The Inviolability of Free Will (Part II)

Martyr Philothea the Monastic

Martyr Philothea the Monastic

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

By Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis, from "ΠΕΡΙ ΕΠΙΜΕΛΕΙΑΣ ΨΥΧΗΣ," Athos Editions, pp. 25-32.

Our will is what urges our footsteps to follow the Savior, this is what strengthens our hearts to show self-denial, this is what bears the cross on the shoulder. Because although grace invites us, dispels the gloom and illumines the dark places, it is possible nevertheless, due to the carelessness and slothfulness, the contamination and spiritual idleness of the carnal view of life, for our free will to feign deafness, to close its eyes, to remain in darkness and to proceed in exactly the opposite direction: the direction towards perdition. In other words, our free will can act in total contradiction to what it actually wants. Therefore, it is necessary for us truly to want our salvation, to seek it.

We have to want to hear, in order to hearken to the voice of Him Who is calling us. We need to want to see in order to open our eyes to the brilliant, abundant light. We have to want to move, to follow the Savior, to refuse to be the people we once were, with our passions and desires, in order to take the cross upon our shoulders. We must follow the "straight and circumscribed road" so that we may pass through the narrow gate of paradise.

Our own will has to come first because this is required by the terms with which the Savior calls those who are of a mind to follow Him. Without this disposition, it would be impossible to fulfill the terms offered, and thus salvation itself would be beyond us. On the one hand, grace is granted, but our will and concurrence are necessary if we are to receive it. Even more so, what is required is self-denial, self-sacrifice, a stable outlook which will not allow for any deviation from the path of constantly following the voice of the Savior, Who calls and is the voice of grace and of truth. If the grace of God, which comes to us, saved people by itself, its call would be entirely superfluous, as would be the terms and conditions. Though the grace of God is infinite, it does not save by itself, because it does not want to violate our free will.

Were it not that our consent is a vital factor in our salvation, God, in His infinite love for mankind, would, of course, save everyone, but without their consent. Yet, with very precise terms, He did indeed call us who are enslaved to our sentiments and who tend towards sin. He offered salvation but demanded that we conform, because this was required by a great and important provision: the stipulation that we be reborn and renewed in Jesus Christ our Savior. Because in our former state, we could not enter the Kingdom of God, since we would be corrupted by sin. Therefore, we had to cast off this person, with its desires and passions and put on a new person, who had been reborn, in the awareness that they were made by god in His image.

Nevertheless, in order to cast off the old person, we first have to want to do so. So our cooperation in the task of our perfection is exceptionally important. Our Savior has told us that in His Father's house, "there are many rooms." The people who dwell therein are those who have lived their lives on earth in an appropriate manner. Our life-style here, therefore, defines our position in Paradise. Saint Gregory Nazianzos has this to say on the matter:

"Just as there are various, separate ways of living, so there are "many rooms with God", which are allocated depending on each person's worth. One of us might have one virtue, another have them all. Given this, let each of us, from now on, cease from wandering off wherever the mood takes us and instead follow Him Who guides us well and directs us along the narrow path, in order to bring us to the broad highway of blessedness."

So we have to work for our salvation, otherwise, we run the ultimate risk of perdition, since there is nothing in common between light and darkness, any more than there is between good and evil. Sin, which has corrupted us, is darkness and the great evil because it conflicts with the will of God. Since we have the privilege of moral freedom, any misconduct on our part is counted as a sin that sets us apart from God. The greater the good of moral freedom, the greater also are the responsibilities this entails. People who are morally free should become holy. This is why, in the Old and New Testaments God gives command telling us: "become holy, as I am holy" (Leviticus 20:7, 26 and I Peter 1:16).

How can people who are loathsome, people who are worthy of aversion have any sort of communion with God? Moreover, the Savior gives us a similar commandment when He says: "You, too, should be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:28), because His children should be like the Father Who has called them. God, then, wants us to be holy and perfect, because only those who are holy and perfect are really the children of our Father in heaven and they alone have the right to invoke His gifts, taking courage precisely from the love of a child for its Father.

They alone will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Saint Paul wrote about all of this is his Epistle (Letter) to the Corinthians: "Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: no fornicators, adulterers, effeminates, sodomites, thieves, drunkards, nor those given to cursing, avarice and peculation (embezzlement, Ed.) will inherit the Kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:10). This is why the Savior calls upon us to deny ourselves, to take up the cross on our shoulders and follow Him. "If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me" (St. Matthew 16:24). He recognizes our moral freedom and our free will and leaves our salvation in their care. So that people who seek their salvation will have to work to acquire it, otherwise they will be deprived of it. Otherwise, through their carelessness and lack of concern, they will be preparing themselves for the loss of eternal life and will inherit eternal hell, from which I pray that God will spare us all. Amen.

Please note: Today is Clean Monday and the beginning of our 40-day journey to the All-Holy Pascha. May we all have a blessed 40 days Holy and Great Lent. May Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give us the desired strength, faith, patience, guidance and enlightenment to succeed in our spiritual ascesis (struggle). Holy and Great Lent is a time of prayer, worship, sacraments and fasting. Saint Silouan the Athonite reminds us, "Prayer keeps the world alive and when prayer fails, the world will perish... "Nowadays," perhaps you will say, "there are no more monks like that to pray for the whole world." But I tell you that when there are no more men of prayer on earth, the world will come to an end and great disasters will befall. They have already started..." (Source: Orthodox Heritage)

The Divine Service of the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete will be conducted at the Saint Nektarios Chapel at 6:30 p.m.


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


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

+Father George