On the Essential Identity of Ecumenism and Phyletism ​By Archpriest Peter Heers. From Orthodoxethos.com

As Fr. Seraphim Rose once wrote, the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy is most apparent in that the Orthodox Church (in Her Saints) is able to discern the spirits. Moreover, discernment of the methods of the fallen spirits is a requirement in the formation of Christology and Ecclesiology. As the Evangelist John writes, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Insomuch, therefore, as one is purified from the passions and illumined by the Spirit of God, so much is his spiritual vision open and discernment acquired. This gift of discernment, the greatest of the virtues, presupposes initiation into the death, resurrection and life in Christ which is lived within His Body, the Church. That few Orthodox Christians possess a good measure of this gift is a testament to the inroads of the spirit of anti-Christ, which, by another name, is secularism. The end of the worldly spirit is the denial of the theanthropic nature of the Christ and His Body, “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” before the ascent of the man of iniquity, the Antichrist. This temptation is coming upon the world primarily through the spread of the ecclesiological heresy known as ecumenism.

Ecumenism and Secularism

Ecumenism as an ecclesiological heresy and denial of the Truth of the Body of Christ, and as a methodological distortion of The Way of Christ, has been born and bred within a secularized “Christianity.” As we said, secularism is first and foremost the spirit of antichrist, which is “already in the world,” namely, “every spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” This refers not only to that “Christianity” which expressly denies the divinity of our Lord, the various contemporary “Arianisms,” but every spirit which denies that the Jesus Christ is come – that is, has come and remains – in the flesh, in His Body, the One Church.

Ecumenism as a unification movement ironically seeks to overcome the scandal of division by denying the “scandal of the particular” – the Incarnation. Instead of crucifying their intellect on the cross of this scandal – that Christ entered and continues within history in a particular time and place, being mysteriologically-incarnationally ‘here’ and not ‘there’ – the uninitiated and rationalist followers of Jesus seek a theanthropic Body in their image: “divided in time,” in search of a fullness which they imply exists only on the heavenly plane. They see the Church as divided on the historical plane, as limited by the heavy hand of history. They see as Church identifiers not primarily the exclusive marks of oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity taken together, but rather the externals which “already unite,” such as the water of baptism (whether sprinkled, poured or immersed), the rites of the Liturgy, the belief in Christ’s divinity or the common text of Holy Scripture. It matters little that such externals, and indeed much more, were possessed by ancient heretics such as the Monophysites or Iconoclasts and were never seen as sufficient to produce any sort of “partial communion” or “already existing unity.” Neither does it seem to faze them that “the demons believe and tremble” and thus “unity in belief in Christ’s divinity” would necessarily include the demons.

This new ecclesiology, this new vision of the Church, or, rather, of Christ Himself as Head and Body, might be characterized as ecclesiological Nestorianism, in which the Church is divided into two separate beings: on the one hand the Church in heaven, outside of time, alone true and whole, and on the other hand, the Church, or rather “churches,” on earth, in time, deficient and relative, lost in history’s shadows, seeking to draw near to one another and to that transcendent perfection, as much as is possible in the weakness of the impermanent human will.

They apparently don’t realize, however, that in denying the manifest Oneness of Christ in a particular time and place on earth, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, they are also denying He is come in the flesh. They seek to forge a Church from disparate elements or recognize an already existing but “divided” Church in place of the One Church, a body in place of the God-man’s Body which is come, and in this reveal they are of the spirit of antichrist (lit. that which is put in place of Christ).

Phyletism and Secularism

Strangely, what is often seen as opposed to ecumenism, or even the heresy ecumenism is meant to correct, Phyletism, is a kindred spirit with ecumenism and born and bred within the same spiritual milieu: secularism.

As with the heresy of ecumenism, the phyletist sees the Church as limited by and within history, as identified not firstly or as much by the exclusive marks of oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity as by one’s ethnic identity and its past. The aim of the Church here is not the salvation of all men from sin and death but the salvation of their ethnic identity and nation. With phyletism, as with ecumenism, the hierarchy is lost, discernment misplaced or non-existent, as to what is first and what follows in terms of our identity, with the secondary and tertiary taking the lead.

Phyletism was the necessary precursor to ecumenism, the pendulum swung to the right so that momentum could be built up for the great swing to the left and the ensuing apostasy. It was necessary also that a straw man be created in place of Patristic Orthodox ecclesiology so that legitimate opposition to the new ecclesiology could be easily marginalized and lumped together with the various “isms” on the right. Ecumenism is supposed to come as a corrective to phyletism, but paradoxically it can be, and often is, reconciled “peacefully” with phyletism.

