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.
Strike a pose and call it repentance. The repentant pose can be dry. The dry, Christian pose of repentance reads like a pamphlet or brochure, much like some other Christians issue daily press releases on how ‘saved’ they are. The repentant pose can also be wet. The wet, Christian pose of repentance is purely psychological, as a neurotic, mental affect in the mind. The wet Christian must perpetually advertise his anxiety and distress. However, true repentance is not a posture but a position. The truly repentant position is characterised by nothing short of maximum, spiritual grief, 100% pain of heart. Anything less is just an illusion or dream. After a struggler finds himself located in 100% spiritual grief and pain of heart, then something strange happens: he is no longer affected by despair. Unlike breezy, Christian poseurs, a truly repentant man is not menaced or consumed by secret despair. Rather, he himself has ‘eaten’ or consumed his own despair. He is beyond despair. At this point, full lamentation can take hold. This is not pretty. It’s an appalling, horrifying sight. We would recoil, aghast in fear and distaste, should we encounter a saint in the throes of his repentance. For this reason, the saints avoid our company, or play the fool with us, because they do not want to impose the horror of their condition upon us. Did you taste this horror? Do you remember the turning-point in your life, when the Holy Spirit whispered salvation into your ear? A memory of a grace-filled moment is also a present illusion. That same grace-filled moment of our repentant conversion can and should be a present reality once again. It should not be written into the memory-hole of our publicized, psycho-social history. It should be vivified in secret by our hidden grief. These things are veiled and invisible. Repentance is not a dream, and a saint is never an imposter.
To “cut off one’s will” is to forego the objects of one’s desire. To “cut off one’s will” does not mean “to not have a will”. That’s clearly impossible. A man whose memory, reason or will are not functioning is not functioning as a man. Our mixed desires reflect the cross-currents in our will. We drift away from the Lord in those desires that are private to ourselves alone. The Lord cannot share such desires with us. If we persist in those desires, they become habitually compulsive, yet their objects fail to satisfy. This is hell, but it is not the worst hell. A worse hell is the loss of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. But when we maintain the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, then we are comforming ourselves to the Lord’s will. When that happens, then sinful objects lose their appeal. We see them for what they are. This is freedom. To”cut off one’s will,” in this sense, is to enter into freedom, the kingdom of heaven. This is the blessing of the Lord.