Thursday, August 11, 2011

Growing Our Faith

The spiritual life is one that is ongoing.  It is not the result of a one time event like a simple declaration of faith as practiced in so many Protestant Churches.  It is a commitment to a growing faith that we are continually working on to deepen our relationship with God. It is an effort involving faith plus our own efforts. It is like any relationship we have.  To have a close friend we have put our own effort into the development of the relationship. The same is true with our relationship with God.

The Spiritual life involves an effort on our part to discipline our bodies and control our passions.  This we do with the help of God's grace, but we must act to cooperate.  Our thoughts must be controlled because we are bombarded with temptations continually.  These can come from nowhere.  Our minds are very active.  Left uncontrolled they become like a wild horse which is impossible to ride.  Such a horse must be trained to ride. The same is true with our mind. As we train our mind, we become more watchful, the wildness is tamed and we can, with careful thought, learn to make choices which are congruent with the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In our efforts we must not expect some grand transformation where everything changes and we become virtuous in all our actions.  It is a step by step process that also involves God's grace.  It is with a close relationship with God that we work toward our salvation which is our union with God forever.

Abba John the Dwarf says,
"I desire to possess every virtue, if only to a small degree."
 He is advising us to give thanks to the Lord for each little step we take.  This is the Way.

He says,
"When a man decides to build a house, he gathers many different materials for construction.  So too must we acquire all virtues, if only to a small degree."
We will not obtain all the virtues at once.  But as we are able to control our passions we will find that we will become more loving as we conquer each one.  We may find we become more patient and with patience we no longer respond with anger.  As we control our anger we find our relationships become more loving.  Then we are able to help others.  It is a ongoing process that never ends.  One virtue leads us to another. Our aim is to become perfect as our Lord directs us.

This path demands more than our self-effort.  Through prayer, repentance, participation in the sacraments, and practicing the virtues we grow. We must seek God's grace to lead us along this path. With a mind under control, we can then follow His lead. It is a way of life lived in the context of the Orthodox Church that leads us to an intimate relationship with God as we become His true servant.

Reference: The Spiritual Life, p 270

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