SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE AND GROWTH

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIS IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE AND
GROWTH

Saint John Cassian states, "Our second struggle is against the demon of unchastity and the desire of the flesh, a desire which begins to trouble man from the time of his youth. This harsh struggle has to be fought in both soul and body, and not simply in the soul, as is the case with other faults. We, therefore, have to fight it on two fronts.

"Bodily fasting alone is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity. It must be accomplished by CONTRITION OF HEART, INTENSE PRAYER TO GOD, FREQUENT MEDITATION ON THE SCRIPTURES, TOIL AND MANUAL LABOR. These are able to check the restless impulses of the soul and to recall it from its shameful fantasies. HUMILITY OF SOUL more than everything else, however, and WITHOUT IT NO ONE CAN OVERCOME UNCHASTITY. In the first place, then, we must take the utmost care TO GUARD THE HEART FROM BASE THOUGHTS, for, according to the Lord, ‘our of the heart cometh forth evil thoughts, MURDERS, ADULTERIES, FORNICATION, THEFTS, FALSE TESTIMONIES, BLASPEMIES’ (Matthew 15:19).

PROVIDENCE is, according to the God-bearing Fathers, the care that comes from God to the things that are. They also define it thus: PROVIDENCE IS THE WILL OF GOD THROUGH WHICH EVERYTHING THAT IS RECEIVES SUITABLE DIRECTION…

It follows from the common notions that God is good and beyond goodness and ETERNALLY WILLS WHAT IS GOOD FOR EVERYTHING and that He is wise and beyond wisdom, or rather the SOURCE OF WISDOM, and certainly KNOWS EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, and that He is powerful, o rather INFINITELY POWERFUL, and certainly brings about in a Divinely fitting way in everything what is known to Him and what He wills FOR THE GOOD AND WHAT IS FITTING. For God IS GOOD and WISE AND POWERFUL, and pervades everything visible and invisible both universals and particulars, both small and great, indeed everything that possesses existence in any way whatever. He is not diminished by the boundlessness of His Goodness and Wisdom and Power, and conserves everything in accordance with the LOGOS of its being, both in relation to themselves and to others and in accordance with the indissoluble harmony and permanence that relates everything one to another.

Saint Makarios says, "The devil TRIES TO DISRUPT OUR HOPE IN CHRIST AND OUR LOVE FOR Him in a thousand ways. Inwardly he brings AFFLICTION ON THE SOUL BY MEANS OF EVIL SPIRITS, OR HE FILLS IT WITH FOUL AND IMMORAL THOUGHTS BY STIRRING UP ITS MEMORY OF FORMER SINS, so as to make it grow sluggish and TO DESPAIR OF EVER ATTAINING SALVATION. His aim IS TO CHEAT THE SOUL INTO THINKING THAT IT GENERATES THESE THOUGHTS OF ITS OWN ACCORD and that they are not sown in it maliciously by an ALIEN SPIRIT. Or else INFLICTS BODILY SUFFERING AND BRINGS ON US VILIFICATION AND TRIBULATION THROUGH AGENCY OF OTHER PEOPLE. But the more he shoots his fiery arrows at us, the more WE MUST ENKINDLE OUR HOPE IN GOD, KNOWING WITH CERTAINTY THAT HE DELIBERATELY PERMITS SOULS THAT LONG FOR HIM TO SUFFER THESE THINGS, SO AS TO DISCOVER IF THEY TRULY LOVE HIM."

Saint Gregory of Sinai states: "Unless your life and actions are accompanied by A SENSE OF GRIEF, you cannot endure the incandescence of stillness. If with this sense of grief you meditate–before they come to pass–on the many terrors that await us prior to and after death you will achieve both PATIENCE AND HUMILITY, the twin foundations of stillness. Without them, your efforts to attain stillness will always be accompanied by APATHY and SELF-CONCEIT."

