prayer, saying that it is the mother and the daughter of virtues.

Hearing this, some might say, “what great demands! What a heavy burden! Where can I ever find time and the strength?” But be strong, brethren! Very little is necessary, and one must only take up one thing: zeal for God and salvation in Him in your soul. By its nature, the soul has much good in it and it is only misdirected into all evil things. As soon as zeal for salvation and the pleasing of God is born in one’s soul, all of the goodness gathers around this zeal, and immediately no small amount of good appears in the soul. Then zeal, strengthened by the grace of God, with the help of this initial good, begins to find more goodness, and enriches itself with it, and all begins to grow by degrees. Zeal itself has the beginnings of prayer already. It is fed at first by natural virtue, and then begins to feed on the works of virtue that it engendered, and grows and becomes strong, and blossoms and begins to sing and hymn God with a harmonious and prayerful song in the heart.

May the Lord help you succeed in this. Amen.

Translated from the Russian by Rev. Fr. Michael van Opstall – January 2007 Source: http://www.monachos.net/content/patristics/patristictexts/231-theophan-prayer4

St Theophan the Recluse, On Prayer, Homily 3

Theophan the Recluse, On Prayer, Homily 3 Written by Theophan the Recluse Delivered 29 November, 1864 I have explained to you briefly two aspects or two levels of prayer, namely: prayer which is read, when we pray to God with the prayers of others, and one’s mental prayer, where we ascend mentally to God through contemplation of God, dedicating all to God, and often crying out to Him from our hearts.1 But this is still not all. There is a third aspect or level of prayer, which makes up true prayer, and for which the first two aspects are only preparation. This is the unceasing turning of the mind and heart to God, accompanied by interior warmth or burning of the spirit. This is the limit to which prayer should aspire, and the goal which every prayerful laborer should have in mind, so that he does not work uselessly in the work of prayer.

Remember how the Word of God talks about prayer: “Be vigilant and pray,” says the Lord (Matt 26.41). “Be sober and bold,” teaches the apostle Peter (1 Pet 5.8). “Be patient in prayer, and be bold in it” (Col 4.2). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5.17). “Pray with all prayer and petition at all times in the spirit” (Eph 6.18), the apostle Paul commands, explaining in other places the reason to be this way. “Because”, he says, “our life is hidden with Christ in God, and because the Spirit of God lives in us, in which we cry, ‘Abba, Father’.” (1 Cor 3.16) From these instructions and commands it is impossible not to see that prayer is not something done once, and in an interrupted way, but is a state of the spirit, constant and unceasing, just like our breathing and heartbeat.

I will explain this to you by examples. The sun is in the middle, and all of our planets go around it, all are drawn in toward it, and all turn some side of themselves towards it. What the sun is in the material world, God is in the spiritual world – the rational sun. Bring your thoughts to heaven, and what will you see there? Angels, who, according to the word of the Lord, ever see the face of their heavenly Father. All bodiless spirits and all saints in heaven and turned towards God, all direct their mental eyes toward Him, and do not wish to turn away from Him, because of the ineffable blessedness which flows from this vision of the face of God. But what the Angels and saints do in the heavens, we should learn to do on earth: get used to the angelic, unceasing standing before God in our hearts. Only he who reaches this state is a true man of prayer. How can we attain this great good thing?

I will answer this briefly as follows: one must labor in prayer without hesitation, zealously, hopefully, trying to obtain a burning spirit through sober attention to God, as if it were the promised land. Work in prayer, and praying about everything, pray even more about this limit of prayer – a burning spirit – and you will truly attain that which you seek. We are assured of this by St. Makarios of Egypt, who labored and tasted the fruit of prayer. “If”, he says, “you do not have prayer, work at prayer, and the Lord, seeing your labor, and seeing how you are patient in the labor and wholeheartedly desire this good thing, will grant you this prayer (Conversation 19)”. The labor has this as its only end. When the fire is kindled, about which the Lord speaks: “I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and what is it to Me if it were already kindled?” (Luke 12.49) – then the work comes to an end. Prayer becomes easier and freer.

Do not think that we are talking about something very lofty which is an unattainable state for living people. No. It truly is a lofty state, but attainable by all. Does not everyone at some time feel warmth in their hearts in prayer, when the soul separates itself from all things and deeply enters into itself and prays hotly to God? This movement of the prayerful spirit, although it was once only temporary, must be made into a constant state, and it will reach the limits of prayer.

The means to this, as I have said, is the work of prayer. When one rubs two sticks together, they warm up and catch fire. Similarly, when the soul is rubbed in the work of prayer, it eventually leads to prayerful fire. The work of prayer consists of a proper completion of the two types of prayer of which I have already spoken, namely – pious, attentive, and feeling completion of our usual prayers, and then training of the soul to frequently ascend to God through divine contemplation, turning of all things to the glory of God, and frequent crying to God from the heart. We pray in the morning and the evening: there is a great distance between them. If we only turn to God at these times, then even if we pray whole-heartedly, during the day or night, everything will fall apart, and when it is time again to pray, the soul will feel cold and empty, as before. One can pray again whole-heartedly, but if you become cold and fall apart again, what use is it? This is just building and destroying, building and destroying; it is only labor. If now we resolve not only to pray with attention and feeling in the morning and the evening, but also to spend every day in contemplation of God, doing all things to the glory of God, and frequently calling to God from our hearts with short words of prayer, then this long period between morning and evening prayers and from evening to morning prayers will be filled with frequent turnings to God and pure prayerful actions. Although this prayer is not yet unceasing, it is still prayer repeated very frequently, and the more often it is repeated, the closer it comes to being constant. All of this work is towards this final and necessary goal. For if we resolve to do this work every day, without fail, without hesitation, look, what will become of our souls?

