Saturday, May 20, 2023

How Does a vibrant spiritual life begin


Disconnected from a vibrant spiritual life? Baptized as infants, then growing into adulthood, many Orthodox Christian have become preoccupied with worldly cares, relegating God to an afterthought. Though they may now attend church out of obligation, their personal spiritual life feels empty, lacking a warm connection with God. Perhaps they engaged in Bible study classes, but it remained a social and intellectual exercise.

A spiritual awakening. A vibrant spiritual life begins with what the Fathers call a spiritual awakening. This is a mystical experience that begins with an act of grace. This encounter with God leads to a conversion, a deepening of faith, and a renewed commitment to live in accordance with God's will. It's akin to waking up from a deep slumber, suddenly realizing the reality and nature of God's love. One becomes acutely aware of past neglect and failures to live as God intended. This awakening prompts a decisive choice to change one's life—a love affair with God where the desire to please Him is paramount.

More is necessary. However, this awakening only touches the heart which is not enough to transform one's way of life. It reveals the need for personal change, exposing feelings of insignificance and self-centeredness. It makes one conscious of their opinions, habits, and pleasures that are incompatible with a life of unity with God.

Don’t ignore it. Such awakenings can happen unexpectedly and at any time, constituting a free gift from God. If the first awakening is ignored then subsequent ones may not come as easily, as St. Theophan the Recluse teaches. Therefore, it is crucial to act upon this initial experience.

A lifelong process. A spiritual awakening initiates a lifelong process that may involve trials and arduous self-reflection. However, if the awakening is genuine, God becomes intimately relevant to every aspect of life. Though the mystery of God persists, one no longer doubts His reality and ever-present nature. The newfound motivation propels individuals to embrace an Orthodox way of life, incorporating ascetic practices such as prayer and fasting. Regular church attendance and participation in the Sacraments, particularly Holy Communion, become vital sources of nourishment for the soul, empowering one to purify the heart and overcome sinful tendencies.

In the subsequent posting, I will summarize the varying ways in which Saint Theophan the Recluse describes this spiritual event.

References: The Path to Salvation by Saint Theophan the Recluse, Chapter 4 pg 102-104

Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life

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