Orthodox Spiritual Life (Part XI)

Saint Zenas of Philadelphia

Saint Zenas of Philadelphia

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.

TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION TO TODAY'S SAINTS:

Saint Efsevius, Bishop of Samosata; Saint Zenon the Holy Martyr and his servant Saint Zenas of Philadelphia; Saint Anastasios the Serbian.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

"It is good to help enquirers with words, but it is better to cooperate with them through prayer and the practice of virtue" (Saint Mark the Ascetic).

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUAL LIFE: SPIRITUAL WARFARE: THE ROLE OF THE SPIRITUAL FATHER
By Saint Silouan the Athonite

The role of the spiritual father is fundamental for the life of the Orthodox Christian. Saint Silouan emphasizes this point quite often. Especially for those who want to cultivate the fullness of their life in Christ, one's relationship with a spiritual father is even more significant. Without Holy Confession and the blessing of obedience to one's spiritual father, there is little or no hope of overcoming the constant and life-long bombardment of the vicious enemy (Satan). Many are deluded, including those who have made considerable progress, as the example of Saint Silouan shows. Yet there is a solution and a way out. The Church provides her faithful with the sacrament of holy confessions. This is the surest way to overcome delusion and beguilement that lies in wait for those who earnestly struggle to live in Christ. Saint Silouan explains: "I think that it is impossible to escape beguilement unless we make confession to our spiritual father, for to a confessor the Lord has given power to loose and to bind."

Without a spiritual father, the believer leaves himself open to a multitude of dangers resulting from the devious deceptions of the enemy. [Saint Dorotheos of Gaza writes: "We need assistance, we need guidance in addition to God's grace. No one is more wretched, no one is more easily caught unawares, than a man who has no one to guide him along the road to God."] He could be compared to a soldier at war running off into battle without the insight of a seasoned superior officer, or even a promising young athlete who believes he can compete in the Olympic Games without the aid of an experienced trainer or coach. When one begins to entertain 'logismoi', the floodgates are opened, and according to Saint Silouan he then becomes a victim of his own thoughts. "A man is beguiled by listening to himself..." says Saint Silouan. The fact that a believer would continue to trust in his own 'logismoi' suggests that he is still caught under the rule of 'self-love' and egotism. Saint Silouan writes: "...if you start thinking that you know more about the spiritual life than your spiritual father, and cease telling him in confession what befalls you, you will surely be beguiled for your pride." In this way, since it stems fundamentally from the passion of pride (Υπερηφάνεια), trusting in one's own 'logismos' leads not only to deception and delusion but ultimately to separation from God.

The surest way to guard against the delusion of such 'logismoi' is to seek the counsel of one's spiritual father. In this respect, the relationship with one's spiritual father cannot be overemphasized, for to him is given the grace of guidance and discernment. It is the spiritual father who offers the proper insight into the nature and origin of any 'logismos' that may be afflicting his spiritual children. In some cases, all thoughts should ideally be shared and 'confessed' to him, for only under such spiritual direction can one be certain that he is not being deceived or deluded. Traditionally, in many monasteries monks--and novices in particular--are expected to confess all of their thoughts to the spiritual elder, even on a daily basis. [Saint Dorotheos of Gaza writes: "When I was in the cenobium I used to reveal everything to old Abba (Father) John, for I never set out to do anything contrary to his judgment."] This is the best defense for guarding against the demonic devices that exploit these 'logismoi'. Thus we see how the role of the spiritual father as confessor and guide is of crucial importance.

The battle against 'logismoi' rages on. In this continuous struggle, victories are followed by defeat and positive experiences in prayer are accompanied by spiritual stumbling. It is an up-and-down struggle. In this intense and on-going battle, the believer must remain steadfast in order to resist the enemy and evade his attacks of delusion, despair and sin.

More often than not, one's stumbling into sin is directly related to lack of humility. Or in other words, it is one's pride that causes him to fall away, over and over again. Even though there may be isolated victories here and there, it is actually these successes themselves that puff up the believer and make him proud of his achievements, and this in turn leads to a further onslaught of 'logismoi'. Saint Silouan teaches that judging or comparing oneself to others is a symptom of pride. Saint Silouan writes: "...put no faith in feats of your own, however much you may have striven...God has mercy on us, not for our achievements but gratis, because of His goodness."

He often emphasizes this particular theme of pride, or lack of humility, as the cause of 'logismoi.' Not only does he make frequent mention of it, but the way in which he refers to his own personal experience also reveals the urgency of the matter. He warns his reader: "...if we forsake...humility, we may be led astray by intrusive thoughts or visions. The humble soul neither sees nor desires to see visions but prays to God with an undistracted mind; whereas the mind that is puffed up is not free from intrusive thoughts and imaginings, and may even reach the point of beholding devils, and discoursing with them. I write of this because myself I have been in a like unhappy state."

Without humility, there will never be any respite from the struggle against 'logismoi', and consequently it is then even more difficult to approach God in prayer. The virtue of humility thus plays a central role in spiritual warfare, particularly in this specific context of the struggle against 'logismoi'. So vital is humility to the spiritual well-being of man, that is acquisition is seen as the main reason why God allows such intense warfare (Saint Isaac the Syrian). The passion of pride is absolutely abhorrent to God. For this reason it is better for man to suffer and undergo even the most severe spiritual trials, if that is what is required to purge pride and lead him to the great prize of humility. Saint John Climacus writes, "men can heal the lustful. Angels can heal the malicious. Only God can heal the proud" (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 26, p. 255).

(Next: Suffering)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

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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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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

+Father George