What is Christian Perfection?

 St. Alban the Protomartyr of Britain

St. Alban the Protomartyr of Britain

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.

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WHAT IS CHRISTIAN PERFECTION?
Warfare is necessary to acquire it-Four things indispensable to success in this warfare

By Saint Theophan the Recluse

We all naturally wish, and are commanded to be perfect. The Lord commands: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 6:48). And Saint Paul admonishes: "In malice be ye children, but in understanding b men" (I Corinthians 14:20). In another place he says: "Stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col 4:12); and again: "Let us go on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1). The same commandment is also found in the Old Testament. Thus God says to Israel in Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God" (Deut. 18:18)...

"...But if you, my reader beloved in Christ, wish to attain to such heights, you must first learn in what Christian perfection consists. For if you have not learnt this, you may turn off the right path and go in a totally different direction while thinking that you make progress towards perfection.

I will tell you plainly: the greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell in union with Him.

There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, genuflections, sleeping on bare earth and other similar austerities of the body. Others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in Church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in mental prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation. Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christina perfection we are seeking, but are only means and methods for acquiring it.

There is no doubt whatever that they do represent means an effective means for attaining perfection in Christian life. For we see very many virtuous men, who practice these virtues as they should, to acquire strength and power against their own sinful and evil nature--to gain, through these practices, courage to withstand the temptations and seductions of our three main enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil; and in and by these means to obtain the spiritual supports, so necessary to all servants of God, and especially to beginners. They fast to subdue their unruly flesh; they practice vigils to sharpen their inner vision; they sleep on bare earth, lest they become soft through sleep; they bind their tongue by silence, and go into solitude to avoid the slightest inducement to offend against the All-Holy God; they recite prayers, attend Church services and perform other acts of devotion, to keep their mind on heavenly things; they read of the life and passion of our Lord, for the sole purpose of realizing more clearly their own deficiency and the merciful loving-kindness of God--to learn and to desire to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, bearing their cross with self-denial, and to make more and more ardent their love of God and their dislike of themselves.

On the other hand, these same virtues may do more harm than their open omission, to those who take them at the sole basis of their life and their hope; not from their nature, since they are righteous and holy, but through the fault of those, who use them not as they should be used; that is, when they pay attention only to the external practices of those virtues, and leave their heart to be moved by their own volitions and the volitions of the devil. For this latter, seeing that they have left the right path, gleefully refrain from interfering with their physical endeavors and even to their own vain thought. Experiencing with this certain spiritual stirrings and consolations, such people begin to imagine that they have already reached the state of Angels and feel that God Himself is present in them. And at times, engrossed in the contemplation of some abstract and unearthly things, they imagine that they have completely transcended the sphere of this world and have been ravished to the third heaven.

However, anyone can see clearly how sinfully such people behave and how far they are from true perfection, if he looks at their life and character. As a rule they always wish to be preferred to others; they love to live according to their own will and are always stubborn in their decisions; they are blind in everything relating to themselves, but are very clear-sighted and officious in examining the words and actions of others. If another man is held by others in the same esteem, which in their opinion they enjoy, they cannot bear it and become manifestly hostile towards him; if anyone interferes with them in their pious occupations and works of asceticism, especially in the presence of others--God forbid!--they immediately become indignant, boil over with wrath and become quite unlike themselves...

"...Now, having seen clearly and definitely that spiritual life and perfection do not only consist in these visible virtues, of which we have spoken, you must also learn that it consists in nothing but coming near to God and union with Him, as was said in the beginning. With this is connected a heartfelt realization of the goodness and greatness of God, together with consciousness of our own nothingness and our proneness to every evil; love of God and dislike of ourselves; submission not only to God but also to all creatures, for the sake of our love of God; renunciation of all will of our own and perfect obedience to the will of God; and moreover desire for all this and its practice with a pure heart to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31), from sheer desire to please God and only because He Himself wishes it and because we should so love Him and work for Him.

This is the law of love, inscribed by the finger of God Himself in the hearts of His True servants! This is the renunciation of ourselves that God demands of us! This is the blessed yoke of Jesus Christ and His burden that is light! This is the submission to God's will, which our Redeemer and Teacher demands from us both by His word and by His example! For did not our Master and the Author of our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ, tell us to say when praying to the Heavenly Father: "Our Father...Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (St. Matt. 6:10)? And did not He himself exclaim on the eve of His passion: "Not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42)! And did not He say of His whole work: "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38)?

"...Finally, after learning what constitutes Christian perfection and realizing that to achieve it you must wage a constant cruel war with yourself, if you really desire to be victorious in this unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely: (a) never rely on yourself in anything; (b) bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone; (c) strive without ceasing; (d) remain constantly in prayer. (Source: Unseen Warfare as edited by Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and revised by Saint Theophan the Recluse)

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Please note: We are living in the age of the Antichrist and we must be aware always that we are all engaged in the unseen warfare against evil. Evil is all around us. Evil creates "confusion of thought and defective reasoning". Let us not become victims of his and allow him to destroy our souls. He seeks our destruction and damnation. He can take different forms in order to convince us that what we have chosen in life is good and true. As Saint Paul writes, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:3-8). Let us be obedient only to Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and not to satan. Let us retain the image and likeness of God in us, pristine and authentic. We must never disfigure or distort the image of God in us, by our vain desires, disobedience, lack of faith, lack of love, lack of repentance, lack of trust, sinful desires and passions. As Christians we pray to our Creator, "and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One" (Satan).

We are witnessing before our eyes the moral decline and decay of our society and world. Saint Paul in his letter to Saint Timothy writes: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:7).

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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 (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George