Strength and Hope

Edification, consolation, aids to Theosis. There are enough Orthodox blogs out there willing to point out in greatest detail what is wrong with this world. Holy Orthodoxy isn't about lamenting over what is wrong so much as rejoicing that what is wrong with this world can be made right, can be deified.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The warfare continues, even during feasts. Even during the Feast of Feasts.

Abba Zozima said: If one does away with temptations and struggles with thoughts, there would not even be one saint left. One who runs away from a saving temptation, runs away from eternal life. Who but their tormentors provided the Holy Martyrs with their crowns? Who bestowed on the first martyr Stephen such a great glory, if not they who stoned him?

Amma Theodora said: Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Fr. Seraphim Rose said: Pain of heart is the condition for spiritual growth and the manifestation of God’s power. Healings, etc., occur to those in desperation, hearts pained but still trusting and hoping in God’s help. This is when God acts.

Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex said: No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great, men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever. It is impossible to escape tribulation in this world but the man who is giver over to the will of God bears tribulation easily, seeing it but putting his trust in the Lord, and so his tribulations pass.

Many of the texts resonate with the Odes for Matins for today's feast (Veneration of the Cross).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

From St. John of Kronstadt on Fasting

From "The Spiritual Counsels:"

By feeding largely, one becomes a carnal man, a man of soulless flesh and no spirit; while by fasting one attracts the Holy Ghost and becomes spiritual. When cotton is not soaked with water it is light, and a small quantity of it flies up in the air; but if it is soaked, it beomes heavy and at once falls to the ground. It is the same with the soul. How important it is to preserve it by means of fasting!


It is remarkable that, however much we trouble about our health, however much care we take of ourselves, whatever wholesome and pleasant food and drink we take, however much we walk in the fresh air, still, notwithstanding all this, in the end we sicken and corrupt; whilst the saints, who despise the flesh, and mortify it by continual abstinence and fasting, by lying on the bare earth, by watchfulness, labors, unceasing prayer, make both their souls and bodies immortal. Our well fed bodies decay and after death emit an offensive odor, whilst theirs remain fragrant and flourishing both in life and after death. It is a remarkable thing: we, by building up our body, destroy it, whist they, by destroying theirs, build it up--by caring only for the fragrance of their souls before God, they obtain fragrance of the body also.

St. John of Kronstadt, pray to God for us!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Patience, Mercy, and Hope: Theoleptos of Philadelphia

At the time my foster-father was refuting the likes of Barlaam and Akyndios, the bishop of Philadelphia, Theoleptos was dealing with the containment and healing of the Arsenite schism (a schism that had many of the same underlying objections to the established Church that we've seen expressed by the "True Orthodox" in our own time. The responses of Theoleptos to the schismatics are also quite valid for our own situation.)

Like my foster-father, Theoleptos was a hesychast and ascetic. And also like Pseudo Dionysius, the Cappadocians, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and my foster-father, the hierarch defended and encouraged the laity to participate in the deep and abiding work of the Holy Spirit.

So. What about the faithful who don't have all their waking hours to recite the Jesus Prayer? What if you don't have an elder who you can abandon your will to in all love, so you can let go of everything in this world to lay hold of Christ?

Like Abp. JOHN (Zizioulas) and Met. HIEROTHEOS (Vlachos) of our own time, Theoleptos speaks of communion in Christ in the broader sense. We are the same as the monastics in all the important goals of attaining theosis. We only differ in the practical working out of our common salvation.

Monastics, as I mentioned earlier, can abandon themselves to an elder or spiritual parent in an environment very much protected, almost palpably, by the Holy Spirit. If the Church in this world is a hospital of mercy and grace, the monastery is the sanitarium.

We laity don't have that kind of grace. We don't have an elder. We can't afford to abandon ourselves in all protection so we can die to our carnal nature. We are not taught by those who love us and have our best interests. We are in a world pervaded by the spirit of iniquity. Those around us, generally speaking, aren't looking out for our best interests. We aren't taught by the love of others to attain Christ, we are taught by extortioners, liars, gluttons, drunkards, the debauched, the angry, murderers, thieves. They wear down our will while the Holy Spirit encourages us to always think of pleasing Christ by obeying the Gospel. And like the monastic, we don't do that very well on our own. So both monastic and lay person are able to realize their failure to live by their own strength. The remedy is the same, but how Grace is revealed to heal and strengthen is somewhat nuanced.

