14 September 1943
Christ is in our midst!
It helps little if we only read and ask how to be saved. We must exert ourselves, work, and purify our hearts from passions. You know now what spiritual life is. Now is the time, begin, may the Lord teach you, and do not forget me in your holy prayers.
Yes, Holy Father Isaac's language is difficult, but it is still more difficult for us to understand the content, for the well is deep and our rope is short and we cannot reach his deep, wonderful, saving water.
Bishop Theophan even made a special prayer to St Isaac asking him to help us understand his saving teaching. In general the Holy Fathers wrote from their experience and
feelings, and their teaching is understood by those who are working on their own hearts.
May God bless you!"
In the Gospel of John, we read, beginning in Chapter 7, verse 14:
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple
15 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this man know letters,
having never studied?"
16 Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His
who sent me.
17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the
doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
18 He who speaks from himself seek his own glory; but he who
seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in
This passage, I believe, directly relates especially to Father John's last sentence to this young lady where he states:
"In general the Holy Fathers wrote from their experience and feelings, and their teaching is understood by those working on their own hearts."
In other words, these Holy Fathers are named as such by our Holy Church because they were men who took the Gospel literally and seriously and set out to their dwellings to do battle with themselves. As they did battle with "the old man", they would observe this struggle with, over time, I presume, dispassion, little by little, from glory to glory, crucifying this old man, being poured out and having Christ formed in them.
Dying to this world with its lusts and shadows, of course, involved a heated struggle against themselves and the enemy of our souls. This is one of the values of their writings as these athletes in Christ record for us, who would follow in their footsteps, their experience and their feelings in the struggle to more fully allow Christ to be formed in them.
With the high priority placed on "Science" these days, the ability to test hypothesis to ascertain the truth of a theory, I find it sad in my own way that these "Scientists of the spirit, Scientists of the combat to be liberated from the death that is in them" are not seen as such but instead sit on library shelves in many a home and study. They are squeezed to be made to fit into this theological system or that while their life giving medicine lies idle, because we who read them do not do what they say. We read them with detachment from their struggle.
Perhaps we believe the world to be a far different place. But is it? Has the human animal changed so much that the medicine to heal it has changed? Is it a more sophisticated medicine needed or is it the same?
I rather believe that it is the same. The human being, that creature made in the image and likeness of God, has not changed. Still the voice of the Savior calls out, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The ailment remains the same. The struggle remains the same. The medicine to heal remains the same. These writings of the Fathers, if perceived as they ought to be, are timeless, addressing the concerns of us moderns in a way more needful then ever as now, more than ever, we are so inebriated by ourselves and our own doings we need death to this world with an urgency that is here, right now.
Let us each, in our own way, embark on this struggle against our passions, against that serpent of old, trusting in our beautiful Lord. He has overcome this world. Let us run to be found in Him, heeding the voice of our Holy Church, the ark, and the voice of her Holy Fathers as they guide us to Heaven. We know not the way except with humility to ask for guidance.
May it be so.