For example, when one views his church as essentially identified with his tribe he readily accepts that his neighbor’s tribe must also have a national church (to the worldly minded it matters not whether it is “fully” orthodox or “partially” heterodox). Only in this context can one make sense of such phenomena in the West as the immigrant who sees no problem with his own children going to the local heterodox community since they have “become Americans” and go to the “American church.” Only when one understands that the phyletists identify the Theanthropic Body of Christ with their language and their culture can he begin to grasp why they prefer to lose their very own children and let their parish die with them, rather than change one iota of these transitory aspects (Matt. 24:35).

Ecumenism and Phyletism: Two Sides of the Same Coin of Secularism

Far from being enemies or correctives of each other, ecumenism and phyletism are rather two sides of the same coin of secularism. Both deny the catholicity of the One Church and both seek to recognize in its place a “divided” Church, whether it be along ethnic or denominational lines. Both reduce the Church to the sociological and historical level, placing it at the service of the fallen world as opposed to the service of man’s salvation from, and the overcoming of, the world, according to the words of the Lord: “[B]e of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

The greatest proof, however, that ecumenism and phyletism are possessed of the “spirit of antichrist” lies in their fruits. They work against the salvation of the world because they make the Church into the world, “thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mat. 5:13). On the one hand, whether through tribalism or relativism, they deny the divine-humanity of the One Church, Her otherworldliness, Her power of the Cross (asceticism) which, if She “be lifted up” by it, draws all men toward Christ (Jn. 12:32). On the other hand, lacking the “magnet” of holiness and the theanthropic virtues, these two children of secularism deny to the heterodox the salvific “pricking” of the soul, what the Holy Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos called the “good uneasiness.” Speaking much of love, each in their own way (for nation or world), both are revealed as bereft of love for his neighbor’s salvation, for both leave him in his delusion and error, the one by erecting an ethnic roadblock, the other by denying him the narrow path.

First appeared at: http://anothercity.org/on-the-essential-identity-of-ecumenism-and-phyletism/

”God forbid that we boast in anything but the Cross of Christ.” Homily by Archpriest Peter Alban Heers Sunday before the Elevation of the Holy Cross September 24, 2017

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Sunday before the Elevation of the Cross, brothers and sisters, and the Church presents before us the Holy Cross in preparation – and then with the Sunday after the feast, in thanksgiving – for the great feast.

We, with Paul, throughout all the generations, boast of the Cross, and only in the cross. The Cross is our boast as Christians! And, as we heard in the Epistle, Paul, the great Apostle, spent most of his time preaching the Gospel face to face with the Judaizers – those Jews who, as he says, sought to make a good showing, a good impression, in the flesh of the converts. And that means they sought to have a good word, a good image with the unbelievers, those Jews who had not converted.

These were Christians, Jewish Christians, who remained tied down, bound to the law, and the perception of the law. They taught the Christians in Galatia to keep the law, including circumcision, and they meant the ceremonial law, which had been fulfilled in Christ, and replaced by the freedom of grace, and in this, as St. Paul says elsewhere, they taught another gospel. They taught another gospel! Nothing less than another gospel, because they refused to see the fulfillment, and they remained with the type, with the shadow, with the purely human, which does not redeem, which does not make people new creations in Christ.

This is who he speaks of in the Epistle that we heard, let’s hear this excerpt again, he says, “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not suffer persecution for the Cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the Law, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh.” And listen to this, this is the key, “But God forbid that I should boast, except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6:12-14)

The question is why did the Jewish Christians teach this? Why did they seek to remain with the old Law…to be trapped in the mentality, that we are still in the type, in the shadow, waiting for fulfillment. They sought to appear well in the eyes of those unrepentant Jews who claimed that the Jewish converts had abandoned the traditions of the fathers. That is, they sought to compromise with the spirit of the world and the unbelief of the Jews, with the enemies of the Cross! To compromise, in order to avoid reproof, because they did not believe. Underneath all of this worldliness, this resistance, was ultimately lack of faith in the sacrifice of our Lord. Apparently, they had not, yet tasted of regeneration and they wanted to avoid persecution. They wanted to avoid the Cross!

The history of the Church is full of such people, up to our day, and in our day perhaps we have many – many of such false, traitorous Christians. Saint John Chrysostomos says that they prefer to offend and even reject Christ in order to be pleasing to men; rather we offend God in order to please men! They are men pleasers, co-workers with the enemies of the Cross. The life of the Cross requires sacrifice. Christ requires of us sacrifice, because sacrifice is love. When we do not sacrifice, we do not love, when we do not love we cannot be united to the God Who is love.

