Monday, March 11, 2013

What Separates Us From God?

The story of Adam and Eve is one of the foundations of Christian life. In this story we seen how we are separated from God.  This separation does not come from any action on God's part, but is a result of our own disobedience. Adam and Eve fell because they began to rely on their own will and ignored God's will. This is what it means to be separated from God.  Because they put their own desires ahead of God's plan for them, they separated themselves from God and became subject to suffering, toil and death. Because of these consequences we have the tendency to act for our own self benefit leading us to a tendency for sin. 

Sin is not about breaking a specific law but is about not having a loving relationship with God. When you love God, you seek to do His will.  When you love yourself more than Him because of all your self doubts and fears, you only carry out your own will to maximize your own satisfaction. The question we need to ask ourselves is, "How can we regain our status before the Fall of Adam and Eve where we live a pure life in union with God always seeking to do His will?"

Elder Paisios gives an answer to this question:"The heart must be purified."   This is the same view that Christ gave us in His Sermon on the Mount where He said, "Those with a pure heart will see God."

What does this mean? Elder Paisios goes on to say,
Man must acquire spiritual chastity; that is sincerity, honesty, selflessness, humility, goodness, forbearance, sacrifice. This is how man becomes akin to God and how divine Grace comes to dwell in him. When someone has physical chastity but lacks spiritual chastity, God cannot dwell in him because he harbors cunning, pride, evil, and so forth. Then this person's life is a sham; this is where you must begin your struggle: acquiring spiritual chastity, spiritual purity.
To do this requires true repentance, a change of mind coupled with personal discipline so that your life actually changes.  We are creatures of habit and our struggle is one of overcoming bad habits.

Elder Paisios says,
One must have a lot of willpower in order to break a bad habit all at once. Just as the rope rubs against the edge of the well and over the years forms a small grove that holds the rope in place, every habit forms a grove in the heart, making it them difficult to get rid takes lots of humility and great will power to overcome them.
The period of Lent is a special time in the Church for self examination and repentance.  It is the time, when coupled with fasting and prayer, we can identify our bad habits that keep us separated from God. Once we have identified them, we can seek guidance and courage to overcome them with the help of divine grace. As we repent we gain grace providing God's help in overcoming our habits.  Fasting brings humility as well as self discipline.  The extra services in the Church during this period, coupled with our own increased time in prayer and study of spiritual matters, nurture us in our efforts to come closer to God.

Make plans for the fast, allow time for the extra services, and more time for prayer. Put these activiies into your personal calendar. Schedule a time with your spiritual father for Confession.

Have a Great Lent.

Resource: Elder Paisios of Mont Athos Spiritual Counsels III, p 128

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