Thursday, June 16, 2011

Overcoming Passions

Overcoming our passions is one of our biggest challenges along our path to theosis.  Saint Theophan the Recluse assures us that they do not have autonomy.  This means we do have control over them if we choose.

We do not have to give up our humanity or our personality. 
Saint Theophan says,
They have entered into our nature and can be driven out without making a person something other than a human being.  On the contrary, once they have been driven out, they leave a person a real human being, whereas their presence ruins a person, making him into something that is in many respects worse than an animal.
So what is the source of these things we call passions?

Saint Theophan says,
All of these (the passions) come from the desire to please one's self, selfishness and pride; and they are sustained by these.
Our challenge is to do as Christ says, deny ourselves, that is, put our faith in God as the real doer and do not focus on our own ego as the center of the world.  Once we are able to do this all the passions will lose their power over us.  They become tendencies we can objectively observe come and go. We can smile at them and willfully ignore their call for action.  This is often called detachment or a state of dispassion.

It is as Peter tells us, "Be sober, be vigilant" (1 Peter 5:8), or as is reported in Mark "Take head, watch and pray" (Mark 13:33).

Saint Theophan says,
To watch and be vigilant means not to sleep, not to give yourself over to negligence, but instead to keep the soul and body in a state of alertness.  To be sober means not to put your heart in anything but God.... To take heed means to watch carefully, so that nothing bad appears in the heart.
Mastering our passions is an never ending struggle for a Christian.  As we become watchful and our faith in God becomes stronger,  we will receive strength from the Holy Spirit to not respond to the desires that continually tempt us in our daily lives.  We will lose our attachments to things and thoughts and learn to practice love as Christ has commanded us to do to be worthy to be with Him in His kingdom. We will lose our self centeredness and always think of the struggles and needs of others more able to show compassion even for our enemies. The is how we become God centered and more like Christ.


Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp 227 - 230

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