Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Faith: The Starting Point to Perfection

Is it enough to develop self-control?  Why do the Church fathers put such emphasis on Faith?  Why do Christians see limitations in the Buddhist and Hindu practices of meditation and ascetic practices?  Why?  Because without faith we cannot act on divine grace. It is grace that saves, leads to a virtuous life and promises eternal life. We can have a still mind gained from some meditation practice, but be dead to Spirit.  The foundation of a Christian life is faith.


We begin our Orthodox Spiritual journey with a belief as taught in the Gospel.  This  is consummated though Baptism.  Then this belief begins to be transformed into faith.  So first is our choice to believe, then Baptism and then develops faith.


Fr Dimitru Staniloae says,
Before starting on the way to purification, it is necessary for man to strengthen his faith received at Baptism, by will.... It can't be strengthened except by beginning to think more often of Him... The thought of God is made real or maintained by a short and frequent remembrance of Him, made with piety, with the feeling that we depend on Him...
Callistus and Ignatius Xanthopoulos tell us in Directions to Hesychasts,
"The beginning of every action pleasing to God is a call with faith on the life-saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as He himself said: 'Without me you can do nothing' (John 15:5)... they should force themselves in every possible way to live, breathe, sleep, wake up, eat and drink with Him and in Him.
This is important based on the way passions are aroused.  Before the arousal of a passion gains power we must intervene.  This is where the remembrance of the Name of Jesus can help us avert the action of passion.  It is a way to strengthen our will.


Orthodox Christians have the doctrine of uncreated energies of God.  Faith is based on more than the will, but includes the uncreated energy of God that penetrates the mind as light.  There is a synergy that takes place between our reason and will and the energies of God or Grace.


Fr. Dimitru says,
On the one hand in faith there is an element of the strengthening of will and reason, of their stimulation, on the other hand, the will contributes to the emphasis on the evidence from faith produced by grace.  One grows on the other in a mutual way."
Faith develops and must be cultivated in the beginning.


Fr, Dimitru says,
In time faith grows to a very brilliant evidence.  But it grows in the measure in which we obey the commands and gain the virtues, because through them we show that we feel God and we also open ourselves more to Him.
To nurture faith, increase our remembrance of God though our consciously bringing Him to our consciousness through out our daily activities.  Repeat often, "Kirye Eleison" or "Lord have mercy," make your cross, say the Jesus prayer or recite to yourself the Lord's Prayer.  This is the first step.  Force yourself to remember God at all times. Have patience and faith will grow.


Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp124 - 129

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