Saturday, January 9, 2010

Christian Life is Zeal?

"Christian life is zeal and the strength to remain in communion with God by means of an active fulfillment of His holy will, according to our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Grace of God, to the glory of His most holy name."
Saint Theophan the Recluse 

If Christian life is "zeal", what is it?  Saint Theophan says it comes from a "communion with God."  It is something that may remain hidden from us in the beginning.  It is an inner feeling of wanting to please God above all else in a Christian way.  When we have this feeling we can say that our Christian life begins.

Christian life is not about obeying rules or following traditions.  Although both of these may be of help to us.  It is about a true love of God based on an inner relationship with Him (consciously known or unknown) that constantly nudges us to want to please Him.  It's an inner drive. A force that motivates us.

This is a quite different motivation than what we get from all the self-help approaches.  It is not a self-induced motivation that comes from setting goals and then achieving them.  It's not about visioning a better future and having this guide us.  It's not motivation that comes from any form of self-affirmation.  It's not one that comes from the silence or spiritual experience of a far eastern meditation technique.  It's a force from God Himself.

Jesus likens it to fire.  He says, 
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Lk 12:49)
"For everyone will be seasoned with fire," (Mark 9:49)

Paul also describes it as fire and as being fervent in spirit, or the call of God.
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire" (1Thess 5:19)
"not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;" (Rom 12:11)
"forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. " (Phil 3:13-14)

He also advises us to pursue with all our effort to obtain it.
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it." (1Cor 9:24)

Saint Theophan advises,
This means that in Christian life the result of the fervor of zeal is a certain quickness and liveliness of spirit, with which people undertake God-pleasing works, trampling upon oneself and willingly offering as a sacrifice to God every kind of labor, without sparing oneself. 

Ref: Path to Salvation pp 27-29


  1. Beautiful Fr! St Isaac the Syrian, in Homily 51 discusses "Zeal", what are your thoughts?
    + + +
    "A zealous man never achieves peace of mind. But he who is a stranger to peace is a stranger to joy.

    If, as it is said, peace of mind is perfect health, and zeal is opposed to peace, then the man who has a wrong zeal is ill with a grievous disease. Though you presume, a man, to send forth your zeal against infirmities of other men, you have expelled the health of your own soul; be assiduous, rather, in labouring for your own soul's health.

    If you wish to heal the infirm, know that the sick are in greater need of loving care than of rebuke.

    Therefore, although you do not help others, you expend labour to bring grievous illness upon yourself. Zeal is not reckoned among men to be a form of wisdom, but as one of the illnesses of the soul, namely narrow-mindedness, and deep ignorance. the begininning of divine wisdom is clemency and gentleness, which arise from greatness of soul and the bearing of the infirmities of men. For, he says, 'Let the strong bear the infirmities of the weak', and 'Restore him that has fallen in the spirit of meekness.' The Apostle numbers peace and patience among the fruits of the Spirit."

  2. You make a good point.
    Check this notion of indiscreet zeal.

    Zeal as Theophan describes it is an inner zeal to be with God and do His will. Its a strong inner feeling, energy, priority. Action needs to be according to His teachings. for Theophan the opposite to zeal is "slumber of sin" where we do not have the desire to overcome our sinfulness and change our behavior.
    He would say peace of mind without zeal is a dangerous condition. A clear mind, an unhurried mind, a focused mind pointed toward God would be peace of mind. The zeal is the inner energy that goes with faith.