Orthodox Christian Spirituality and a Life of Virtue (Part II)

Venerable Alexis the Man of God

Venerable Alexis the Man of God

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.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY AND A LIFE OF VIRTUE (Part II)
From the Great Compline [Απόδειπνον το Μέγα]

Lord have mercy (40 times)

O Christ Our God, Who at all times and at every hour, both in heaven and on earth, are worshipped and glorified, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and compassion; Who love the just and show mercy to the sinners; Who call all men to salvation through the promise of the blessings to come: Do You, the same Lord, receive also our supplications at this present time, and direct our lives according to Your Commandments. Sanctify our souls; purify our bodies; set our minds right; clear up our thoughts, and deliver us from every sorrow, evil and distress. Surround us with Your holy Angels so that being guarded and guided by their presence, we may arrive at the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Your ineffable Glory; for Blessed are You unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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In addition to the Beatitudes of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there are many fruits of the Holy Spirit enumerated in the Apostolic Scripture and referred to in the writings of the Saints of the Holy Church. These fruits of the Spirit are often called the Christian virtues, which literally mean those powers and possessions of the mind of the heart which all men should have if they are truly human, fulfilling themselves as created in the image and likeness of God.

Generally speaking, all of the human virtues are attributes of God Himself. They are the characteristics of Jesus Christ, the Divine Son of God in human flesh. They are the Divine properties which should be in all human persons by the Gift of God in creation and salvation through Christ Our Lord.

It has been said, and it is true, that the Christian virtues are not all particularly "Christian" in the sense that only Christians know about them and are committed to attain them. Most, if not all, of the Christian virtues have been honored, respected and recommended by all great teachers of the spiritual life. This in no way detracts from their Christian value and truth, for Christ and His holy Apostles and Saints have not taught and practiced something other than that which all men should teach and practice. As the fulfillment of all positive human aspirations and desires, it is quite understandable that Jesus Christ, the perfect "man from heaven" and "final Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45-47; Romans 5:14), should fulfill and realize in Himself that which all men of wisdom and good-will have sought for and desired in their minds and hearts, enlightened by God.

For in truth, whatever is found in man to be good and beautiful and true, is found there because of God and is from God. This is the case, whether it is realized or not, "for every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (St. James 1:17), and it is Christ Himself, the Eternal Son and Logos/Word of God, Who is the Light and the Life of every man who has ever lived and been enlightened on this earth (cf. St. John 1:1-10). Thus the holy Apostle Paul has counseled Christ's faithful:

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things" (Philippians 4:8).

As we "think about those things," we will refer to the teaching of the Apostle himself, and to all of the holy Apostles and Teachers (holy Fathers), of the Christian faith who have been enlightened and inspired by God through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Orthodox Church.

The foundation of all Christian virtue and life is faith. Faith is the natural possession of all men who are wise and virtuous. For if a person lacks faith in man's ability to know, to do good and to find meaning in life; if he does not believe that this is possible, profitable and worth of man's efforts, then nothing wise or virtuous can be achieved. The striking characteristic of all prophets of doom, apostles of despair and preachers of absurdity is the absence of faith in man's capabilities for goodness and truth, and the absence of faith in the meaning and value of life. It is also an absence of faith in God.

The virtue of hope goes together with the power of faith. The Patriarch Abraham "in hope believed against hope that he should be the father of many nations" (Romans 4:18). And hope, like faith is that which is not seen.

Faith and hope go together with knowledge. They are built on knowledge and lead to knowledge. For what is "not seen" is believed and hoped on the basis of what is seen. And the understanding of what is seen depends on belief and hope in what is not seen. One's belief and hope in the ability to know, to trust his senses, his mind and the revelation of his God, are the foundations of all knowledge.

The virtue of wisdom differs from knowledge in that wisdom is normally understood as the immediate insight into things, the practical understanding and grasping of what is true and right in its living expression and form. The wise man is the one who sees clearly and deeply into the Mysteries of God. He is the one who can give concrete advice in the everyday affairs of life, the one who can point out the will of God to man who is confronted by actual problems and decisions. He is the one, who like Jesus, knows not only what is in God, but "what is man" (cf. St. John 2:25).

The wise man who has knowledge lives according to the truth through a totally honest life. Honesty means first of all, to speak the Truth and never to "bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16).

