Monday, November 16, 2009

United with Grace


Often in our adult years we forget about the incredible gift we have received at our Baptism. I know in my own young adult years my thoughts and cares were all about my own ability to be successful in my career, to marry, and to have a family.  This was about all I thought about.  But as I got older, I wondered about the purpose of my life and began to think about things of a spiritual nature.  This is a natural course of life.

It is in Baptism that we are united with Divine grace. St.Theophan says, "During Holy Baptism, some new element, a supernatural one, is added to our composition, and it will remain inside us hidden and secretly acting."1 Once it has been implanted it's up to us to have it permeate all our actions so that it is no longer hidden but becomes outwardly visible. This requires our attention and effort. When we meet such a person who has undertaken this work, we feel a presence, an uplifting force, a warmth and some kind of moral energy that comes forth from them.  This is the nature of a holy person.  This is the potential we all have.

This grace we have received is like yeast in bread.  A little is added to the ingredients, but it needs to be worked though all the dough to have an good end product. This kneading process requires the most effort of the whole process.  Saint Theophan says,
"We receive the grace of God through Baptism in our childhood.  From that moment, it begins to act within us and carry out its action, in the hope that when we reach adulthood, we ourselves, through the decision of our own will, will undertake zealously to do everything for our salvation."2
It is important that we do take action, because, if we don't, this grace we have received will totally abandon us. We will then only have the power of our own self-will.  But if we make the choice to nurture it and work to have our life conform to it, then it will form a strong center within us.  This spiritual center is often referred to as the "heart" by our Church Fathers.  It is from this center that we can draw on for our spiritual rebirth and development.

Saint Theophan gives us some good guidance on how to rekindle this spiritual gift we have hidden away.  He give us several parables to examine.  The parable of the talent (Luke 19:11-27) and the one about the treasure hidden in the field and the merchant who is seeking goodly pearls (Matt 13:44-46).  From these he draws what is expected of us.
1. Acknowledge the presence of the gift of grace within us.
2. Comprehend that the value of the grace for us si so great, that it is more precious than life itself, so that without it life is not even life
3. Desire with all our strength to adapt this grace to ourselves, and adapt ourselves to is, or, to put it another way, desire to imbue our entire nature with it and to become enlightened and sanctified.
4. Resolve to achieve this through the matter itself
5. Carry this decision into reality, putting everything else aside, or, having removed one's heart form everything, give it over to the full action of Divine grace.
When these five acts have taken place within us, then comes the beginning our our internal rebirth, after which, if we continue to act in the same spirit unflaggingly, inner rebirth and illumination will grow quickly or slowly depending on our labor, but most importantly, depending on our forgetfulness of self. 3


Quotes from The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It, by Saint Theophan the Recluse

1 The Spiritual life, p 122
2 ibid, p 126
3 ibid p 135

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