The Cross is our path, our opening to the life of love with the Master, the Eternal life that we all seek. If we put aside the Cross, we put aside the path to God; we put aside love. Only those who lift up the Cross of Christ are led into the freedom of grace. If we deny the Cross we deny the sacrifice, we deny the crucifixion of our intellect. Then we remain enslaved, as they were, to a shadow, but a shadow, of the greatness of the Gospel that is being offered to us.

And inevitably they serve two masters… the world and Christ. They become two-faced, double-minded people. We have many of those today in the Church. Two-faced, double-minded: one thing among the faithful, another thing in the world, one thing among the monastics, another thing amongst the world’s leaders. One thing here and one thing there. They are two-faced, double-minded inevitably, because they deny the power of the Cross in their lives. They seek ease and comfort; this is the greatest heresy of our day: a Christianity without the Cross; a Christianity without sacrifice; a Christianity without asceticism. Christianity without love!

We talk of love today, we hear about love all the time, and most of the time it has nothing to do with the love of God, but [rather] the love of self! And we remain trapped in self-satisfaction: we are good and we [live] according to all the law, fulfilling it; we are Just in the eyes of God [and] we believe. We are satisfied with ourselves, with our community, with our identity, but the love of Christ, the love of His Cross is far from us. These people who remain in the shadow, who remain in self-love, in self-satisfaction, they are living traps within the Church, they distort the Christian worldview, the phronema, and the Christian ethos.

Whether they fall toward the right or to the left, it matters little, they are still of the world. This is one aspect, one area, where many do not see and fall. There are those who are of this mindset on the right, and in the temptation on the right. The zealots for the form, the zealots for the packaging, for the law, for the secondary, the tertiary or even the contrary. There are zealots for many things, thinking that in this they are saving or being saved and yet they are of the world, and yet to sacrifice, and love. They are not able to hierarchize the things, to put them in the right order. They don’t see the source of all the goodness and the blessings.

First, Christ, first, the Cross, and then everything else, including our worldly identity, and only in Christ, and only in the Cross, does the rest have meaning, depth and regeneration. Only in Christ, and in His Cross! And so when we lose the hierarchy of things, we lose everything. We think we are saving the form, the history, the identity, the Nation, but in fact we are losing all of that, because we have lost Christ! Only He can save the nation, only He can save the people, only He can save the Church, only He can save us. And when we deny the sacrifice of the Cross, we deny His salvific grace, the freedom that comes with grace. . . We are putting the cart before the horse, and we go nowhere in the end.

And on the left, many fall also because they seek to serve two masters, the world and the Lord. So you have the worldly, the modernists, the innovators, that deny the crucifixion of their mind, and of their body, and of their life [in this world]. They mock asceticism, they mock abstinence, they have zeal for the externals, they don’t have zeal for exactitude of the faith, of confession of the faith, and those who do, they call fundamentalists. They speak of updating, but what they mean is changing, perverting, distorting, compromising with the world, because they cannot say with Paul that, “God forbid that I should boast, in anything except the Cross of Christ.”

Can we say that? Can we say that? Or do we boast in ourselves, in our achievements, in our supposed gifts. This is on the personal level: many of us can spot that – the arrogance, the vanity, the pride in ourselves; not all of us, but some of us, many of us, can do that. Can we spot the other kind? That we have pride in an identity, which is worldly and earthly, and we think that this saves… that we belong to the club of the saved. “God forbid that I should boast in anything except the Cross of Christ, by whom the world,” (both on the right and the left), “has been crucified to me and I to the world.” And then he says: for in Christ Jesus, “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything”; and we can add as we heard the other Epistle read today, “neither Greek nor Jew”, neither Russian nor American “neither slave nor free, neither man nor woman” (Gal 3:28-29); neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.

Are we being regenerated? Have we overcome the passions? Have we become free from the passions, the delusions of this age, the identity of the world? The identity of the world! Many of us think that there is salvation in our worldly identity. Brothers and sisters, in heaven there is not one Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, American Orthodox soul. There is only an Orthodox Christian soul who lived out his life in America, or in Russia, or in Greece. There are no identities of this world in the next world. Let us not confuse this temporary, quick passing life, and our identity in it, with regeneration, with the Cross of Christ, with sacrifice and love! They are two different things. We can have one, Christ and the Cross [and] all the rest is regenerated. This is the glory of the history of the Church! That the Cross came, Christ came, and regenerated and renewed and saved and brought up to heaven and made holy human endeavors in the arts, in literature and music. But first Christ and His Cross, and then this regeneration and then this new creation, as Paul says.