Saint Makarios of Egypt writes: "It is altogether impossible to attain the Holy Spirit UNLESS YOU ALIENATE YOURSELF FROM ALL THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD AND DEDICATE YOURSELF TO THE PURSUIT OF CHRIST’S LOVE. The intellect must divest itself of every material concern and give its attention solely to achieving this one goal, thus becoming worthy OF UNITING IN ONE SPIRIT WITH CHRIST. As Saint Paul writes: "He who is joined to the Lord IS ONE SPIRIT" [1 Corinthians 6:17]. The soul that is wholly attached to some worldly thing like riches or glory or natural affection IS NOT ABLE TO ESCAPE AND TRANSCEND THE DARKNESS OF THE POWERS OF EVIL."

Furthermore, Saint Makarios of Egypt says, "One MUST GUARD THE SOUL AND NOT ALLOW IT TO COMMUNE WITH IMPURE PERNICIOUS THOUGHTS. Just as the body is defiled through intercourse with another body, so THE SOUL IS CORRUPTED THROUGH COUPLING WITH EVIL AND POLLUTED THOUGHTS, ASSENTING TO THEM, AND UNITING WITH THEM. Not simply thoughts of cunning and unchastity, but OF EVERY VICE: UNBELIEF, GUILE, SELF-ESTEEM, ANGER, ENVY, CONTENTIOUSNESS, and so on. That is what Saint Paul means when he says: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, bringing to perfection HOLINESS IN THE FEAR OF GOD" (2 Corinthians 7:1). For corruption and unchastity work also through SHAMELESS THOUGHTS IN THE HIDDEN PLACES OF THE SOUL. We read: ‘If anyone corrupt the temple of God, God shall bring this same one to corruption; FOR THE TEMPLE OF GOD IS HOLY, WHICH YOU ARE" (1 Corinthians 3:17). Therefore, the person who corrupts his soul and intellect by assenting to shameless thoughts and uniting with them IS LIABLE TO PUNISHMENT. Just as one should guard the body against visible sins, so one should guard the soul, WHICH IS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, AGAINST SHAMELESS THOUGHTS. Saint Paul states: "I myself betrothed you to one Husband, in order to present you as a pure virgin to the Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). So, in the Scriptures, we hear: "KEEP THINE HEART WITH THE UTMOST CARE; FOR OUT OF THESE ARE THE ISSUES OF LIFE" (Proverbs 4:23). And again, "FROWARD THOUGHTS SEPARATE FROM GOD" (Wisdom of Solomon 1:3).

Saint Maximos the Confessor writes: "Consequently, as one receives wisdom, another knowledge, another faith and another something else from among the gifts enumerated by the great Apostle, in like manner one receives through the Spirit IN PROPORTION TO HIS FAITH the gift of love which is perfect and immediate in relation to God, having no trace of anything material in it, and someone else receives through the same Spirit the gift of perfect love for his neighbor."

Saint Makarios of Egypt says, "Love bears with all things, patiently, accepts ALL THINGS; LOVE NEVER FAILS. This phrase ‘never fails,’ makes it clear that, unless they have been granted total deliverance from the passions through the most complete and active love of the Spirit, even those who have received spiritual gifts are still liable to falter: THEY ARE STILL IN DANGER AND MUST STRUGGLE IN FEAR AGAINST THE ATTACKS LAUNCHED ON THEM BY THE SPIRITS OF EVIL. Saint Paul shows that not to be in danger of falling or liable to passion is such a lofty state that the tongues of Angels, prophecy, all knowledge, and gifts of healing are as nothing compared to it."

On Struggling with the Passions

SPIRITUAL WARFARE is not directed against things or their images, but THE PASSIONS AND THE DEMONS WHO INSTIGATE THEM. Saint Maximos points out that "a thing, a representation, a passion all differ. A thing is, for instance, a man, woman, gold, and so on; a representation is a mere recollection of one of these things; a passion is unreasonable affection or senseless hate for one of the foregoing. …the God-loving mind wars against neither things nor representations, BUT AGAINST THE PASSIONS joined with these representations. Thus, he does not war against the woman, nor against him who offends him, nor against their images, BUT AGAINST THE PASSIONS THAT RE JOINED WITH THE IMAGES. …The monk’s whole war is against the demons, that he may separate the passions from the representations; otherwise, he will not be able to look on things with detachment." (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

_______

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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