Friday, March 14, 2014

Breaking one's self-will

Before us is a great goal--to be a new creation and to imitate and partake of Christ. To achieve it, one must correct oneself and break one's self-will, moving from pride to meekness; from passion to abstinence; from hot-temperedness to gentleness and hospitality; from self-centeredness and greed to compassion; from suspiciousness and jealousy to being supportive and well-wishing; from light-mindedness to wisdom in God; from cowardice and faint-heartedness to bravery and courage; all things changing for the good.

God helps us in every way; however we ourselves must also actively participate in this noble endeavor. Here lie a multitude of obstacles. Often, our nature and essence contradict and act against the Christian lifestyle. This puts us in a kind of despair which the Holy Fathers called "spiritual despondency." Such temptation to despair comes from the devil. As he tempted Christ when our Lord was near exhaustion, so he tries to tempt us at the weakest moments of our lives. Cunning and insidious dragon! Therefore, "Watch and pray, lest you enter temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41), remembering always that "if indeed we suffer with Him...we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:17).

Prayer, attending church services, fasting, abstinence, confession, Holy Communion, study of the Holy Scriptures, spiritual reading, thinking about God, works of charity - all these are necessary means for our internal regeneration and are our footprints in following Christ. However, if we forget the goal, our means yield little benefit and can become dead attributes.

We must treasure the Orthodox Church and our union with her, because she alone preserves the true, original understanding and essence of Christianity, while many so-called denominations threw away from their "Christianity" everything that seemed outwardly difficult and unpleasant. They have deprived themselves and their followers of the regenerative force of the Christian faith, leaving only pleasing external appearances and "inspirational" sayings. For the person looking for the real spiritual life, Orthodoxy alone gives all that is needed - the Grace in its sacraments and the spiritual experience and wisdom of the Holy Fathers. Though not all are called to be great achievers, through the true Faith the riches of Christ are abundantly available to all. With such riches available to us, it is tragic that many, through misguided beliefs, worldly cares, and passions, are diverted and cut off from spiritual progress and salvation.

"Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Hebrews 12:12), remembering that every good effort brings us closer to Christ, and that each victory over temptation is our victory with Him. We will follow victoriously the One Who said, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).
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