In the Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition, humility has often been called the "mother of all virtues," and pride has been named "the cause of all sin." The wise and honest person is the one who is humble.

In speaking of Christ's humility, Saint Paul said that Jesus was obedient to God His Father "unto death, even death on a cross" (cf. Philippians 2:8). In truth, Jesus obeyed God in all that He did. In the Orthodox Christian spiritual tradition, obedience is a basic virtue: obedience to the Lord, to the Gospel, to the Church (St. Matthew 18:17), to the leaders of the Church (Hebrews 13:7), to one's parents and elders, to "every ordinance of man" (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1), "to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 6:21). There is no spiritual life without obedience, no freedom or liberation from sinful passions and lusts. To submit to obtain "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21) God disciplines us as His children out of His Great Love for us. "He disciplines us for our good, that we might share His Holiness" (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11). Our obedience to God's Commandments and discipline is the exclusive sign of our love for Him and His Son.

To be obedient in all things to God requires the virtue of patience. Saint Paul lists this virtue as one-of the "fruits of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22). Christ Himself in His humble obedience to God was exceedingly patient.

The virtue of courage and strength must accompany patience. Only the one who has courage can truly be patient in all things. To be courageous means simple not to be afraid. Many times in the Gospels, Christ speaks of this virtue and commands it to His Disciples, in so doing, He follows the Old Testament example. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? - Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 27: 1, 14; Psalm 31:24).

According to the Holy Scripture, one of the main characteristics of God is His absolute faithfulness. This virtue in man is also considered to be one of the "fruits of the Holy Spirit" (Galatians 5:22).

Self-control is also listed by the holy Apostle Paul as a "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22). This virtue is one which is not often easily attained because people forget that, like patience, it is a grace of God and they must seek it from the Lord. Instead they think it can come from human effort and will power alone.

The spiritual person is kind. He never practices cruelty in any of its forms, but is always gentle in his relations with others. Kindness, according to the holy Apostle Paul, is also a "fruit of the Spirit" (cf. Galatians 5:22).

The spiritual person is the one who is grateful for everything. He is the one who receives everything with thanksgiving, and who knows that he has nothing except what he has received from God. (cf. St. John 3:27).

According to the Orthodox Christian faith "the greatest virtue is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13) lobe is the "fulfilling of the law" of God (Romans 13:10) for God Himself is agape (love).

In the Spiritual Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church, the aim of life is the "acquisition of the Holy Spirit" is expressed most perfectly in love (cf. Saint Macarius of Egypt, 4th century Spiritual Homilies: Saint Seraphim of Sarov, 19th century, Conversation with N. Molovilov). Indeed, the Holy Spirit Himself is identified with God's love by the Saints, as witnessed in the writings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian.

Thus God, Who is Agape, enters into union with man through the Son of His Love by the Spirit of Love. To live in this Divine Love is the spiritual life.

Spirituality in the Holy Orthodox Christian Church means the everyday activity of life in communion with God. The term spirituality refers not merely to the activity of man's spirit alone, his mind, heart and soul, but it refers as well to the whole of man's life as inspired and guided by the Spirit of God. Every act of a Christian must be a spiritual act. Every thought must be spiritual, every word, every deed, every activity of the body, every action of the person. This means that all that a person thinks, says and does must be inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit so that the will of God the Father might be accomplished as revealed and taught by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the Son of God.

"...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Doing all things to the glory of God is the meaning and substance of life for a human being.  This "doing" is what Christian spirituality is about.

[Source: Orthodox Church of the Mother of God)

Please note: All Orthodox Christian parents and guardians must not only apply the Christian values in their own lives but must transmit them to their children. Values are not taught today outside the home and the Church. What the secular society teaches our children are the vices which they refer to as "values". Young men and women in universities are taught not to believe in God and in the Christian values. We need to be honest about the world that we live in and to protect our children and grandchildren from atheism and immorality. In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism the celebrant Priest prays: "O Lord, suffer to descend, with him whom we now baptize, any evil spirit which bringeth defective reason and confusion of thought…", that is what we see in the corrupt world that we live in today. Young men and women are constantly indoctrinated not to believe and not to be obedient to anything taught by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Holy Christian Church. Instead, they are taught, to do and experience everything and anything that brings them pleasure and "happiness." There is evil all around us and pursues to destroy every soul. Be alert, watchful, and vigilant and pray that Our Loving Lord will protect us and the world that we live in. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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

+Father George