My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST THE PASSIONS
"Passion is properly something that lies hidden for a long time
in the soul and by its very presence it takes on the character of
a habit, until the soul of its own accord, clings to it with affection."
(The Ladder of Divine Ascent)
"The most exact of the spiritual Fathers point to another more subtle notion, something they call PARARRIPISMOS, or DISTURBANCE of the mind. What happens is this. In a moment, without a word being spoken or an image presented, a sudden passionate urge lays hold of the victim. It comes faster than anything in the physical world and is swifter and more indiscernible than any spirit. It makes its appearance in the soul by a simple memory, which is unconnected with anything, independent of time and inexpressible, and in some cases comes without the person himself realizing the fact…the soul is led to omit a definite sin of unchastity without any notion or evil thought." (The Ladder of Divine Ascent)
"Some passions enter the body by way of the soul, and some work in the opposite way, the latter affecting people living in the world, the former assailing those living the monastic life and, hence, lacking stimulus from the outside. All I can say here about it is that if you look for wisdom among evil men, you most certainly will not find it (cf. Proverbs 14:6) [Saint John Climacus]
The Orthodox Christian believer is in constant vigilance and is aware that he or she is in constant spiritual warfare. The evil one does not need to sleep, rest, eat, or drink and he is always on the prowl to find new victims to consume. The evil one, the devil, and his evil angels explore us individually, looking for our weaknesses. Our evil enemy offers appealing visions to our eyes, music to our ears, and to each of our senses setting forth whatever might tempt us to sin. The holy Apostle Peter warns us about the evil one and his evil intentions, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9).
There are eight passions: GLUTTONY, LUST, AVARICE, ANGER, DESPONDENCY, DESPAIR, VAINGLORY, AND PRIDE. The majority of Christians have a great challenge ahead of them to avoid the passions and by the grace of God overcome them and be victorious. "The best and most successful struggle takes place when the thought is cut off by means of an unceasing prayer at the very start. For, as the Holy Fathers have said, whoever opposes the INITIAL THOUGHT, i.e. the provocation, will stop its subsequent disposition at once. Saint Hesychius of Jerusalem (5th century), a disciple of Saint Gregory the Theologian states: "Our mind, being something of light and innocent, easily gives itself over to daydreaming and is unrestrainedly subject to evil thoughts (logismoi), if it does not have in itself such a concept which, like a monarch over the passions, holds it constantly under control and bridles it."
Saint Hesychius continues and says, "Many of our thoughts come from demonic suggestions, and from these derive our evil outward actions. If with the help of Jesus Christ we instantly quell the thought, we will avoid its corresponding outward action. We will enrich ourselves with the sweetness of divine knowledge and so will find God, Who is everywhere. Holding the mirror of the intellect firmly towards God, we will be illuminated constantly as pure glass is by the sun. Then finally the intellect, having reached the limit of its desires, will in Him cease from all ther contemplation."
It is necessary, my dear friends, that we participate as frequently as possible in the Mysterion of Repentance and Confession. That we have a spiritual father who will help us in our spiritual struggle and offer sound spiritual advice and guidance. A spiritual father who assumes the responsibility before God to protect us from all the evil machinations and traps. It is no different than going to our physician and seeking from him not only a diagnosis of our condition or illness but to offer us the remedy for health, that is spiritual health. We must be humble enough to believe what our Lord says, "for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We are too weak, our faith is anemic and frail, and many more are confused and afraid. At Confession, we need to be honest, forthright, remorseful, sad, repentant, and open to the advice of our spiritual father.
Our spiritual father is not someone to be afraid of but our friend, someone to trust implicitly, who always prays for us and for God’s forgiveness and mercy. A person on his own is not strong enough to confront evil temptations and threats. We need the power of God because "not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5). Ultimately human power is not sufficient for our salvation, we must depend utterly upon the Almighty God.
In recent years, however, there are dark powers that have deliberately attempted to undermine the Mysteria (Sacraments) of our Holy Church, especially the Sacraments of the Divine Eucharist and Repentance and Confession. These dark powers seek to create confusion, fear, doubt, and a lack of trust. It is an outright assault on the Sacraments and the Office of the Priesthood. We must reject them and expose them to what they are, evil. The father confessor, usually the parish priest, is not there to hurt his spiritual children but to help, guide, direct, and offer compassionate and loving consul. Those who attempt to put a wedge between the spiritual father and his spiritual children are sinister and very dangerous.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God