Saturday, May 20, 2006


Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

The soul needs spiritual food and only the Word of God and the writings of the Holy Church Fathers can nourish it. Worldly knowledge dulls the mind and creates instability of thought. There is no restraining of the searching thoughts.

We are in our right to regard the works of Bishop Theophan the Recluse as being close to those of the Holy Fathers. He draws the reader to himself with sincere exposition, clarity and heavenly simplicity. From his writings, as from a deep spring we draw sweet and living water, flowing into eternal life. He spent his whole life examining the question of salvation and for us he is a unique teacher on the subject at hand. May he help us, to expound, if but briefly, this major theme troubling humanity….

For the Christian salvation presupposes an active life, in constant communion with God and with the help of His grace, fulfillment of His will. The zeal to please God is very similar to fire. During a fire, the flames engulf the whole building, so the flames of zeal fill the whole being of a person. Salt preserves food from spoiling and the zeal permeates our whole being, drives out sin, which corrupts the body and soul and in this way saves people from moral and spiritual decay. Martyrs eagerly went to their death because an inner fire was burning within them. Pleasing God is a joyous procession to God, giving wings to the spirit. Everything should be done to the glory of God, contrary to the sin living in us. Without zeal, a Christian is a bad Christian, impoverished, wilting, weak, lifeless, neither warm nor cold. Such a life, is not a life. A Godly life awakens, when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and initiates life in the Spirit; cleans and gathers into one, the darkened and broken features of the image of God. The fire of zeal — is God’s grace. God’s Spirit descending into the heart begins to work as zeal. The power of God’s grace penetrates the inner being and restores order in all its beauty.

Those who turn away from God put themselves as a foundation of their life and work. Recoiling from God and the fullness of His Grace, they hasten to fill the created void. The falling away from God evokes in them an unquenchable thirst, undefinable, but never-ending. In a word, they become a bottomless pit. They spend a whole life in sweat and toil and great tribulations. From this we understand that a person can never be in himself, but always outside himself in worldly, troubling things. He has fallen away from God Who is the plenitude of all. He is empty in himself and immerses himself in various interests and lives for them. This is how a sinner constantly thirsts, and is concerned about things outside himself, outside God.

Thus, a characteristic feature of the sinful life is undue worries without concern for salvation (Luke 10:41).

Differences and distinctions of tribulations depend on the type of emptiness that has formed in the soul. The vacuous state of the mind, which has forgotten the One, Who is all, gives rise to searching concerns of the heart, to increasing knowledge, probing. The lack of direction of the will creates many desires, a striving towards ownership of material possessions, so that everything is done according to our will and is within our power: that is indulgence in worldly pleasures. The emptiness of the heart creates a craving for worldly pleasures, searching for innumerable things in which he wants to satisfy both, his inner and outer self. Thus a sinner is constantly concerned about increasing his knowledge and possessions, and indulging in worldly pleasures. This is the cycle in which one’s whole life is spent — in constant agitation. Satan has only one concern, and that is, whatever a person does, wherever his heart, consciousness and attention are, that they do not come from God, but are attached somehow, outside God. Here, not only the passions, but education, artistic creativity and social activity could serve as ways by which Satan holds the blinded sinners in his power, not giving any opportunity to recover one’s senses…

The soul knows how powerless it is on its own. Let it prostrate itself in its own heart before God and change into naught. Then the all-powerful grace will transform the "naught" into "All." Whoever in the ultimate self-humbling gives oneself into God’s hands, draws Him Who is benevolent and by His strength becomes strong himself. Expecting everything to come from God and nothing from the self, one has to force oneself to effect change and act within one’s capabilities, so that the divine assistance has something to relate itself to, and bless with Its power. The spiritual life is a prudent life. It consists of a transition from an intellectual state of communication with God to a realistic, living, tangible and visible one. In the mystery of Confession, grace descends and is perceived by the Spirit, and then vanishes from consciousness. "It settles in the depths of the mind. Initially, grace illuminates the soul with its light, so that it can fully feel it" (St. Diodoh). Then grace hides itself from the one being saved, and though it is still in him and is still dynamic, it hides in such a way that one does not notice it, and a person quite often feels abandoned by God and that he is perishing. That is why God conceals the preciousness of this vivifying gift for a prolonged period of time so that we, even if we fulfill all the virtues, that we consider ourselves totally worthless, while we still have not accepted sacred love as a permanent disposition.

"Even though grace conceals its presence from the soul, yet helps it in a secret way to show adversaries, that victory belongs only to the soul. That is why, then, the soul is despondent in sorrow, in shame and even in moderate despair" (St. Diodoh). The work of grace after many trials is to show its presence, and thereafter, the soul is joyfully adopted by the Spirit. God commits Himself to the heart and a person becomes worthy to be one in spirit with the Lord. "Whoever has been tested, becomes a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Grace illuminates one’s whole being in some sort of state of deep emotion" (St. Diodoh). The Kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit. "The light shining in the person, so pierces the inner being, that, one becomes immersed in this bliss, finding experiences outside of oneself because of the abundant love and mysteries that one is able to contemplate" (St. Macarius).

God is drawn near either by toil and deeds or by the calling upon the name of Jesus Christ. Among the greatest feats, pre-eminence was given to the Jesus prayer. It enlightens, strengthens, vivifies and conquers all visible and invisible adversaries and lifts one to God. It is all-powerful and all-enacting. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a treasury of goodness and life in the Spirit. This is a living union, life in God, affirmation in Him with one’s whole being: thought, heart and will… Like one who is tied up. I will go where you lead me. This is the action of being resolutely faithful to God. The Lord can see what troubles our heart and feels (speaking in human terms) this pain, but what needs to be done about this pain, only He knows. Hasten Lord, show us Your help. Grant us salvation, for the soul is becoming weary. You alone I seek. Do not deprive me of Your grace, Beloved of my soul.

No comments: