Thursday, December 12, 2019

Awakening our Heart to God (5) - The Word

“An additional method for realization [awakening] must be applied to everything. That methods is preaching the Word.” - Saint Theophan
Without an understanding of the Word of God we will not appreciate or know our ultimate goal. Our aim will still seem uncertain. Saint Theophan uses the example of Paul. He was enlightened by a direct intervention by God on the way to Damascus. After this happened Jesus told him to go and find Ananias for instruction. As Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17).”

Saint Theophan:
It is essential to proclaim the story of the universal, divine way of salvation, to tell of well-known persons and places to which one who has been aroused should turn for interpretation, so he will not waste that arousal or stray off course from it, wasting time and energy fruitlessly. Catechistic teaching must be heard unceasingly, and indeed, is heard in Church.  
It is essential that clergy continually proclaim the salvific ways without assuming general knowledge. The Word of God when preached penetrates the soul inwardly and nourishes it so a spiritual life can be born,

Saint Theophan:
Sound, or the audible component of the Word, strikes the hearing, and a thought occupies the soul. The invisible energy concealed inside this thought touches the soul, which, if it is attentive, after the Word has safely passed the rough barriers of body and soul, becomes aroused, and, by exerting effort, it bursts the bonds that hold it.
A key element is to connect our current struggles, our pleasure seeking, to the final end, death, and the judgement that will take place. While doing this, reminding them about the loving nature of God and what He seeks is our love and a life of repentance.

The message needs to be kept simple and sincere. It should not be embellished with images as then it will remain in the imagination. When surrounded with concepts and arguments it remains in the intellect. The aim is for it to penetrate the heart of the soul.

Saint Theophan:
One could say that all unfruitful preaching is on account of the intellectualizing that fills it. Just explain the truth is a simple way, say what it is, and the spirit will be overcome.
This a message from Saint Paul. 
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,† (1 Corinthians 2:2-4, OSB)
The key is to tell the Truth directly, simply, and do not clutter it with intellectual concepts or speculations about probabilities. Yes, death will come. Yes, there will be judgement. Yes, God is loving and awaiting your repentance. Saint Theophan says, “Just explain the truth in a simple way; say what it is, and the spirit will be overcome.” It is the Truth that overcomes vain thoughts and nourishes the soul. Explan simply how everything began, how it will end, and why.

This message needs to be heard in many ways. Not only in the churches, but in reading the fathers and enlightening books, in all our church activities, in our homes, in our use of icons, in church, all places of our activities, in our work place. Also to engage is discussions among believers discussing popular sayings. Surround our world with the Word. Seek to make the Word unceasing in our daily lives.

The clergy needs to speak out the truth simply in all situations.
Saint Theophan:
The fulfillment of this is the responsibility of those who serve at the altars. That is why they are the most necessary and powerful weapons for the conversion of sinners in the hands of divine Providence. It is necessary for them to acknowledge this and speak out, not just in churches, but also in homes, using every opportunity both to describe the divine world, and to expose the seduction of our soul by the illusions of the mind and body.

Reference: Path to Salvation by Saint Theophan the Recluse, pp 119-123.

Awakening Our Heart to God (4)     Awakening Our Heart to God (6)

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