Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Freedom From Suffering

The moment we accept death, true life can begin.  (Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra) 
In his commentary on Psalm 88, Elder Aimilianos is addressing suffering and all our tribulations of earthly life. His message is that there is only one way to be freed of this struggle: not by rejecting these sufferings or difficulties but in joyfully accepting them.

Elder Aimilianos writes,
The secret to his freedom does not lie in the rejection of his suffering, but in his joyful acceptance of them. He will be truly free only when he lets go of wanting to be free of his sufferings, for all freedom and all life depend on our being in right relation to God. When he accepts his death; when he allows himself to hear the sound of his footsteps descending into the grave, he will find that death no longer has a hold on him, for now he is with God. The darkness will vanish and he will see only light.
This freedom from or fear of suffering and death requires that we make a choice to voluntarily sacrifice ourselves to God, just like Christ voluntarily sacrificed Himself on the Cross. 

The Elder says, 
“if he accepts to become an instrument of God’s will, he will emerge triumphant; but otherwise he will fail.”
When we are focused on our difficulties and suffering we become very self centered and find ourselves distant from God. We become our own god and there is no room for another.

The Elder says,
“If “l” exist God cannot exist, for there cannot be two gods, and so it is either God or the self. When someone sees only his own suffering, God cannot answer him, for it is precisely the mistaken, negative attitude toward suffering that constitutes the separation between him and God. But if “I” cease to exist, if my relation to my suffering changes, then I can be united to God. This union depends on the denial of my self, so that God can come into my life.”
This freedom comes only through a transformation that is the result of our growing love of God and our willingness to confront the many self-centered passions one is burdened with. In accepting or rejecting our suffering, we are accepting or rejecting God Himself.

He says,
“I must learn to accept suffering with joy, to find joy within my suffering, to realize that even in my moments of glory, I am nothing but “dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27), a pelican in the wilderness (Ps 102:6), lost in a desert land, seeking shelter in a landscape of ruins. I must realize my sinfulness, my nakedness, my alienation from God; I must realize I am like a sparrow alone o a house top (Ps 102:7), not because I have some psychological problem, but because I have been separated from God.”
We need to accept our condition, and desire to be freed from fear of death and suffering and commit ourselves to the spiritual struggle found in the Orthodox way of life. We need to seek for the Holy Spirit to lift us up, to purify our heart, and lead us to union with God.

The Elder concludes his commentary,
“In this cry, this calling out, there exists the hope that I will hear the sound of His footsteps, and these will overtake my own and lead me to salvation.”

Ref: Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp 104-109

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

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