And he gives us this rule of faith. He gives us this rule of faith and he says, as many as walk according to this rule of regeneration, of crucifixion of the mind, of crucifixion of this worldly identity, peace and mercy be upon him, and upon the Israel of God! He says [this] to the phyletists of his age, to those who are trapped in the identity of this world, the Jews, who had a monopoly on Christ for thousands of years! Who could claim that their culture, their identity, should be the identity of everyone on the face of the earth, except the Jews, from which came our Savior?!. . .They could claim it? No they could not.

[For], it was for a time, it was but a shadow leading to the light! So he says to his fellow Jews, peace and mercy be upon you, if you walk according to this rule; if [however] you remain in this world (whether you be on the right or the left it matters little), if you remain a foreigner to the Cross and the sacrifice, you are lost!

He bears, he says – and here he finishes – the marks of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we also, imitating Paul, be made worthy to bear the marks of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crucifixion of our intellect, the crucifixion of our worldly identity!

In the ancient Church when they were persecuted, they said what? I am a Christian from Jerusalem and not from Athens? . . .No. They said: “I am a Christian”, period. I am a Christian, period. . . “I bear the marks of our Lord Jesus Christ, crucify me and give me life!” they said to their persecutors. This is what we need in these end days, we need such Christians… may we be made worthy, may we be made worthy…

Transcribed by Anna-Athanasia.

Edited by the speaker for better readability and clarity.

Copyright Fr Peter Alban Heers.

Cap 22. The same sensory objects we were speaking of can be means and instruments for a right control of our senses, if from them we pass to reflections on the incarnation of God the Word, and the mysteries of His life, passion and death . From ”Unseen Warfare” by St Nicodemus of the holy mountain and St Theophan the Recluse .

I have shown you above how from sensory things we can raise our mind to the contemplation of God. Now learn of another method of raising your mind from the sensory to the divine,—namely, through passing from the sensory to reflection on the incarnation of God the Word and on the holy mysteries of His life, passion and death. All the sensory objects of this world can serve as occasion for such reflection and contemplation, if, on looking at them, you traverse in your mind, as we described above, the thought that the Almighty God is the first cause of their existence and of everything in them—powers, perfections, functions, position among other creatures, and if you then think how great and measureless is the goodness of that same God when, being the sole cause of every created being, He desired to stoop to such humility and degradation as to become a man, to suffer and to die for men, allowing the very work of His own hands to rise in arms against Him and crucify Him.

Thus, whenever you see, or hear of, or touch weapons, ropes, lashes, pillars, branches of thorn, nails, hummers or other such things, think in your mind how all these have once served as instruments of torture of your Lord.

When you see poor homes, or live in such, bring to your memory the cave and the manger in which your Lord was born as man. When you see the rain fall, remember the drops of blood and sweat which fell from the divine body of the most sweet Jesus, sprinkling the earth of the garden of Gethsemane. When you see the sea and boats upon it, remember how your God walked on the waters and, standing in a boat, taught the people. When you see rocks, let them remind you of the rocks which were rent asunder at the moment of your Lord’s death, and let the earth upon which you walk remind you of the earthquake, which followed upon Christ’s passion.

The sun should bring to your mind the darkness which covered it then; water should remind you of the water, mixed with blood, which flowed from the divine side of the Lord, when the soldier pierced it after His death on the cross. When you drink wine or some other drink remind yourself of the vinegar and gall, which they gave to your Lord to drink on the cross.

When you dress, remember that the Immortal Word was clothed in human flesh, that you might be clothed in His Divinity. Seeing yourself clothed, think of Christ our Lord, Who let Himself be stripped, to be scourged and crucified for your sake. If a voice should seem to you sweet and attractive, transfer this feeling of fond attraction to your Saviour, into Whose lips were poured all grace and sweetness, as is sung in the psalms: ‘ Grace is poured into thy lips” (Ps. xlv. 2); through the sweetness of His tongue, the people were ever following Him, reluctant to cease listening to Him, as St. Luke says: “All the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke xix. 48). When you hear the murmur and shouts of a crowd, think of the lawless cry of the Jews: ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him” (John xix. 15), which then assailed the ears of the Lord. When you see a beautiful face, remember that He, Who was ‘fairer than the children of man” (Pa. xlv. 2), our Lord Jesus Christ, was crucified out of love for you, ‘despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. liii. 3). Every time the clock strikes, let it bring to your mind the exceeding sorrow which filled the heart of our Lord Jesus, when in the garden of Gethsemane He

was troubled at the approaching

St Vladimir seminary press

Cap 21. On the control and right use of the outer senses . From Unseen Warfare by St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and St Theophan the Recluse .

