Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Balance

One of the common errors we make is to think in either/or or black&white terms. For example we may read from one of the desert fathers about giving up all that is of this world and to only concentrate on God. If this notion is taken literally we will create great problems in our life by ignoring the reality of our integral existence. We are physical and spiritual beings. We cannot separate one from the other. It is equally wrong to ignore spirit and to live according to our physical needs alone. This is the most common of errors as our physical needs and passions seem to be the stronger and difficult to manage. What is essential for our spiritual well- being is to balance the physical realities of our daily life with our spiritual needs. 

How do we best do this? This is where discipline and balance are essential. We have to be attentive to both body and spirit. We need to pray and we need to eat. We need to set aside time for exercise and for worship. We can't let one dimension of our life  out weigh the other. We must care for our whole being all the time. 

Saint Seraphim of Sarov says the following:

One should go by the middle path: ‘turn not aside to the right hand nor to the left’ (Pr. 4:26); and one should render unto the spirit what is spiritual, and unto the body what is bodily; for the maintenance of temporal life, one should render what is necessary, and for life in society, that which is lawfully demanded by it, in accordance with the words of Holy Scripture: ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’ (Mt. 22:21).  

He calls this balance the "middle path." our approach to life must be one that is a balance. We must care for the body we have been given, we must have time to express our love for our neighbors, and we must also continually nurture our love for God. When we have such balance we will find that our heart is filled with peace and that God's grace fills it with His love enabling us to walk this thin line of balance. With perfect balance there is no sin but only harmony and love.

I must admit, this is not an easy path to find. Most of will find this balance hard to find. This is why the Church provides so many ways to assist us. As we are more aware of our sinfulness we are discovering the points of imbalance in our lives. Through the ascetic practices, worship and regular participation in the sacraments, we are making an effort to achieve a better balance. No one can walk out on a high wire ir even a balance beam without practice and self effort. The same is true in aging the necessary balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of our life.

Reference: “Spiritual Instructions,” 33, Ascetic Labors, The Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 1

 

2 comments:

  1. My preference is to speak of union instead of balance - without confusion and without separation. Balance implies, to me anyhow, the idea that two things don't really belong together and have to be convinced to be in relationship.

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  2. Ideally I think you are right, but practically, at lest in my experience, they seem like two dimensions that need to be brought into balance. With balance comes an integration leading to peace and harmony of union.

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