Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus
Wishing one and all a very blessed and happy Easter (Pascha). I have decided to read some writings of our Holy Fathers and coincidentally my hands came upon a book written by a father from the Russian Orthodox Church – St. Theophan the Recluse. This series of my blogs will be from one of his books – The Path of Salvation.
We all understand that our life on earth is a sojourn towards our Heavenly Kingdom and the main task on this way to salvation is to live in the spirit of Christ. But it is very difficult to answer all the questions and so it is very much necessary to explain nearly every step of this way.
Man’s final goal is communion with God, and the way to this goal lies through faith in Christ, together with constantly keeping His commandments with the assistance of God’s grace.
It is very easy for a person to say that “This is the way! Follow it!” But how is one to follow this path? Mostly because people have no desire to move in this direction. Their souls, pulled by one passion or another, stubbornly refuses every gentle invitation and every call. The soul averts its gaze from God and does not want to look at Him. The law of Christ does not conform to the soul’s liking. The soul does not even have disposition even to hear this law.
Therefore, the questions that will be addressed through these blogs are:
1. How does one reach the point where the desire in born to move towards God by way of Christ?
2. What does one do so that the Law imprints itself, not just a ink on paper, but as the Spirit of the Living God imprints itself on the living flesh of the heart?
3. How can a man act according to this Law willingly and unconstrainedly, not as though like a burden, but proceeding from his deepest nature?
If someone has turned towards God, and has come to love His Law, is this enough to ensure the success of the journey? Will the journey be successful merely because we desire it? No.
In addition to the desire, it is necessary to have the strength and the ability to act, that is active wisdom or the practical knowledge of how to act (praxis). Whoever enters this true way of pleasing God, whoever begins with the help of grace to strive towards God in the way of Christ’s Law, will inevitably be threatened by the danger of losing his way at the crossroads, of going astray and perishing while under the illusion that he is working out his salvation. These crossroads are unavoidable because of our sinful inclinations and the disorder of our faculties, even in those who have accepted Christ. These sinful inclinations and disordered faculties are capable of presenting things to a man in a false light, and deceiving and destroying the man.
Moreover, there is flattery from Satan, who is reluctant to leave his victims. Whenever a person goes to the light of Christ, he pursues him and sets every manner of trap in order to catch him again. He prowls like a lion waiting for its prey. Hence, the spiritual traveler who already has the desire to follow the way to the Lord must be informed of all the possible deviations, so that he may be warned beforehand, may see the dangers that are to be encountered, and may learn how to avoid them.
These unavoidable things, which are encountered on the way to salvation and are common for everyone, require special guiding principles that are indispensable for the Christian life. These principles define how to acquire the saving desire for communion with God, the fervent desire to remain in communion with Him, and how to come to God safely through all the crossroads that must be negotiated on the way and at every stage on the way. In other words, how to begin to live the Christian life and how, having begun, to perfect oneself in it.
These guiding principles must take the man who is separated from God, turn him towards God, and then being him into God’s Presence. They must show to the man the practical development of the Christian life in all its manifestations and levels, from its very beginning to the end. That is how the Christian life germinates, develops, and becomes mature. In other words, we must give an account of the unfolding of the active life for every Christian, to show how he must act in every possible case so that he may stand firm in his calling.
When comparing the gradual growth of plants to that of a Christian, the growth of the plant is easy and unconstrained, while it is not so with a Christian. He rather has a hard struggle with himself, intense and sorrowful, and he must dispose his faculties towards things which they have no natural inclination. Just like a warrior, he must win every inch of land, even his own, from his enemies by means of warfare. He must use the two-edged sword of self-constraint and self-coercion. And finally, after long hours of hard labor and exertions, Christian principles emerge victorious, reducing without oppression. These principles bestow upon man the bliss of those who are pure in heart, so that the man can see God in himself in the most sincere communion with Him.
Such is the condition in us of the Christian life. It has three stages, which we can describe as follows:
1. Turning to God, which is conversation
2. Purification or self-amendment, and
In the first stage, a man turns from darkness to light, from the reign of Satan to God. In the second, he cleanses the dwelling Chamber of his heart from every impurity, in order to receive Christ, the Lord, who is coming to him. In the third, the Lord comes, makes His home in the heart of a man and sups with him. This is the state of blessed communion with God-the goal of all ascetic labors and endeavors.
To show the way to salvation means that we describe all these things and define the rules which goverm this operation. Full guidance in this matter takes a man on the crossroads of sin, leads him through the fiery way of cleansing, and raises him up to the highest pitch of spiritual perfection attainable, to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. In other words, this guidance must show us:
1. How Christian life begins in us
2. How it is perfected – that is, how it grows and is strengthened, and
3. How the Christian life appears in its full perfection.
As we start this journey of writing and reading, I ask you all to keep me and my writing in your prayers. May this series enlighten us and help us to walk on the way to salvation.
Your brother in Christ