Friday, December 4, 2009

Purity of Heart

Elder Joseph: Teachings from Mount Athos

The things that come from within make a man unclean. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” (Matt. 15:18)

These are the overflow of an unclean heart which moving outwards create a physical body of complete maliciousness. Then the freedom of man’s personality is torn to shreds, and from being noble and made "in the image and likeness", he becomes evil and corrupt. Since we are part of this condition, we have left the world for this precise reason. When we say world we don’t mean people. The world is the system of the old man, which according to St. Paul are the passions and desires. According to St. John the Evangelist “the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life“ foolishness and vanity in general. Finding ourselves here we were careful so that we would become “pure in heart”, as far as it is possible for human narture to experience the vision of God. The matter of being born again is not about taking people to some eudaemonia. This is accepted by alien confessions. After the appearance of God the Word man is not taken to some state of happiness (eudaemonia), nor does he return from exile to a better life. These thoughts don’t come from our Church, but are deluded ideas.

The emptying out, the kenosis of God, the world brought theosis to human nature. Thus man is brought by Grace – if he starts from here to be obedient to Divine will – hypostatically to his union with God. Just like an adopted child has a part in the property, in the name and person of his father, even though he isn’t a natural child, it’s the same for us. For us this is called theanthropism.

This is what God the Word brought to us on earth. As He Himself said, “I, Father, in them, and You in Me”, and “the glory which You gave Me I have given them”, and elsewhere “I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory”, and again “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants.” And when they asked Him to teach them how to pray, he immedaiately said “Our Father, who is in heaven”. However to achieve this and to enter into the embrace of adoption, we must be careful, not only to avoid sin, but to strike at the root of sinfulnes, so that it has no place in our mind at all. When our heart is cleansed of the actions of the passions, that is the old man, then the Holy Spirit comes and dwells there. Note how Christ mentions this to us, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” Look at what he says “home”. He doesn’t say we’ll come and just visit you, just like we might visit someone, but He says He will dwell there. This is what Theanthropism means.

Our deliverance from sin doesn’t happen automatically, but in stages, just like our physical development. Through our persistence, slowly-slowly by Grace purity of heart occurs in a mystical way. The nous is cleansed and illumined first, so it comprehends the meaning of things clearly, and is not deluded. Following the correct use of notions and keeping the commandments correctly, the heart is also cleansed. Then Divine Grace comes permanently and makes a person a true God-bearer. And this person, while alive is carried “from death to life”. This is sanctification. Natural law no longer works in him. He communes permanently with Divine Grace and enters into that which is above nature, so that he would have the grace of a vision or prophecy. He is not afraid of sickness or danger, because having been brought to the position of adoption he is covered by Divine Grace, and if he leaves this world, he will be gain the rewards of the promises of Christ.

And these days, if you are careful, you will feel the impact of Grace, for as our Elder of blessed memory said, Christ gives His gifts richly on these great feast days, as a special blessing. Is there any reason for us not to be or to become so careful? Given that this is our target and aim! How could we not be devout, zealous, careful, true worshippers of our Christ, who we believed called us in that he prearranged for us and he justified us and all that remains is for His mercy to glorify at that last hour, when we will depart this world?

And see now we will enter into our “inner-chamber” and close our door and pray and confess and fall down before our Christ and with all our heart and all our mind, our will, our intention and our action set our prayers before him, as he promised sinners. With meekness, with humility and goodness to fall before Him in this way. It is the most mystical way of transforming character, which brings about spiritual dependence and change, “This is the change to the right hand of the Most High.” This change occurs in a spiritual being, that is surrounded by Angels, who want to know more about it. They see these good thoughts and try to surpass the law of gravity and be carried to the heavenly sacrificial altar, “where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, (Heb. 6:20) the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb.9:12)” Where the man of clay, the sinner, covered in coats of skin is changed. Forget whatever is not concerned with heaven. Our citizenship is there. Our Jesus waits for us there. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.” Which heart, feeling these words, would not break, even if it was made of granite. His inexplicable complete love did not end with His divine kenosis and Him living with us on this earth, where he was clothed in our own humility and poverty. But even resting in the fatherly embrace “in all His glory” He still remembers us and will never ever “allow us to be orphans, but is with is with us always.”

Now get ready to start a spiritual assault, aspire to surpass each other. This is what is meant by the commendation, “This is the generation of those who seek the Lord.”

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