Monday, June 20, 2011

Are We Capable of Guarding the Heart Against Passions?

It is one thing to read the teachings of the Church Fathers about how to control our passions and quite another thing to actually do it.  When we experience anger we know that our passions are active and not under control.  This is also true with all kinds of lusts we experience, whether they be of a sexual nature or for material things.  So is it realistic for us to believe we can actually gain control over these passions?

Saint Theophan the Recluse tells us, YES.
Here is how he puts it:
So long as the soul does not turn to God, it is dark inside; it lives to lease itself.  When it turns to God, then light enters into it, and thought about God, like a little sun, lights up everything inside.
So,how do we turn our souls toward God?  The culprit is our self-centeredness, our ego sense that we are the center of all that matters.  We believe are in control and do not see the need for any help in exercising the free will God has gifted us with.  We are our own masters.  This is our basic problem that we must overcome.  We must learn to deny ourselves.

Saint Theophan continues,
A person who has turned to God, who denies himself and who has set out to please God, can see for himself what is displeasing to God and immediately observes something that does.
Once we learn to deny this ego-centerdness that abides in us, then we will gain insight, light, and grace from God to help us see what lurks in the darkness of our soul ready to attack. 

Saint Theophan says, 
Set out to please God without self-pity, and by this you drive out the soul's darkness and receive illumination in your spirit.
One indication of our readiness to turn our soul towards God is the kind of life we lead.  Have we submitted ourselves to the teachings of the Church?  Do we know the Scriptures and read them regularly?  Do we attend the Divine Liturgy regularly and prepare for participation in Holy Communion?  Have we been to Confession recently?  Do we follow the fasting guidelines of the Church? Do we show concern for those who are disadvantaged in some way? Do we have a spiritual father who we seek spiritual guidance from and follow? And finally, do we have a daily prayer life out side of Church services?  All these are essential elements of an Orthodox Way of life.  Our ability to follow the teachings of the Church, even in an outward way, is an indication of our degree of self-pride and self-centeredness.  We will remain in darkness forever if we continue to make up our own approach to our worship of God.  But once we are able surrender to His Church and do so, then we will begin to gain inner light that enables us to guard our heart against the passions.

See the "Ten Point Program For Orthodox Life" and order the free 32 page booklet.

Reference: The Spiritual Life, p 230


  1. Thank you Fr Dn Charles for this post. I had a conversation about marriage and divorce yesterday. My claim was that if people truly lived the teachings of the Church, the divorce rate would be drastically reduced. This post contains all the reasons why it IS possible to live a life in Christ, a truly transformed life.

  2. Thanks for your comment Justison. Marriage is a difficult spiritual path as it requires that we do overcome our ego-centeredness. The key to your comment is "IF people truly lived." You are right the it IS possible. We have been married for 47 years now. One key thing is to pray together. Once spiritual lives diverge then there is problems. But continually growing together leads to a true union of soles and from that a readiness to be joined with God is a similar selfless way.


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