Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spiritual Warfare I

Our spiritual life is one where we continually struggle against our "self-opinon and proud mindedness." It is a struggle aimed at breaking our will so we can dedicate ourselves to God and live in a manner where we only do His will.  We have to shift from a worldly orientation to one that is oriented towards God's kingdom.  It is a shift from a world filled with temptation and evil to one that is oriented only to doing good.  The task is to tame the intellect and free it so it can be directed by divine grace.  It is an inner struggle involving our outer actions.  It's a battle of grand proportions called spiritual warfare.


Saint Theophan tells us that the attacks we must deal with are soul-related and bodily powers.
1. In the body: the source of passions is pleasing the flesh...There is sexual lust, gluttony, love of pleasure, sloth, comfort, adulterous feelings, loquacity, absent -mindedness, restlessness, will fulness in everything, unseemly laughter, idle talk, sleepiness, daydreaming, craving the pleasant and all manner of pleasing the flesh in lust.
2. In soul: a) In the mental part––opinion, exclusive belief in one's own intellect, criticism, attacking the mind of God, doubts, puffing up and arrogance, curiosity, mental plundering, straying thoughts. 
b) In the sensual part––passions that shatter peace and tranquility of heart, or various kinds of pleasantness and unpleasantness: wrath, envy, hatred, anger revenge, judgment, contempt, vain glory, ambition, pride, boredom, sadness, sorrow, depression, joy, cheerfulness, fears, hopes, expectation.


How do we get at the root of these?  This is our challenge.  Saint Theophan says that the source of all these passions is self love. At their root, he says, are pleasure, covetousness and pride.  The way to conquer them is to "cut off pleasure by self-directed wrath, covetousness with unacquisitiveness, and pride with humility."


The main challenge is to maintain an awareness of the attacks so we can counteract them. The main enemy is our thoughts. Our actions are always preceded by a thought.  This is the battle ground.  The pattern of our actions is "the onrush of thoughts, contemplation, delight in it, desire, passion, attraction, resolve, and then the deed."  Therefore Saint Theophan says, "all the ascetic's attention should be directed inside himself––at thoughts, desires, passions and attractions.  It should be most of all, incidentally, be directed at thoughts, for the heart and the will are not so mercurial as thoughts; and passions and desires rarely attack themselves––they are most often born of thoughts.  From this we can make a rule: cut off thoughts and you will cut off everything."


The battle ground has been identified and next we will deal with Saint Theophan's rules for this spiritual warfare.


ref: Path To Salvation, pp 280 - 289

7 comments:

  1. It seems that a person needs to give some thought to following St. Theophan's rule of cutting off thoughts.

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  2. Walking the path to theosis is a wonderful way to teach the oneness that God desires for each and every one of us.
    John 17

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  3. Thanks T Paul
    " 20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.""

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  4. Superb website! Just 2 Sundays ago I used John 17:20-21 for a Catechumen class I taught on Prayer and Orthodox Life. It seems to be the most powerful way to demonstrate God's desire for us to share in the love that binds the Trinity. He desires that we attain to the joy of being in communion with him, Theosis. To do this we are called to conform our minds to God's will through a life of worship, prayer, confession, repentance, forgiveness, communion, fasting, spiritual awareness, ministry, witnessing, stewardship, bible reading, spiritual reading, retreats, personal relationships and applying it all to every aspect of our lives. This is the orthodox life, a life in Christ, the Everlasting Life.

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  5. Well said John. Thanks for the comments and your participation.

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