For the laity, this means participating in the Divine Liturgy, taking Communion, and being attentive and prayerful in the other services. And this includes prayer at home. There is a dying to self in being attentive to what is said in the services. To contemplate the words of the psalms, to imbibe of the theology expressed in words in our Menaion, the Octoechos, and the hymnody is a deliberate act of watchfulness on our part, an act of will to not have our way by thinking of other things, or being in other places to satisfy our own desires and judgments. This then, makes the local parish the place of our ascesis, the place where we surrender to the will of Christ in safety. This, the local parish, is the place where the benefits and blessings of surrender are dispensed. So in this way Theoleptos tells his flock to let go of everything else to lay hold of Christ.


The physical therapist understands the pain suffered by their patients, but views that pain differently than the patient. The patient sees their pain as a thing that should never be, and to that the therapist would agree. The goal of painlessness is not the issue. The issue is one of timing. The therapist sees pain as a necessary part of the healing process; often pain of different types are seen as markers of progress. So the patient grimaces at times, or their world goes white as the stabbing pain steals all their senses. The pain so acute that the patient is either forced into silence or unbridled weeping does not deter the therapist, and if the therapist is wise, communicates this "knowing" to the patient so the patient doesn't lose heart and forsake their healing.

So it is with us in the spiritual life. We aren't just magically removed from our pain at the time of our Chrismation because like our bodies during physical therapy, our spirits need time to adjust to wellness. Sadness, loss, grief, frustration, pain; all these are signs of adjustment, indications that things are changing in us, for the better.

So let us surrender to our therapy, to our healing, especially now, during Lent. Endure everything. God is faithful and will not allow us to be overwhelmed by our circumstances.

Endure. Endure. Endure.

He is the Reward of those who diligently seek Him.

Markers, Points of Reference, and Identity

Before Chrismation we spent a great deal of time coming to terms with our selves, asking questions, and doing our best to figure out the answers.

Who am I?

That's a big one. Since we're not taught about having an inherent identity these days, we spend a lot of energy and time defining our selves. We become what we think is best for us, or so we're told. Some choose to identify with their gender, or sexuality. Some go religion shopping. Some choose academics. Some choose a regional identity; nation, county, ethnicity, et cetera. Some choose to define themselves by their political party, or by their career (their profession) Some choose to identify themselves apophatically, that is, by saying who they are by saying how they are not like so and so, or such and such.

When we come to Christ in Baptism and Chrismation all that changes. After all this time, when we think it was us who chose God in Christ, we find out the opposite happened. He chose us. Ours is the only "religion" where God chooses His adherents. After Chrismation, we get this strange feeling like our patrons chose us as well, and even though we can't put our fingers on how or why, we can't shake that knowing. And we find out eventually we aren't the only ones who have gone through such times and experiences.

We realize, after a while, that all our old points of reference, our old definitions of self, conflict with what we learn and experience after Chrismation. The same God who chose us is relentless in getting us to come to another understanding of our selves:

You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God

All the time, effort, blood, tears, and love we expended to become X, whatever X is, was all for naught. We find our identity in our relationship, in our union with God. Not that we go away, or that we lose our personalities, but that they finally become what they were intended to be from the beginning; we find our identity, our reason for living, our purpose for living, in Who we belong to.

As many as have been Baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.

Not just juridically, but relationally. Which is why the Bible is filled with relational imagery like being grafted into the Vine, marriage, reconciling the Prodigal, et cetera.