Those who are zealous for righteousness, must think deeply and work constantly on a strict control and right direction of our five outer senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Our heart constantly craves and seeks comforts and pleasures. It should find them in the inner order of things, by keeping and bearing in itself Him, in Whose image man has been created, Who is the very source of every comfort. But when in our downfall, we fell away from God, preferring ourselves, we lost also our foothold in ourselves, and fell into the flesh; thereby we went outside ourselves and began to seek for joys and comforts there. Our senses because our guides and intermediaries in this. Through’ them the soul goes outside and tastes the things experienced by each sense. It then delights in the things which delight the senses; and out of all these together it builds the circle of comforts and pleasures, whose enjoyment it considers as its primary good. So the order of things has become inverted: instead of God within, the heart seeks for pleasures without and is content with them.

Those who have listened to the voice of God—‘ Repent”—do repent and lay down for themselves the law of re-establishing the original order of life, that is, of returning from without to within, and from within to God, in order to live in Him and by Him, and to have this as their first good, bearing within themselves the source of every comfort. Although the first step in re-establishing this order is strong desire and firm resolve, it is not achieved at once. A man who has taken this resolve is faced with a long work of struggling with his former habits of pleasing, pampering and pandering to himself, until they fall away and are replaced by others, in keeping with his new order of life. And here is the great importance of the control and use of the outer senses.

Each sense has its own range of subjects, pleasant and unpleasant. The soul delights in pleasant things and, becoming accustomed to them, acquires a lust for them. In this way each sense introduces into the soul several lusts or tendencies and passionate attachments. They all hide in the soul and keep silent, when there are no causes to stimulate them. Sometimes they are stimulated by thoughts about the objects of these lusts, but the main and strongest cause of their excitement is when these objects are directly present and experienced by the senses. In this case, lust for them arises uncontrollably and in a man who has not yet resolved to resist it ‘ bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James i. 15). Then the words of the prophet are fulfilled in this man: ‘ Death is come up into our windows’ (Jer. ix. 21), that is, into the senses which are the windows of the soul for communication with the outer world. In a man, who has let it enter, it rouses a struggle, not without danger of downfall. Therefore a man should make himself an immutable law to control and use his senses in such a way that no sensory lusts become excited, but only those impressions come in, which stifle them and excite opposite feelings.

You see, brother, in what danger your senses can place you. So pay attention to yourself and learn to forestall it. Try in every way to prevent your senses from wandering hither and thither as they choose, and do not turn them only on sensory pleasures, but, on the contrary, direct them towards what is good, or useful, or necessary. If till now your senses sometimes broke out and rushed to sensory pleasures, “from now on try to the utmost to curb them and turn them back from these enticements. Control them well, so that, wherever they were previously enslaved by vain and harmful delights, they should now receive profitable impressions from every creature and every thing, and introduce these into the soul / Giving birth to “spiritual thoughts “in the soul, such impressions will collect the soul within itself and, soaring on wings of mental contemplation, will raise it to the vision and praise of God, as the Blessed Augustine says: ‘As many creatures as are in the world converse with righteous men, and although their language is dumb and wordless, it is none the less wholly effective and, for such men, easily heard and understood. From this they conceive blessed and pious thoughts and arc incited to an ardent love of God.”

You too can do it in the following way. When to your outer senses there is presented some physical object, which they either see, or hear, or smell, or taste, or touch,—separate in your mind what is. sensory and material in the object from that part, which comes from the creative divine Spirit; think how impossible it is for its being and all it contains to come from itself, but that all in it is the work of God, Whose invisible power gives it its being, its good qualities, beauty and wise structure, this power to act on others and this capacity to receive influences from them, and everything good there is in it. Then transfer such thoughts to all other visible things, and rejoice in your heart that the one God is the origin and cause of such varied, such great and marvellous perfections, manifested in His creatures—that He contains in Himself all possible perfections,, and that these perfections, seen in His creatures, are no other than a weak reflection and shadow of the boundless perfections of God. .Exercise your mind in such thoughts at the sight of every creature, and you will get accustomed to looking at visible things, without your attention dwelling solely on their external as[ect, but penetrating within them to their divine content, to their unseen and hidden beauty, thus revealed to the mind. If you do this, the external side of things, /attractive to your own sensory side, will escape your attention and feeling, leaving no trace, and only their inner content will impress itself on your mind, evoking and feeding its spiritual contemplations and inciting you to praise the Lord.

