Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Battling our passions ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )
We are constantly called to be watchful because our passions are ever active, lurking to arise when we least expect. This war we are engaged in is a spiritual war. The challenge is to not let our passions have any air or food. If we were not successful in our watchfulness, we can starve them with external actions. This is always a challenge, but the approach is one of using our will to deny the passion what it desires. When we deny them, we starve them of food and air and they die. We should learn to combine our inner efforts with external efforts.
Saint Theophan tells us that one kind of active warfare against our passions is to carry out actions that are directly opposed to them.
For example, to suppress stinginess, it is necessary to become generous; to combat pride, it is necessary to choose humbling occupations; to combat carousing, one must stay at home; and the like. It is true that one such mode of action does not lead directly to the goal, because the passion, enduring external constraint, may erupt inwardly--either the same passion, or some other in its place. When inner and spiritual warfare are united with this active combat, however, they soon defeat any passion against which they are directed together.This means we must learn to be watchful of our inner thoughts as well as take direct wilful action to counter the rise of a passion. Both are useful in our spiritual effort to control our passions.
Ordering our life is one important aspect of the Orthodox way of life. We need to choose our friends, our work, our activities, and so forth so that we do not allow ourselves to be tempted in ways we cannot control. We need to make changes in how we live to increase activities that are the opposite of the passions we encounter repeatedly. With a balanced life, when we do experience a passion coming forth, we can have the poser of our will to aggressively oppose it with opposite action. Do this and you will find you will make progress in overcoming the passion that haunts you.
Remember, passions are what lead us into sin and separation from God. As we learn to conquer them we develop a more virtuous life and our prayer life becomes more effective. God will send more grace that will aid us in this battle. Slow down and order your life so that you can overcome all your passions and come closer to God at all times.
"Since this habit has acquired power over your heart through frequent repetition of certain actions, which satisfy the passion dwelling in the heart, opposing it in the heart is not enough to weaken and destroy this power; you must use actions which are contrary to the former ones, actions opposed to the passion, smashing and destroying it. - Unseen Warfare
Saint Theophan the Recluse