So consider the times when we fight to reconcile our past points of reference with our present experiences to be good times, proper times, not bad times. We all go through these times. They are a sign that our graft is taking.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Commandments, Gates of Knowledge

From The Discourses of St. Symeon the New Theologian: On Spiritual Knowledge

3. From the commandments spring the virtues, and from them the revelation of the mysteries that are hidden and veiled in the letter. From the fulfillment of the commandments comes the practice of the virtues; through the practice of the virtues the commandments are fulfilled. Thus, by means of these, the door of knowledge has been opened to us (cf. Luke 11:52), or, rather, it has been opened, not by them, but by Him who has said, "He who loves Me will keep My commandments, and My Father will love him, and I will reveal Myself to him." (John 14:23,21) When, therefore, God "lives in us and moves among us" (2nd Corinthians 6:16) and perceptibly reveals Himself to us, then we consciously contemplate the contents of the chest [of the Scriptures], the divine mysteries that are hidden in the divine Scripture. Let no one deceive himself--in no other way is it possible for the chest of knowledge to be opened to us, and for us to enjoy the good things that it contains and partake of them and contemplate them. [emphasis mine]

But what are these good things of which I speak? They consist in perfect love (that is, toward God and our neighbor), contempt for all things that are visible, mortification of the flesh and "its members that are on the earth" (Colossians 3:5), including evil desire or of passionate sentiment at any time. We shall not feel the tyrannical oppression of the evil one, but be mindful only of the commandments of our Savior Christ. We shall think of immortality, of the incorruption of eternal glory, of the kingdom of Heaven, of our adoption as sons through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Thereby we become sons by adoption and grace, we are called "heirs of God and fellow-heirs of Christ" (Romans 8:17), and together with these things we acquire "the mind of Christ" (1st Corinthians 2:16) and through Him see God and Christ Himself dwelling in us and moving among us in a way that we can know (2nd Corinthians 6:16). [again, emphasis mine]

All these things are granted to those who hear God's commandments and do them; they enjoy them abundantly together with those unutterable and ineffable things that are above these things, through the opening of the chest of which we have spoken, that is, the uncovering of the eyes of our minds and the contemplation of the things that are hidden within Holy Writ. But others, who lack the knowledge and experience of any of the things of which we have spoken, have no taste of their sweetness, of the immortal life derived from them, since they lean on the mere study of the Scriptures. Nay, rather, this very study will judge and condemn them at their departure from this life even more than those who have not heard the Scriptures at all. Some of these men err through ignorance and pervert all the divine Scriptures (cf. 2nd Peter 3:16) as they interpret them in accordance with their passionate desires. They wish to commend themselves (cf. 2nd Corinthians 10:12) as though they were to be saved apart from the exact observance of Christ's commandments, and so they altogether deny the power of the Holy Scriptures.
Pertinent to a discussion elsewhere. Will be used as a reference in subsequent comments.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

There is a Big Difference Between A Holy Person's Lapse and a Sinner's.

But Scripture clearly declares that righteous and holy men are not immune from guilt, when it says: "The righteous person falls seven times and gets up again." For what else is falling but sinning? And yet, although he is said to fall seven times, he is nonetheless declared righteous, and the lapse into human frailty does not militate against his righteousness, because there is a big difference between a holy person's lapse and a sinner's.

For it is one thing to commit a deadly sin and it is another to anticipate it in thought, which is not without sinfulness; or to offend by the error of ignorance or forgetfulness or by a heedless world glibly uttered; or, by the vice of faithlessness, to doubt something for a moment, due to an inner thought; or to be moved by the subtle titillation of vainglory; or fall back for a short while from the heights of perfection, due to some demand of nature. These are the seven kinds of lapses and, even though a holy man occasionally falls because of them, he still does not cease to be righteous. Yet, although they seem insignificant and small, they still make it impossible for him to be sinless. For on their account he must do penance every day, truly ask for pardon, and unceasingly pray for his sins, saying: "Forgive us our trespasses."

For the one who recognizes that he cannot be justified by the faithfulness of his own works and who believes that he will be freed from the bonds of sin by the Lord's grace alone cannot cease to be holy after a collapse, and he does not cease from crying out with the Apostle: "Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from the body of this death? The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

From: John Cassian: The Conferences. Conference 22 XIII:1-2,7

Christ, the Chief Cornerstone

Fr. Schmemann is right. The fulcrum of our life here, the fulcrum of the Church (Christ's continuing presence in this world) is the Eucharist. Participation in the Liturgy and other services constitutes the primary ascesis of the Church. Fasting, vigils, simplicity, and spiritual readings find their empowerment, their validity(!) in relation to Christ's willingness to meet sinners at the Royal Gates.

