Spiritual Warfare

St. George the God-Bearer

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

A CONTRITE PRAYER TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
(Saint John Chrysostom)

O Lord my God, Great and Awesome and Glorious Creator of all things visible and invisible; You Who faithfully keep Your covenant and Your mercy with those who love You and observe Your Commandments; I thank You now and always for all the visible and invisible blessings which You have bestowed upon me. I praise, glorify and magnify You, up to the present time, for in accepting me from my mother's womb and providing for me out of Your abundant goodness and love for mankind. You have providentially protected and guided me in a holy manner, and thus Your rich mercy and compassion has been wonderfully demonstrated in me throughout my life. You did not overlook my lowliness because of my unworthiness and sinfulness, nor did You cease to help me and provide for me because of Your Loving-Kindness and compassion. Do not forsake me then, O my God, even until my advanced and old age...

May these words of prayer be supportive of me in life and in death. May this confession and these tears rise up as incense before You. As for me, each day I anticipate the coming of death, knowing that my miserable body will be buried and will decay, only to be raised up at the time of the regeneration and become incorruptible by You, the Life-giver, while my spirit I will commit into Your hands...

Through the intercessions of our Lady, the Most Glorious, Most Blessed, the All-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who is full of grace; through the intercessions of the Angelic Powers of Heaven; and through the intercessions of all the Saints who have pleased You throughout the ages. Amen.

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ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE
By Rev. Father Doru Costache [Lecturer St. Andrew's Theological College Patristic Studies]

The Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church and its characteristically spiritual dimension are existential par excellence, constituting a dynamic context for any endeavor to becoming personally spiritual. As such, our Holy Tradition is relevant to this most noble contemporary quest for 'something spiritual,' in a society deprived of soul and ethically disoriented. This is an aspect reflected, for example, in what we call the spiritual warfare.

When speaking of the spiritual warfare the Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition does not envisage crusades or jihads or anything similar, since these represent mostly attempts to change--arbitrarily and violently--the face of the world and not its mind, spirit and heart. Our way of 'fighting the good fight' (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7) has nothing to do with the external conquests and exploits. Instead, our notion of warfare refers to the inner struggles of the Christian person and community, on their transformative way towards the newness of life (cf. Romans 6:4), as realized in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical History, book five, intro, 4), provides us with insights into the original sense of spiritual warfare: our narrative concerning the life according to God will record in the most peaceful wars waged on behalf of the peace of the soul, and will tell of men doing brave deeds for truth rather than country, and for piety rather than dearest friends. It will hand down to imperishable remembrance the discipline and the much-tried fortitude of the athletes of religion (i.e., the martyrs), the trophies won from demons, the victories over invisible enemies, and the crowns placed upon all their heads.

In its essence, the notion of peaceful warfare is genuinely Scriptural, building on Saints Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 6:11-7, where the portrait of the Christian is depicted in terms of a warrior of light:

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17).

The suggestion is clear: fighting the good fight takes the pain of personal transformation in accordance with the canon, or norm and rhythms of the new creation (cf. Galatians 6:15), illustrated by Christ Himself, the Incarnate and crucified Word of God. Moreover, it takes the pain of proclaiming 'the word of this life' (Acts 5:20) to a society which, notwithstanding its profound ignorance with respect to the message of Orthodoxy, rejects our values.

In light of the above, even when they abandon the warrior-paradigm, the Father of the Orthodox Church presents the Christian journey as a spiral-like ascending trajectory toward attaining a complex state of perfection, serenity, compassion, joy and sanctity, in the image and likeness of Christ, in Him and with Him (cf. Galatians 2:20). The final term of this process is the reception of the undeserved and incomprehensible deifying gift of divine participation (cf. 2 Peter 1:4), bestowed upon us by "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [the Father] and the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13:13). All we experience and accomplish along this process of spiritual becoming-sacramental regeneration, faith initiation, ecclesial participation, prayer, ascetic discipline, contemplation, sheer generosity, etc.-cannot be taken as ultimate achievements. More precisely, they do not represent ends in themselves, but means in order to attain the goal. As such, everything we experience in our journey is subsumed to the ultimate purpose of accessing the fullness of life here, now and ever, according to the promise of the Lord (cf. John 10:10). Witnessed by the uninterrupted succession the Saints, the possibility of attaining this goal is the underlying force of all virtues and yet transcends them all, going beyond all human expectations:

"The grace of deification (theosis) is above nature, virtue and knowledge" (The Declaration of the Holy Mountain 2).

The goal of perfection, however, cannot be achieved without being strenuously pursued, without consistent effort on a personal level and also without proper spiritual guidance. And here the dynamism of our spirituality is brought into the picture: it is precisely this constant endeavor to attain higher nobility what makes the content of the spiritual warfare and ultimately defines our way of living. This aspect is powerfully reflected by our Divine Liturgy, which emphatically manifests the existence of a tension between what we already experience and what constitutes the ultimate scope of our journey. Practically, we are granted here to experience liturgically in grace--as God's people--what truly and properly belongs to the eschatological state of humanity. Thus, in the liturgical order attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, we acknowledge mercy which brought us up to heaven and bestowed upon us already the Kingdom to come. With this statement, we hear a clear echo of the crucial tenet of Christianity, that the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us--that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing that our joy may be complete 1 John 1:2-4).

In these Scriptural words we acknowledge the very nature and message of Orthodoxy. What we are promised, and what we offer to the world, is nothing less than what we have heard from the beginning, with the good news of Christ, that God became human to make people able to ascend to God. We cannot touch the heart of the world if we do not dare to tell the world what we really have to give. This is why we need first to become more and more aware of what the Orthodox Holy Tradition is actually means. Indeed, the Orthodox Holy Tradition is nothing less than the actual proclamation of the fullness of life to which we are partakers, a faithful witness to the Apostolic way of thinks and living--in a world deceived by skepticism, relativism, and hubristic sense of self-sufficiency. There are, however, hopes with this world, as indicated by the contemporary 'soul searching', organically related to the quest for 'something more' and 'something spiritual'.

(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia)

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The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George