Thus, looking at the four elements—fire, air, water and earth— and thinking of their essence, power and action, you will be filled (‘with great spiritual delight and will call to the great Creator Who has made them: ‘Great God, immeasurable Power and wondrous Action! I rejoice and am glad that Thou alone art the origin and cause of the essence, power and action of every creature!” Looking up at the sky and the heavenly bodies; sun, moon and stars, and reflecting that they received their light and brilliance from God, you will exclaim: ‘0 Light most brilliant of all lights, from which all light came into being, both material and immaterial! 0 wonderful Light, the first joy of Angels and delight of the blessed, in which the eyes of the cherubim are immersed in ceaseless contemplation and wonder, to which all physical lights are as the deepest darkness! I praise and glorify Thee, 0 True Light, which illumines every man coming into the world! Grant me always to see Thee mentally, to make my heart rejoice with fullness of joy!’ In the same way, in looking at trees, grasses and other plants, and seeing in your mind how they live, feed,, grow and reproduce their kind, and that their life and all they have comes not from themselves, but from the Creative Spirit, Whom you do not see, but Who alone animates them, you can cry: ‘Here is the true Life, in Whom, from Whom and by Whom all live, feed and multiply! 0 life-giving Delight of my heart!’ In the same way, seeing the dumb animals you can soar with” your mind to God, Who gave them their senses and the power to move from place to place, and say: ‘ 0 prime Mover of all things. Who, setting all things in motion, Thyself remains at rest! How I rejoice and am glad in Thy immobility and Thy firm immutability!’

Looking at yourself or at other people and thinking that you alone have been given high rank, that you alone of all living beings on earth have the gift of reason, and serve as the point of union and connection between material and immaterial creatures, rouse yourself to glorify and thank your God and Creator, and say: ‘0 eternal Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Be Thou blessed for ever! How greatly must I give Thee thanks at all times, not only because Thou hast created me out of earth and hast made me King over all earthly creatures, not only because Thou hast honoured my nature with Thy likeness, with reason, speech and a living body, but above all because Thou hast given me the power, of my own free will, through virtues to resemble Thee, that thereby I may possess Thee in me and rejoice in Thee for ever!”

I shall now turn to each of the five senses separately, and I say” to you: seeing the beauty and shapeliness of creatures,, separate in your mind what you see from its spiritual meaning, which you do not see, and reflect that all this visible beauty is the work of the invisible and most beautiful creative Spirit, in Whom lies the cause of all external beauty. Then, filled with joy, say: “0 rich streams flowing from an uncreated source! 0 life-giving rain drawn from the boundless sea of all blessings! How I rejoice in my innermost heart, when I think of the ineffable beauty of my Creator—the origin and cause of all created beauty! What spiritual sweetness fills me, when I hold in my mind to the thought of the beauty of my God, which no word can describe nor thought comprehend, and which is the principle of all beauty!” I If you hear a pleasant voice or a harmony of voices and singing, turn your mind to God, and say: ‘ Harmony of harmonies, 0 my Lord!! How I rejoice in Thy boundless perfections, all blending in {Thee in transubstantial harmony; thence are they reflected in the hosts of Angels in the heavens, and in the countless creatures here below; this is the symphony of all, perfect beyond imagining!’ And: “0 my Lord, when will my hour come to hear with the ears of my heart Thy most sweet voice, saying: My peace I give unto Thee—peace from passions! “For sweet is thy voice “, as the bride sings in the Song of Songs’ (Song of Songs ii. 14).

If you happen to smell some perfumed ointment or the scent of flowers, transfer your thought from this physical fragrance to the secret fragrance of the Holy Spirit and say: ‘ 0 the fragrance of the all-sweetest Flower, and inexhaustible Ointment, Which was poured out on all God’s creatures, as the Song of Songs says: ‘I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys “ (Song of Songs ii. 1); and: “Thy name is as ointment poured forth” (Song of Songs i. 3). 0 all-pervading source of fragrance, richly breathing Thy divine breath upon all things, from the highest and most pure Angels to the basest creatures, bathing all things in Thy fragrance. Thus Isaac, smelling the smell of his son Jacob said: ‘See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed’ (Gen. xxvii. 27).

Again, when you eat or drink, reflect that it is God, Who gives all food a taste which pleases us. So, delighting in Him alone, say: ‘ Rejoice, 0 my soul, for, although you can find no satisfaction, delight or comfort in anything outside God, you can know Him and cleave to Him, and can find every delight in Him alone, as ‘David invites, saying: “0 taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. xxxiv. 8), the truth of which Solomon testifies, saying: “His fruit was sweet to my taste “ (Song of Songs ii. 3). In the same way, when you move your hands to do something, bring to your mind the thought that God, Who gave you the power and capacity to act, is the first cause of all movement, and that you are nothing but a living instrument in His hand, and rising to Him in thought, say: ‘O God Most High, Lord of all, what joy fills me at the thought that without Thee I can do nothing and that Thou art the prime and principal mover in every action!’

