Friday, March 5, 2010

Ordering our External Life

This instruction by Saint Theophan may be difficult for many to follow.  He asks that we leave behind all that is passionate, vain or sinful that enters into our family and social life.  This is about "leaving the world," He says. Remember how John reported Jesus saying, "I have chosen you out of the world (Jn 15:19) But what does this mean for those of us who have chosen a life of "this world"? 

Saint Theophan says, 
"Leaving the world does not mean running away from the family or society, but abandoning the morals, customs, rules, habits and demands that are entirely antithetical to the Spirit of Christ which has entered and ripens within us."  
We instead must strive to establish an environment that is congruent with the teachings of Christ as passed on to us through His Apostles.

When we examine the worldly life today we can easily see its many sinful ways.  It's based on a continual fanning of our passions and false desires.  It is primarily secular and without a focus on His kingdom.  God is even incidental to most of the the worldly life we observe around us.  We are constantly tempted and distracted from a true relationship with God. This is where we must act to protect ourselves and our salvation. 

Saint Theophan is saying, 
"abandon everything that is dangerous to the new life [a life committed to Christ], whatever ignites passions, brings vanity and extinguishes spirit.... Now is time to cease from all theaters, balls, dances, music, singing, travels, strolls, acquaintances, jokes, sarcasm, laughter, and idle time.  It is even the time to change the time of arising from bed, sleep, eating and so on.... Leaving the world is nothing other than cleaning up you entire external life, removing from it everything passionate and replacing it with something pure, which will not disrupt the spiritual life, but rather aid it.... establish rules and order in every part of the home, at work, with acquaintances, and when, how and with whom you spend your time."

As if this is not enough, He then says:
The thought that you could live like a Christian while holding on to the world and worldliness is an empty, deluded thought."

Now one may have grave concerns about how this is possible and what the impact of this will be.  But remember, the world and its activities are mainly based on vanity and pride.  It is self-centered in all its activities and cares little for others.

By engaging in the ascetic practices of prayer, fasting, vigil and so forth you will strengthen yourself to be able to take a new approach to your work, family and social relationships.  You will begin to find ways to live that are pure and salvific and that follow God's will.  But you must be willing to brake the old habits a patterns of life.  Once you do, new patterns emerge and you will be led it a toward a more virtuous life.  This becomes what we call the Orthodox Way of Life.  Examine your life and begin to make some changes.  These will lead to others and you will soon find your life transformed.

Saint Theophan says,
It consists in providing a spiritual substitute for everything seen and heard, and to become strong int he remembrance of this spiritual substitute, that every time the thing is seen, its spiritual substitute impresses the senses rather than itself.

Personally, I find his direction to be the most difficult and take it as an indication that in my own life I have much inner-work to do to gain the strength necessary to reorder my external life in this manner.

What are some of the ways you have found to simplify your life and spiritualize your activities in "this world" ?

Reference: Path to Salvation, pp 267-269


  1. Four years ago i moved out of my mother's house and have since then lived by myself. On moving out and starting a home of my own i thought that things would become easier as i was leaving an anti-christian environment which often caused me many difficulties concerning any spiritual effort i might have attempted to take on. However, what i have come to realise is that the real oppositions to "the orthodox way of life" spring from inside of me. Therefore, i find myself an enemy every time i try to put aside my habits, my strong desires, my everlasting selfishness that colours every aspect of my life.
    Today i was studying in silence all morning and when lunch time came i thought i would switch on the pc and spend some effortless time on line instead of eating in silence and moving on with the rest of the day.
    The first thing i did after connecting was checking this blog....
    So now i can't but obey my conscience and return to what i knew i should have done from the beginning.
    Thank you for this post.
    I like your blog very much, i read it every day.
    In Christ risen

  2. Thanks for your thoughts! Thank God for His understanding, patience and guidance.


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