Else we are just a quaint Eastern civic organization that shakes its collective fist at all the evils troubling our world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hinderances to Theosis: A previously unpublished paper for a Continuing Education class offered by TOCA.

Hindrances to Theosis: Inroads of Western Scholasticism in Orthodox Theology

The author of "Christian" textual criticism, and especially the justification for the use of secular methods to help explain the Scriptures is not the Holy Spirit. Rationalism is neither noetic nor neptic knowledge. It is not the flowering of healed human expression, of pro-creation. It is the wisdom of this world.

By the things created we see they were not created in a vacuum, but for the express purpose of allowing man-as-image to pro-create and care for the created order in co-operation with God, revealing a relationship between God and man, and showing that man, being both flesh and spirit, is the bridge between the Creator and His creation. Pre-fallen Adam was never perfected or completed in his sinless state. God always intended to lead Adam into Theosis, into fullness of relationship. Theosis wasn’t God’s plan B for mankind after the Fall, but God’s singular will for His creation from the beginning. The Fall did little to change God’s plan for mankind. St Maximus the Confessor writes in his To Thalassius that the Incarnation is the:

ineffable and incomprehensible hypostatic union of the Divine and humanity. This is the great and hidden mystery. This is the blessed destiny for which all things have been constituted. This is the premeditated divine plan in which all things have their beginning and which we speak of as the prescient purpose. It is the cause of all things and caused by none of them. With this purpose in view, God brought into being the substances of all things. This is the primary object of the prescience and forethoughts according to which all things made by God are recapitulated in Him. This mystery encloses all the ages, showing forth the infinite great counsel of God that surpasses infinity and preexists the ages eternally. The great counsel's Angel, the Word consubstantial with the Father, became a man. And He made the innermost depths of the Father's goodness apparent and showed in Himself the purpose for which indeed all creatures received their existence. Therefore, for Christ and in the mystery of Christ, all the ages and all things in them received their being and purpose. The union of limitation and limitlessness, of measure and measurelessness, of finiteness and infinity, of the creator and creation, of stillness and motion was deliberated prior to the ages. And in the last days, this [union] was revealed in Christ, in itself giving fulfillment to the foreknowledge of God. (Quote taken from Mary the Untrodden Portal of God, by George S. Gabriel, Zephyr Publishing, 2000).

Before the Fall, Man was set above creation, to be master over it. But after the Fall, Man became subject to creation. Man’s perceptions were enslaved to created things including time and space. Fallen man no longer thinks in terms of eternity, no longer has the perspective of (to use C.S. Lewis’ words) an amphibian. In other words, fallen Man stopped thinking as though he was the Crown of Creation, the bridge between Creation and the Creator.

Before I converted to Orthodoxy, I was an apologist for Cornerstone Magazine. I dealt with incursions of neo-Orthodoxy within the Evangelical milieu. A lot. As well intended as I was, I realized I was in the same boat as the neo-Orthodox scholars because we both held to the same premise regarding faith: faith is something you have that is special, unique, and above reason, but it is something that never runs contrary to reason, or better, never runs contrary to our ability to grasp and enact that faith.

Using these same presuppositions, the neo-Orthodox went looking for a hidden god, and I justified the faith of the god I could grasp with my mind. Unfortunately for the neo's, theirs was a confession of faithlessness in anything other than the journey it takes to find their hidden god, the "Other," or, the "Thou." On the Evangelical side, reason allowed me to buttress my preconceptions of who God is and what He wants me to do. Yes, we had the Bible in common, but not the interpretation. It never occurred to me that not only could the reasonings of the Germans be amiss, but mine could as well. We both had the Bible, but we both were missing one very important thing: we went looking for the god we were expecting to see instead of being discovered by the One True God. On His terms. Not ours. I laughed at the German hidden god but was scared to death of the judging god, the god that must be appeased, the god that tolerated you so long as you didn't choke on a chicken bone or sneeze too loudly.

