The Temptation of False Spiritualities

St Theodore the Prince of Smolensk and Yaroslav

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Master Christ God, Who by Thy Passion hast healed my passions, and by Thy wounds hast healed my wounds: do Thou grant tears of compunction unto me who have greatly offended; do Thou temper my body with the fragrance of Thy Life-Creating Body, and sweeten my soul with Thy Precious Blood, taking away the bitterness which the contending adversary hath made me to drink. Lift my mind up unto Thee, since it hath been drawn down below, and lead me up from the pit of destruction; for I have not repentance, I have not compunction, I have not a tear of supplication as children which shall lead me up unto mine own inheritance. I have been darkened in mind by the passions of life and I am not able to look up unto Thee in my travail; I cannot rouse myself to fervor with tears of love for Thee. But, O Master, Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Treasury of good things, grant complete repentance unto me, and a suffering heart that shall seek Thee out. Grant Thy grace unto me and renew in me the likeness of Thine image. I have abandoned Thee; do Thou not abandon me. Come, Thou forth and seek me out, lead me forth into Thy pasture, number me together with the sleep of Thine elect flock, and nourish me together with them on the verdure of Thy Divine Mysteries, by the intercessions of Thine-All-Pure Mother and of all Thy Saints. Amen.



By The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America

The Temptation of False Spiritualities

There is yet another temptation which confronts us today with great power. This is the temptation to yield to the many spiritualities and wisdoms, presented today from many diverse sources, which claim superiority to the narrow way of the Gospel. The new spiritualities, both of Christian and non-Christian variety, are especially alluring for those people who have not found spiritual satisfaction and security in the American way of life and in relativistic ecumenism. The main characteristic of the many sectarian spiritualities and pieties which have grown up in our day is their claim to a simple and secure way of instant salvation, devoid of ascetical effort and the bearing of the cross of suffering for the sake of others.

Powerful among Christians today is the temptation to a fundamentalistic, emotional type of Christian piety which equates deep spiritual fervor and commitment with the practice of certain enthusiastic devotional expressions and experiences. While there can be little doubt about the sincerity of the majority of those who practice and preach this type of Christian piety, especially within the so-called charismatic and neo-pentecostal movements, we must still warn of the dangers inherent in this type of spirituality, as did the Apostles in the early Church.

In the time of the Holy Apostles the fervor and excitement of the manifestation of Christ's Spirit to those newly-converted to the Faith led to an immature and childish attitude on the part of some which caused no little disturbance and division in the Christian community, particularly in the church of Corinth. Instead of leading to a way of life full of spiritual wisdom and love, the zeal for spiritual gifts in the Church led many to foolishness and vanity and the judgment of others. While never denying the true indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all of the faithful, and the true value and power of God's spiritual gifts, the Holy Apostles of Christ strictly warned the faithful against spiritual pride and denounced those who used the very gifts of God in ways which led to spiritual corruption and not to the edification of the Church.

According to the Holy Scriptures and the Saints, there can be a lust for God's gifts without true love for the Giver. There can be a pride in God's action without humility in its reception. There can be a lust for spiritual power and experience and the abuse of God's gifts for one's own individual benefit and satisfaction and not for the good of others. There can be spiritual conceit and delusion which take the holy things of God and pervert and degrade them through improper and self-serving use. The temptation here is real! It cannot be taken lightly. It is underscored so frequently and consistently in the Holy Bible and the writings of the Saints that it cannot be dismissed.

The spiritual gifts of preaching and teaching, prophesying and healing, praying in tongues and expelling demons, which are true gifts of God, can be misused and abused. They may be given by God and exercised by men not for their salvation, but for their condemnation and judgment. As gifts of God they are not ends in themselves. They must be properly used for spiritual growth and maturity to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ. They must be used for the glory of God and the salvation of man, and not for the glory of men, their personal pleasure and pride. When discussing this subtle and critical point, virtually all of the spiritual masters of the Christian Tradition made concrete reference to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name and do mighty works in Your Name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers'" (St. Matthew 7:21-23).

Let us flee from every temptation to spiritual immaturity and pride. Let us not be ensnared by the temptations to spiritual vanity and power. Let us not allow ourselves to be caught by the temptations of spiritual avarice and luxury. Let us not be the victims of the lust for spiritual pleasures. Let us not be what our Fathers in the faith have labeled "spiritual hedonists," which is not a less condemnable condition than being hedonists of the flesh. Let us not give our approval to any forms of Christian piety and devotion, however enthusiastic and fervent, and accompanied by whatever signs and wonders, that will take us away from the narrow path of Christ in the sane and sober denial of ourselves in the bearing of our crosses in all humility and meekness. Let us seek only to love the Lord our God with all our minds, hearts, and souls; and our neighbors--and even our enemies--as our very own selves in faithful obedience to our one Master and Lord.

It is our fervent desire that all our brothers and sisters who have come to know the grace of God within the various movements of our time will cultivate and deepen their spiritual power and wisdom within the life of the Church, putting away childish things and growing up to the fullness of Christ in the Spirit.

(To be continued)



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.

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

+Father George