My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Our Risen Redeemer,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN FLESH AND SPIRIT (SOUL)
(On the struggle between flesh and spirit that takes place
within a Christian]
By Tikhon of Zadonsk
Every Christian HAS TWO BIRTHS, the old and fleshly, and the spiritual and new, and each is opposed to the other. The fleshly birth is flesh and the spiritual birth is spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (St. John3:6).
Because each of these births is opposed to the other, then from this arises A CONFLICT and A STRUGGLE between a Christian’s flesh and spirit (soul). "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17)… The flesh desires to bring the spirit (soul) INTO SUBMISSION, and the spirit, (soul) the flesh…
"…The flesh desires to fornicate and to commit adultery, but the spirit (soul) is repelled by it and desires to be chaste. The flesh desires to seize that which is another’s, to steal and to plunder in every manner, but the spirit is repelled by this and desires to give of its own…
"… Beloved Christians, let us see whether we have this warfare, whether we take part IN THIS SAVING STRUGGLE, whether WE WALK IN THE NEWNESS OF LIFE, whether we oppose the inclinations and desires of the flesh, and whether we do not allow sin to reign over us and to rule us. Only those who have "CRUCIFIED THE FLESH WITH ITS PASSIONS AND DESIRES" ARE CHRISTIANS. What use is it to be called Christians, yet truly not to be Christian? It is NOT the name Christian that shows the True Christian, but THE STRUGGLE AGAINST THE FLESH AND AGAINST EVERY SIN.
Saint Tikhon is not exaggerating at all about the constant spiritual warfare and struggle that we must be engaged in throughout our life here on earth. Much of the spiritual struggle takes place within us because that is where the conflict is. We are called to repeat with profound and sincere faith the Jesus Prayer "without ceasing" until our very death. Those who lose their souls do so because they lack faith and are unwilling to turn our Savior with humility and say, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." They bring condemnation upon themselves because, not only do they refuse to acknowledge their sins, but especially because they refused to repent. The people who make personal choices in their lives preclude they are saying this essential prayer with tears to seek forgiveness and absolution from our Merciful God.
When one is physically injured, he feels pain immediately. So much so, that it may bring one to tears. The pain is real and unbearable and, of course, it is to be expected. After all, it’s our flesh and our body. Well, there is another part of us, our soul (spirit), which it too can and is constantly injured by us. It, too, feels agony and pain when spiritually injured. When injured physically, we immediately turn a physician to cease the pain and to use medicine to bring healing to our body. When the soul is hurt and in pain, we ought to run immediately to the Physician of our souls and bodies and seek from Him to stop the pain and bring healing to our souls.
For most of our years here on earth we neglect and ignore our soul. Yet, it is the soul that gives life to the body, which we constantly take care of and even adore. Adoration (worship) or "sarkolatreia" (worship of flesh), has become an obsession for many people today. One only has to view how far people have gone to keep the body fit, attractive, youthful, and in good form. How many millions of dollars are spent each year to exercise the body, for plastic surgery, for countless diets and special food, for cosmetics, for surgeries to correct or improve the imperfections of the body, to prevent the body from aging, etc.? We can agree, however, that we do almost nothing to meet the needs of our soul. The soul thrives by prayer, by the sacraments, by worshiping God, by virtue, by love, by kindness, by compassion, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, by maintaining communion with its Creator, by God’s forgiveness of sins committed, by abiding by the commandments of Christ, by loving our fellow man, by reconciliation with our enemies, and by being good stewards with the gifts and talents that God has bestowed upon us.
The soul’s greatest enemy is the evil one. This evil hunter sets out to capture the soul, to corrupt it, and to kill it. It uses all kinds of means to deceive it and sets snares to capture it. If he is successful in his pursuit, the soul is enslaved and becomes his victim. However, this cannot be accomplished without our cooperation or without our consent. The evil one cannot, thanks be to God, force one to surrender to him. Jesus destroyed the power of the devil and therefore needs our willing capitulation. The most frequent weapon used against man is temptation, with which he is able to to beguile and entrap us. There is no reason to fear him and his demonic angels knowing that we have God with us and His holy Angels to protect us.
We pray thus: "… Be compassionate, O Lord, and make not as example of me, the sinner, but
deal with me, according to Thy Mercy, and let these Holy Things be for me unto HEALING and
PURIFICATION and ENLIGHTENMENT and PROTECTION and SALVATION and SANCTIFICATION
of SOUL and BODY; unto the turning away from evil practice and imaginings and DIABOLICAL
ACTIVITY WORKING SECRETLY IN MY MEMBERS; UNTO LOVE AND COURAGE TOWARD
THEE… ( A prayer said before receiving Holy Communion written by Saint Basil the Great).
It is the Christian’s responsibility to keep his/her soul pure and chaste. I believe that we all agree that there is no one without sin, even if we were to live for one day. As a matter of fact, everyone sins constantly in thought, word or deed. Sin stains and injures our soul. Sin corrupts and poisons the soul. Sin is a disease, an evil virus which threatens the very life of the soul. When we sin, the remedy is repentance and forgiveness from God. He is the only one that can forgive, heal, and restore us to spititual health. Also, there are other sacraments that are accessible to us for our cleansing, forgiveness, and healing. These are the sacraments of Holy Unction and especially the Divine Eucharist.
There are two kinds of death: the biological death, the separation of the soul from the body, and the spiritual death, the separation of the soul from God. The biological death is our natural death, however, spiritual death is brought about by our own apostasy and rejection of God. When one revolts against God and becomes knowingly disobedient to His commandments, he invites condemnation upon his/her soul. When a believer continues to sin with arrogance and defiance to God’s Teachings, he/she drives the grace of the Holy Spirit away. Whether we know it or not, through our unbelief and sin we become pray to the dark and evil enemies.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes the following
Prayer offered before the reception of Holy Communion:
"Though my lips with sin are filthy,
Though my heart is foul with evil,
Though my tongue is all uncleanness,
Though my soul with dirt is blackened,
Yet, dear Christ accept my pleading…
I confess myself a sinner
Worse than the poor Fallen Woman…"
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Life-Giving Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George