Sunday, August 25, 2013

Taming our passions

Our challenge as Christians is to learn how to take hold of the reins of our passions––To tame them and direct them for the good of God’s Kingdom as He originally intended. This involves a struggle. As Saint Paul cries out,

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will not to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate that I do… I find then a law, that evil is present with me. I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin... (Rom 7:15, 21-23)

Like Adam and Eve, we are tempted by our pride to disobey our Creator and God. We are fooled into believing that we know better than God, just like Eve was deceived by the snake in Paradise. We trust in our own will, not realizing that we are under the influence of negative forces of evil nature.

Our challenge is to learn obedience––”Thy will be done.” Unfortunately, obedience is a bad word in our society. Most of us rebel at the thought of obedience of almost any kind. But this is what Jesus taught us. He prayed to His Father; Not my will but Thine be done. (Luke 22:42). He willing gave up his life for us to carry out the will of the Father. Just like He offered his full life to His Father, so too must we offer our full life to our God and Father.

The Church gives practical guides for this obedience:

1. Following the liturgical cycle of divine services.

2. Adherence to the canons established for our well being by the Councils of the Church which call for prayer, fasting, and regular participation in Confession and Holy Communion.

3.Following the direction of our spiritual Father.

This is the foundation of an Orthodox Way of Life.

We are required to undertake an ascetical or disciplined way of life focused on God’s Kingdom. But it cannot be aimed solely at our own benefit. We must be willing to give ourselves for God’s work. God is all merciful and can help us, but only if we can cry out “Thou hast come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (cf I Tim 1:15).

This ascetical life serves a twofold purpose.

1. To remind us to “fulfill the call to mission… to take serious stock of our struggle and our lives, and work to better what is wanting.”

2. To remind us that “it is precisely in our serious attentiveness to the struggle and its right contours, that we have the power to speak to the world the true message of Christ, of the Spirit, of the Father.”

This requires boldness to think, speak, act, and orientate one’s whole life toward a Kingdom, the very existence of which may be questioned by those around us.

Saint Basil writes,

Examine what sort of being you are. Know your own nature, that your body is mortal but your soul is immortal, and that our life is twofold in kind. One kind is proper to the flesh, quickly passing by, while the other is akin to the soul, not admitting of circumscription. Therefore be attentive to yourself (Deut 15:9), neither remaining in mortal things as if they were eternal, nor despising eternal things as if they were passing. […] Understand yourself with all exactness, that you may know what gift to apportion to each––for the flesh nourishment and coverings, and for the soul doctrines of piety, education in courtesy, training in virtue, correction of the passions.

Through the defeat of the passions the self-will can be overcome.
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