Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do We Need To Suffer?

Every physical and spiritual task which does not involve pain, toil and trouble never bears fruit for the person who engages in it, for the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence and the violent lay hold of it (Matt 11:12). - Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov
Does this mean that must suffer to become a Christian?  Well, if we really love someone, are we not willing to make sacrifices for the well being of that person? If our lover is Christ, then surely we must be willing to suffer to carry out His will. The most extreme examples we have are the many martyrs of the Church, men and women who gave their physical lives standing witness to their God. But what does this mean that the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence? Our violence must be against our sinful tendencies. It must be our fierce struggle to carry out His will no matter hour our own desires are compromised or threatened. For most of us our suffering is voluntary in our ascetic disciplines to purify our inner being so we can open our hearts with love to our God.

Elder Porphyrios says,
When you love Christ you exert yourself, but in blessed exertions.  You suffer, but with joy. You make prostrations and pray because these are things you crave for with divine craving. They are at once pain and longing, passion and yearning and exaltation and joy and love.  Prostrations and vigils and fastings are exertions which are made for the Beloved, exertions in order to experience Christ. But this exerction is not made under duress; you dont protest and rebel.  Whatever you do under compulsion is very harmful both to you and to the work you are doing. The pressure and coercion provoke opposition. Exertion for Christ, true desire for Christ, is love, sacrifice and dissolution of self.  
We need to ask ourselves if we are "inflamed by love for Christ." Are we willing to make sacrifices, to voluntarily suffer, to carry out the will of God?

Elder Porphyrios says,
Do we run to the beloved when we are exhausted to find rest in prayer, or do we do it as a burdensome duty and say, 'Now I have to do my prayers and prostrations...?' What is missing when we feel like this?  Divine eros is what's missing.  Prayer of this kind is not worth the saying.  Indeed it could even be harmful.
To join with Christ in love requires a worthiness.  We must be able to do what He instructs us to do––to love others. This requires a spiritual violence and much dedicated effort which involves setting aside many of our own desires and physical pleasures. In our Love of God we seek to do everything possible to perfect ourselves to become worthy of His love.

I must admit that I most often avoid suffering and most often favor my own self interests. In this I struggle.

Quotes from Wounded By Love by Elder Porphyrios

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