Saturday, November 24, 2012

Knowing God ( St.Seraphim of Sarov )

Saint Seraphim tells us that we must first know God before we can contemplate Him. It is this direct knowledge that is necessary if we are to truly love Him.
Saint Seraphim writes,

If you do not know God, it is impossible for love of Him to be awakened in you; and you cannot love God if you do not see Him. The vision of God comes from knowledge of Him; for contemplation of Him does not precede knowledge of Him.

How are we to gain this knowledge? This is the question we should all ask ourselves and have great anguish if we cannot experience God in this non intellectual way but through a direct experience of Him and His love.

Saint Seraphim tells us,

"A man becomes perfect in His sight to the extent that he follows in His footsteps; in the true age God will reveal His face to Him."

This knowledge we seek is one that is expressed in a way that "warms" our inner being.

Saint Seraphim expresses it as follows:

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. And so, if we feel in our hearts coldness, which is of the devil--for the devil is cold--then let us call upon the Lord, and He will come and warm our hearts with perfect love not only for Him, but for our neighbors as well. And from the presence of warmth the coldness of the hater of good will be driven away.

Christ has given us the means through our participation it it's liturgies, sacraments and prescribed practices for all of us, no matter what our spiritual condition, to come to this direct knowledge of Him. This includes the beauty if His Church which uses all means to lift us to heavenly levels. The sacrament of Holy Communion is a direct encounter with Him that works through all parts of our body to transform our fallen nature into one of His likeness. Through Holy Confession we are aided in not just relieving us from our guilt but committing ourselves with His help to change our mind and way of life. We nurture our growth through our regular practice of fasting and daily prayer. This is the Orthodox ways of life and the path to Theosis where we gain a direct knowledge of Him.

Reference: Little Russian Philokalia, Volume 1, p 23

Faith and Works ( St.Seraphim of Sarov )

For many Christians, there is a battle between faith and works. Some proclaim that our salvation comes through faith alone. They are concerned that one might think they could get to heaven by their own efforts, I guess, without faith. For Orthodox Christians there is no battle between faith and works. We know that both faith and works are necessary. We call it synergic cooperation with God. But, the starting point is always an act of believing in God.

Saint Seraphim tells us the following:

Before anything else, one must believe in God, "that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6).

One who is a doubter is like a man lost at sea without a life raft. He is incapable of doing works that will lead him to God.

Saint James says,

"...he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8 NKJV)

Faith is the necessary first step on a journey to be united with God and know Him through direct experience. Without faith we could not undertake the necessary preparation. We would not know where to begin. Such preparation for many is seen as works without God, trying to earn our way to heaven. This is a concern without basis. To seek to know God, we begin with faith, believing that it is God who sent His Son for our transformation to be united with Him and that it is His teachings that we must follow. With this belief we will undertake meaningful works that with patience leads us to an intimate knowledge of Him.

Faith of necessity involves works. It is James who tells us, "Faith without works is dead" (James2:26). He points out that the necessary works involved are love, peace, long-suffering, mercy, humility, rest from all works, bearing of the Cross, and life in the Spirit.

Saint Seraphim says,

True faith cannot be without works; one who truly believes will unfailingly have works as well.

Our journey with Christ is one of cooperation where we submit our will to His will to do His work. To realize this we have many works to do in preparation to receive His grace which transforms and unites us with Him. With faith we desire to under take many works to perfect ourselves in His grace.

Reference: Little Russian Philokalia, Vol 1 , p 25.

St.Seraphim of Sarov

Our Work Begins with Reverence and Fear of God.( St.Seraphim of Sarov )

Saint Seraphim directs us to the following Psalm,

Upon his mind there must always be engraved these words of the prophet: "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Ps 2:11)

All our actions must be done with this in mind. It is only in this way that our works will aid us in our aim to be united with Him. Saint Seraphim points out that without such an attitude, instead of being blessed, we will be cursed. "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently" (Jer. 48:10).

Our work is great and difficult. We need to always cooperate with God's grace.

Saint Seraphim says,

Reverent carefulness is necessary here because this sea--that is, the heart, with it's thoughts and desires, which one must cleanse by means of mindfulness-- is great and vast, "and there are numberless reptiles there" (Ps 103:27), that is, numerous vain, unjust, and impure thoughts generated by evil spirits.

Much more than faith is necessary. In cooperation with divine grace, we have to do the work necessary to tame the impulses of our biological being, so that all our actions can be directed according to God's will and not be based on our own desires and fears because of our mortality and susceptibility to sickness and suffering.

Reference: Little Russian Philikolia, p 27

The Work of Patience and Humility ( St.Seraphim of Sarov )

Often, when we are overtaken with boredom regarding our spiritual practices, we will also find we are easily overtaken with despair when confronted with events that do not go as we desire. This is an indication of our spiritual immaturity. We need both patience and humility because they are important works in our spiritual life.

Saint Seraphim says,

A lofty and sound soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trials; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tester to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionlessness!

All the trials of this life are opportunities for our spiritual growth. Even the most difficult situation provides a chance to demonstrate our love and gratitude for all God's works. This is how we learn to practice patience.

Saint Seraphim tells us,

One should always endure any trial for the sake of God with gratitude. Our life is a single minute in comparison with eternity.

Saint Paul says,

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).

Saint James says,

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4 NKJV)

Humility goes with patience. It is about our willingness to accept whatever comes our way, instead of holding on to the notion that the life of this world should operate by our own ideas or standards. When we are demeaned by others challenging our personal honor we should make an effort to forgive them. We should consider that we are unworthy of this honor we think we possess. It is our work to learn to humble ourselves always.

Saint Seraphim says,

Let us love humility and we shall see the glory of God; for where humility issues forth, there the glory off God abounds.

Reference: Little Russian Philokalia, Vol 1, pp 34 - 37

ερχονται μεγάλοι πειρασμοί - γέροντα Ιωσήφ του Βατοπαιδινού

Ο ΑΟΡΑΤΟΣ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ ΤΩΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΩΝ - π. Στέφανος Αναγνωστόπουλος

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