Friday, August 24, 2007

Christ is in our Midst XXIV(letter 29)

" 29


I received your note and am answering it, but take my advice not as an order or law, but simply as advice. You need not accept it if you feel that it is inconsistent with Holy Scriptures and with the message of the Holy Fathers.

Do not get excited, do not strive for the highest things prematurely. In the spiritual life one does not make leaps and bounds; it has to be gradual, with patience. You have already begun partially to notice what is not good for you: worldly books, politics and unnecessary going among people. Yes, all this is harmful for a watchful person. Your way of fighting with passions is right. Work against whatever passions you notice in yourself, but not only with your own powers, but with God's help. However, pay most attention to the chief passion, the one that is troubling you most. Remember too that the work must be ours, but success depends upon grace, and grace will be given not for work, but for humility, to each in the measure of his humility. And this ability to persevere in virtue is dependent not on us, but on grace.

You should also know that a person cannot always be in one state; changes come like the weather. It is good to be on Tabor, but sometimes one has to be at Golgotha. A watchful and sober-minded person will find many opportunities to understand this. How well St Isaac the Syrian speaks of this in his 46th [72nd] chapter.

You write: 'There is little hope that I will get to where you go'. Take back those words. We have no knowledge of God's judgement and of where anyone will go. It is good that you made peace with N. Always act in that way, even though there is no cause for enmity on your part. The Optina11 startsi are spirit-bearing. They are steeped in the spirit of the Holy Fathers. I respect them highly and revere them. In conclusion I would like to say: 'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ' [Gal. 6:2]. What you do not want done to you, do not do to others; that is the golden rule. Remind yourself often of the hour of death and never condemn anyone for anything, because whatever you condemn others for, you will fall into the same sins; it is never otherwise.

I call God's blessing upon you.
11Hermitage in the diocese of Kaluga, south of Moscow. "

At the beginning of many of the new phases of my life, I have noticed this tendency to begin in an idealistic manner. To name a few: I wanted to become an actor, a rock star, I joined my fraternity in college, the beginning of my journey in the Evangelical Movement, when I got married, and the embarking on the spiritual life in my "return" to the Orthodox Catholic Church and her Faith.
As I progress in age, hopefully a little wisdom, I have noted a certain understanding come over me.

The excitement of my teenage years and early manhood towards all things new has gradually given way to an understanding that there is a price to pay for any venture, no matter how minute. Short term excitement in embarking on that which is good and true leads into, always, the need to sustain the beginning through the inevitable change of attitude that will occur over any given time.

In other words, feelings are not a good guage in the living of the spiritual life as they, feelings, (perhaps only at this stage of what I hope will be a continuous spiritual development; I cannot assume in my own powers to produce this continued growth as of this writing according to my present experience), are constantly in flux, influenced by a host of factors, most if not all are beyond my control.

Father John in the above letter warns his spiritual child of this.

My trust in my own "goodness" must be replaced by trust in Him to bring about His desired ends whether they seem good to me or not. My own ability to discern, to know, is very, very, limited and must be born anew within Him that my person may be as the sword in the famous analogy teaching theosis immersed in His Holy Energies, taking on the "Fire" of His Being, the Uncontainable dwelling within this tent, housing Him, becoming as the Theotokos, the "God-Bearer", our great example who as the Burning Bush was aflame yet not consumed.

This will not come about by my willing it. It will if God allows. I am simply called on to live one day at a time within Him as best as I am able, realizing that I am a sinner in need, hopefully increasingly, that He may grant mercy unto me.

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