Shelter from Sin

Grace can rescue a fallen man. He can recover from his sins and be rehabilitated into a good moral condition. The Lord can restore a man from his fallen condition into a state where he can freely make his choices and freely implement them in a state free from passion and compulsion. Such a man will be grateful to the Lord. He will recognise what the Lord has done for him. He will be thankful to the Lord and will count himself blessed by his God. But this is not enough. Many non-Orthodox stop here. For them, they think it is sufficient to show gratitude for what they consider to be benefits and to petition the Lord for more of these benefits. This is the practice and the extent of their piety. But an Orthodox Christian knows that gratitude is just the beginning. He knows that he must use his freedom to remember his repentance. He knows that his glorification of the Lord must be grounded in his own sorrow for his sins. When that happens, his sorrow doesn’t go away. Instead, his sorrow takes on a joyous quality. This joyous quality is an effect of his repentance, for when the Lord accepts his repentance, then a man understands that he is reunited with his Lord in the Body of the Church, and he is grateful for this acceptance of his repentance. Even if a man does not sense that the Lord has accepted his repentance, he is still content to repent even without the consolation of this joy. He knows that repentance is still the primary activity of his life. He doesn’t repent so that he might receive consolation and imagine that he is being soothed. He repents because he knows that he must. He has no other reason to live rather than to live out his days in repentance. This is the purpose of his life. Yet the Lord will rarely withhold the consolation of His joy from a repentant man, because He knows that most men are too weak to do without His comforts. These comforts fortify a man. When the Lord does console us with the experience of his joy, He is condescending to our weakness. Why? Because He knows that we will reject His yoke, even though it is lighter than sin, because we cannot even bear a slight trial or temptation. The Lord knows that a man will choose to damn himself and will lose himself in his own sin if he even just slightly tastes some of its temptation. When a repentant man realises that the Lord is shielding him from sin and temptation, then a man will become even more grateful than before. Such a man sees his own corruption in the weakness of his will. He understands that his salvation is at stake. He relies on the grace of the Lord to shelter him from temptation. When he sense that grace, a repentant man’s joy takes him out of himself. This is a very dangerous condition. When a man does not know how to guard and treasure this kind of grace, he will lose this grace. Sooner or later, it will leave him. This grace departs from a man because, little by little, he inevitably gives himself over to his sins and temptations, however small they may be at the beginning. Little by little, he loses grace, his joy, his gratitude, his spiritual balance and his good, moral condition. He may not even be consciously aware of the cooling of his heart, but his soul is always aware. His soul is aware of the choices that he makes in his heart. Here he alienates himself from his Lord. His mind becomes cloudy, his perceptions faulty. He starts to misunderstand his situation. He gives himself over to thoughts that he likes. He develops an appetite for such thoughts. Such a man who turns away from the consolations of the Lord starts to rely on the pleasure and compensations that his thoughts afford him because these thoughts please him. Soon, he is acting out his thoughts and his fall becomes bodily as well as psychical. He becomes hedonistic and self-pleasing. The non-Orthodox are particularly susceptible to this tempation, for they lack the ascetic, Orthodox praxis that preserves one’s spiritual balance. However, even Orthodox Christians face this risk as well. It may go even worse for Orthodox who turn away from the ascetic praxis that they have been granted. In either case, the fall into this tempation is the same for both non-Orthodox and Orthodox, but the latter face greater condemnation for failing to guard the grace that they have received. In summary, a man rescued from his sins is in the most dangerous situation because now he needs to make his choices. He must choose to return to his repentant condition, and let the Lord accept his repentance, if the Lord so wills. Then he may be able to preserve his gratitude, guard the grace that blesses him. He forgoes the pleasure of this world in order to receive the joy that the Lord might share with him.

Church Life

On Virtues and Passions

What are virtues and passions and what is the the relationship between them? I don’t find useful the idea that a passion is just a virtue-gone-wrong, i.e. into its negative mode. I’ve seen many heterodox charts displaying this idea. I prefer to think that virtues aren’t transmutable, as being solely divine energetically, incapable of losing their divine character. I think that divine virtues ground good, downstream moral actions. I’d say virtues are always divine and never human. Using this language, then one won’t make the mistake of considering those purely human, so-called ‘good’ morals (that even atheists and heretics agree upon) to be good in a divine way (that is, there is  no imitatio possible in my orthopraxis.) In my orthopraxis,  of course we do everything we can. That is no credit to ourselves. We don’t even notice it. It’s automatic. But I ask the Lord to do everything. I don’t even ask the Lord to help me to do things. I just do everything I can, automatically and unthinkingly. I consider my efforts to be nothing. Some people ask the Lord for help and strength in undertaking. That’s fine. I ask the Lord to do everything after I do everything that I can but account it as nothing. The Lord takes all the credit, all the glory, whatever the outcome. It’s His providence. It’s His grace, if He grants it, or grants something else I could not have imagined. The corollary is that I get all the blame if I do not do everything that I can. Immediately, I have no way to avoid this blame and am presented with the necessity to repent, regardless of the outcome. Even if I exert myself fully, repentance is still an outcome of the failure in the shortfall of my efforts exerted to their maximum degree. In simple summary, when virtues are considered to be solely and exclusively divine, and not a humanistic property, then a man will take no credit for any so-called ‘good’ he does.