The fear of God is born from divine contemplation. For the fear of God is in and of itself the attainment of pious thought and the perception of God’s eternal perfection and action. From turning all of our works to the glory of God, we obtain a constant remembrance of God, or in other words, walking before God. Walking before God consists of doing nothing without remembering that you are in the presence of God. Finally, from frequent calling out to God, or from frequent pious movements toward God in our hearts we will constantly call upon the name of God with warmth and love. When these three things: the fear of God, the remembrance of God, or walking before God, and this turning of the heart toward God with love (loving repetition of the sweet name of the Lord in the heart) then certainly the spiritual fire of which I spoke earlier will catch in the heart, and it will bring with it profound peace, constant sobriety, and living boldness. At that point, a man enters into that state where he needs no longer to desire anything greater or unnecessary on earth, and which is truly the beginning of the blessed state which awaits all in the future. Here, in fact, that which the apostle said is fulfilled: “our life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3.3).

Add these three things to your prayerful work. They are at the same time the reward for labor and the key to the hidden temple of the Kingdom of Heaven. Having opened the doors, go inside, approach the foot of the throne of God and you will be vouchsafed a good word and an embrace from the heavenly Father, and from the depth of your being you will say: “O Lord, O Lord! Who is like Thee?” Pray about this in your work of prayer, and let each one cry out, “when will I come and appear before Thy face, O Lord? My face has sought Thee; I seek, O Lord, Thy face.”

I will briefly answer him who wants to know how these three things: fear of God, remembrance of God, and this loving, constant calling on the name of God, are perfected: begin to seek them, and the work itself will teach you how to find its perfection. Hold to only one law: cast aside everything that gets in the way of these things, and earnestly seek out that which aids them. The work itself will teach you how to tell which things are which. I add to this only the following instruction:

When you begin to be contained in your heart as you are contained in your body, surrounded by warmth on all sides, or when you begin to conduct yourself as you conduct yourself around some important person, that is, with fear and attention so that you would not offend him, regardless of your desire to walk and act freely, or if you see, that your soul is beginning to remain with the Lord as a wife with her beloved husband, then know, that the Visitor of our souls is near, at the doors, and He will enter in and feast with you within yourself.

And these few signs, I think, are enough for zealous seekers. All of this is said only with the goal that those of you who pray wholeheartedly would know the limit of prayer, and having worked only a little and obtained only a little you would not think that you have obtained everything. Do not weaken your labor because of this, and thus put a limit on your further progress in the steps of prayer. Just as markers are placed on the sides of large roads so that those passing by them would know how far they have gone and how far remains, so in the spiritual life there are certain signs which indicate the degree of perfection of a life, which are also there, so that those who are zealous for perfection do not stop halfway and deprive themselves of the fruits of their labor, because they know how far they have come and how far remains to go. The fruit may be only a few turns away.

I conclude my word with the serious prayer, that the Lord would give you reason in all things, that you may become a perfect man, in the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ. Amen.

Translated from the Russian by Rev. Fr. Michael van Opstall – January 2007 Source: http://www.monachos.net/content/patristics/patristictexts/230-theophan-prayer3

Archbishop Averky on the Parable about the 10 Virgins.

“The Parable about the 10 Virgins

(Mat. 25:31–46).

In this parable, the Second Coming of Christ is portrayed as the arrival of the bridegroom at the bride’s house. The arrival of the bridegroom, accompanied by “friends of the bridegroom” (John 3:29; Mat. 9:15), was celebrated very triumphantly. He was met by people with lighted lamps in their hands, and as he might be late, they had to have a supply of oil in case the lamps’ oil would run out before his late arrival. Using this example that was well known in the East, the Lord compares the waiting for His Second Coming with that of the bridegroom, who was to be met by 10 virgins with lighted lamps in their hands. Five of them were “wise”, i.e. far-seeing and carried extra oil, while the other five were “foolish”, i.e. not very reasonable, and didn’t take any spare oil with them, so their lamps’ oil started to run out and the light fade. While they were away purchasing more oil, the bridegroom arrived and the doors of the wedding-hall were locked, and they were not allowed by the bridegroom to participate in the “wedding feast.

The “wise” virgins represent all the true Christians that are always ready to meet the Lord, and that have with their sincere faith, good works (oil); while the “foolish” virgins represent the Christians by name only, who are indifferent and lack virtues. Such will not attend the wedding feast, i.e. the Heavenly Kingdom, because the Lord said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mat. 7:21). The last words of the parable: “Watch, therefore…” (Therefore, be alert) again indicate the necessity for constant spiritual vigilance in order to meet the Lord, as the day and hour of His coming is hidden from us.”

Excerpt From

A GUIDE TO THE FOUR GOSPELS

Archbishop Averky Tauchev