We both, like the philospher and heretic Barlaam maintained:

that holiness and perfection cannot be found “without division, reasoning, and analysis,” so he held that anyone desiring to possess perfection and holiness must be taught “methods of distinction, reasoning and analyzing.” But St. Gregory Palamas opposed this view as “a heresy of the Stoics and Pythagoreans.” “We Christians,” he taught, “do not regard as true knowledge that which is found in words and reasonings, but that demonstrated by deeds and life, which is not only true but also sure and irrefutable.” He goes on to say that no one can know himself through distinctions, reasonings and analyses unless his nous has been made free of conceit and evil by severe penitence and intensive asceticism. No one who has not freed his nous from conceit and evil, that is to say, who has not purified his nous, is going to be aware of his poverty, which is a useful beginning for self-knowledge. (Excerpts of St. Gregory Palamas’ Triads, Book One, 3:13 as found in Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers, Metropolitan HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery Press, 2002)

My discoveries had the same weight as Barth, or Brunner, or for that matter, Hans Urs Von Balthassar, Aquinas, or Arius. Each of us, in our journey of scientific, philosophical, and historical discovery had ourselves and our opinions as the only real basis for determining faith. What we perceived simply was. Our reasonings, our perceptions, were our standard. God, and the things of God, were only objects to be grasped. If we could not grasp an idea of God with our minds, or found opinions that differed from our own, they were simply dismissed because they did not match up with the fruits of our labors. And who was to say differently? Aquinas and I might never have agreed on everything, but I couldn’t say he wasn’t of God because if I did that, I would call my own methods of discovering God into question, and that wasn’t going to happen.

The God of Orthodoxy is a personal God; a God Whose intention for mankind was and is to have a relationship with man; in Orthodox-speak to deify man:

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:20-26

It seems such a waste of time to talk about God as the scholastics do so very well, when instead we should be talking to God. And when we actually know God, He makes it clear to others that we are in a relationship with Him. And from the relationship then, when we do discuss with others what we know of God, we are not like the scribes and scholars but speak with authority, from relationship. From the beginning of the created order until now, this is the only authentic way to speak of the things of God. Those who just rely on their minds to gobble up and regurgitate facts about God via systematic theologies and the like aren't necessarily anymore alive to God than the books they get their information from.

A person can rationalize and justify anything. This is why we have thousands of "Christian" denominations around the world. A true conversion to God doesn't come by assent to a carefully stated set of syllogisms -- even the Muslims do this much -- but from being embraced by the Living God. To be embraced by Him, to have a relationship with Him, cannot be measured by scientific means, nor are the justifications and rationales for the relationship ever going to be satisfactory to logicians, epistemologists, and empiricists. Therefore, their objections are ignored, and we Orthodox open our arms to them, inviting them to "taste and see that the Lord is good."

The Church is built by the historical work of the Divine economy but leads finally to the vision of God "as He is," to the vision of the Triune God in His eternal existence.

This meta-historical, eschatological and iconological dimension of the Church is characteristic of the Eastern tradition, which lives and teaches its theology liturgically; it contemplates the being of God and the being of the Church with the eyes of worship, principally of Eucharistic worship, image of the "eschata" par excellence. It is for that reason that Orthodoxy is thought of, or presented by its spokesmen, as a sort of Christian Platonism, as a vision of future or heavenly things without an interest in history and its problems. By contrast, Western theology tends to limit ecclesiology (and even the whole of theology) to the historical content of the faith -- to the economy -- and to project realities belonging to history and time into the eternal existence of God. The Church ends by being completely "historicized;" it ceases to be the manifestation of the eschata and becomes the image of this world and of historical realities. Ecclesial being and the being of God are no longer organically bound; ecclesiology no longer has a need for "theo-logy" to function. (From Being as Communion, Bp. JOHN Zizioulas, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993, pp. 19-20)

Since the West is so busy trying to scientifically re-create historical reality there is no need to see facts as anything more than that. In Orthodoxy we see life in the Son as something that doesn't stop once it gets started. After all, the fathers of the "patristic era" are not just the fathers of the past, but of the present and the future, unto the endless ages. We dare to think this way because being Christified, we begin to think noetically and neptically like Himself:

But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." Matthew 22:29-32

Man is finite, mortal. But by grace, by relationship with the Living God, man becomes eternal, and throughout the relationship not only lives eternally but begins to think and act with eternal perspective, even within the confines of time and space. From this eternal, relational perspective we are compelled to reject any knowledge of God so-called that is not based in this relationship as it causes a wedge between the Lover and the Beloved if left unrebuked.