When you see in other people either goodness, or wisdom, or truth, or some other virtue, again separate the visible from the invisible, and say to your God: ‘ 0 inexhaustible treasure-house of all virtue! How great is my joy to see and to know that every good thing comes from Thee alone, and that compared with Thy divine perfections all our good is—nothing! I thank Thee, my God, for this and for every other good thing Thou doest to my neighbour. But remember, 0 our Benefactor, also my own beggarly state and how greatly I fall short in every virtue.”

In general, ‘every time you feel in God’s creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: “0 my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou Thyself, Creator of all!”

If you keep to this practice, my beloved, then, through your five senses, you will be able to learn knowledge of God, by always raising your mind from creature to Creator. Then the being and structure of everything created will be for you a book of Theology, and while living in this sensory world, you will share in the knowledge belonging to the world beyond the world. For, indeed, the whole world and all nature is nothing but a certain organ, in which, beneath what is seen, there is invisibly present the Architect and Artist Himself, the Maker of all things, either acting and manifesting His art visibly, or revealing His invisible and immaterial actions and perfections in the visible and the material, discernible to the sight of intelligent creatures. Therefore the wise Solomon says on the one hand: ‘By the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen” (Wisdom of Solomon xiii. 5) and on the other the blessed Paul testifies that: ‘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” (Rom. i. 20). In the world of God all the creatures of God, wisely fashioned, are ranged on one side, while on the other are ranged men, endowed with the power of reason, to the end that with this power of reason they may contemplate the creatures and, seeing infinite wisdom in their creation and organisation, may rise to the knowledge and contemplation of the hypostatical Word, that is before time, the Word, by Whom ‘all things were made” (John i. 8). Thus from actions we naturally see Him Who acts; so we have but to judge rightly and soundly, and finding faith in what He has created we shall see in the creation its Creator, God.

Copyright St Vladimir Seminary Press

Cap 20. How to overcome negligence . From Unseen Warfare by St Nicodemus of the holy mountain and St Theophan the Recluse .

How to overcome negligence

To avoid falling into the pernicious evil of negligence, which will stop your progress towards perfection and deliver you into the hands of the enemies, you must flee all kinds of inquisitiveness (trying to find out what’s here, or what’s there, idle wandering, empty chatter, gaping around), any kind of cleaving to something earthly, all arbitrary actions or ‘ doing what I like’,’, which is totally out of keeping with your position. On the contrary, you must force yourself to follow, willingly and quickly, every good guidance and command of your teachers and spiritual fathers and to do everything at the time and in the manner they wish.

Never delay in undertaking any work you have to do, for the first brief delay will lead to a second, more prolonged one, and the second to a third, still longer, and so on. Thus work begins too late and is not done in its proper time, or else is abandoned altogether, as something too burdensome. Having once tasted the pleasure of inaction, you begin to like and prefer it to action. In satisfying this desire, you will little by little form a habit of inaction and laziness, in which the passion for doing nothing will possess you to such an extent that you will cease even to see how incongruous and criminal it is; except perhaps when you weary of this laziness, and are again eager to take up your work. Then you will see with shame how negligent you have been and how many / necessary works you have neglected, for the sake of the empty / and useless ‘ doing what you like’.

Scarcely perceptible at first, this negligence permeates everything and not only poisons the will, planting in it aversion to all kind of effort and all forms of spiritual doing and obedience, but also blinds the mind, and prevents it from seeing all the folly and falsehood of the arguments which support this disposition of will; for it hinders the mind from presenting to the consciousness the sound reasonings, which would have the power of moving the slothful will to perform the necessary work as quickly and diligently as possible, without putting it off till another time. For it is not enough to perform the work quickly; each thing has to be done in its proper time, as required by its nature, and needs to be performed with full attention and care, to make it as perfect as possible. Listen to what is written: “ Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully’ (Jeremiah xlviii. 10). And you incur this disaster, because you are too lazy to think of the value and worth of the work you have to do; for this thought would impel you to do it in its proper time and with such resolution as to banish all the thoughts of the accompanying difficulties, which laziness suggests in order to turn you away.

