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.
THE ORTHODOX MIND AND SPIRIT (Part II)
By Reverend Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
This new "mind", this new way of thinking, presupposes that the believer will forsake his autonomy and accept his insufficiency and inability to achieve the meaning of life, i.e., that he will repent "metanoia": change his way of thinking. An autonomous man is also he who seeks to justify his life with good deeds or by any type of "technical" process, outside the realm of God's Grace in Christ Jesus. The Orthodox "mind" or way of thinking is free from all concepts of self-justification (Romans 3:20; Gal. 5:4). This true believer locks his sinfulness and insufficiency in the face and looks to Christ with complete trust. It is for this reason that "the publicans and harlots enter the Kingdom of God before those who are convinced of their righteousness and depend upon it" (St. Matthew 21:31).
The Holy Fathers of the Church talk about the "convulsions of the heart" which at the same time constitute the "opening up" of the Grace of God to enter into man's soul. The hymns of the Great Canon express this reality in the life of the faithful.
Through true repentance the faithful has the feeling that he finds himself in an ocean bed: "for no child of Adam has sinned as I have sinned unto You". He is convinced that this great distance separating him from God springs only from his disposition, "by myself have I sinned unto You"; and further, he expresses his inability to weep in repentance: "neither tears, nor repentance, not even contrition do I have". However man's impasse is set at naught by his crying unto God the Savior:
"Do, Thou, O God my Savior grant them to me. Grant me thoughts of repentance, Give to my wretched soul the desire for contrition, Lift me from the sleep of fearful hard-heartedness, Dispel the darkness of sloth, Dissolve the blackness of despair; So that I, the most wretched one, may lift up my head, And attach myself to You, O Logos/Word, And walk in accordance with Your will."
Deep humility constitutes the beginning of spiritual life, the foundation of the Orthodox "mind" (φρόνημα) or way of thinking. Here we do not have a cry of hopelessness but a turning about by man that leads to hope, despite all impasses that he may have been led to by his own volition.
The believer is henceforth called to a life-long spiritual struggle in which he is never abandoned by God, except in such instance where he were to consider himself able of his own and self-sufficiency. For then he becomes autonomous and distances himself from the Grace of God. The faithful realizes that not only God but the Devil also calls to his disposition and threatens his "mind in Christ" through deceptive means (St. John 8:44; St. Peter 5:8).
The demonic element is a reality; this why our Lord urges us to "be sober, to be vigilant" (I Peter 5:7), "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6, 10-12).
This means that the devil does not have authority over the believer, unless the latter cooperates with him through his disposition. Spiritual warfare, especially "prayer and fasting" i.e., ascesis in Christ crushes every intrigue of the devil (cf. St. Matthew 17:21; St. Mark 9:29). Through asceticism or ascesis the believer does not aim at degrading the body, but at neutralizing the passions. It is a preparation of the body to receive God's grace and sanctification; "If you want to be saved, become as if you were dead", say the Desert Fathers in reference to the deadening of the passions. When one reaches such sanctity, he acquires that real humility which attracts to itself all of God's Grace, and he become "full of grace" (St. Matthew 5:3; I Peter 5:5); the machinations of the Devil cannot harm him.
Yet, it is possible that he may fall since man remains changeable, i.e., he can turn towards virtue or towards sin, on the basis of his free will, depending on what we chooses..
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God