Such wedges are textual criticism, hermeneutics, and archaeology as applied to Scriptures, the view of the fathers as speaking only to their own time and therefore not relevant to those who come after them (a hallmark presupposition of the ecumenism and branch-theory heresies), and the idea that our perspective on life should be reduced to what we can perceive with our five senses and ponder with our limited perspectives (general fallen nature, scientism). This of course can apply to any expression of idolatry, but for the purposes of this paper it applies to any scholarly knowledge that puffs itself up against the knowledge of God. We are to neptically bring into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ. Treating Holy Writ or the Church like any other quaint-but-significant historical religious document and institution is not of God. When Orthodoxy embraces Holy Writ, she embraces much more than the historical underpinnings and circumstances surrounding the texts. It is on the basis of these differences that the fathers, and the vast majority of Orthodox believers today, view Scriptures. Scholasticism endeavors to find the truth behind the creation and dissemination of the writings. Christians endeavor to pay attention to what is said and give their energies into doing what is written. It is the difference between admiring a stop sign and obeying it. One is intellectually and aesthetically satisfying, the other is life saving if and when obeyed.

The Church isn’t an institution of antiquity. The Church is the expressed, visible presence of the Triune God in living relationship with His creation. Holy Writ is a part of this relationship, as are the writings of the Fathers as seen in all their glorious expressions. A father may or may not be a scholar. The credibility of any one of us, really, depends not so much on how much we know about God as much as how much we know God. These are two completely different things.

On the 11th of October
The Feast of the Synaxis of the Venerable Fathers of Optina

The time is far spent. The luxury of fretting is a price too high to pay.

There are enough Orthodox blogs out there willing to point out in greatest detail what is wrong with this world. Holy Orthodoxy isn't about lamenting over what is wrong so much as rejoicing that what is wrong with this world can be made right, can be deified.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It's not what you're against, but Who you're for

The immobility of our spiritual and physical members is one thing, but the acquisition of virtues is another. The first depends on nature, but the second governs all the natural motions.

To have no desire for the attractions and pleasures of the world is not the same thing as aspiring after the good things that are eternal and invisible. They are two distinct things. Many people despise the first, but few give thought to the second.

It is one thing to shun the praises of men and not go looking for them, it is not the same as being attached to the glory of God. There is a great difference between them. Many men who are still ruled by their passions have rejected the first, but very few have been worthy of receiving the second, and then only through great pain and labor.

It is one thing to be content with shabby clothes and have no desire for magnificent array, but a different matter to put on the light of God. They are two different things. Caught up in myriad desires, some have easily been negligent, but only they who constantly search for it through all kinds of penitence; those who become children of light and of the day through the fulfillment of the commandments.

It is one thing to speak with humility, but another thing again to have a humble heart. Humility is one thing; the fruit and flower of humility are another. The beauty of this fruit and the good things it are quite distinct, and the energies which come from this fruit are different again. Of all these things that lead to humility, some are within our power and some are not. We can conceptualize them, understand them, meditate on them, talk about them, and even put them into practice, but when it comes to that holy humility itself and all its consequent graces, characters, and powers, then this is all a gift of God. It is not from us. Yet no man would ever be counted worthy if he had not first taken care to sow the seeds of all that he was able to do himself.

To remember God is not the same thing as to love God. To fear Him is not the same as to keep His commandments. They are quite different things, though they become one in those who are perfect and impassable.

It is one thing to avoid sin but another matter to practice the commandments. the former is for those who have reached the first stage of impassability; the latter for those who have struggled and lived in accordance with the Gospel.

Idleness is not the same thing as spiritual stillness, and this stillness is not the same thing as silence (hesychia). All three are quite distinct. The first pertains to those who have not desire to participate in the good things of God or even to succeed in good things; the second pertains to those who constantly make time for the knowledge of God, who are attentive to the words of innate wisdom, who search the depths of the Spirit and are initiated into the awesome mysteries of God; the third pertains to those who commit themselves to intellectual pursuits and give close scrutiny to their thoughts (nepsis).

From St. Symeon the New Theologian