Let the conviction never leave your thought that a single raising of your mind to God, and a single humble genuflexion to His glory and in His honour has infinitely more value than all the treasures of the world; that every time we banish negligence and force ourselves to do the work we should with diligence, Angels in heaven prepare for us the crown of a glorious victory; and that, on the contrary, not only has God no crowns for the negligent, but that little by little He takes back from them the gifts He had bestowed upon them for their former diligence in His service, and will finally deprive them of His kingdom if they continue to be negligent, as He said in the parable of guests bidden to supper, who were too lazy to come: ‘For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper’ (Luke xiv. 24). Such is the lot of the negligent. For those who are diligent and who force themselves without self-pity to every good work, the Lord multiplies His blessed gifts in this life, and prepares a life of eternal bliss in His heavenly kingdom, as He said: ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Matt. xi. 12).

If an evil thought comes to try and cast you into negligence, and suggests that the work necessary to acquire the virtue you love and desire is extremely long and hard, that your enemies are strong and numerous, while you are weak and alone, that you must do much, and perform great deeds to attain your aim; if, I say, the thought of negligence suggests all this to you, do not listen to it. On the contrary, look at the matter this way: of course you must work, but not much, you must undertake labours, but they are very small and will not last long; you will meet enemies, but instead of many there will be only one, and, although he is too strong against you alone, vet you arc incomparably stronger than he, since you can always rely on God’s help in return for your great trust in it. If you have this attitude, negligence will begin to retreat from you and in its place, under the influence of good thoughts and feelings, there will gradually enter into you a diligent zeal in everything, which will finally possess all the powers of your soul and body.

Do the same in relation to prayer. Supposing the performance of some sacred service demands an hour of diligent prayer, which seems burdensome to your laziness; then, in starting this work, do not think that you must stand for an hour, but imagine that it will last only a quarter of an hour. In this way, the quarter of an hour of prayer will pass imperceptibly. Thereupon say to yourself: ‘Let us stand for another quarter of an hour—it’s not much, as you see.” Do the same for the third and the fourth quarter, and you will complete your task of prayer, without noticing any hardship or difficulty, If,, in the course of this,,’ you feel it so onerous that this feeling interferes with the prayer itself, leave off reciting prayers for a while and then, after a short interval, resume it again and finish what you have omitted.

Do the same in relation to manual work and the tasks of your obedience. Sometimes your tasks may seem too many; you become flustered and are ready to give them up. But refrain from thinking of their great number; instead, force yourself, take up the most immediate task and do it with diligence, as though the others did not exist; and you will do it without trouble. Then do the same in relation to other tasks, and you will finish them all calmly, without fuss and bother.

Behave thus in everything, and know that, if you do not listen to reason and do not thus try to overcome the sense of burden and difficulty, which the enemy presents to you in the tasks which lie before you, then negligence will finally take complete possession of you. Then you will feel as if you were carrying a mountain on your shoulders, not only when you are faced with some immediate task, but even when it is still far ahead; you will be weighed down and tormented by it, like a slave hound in slavery with no hope of release. Then, even at times of rest, you will have no rest, and will feel yourself overburdened with work, even while doing nothing.

Know also, my child, that this disease of laziness and negligence gradually undermines with its poison not only the first small roots out of which virtuous habits may grow, but even those which are already deep rooted and serve as a foundation of the whole order of righteous life. As a worm gradually gnaws at the root of a tree, so negligence, if it persists, insensibly wears away and destroys the very nerves of spiritual life. Through it the devil manages to spread his nets and set the snares of temptations for every man; and exerts particular care and sly cunning in the case of those who are zealous in spiritual life, knowing that a lazy and negligent man easily submits to lusts and falls, as it is written: ‘The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing” (Prov. xiii. 4).

So be for ever watchful, pray and take good care of everything good, as it behooves a courageous warrior: ‘ The soul of the diligent shall be made fat’ (Prov. xiii. 4). Do not sit with folded hands, putting off the sewing of your wedding garments the moment when it is time to go out in festive raiments to meet the coming bridegroom, Christ our Lord. Remind yourself every day that now is in our hands, but to-morrow is in the hands of God, and that He Who gave you this morning has not bound Himself with the promise to give you the evening too. Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give to-morrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour. Remember, that the time you have in your hands is priceless and if you waste it uselessly, the hour will come when you will seek and not find it. Consider as lost a day when, although performing good deeds, you have not struggled to overcome your bad tendencies and desires.

To end my lesson on this subject, I shall repeat the Apostle’s commandment: “Fight the good fight” always (I Tim. vi. 12). For one hour of diligent work has often gained heaven and one hour of negligence has lost it. Take great care if you want to prove before God your firm faith in your salvation. ‘He that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat’* (Prov. xxviii. 25).

Copyright St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.