Friday, January 17, 2020
St. Theophan the Recluse on Humility, Fear of God, Repentance and Love
Jesus Christ the Son of God the Savior (source)
God is everywhere. And when He finds a heart that isn’t opposed to Him, a humble heart, He enters it and fills it with joy. The joy of the heart which has God within it is so great that it attaches itself to Him and never wants to separate from Him. The Lord doesn’t approach a heart puffed up with egotism. Such a heart is deeply sad, shrivels and slowly dissolves. It wallows in ignorance, sorrow and darkness.
No matter how sinful we are, as soon as we turn to the Lord in repentance and desire, the door of the heart opens to Him. Our inner uncleanness drains out and makes way for purity, virtue, the Savior Himself, the great Visitor of the soul, the Bringer of joy, light and mercy. This blessed state is a gift of God, not something we ourselves have achieved. And since it’s a gift, we ought, in humility, to thank the giver.
Humility! The basis of all the virtues and the fundamental requirement for spiritual fruition. Do you have humility? You have God, You have everything! You don’t have humility? You lose everything! So retain the feeling of humility in your heart. Our natural and normal relationship with God requires a heart which is impassioned, contrite and entirely devoted to Him, a heart which cries mystically at every moment: ‘Lord, You know all things; save me!’ If we surrender ourselves into His hands, He’ll do with and for us whatever’s best for our salvation, according to His wise and holy will.
The task of unceasing prayer is not only for hesychasts, but also for all Christians, whom the Lord enjoins, through His holy apostle, to ‘Pray without ceasing’. There are various stages of prayer before it becomes unceasing. They’re all the work of God, Who watches over the hearts of all of us to the same degree, be we monastics or lay people. And whenever a heart, whoever’s it may be, turns to Him, He approaches it with love and unites with it.
How fear of God is retained in the heart.
The fear of God is begotten from faith and is a requirement for spiritual progress. When it settles in the heart, then, like a good householder, it puts everything to rights. Do we have fear of God? If so, let us thank the Lord Who gave it to us and let us guard it as we would a valuable treasure. And if we don’t have it, let us do whatever we can to acquire it, in the knowledge that the reason for our lack is our own inattention and negligence.
From fear of God are begotten repentance, contrition, and lamentation over our sins. May this feeling, the precursor of salvation, never be absent from our heart. If we’re to retain the fear of God within us, we must keep in mind the whole time the remembrance of death and of the judgment, along with a sense of the presence of the Lord: God is always with us and in us, seeing, listening and knowing everything, even our most hidden thoughts.
When this triad- fear of God, remembrance of death and a sense of the divine presence- settles within us, then prayer surges from the heart spontaneously- then the hope of salvation becomes firm. It’s not so much the fear of God that preserves it; more the memory of the dread judgment. This remembrance, however, mustn’t produce dejection, but should rather inspire combativeness and repentance.
Let us try to remain unsullied by the filth of sin. And if, on occasion, we do sin, let us purify ourselves through confession. Trusting in God’s mercy in this way, we won’t lose heart. In any case, our Judge is merciful and loves us. He won’t be looking for something to condemn us for. On the contrary, he’ll try to find even the slightest reason to exonerate us.
God and the conscience.
If you decide, with all your heart, to always submit to the Lord and to please Him alone through the whole of your way of life, and if, in every predicament and need you turn to Him alone, in faith and devotion, then you can be sure that everything in your life, things spiritual and secular, will turn out successfully. It’s a great thing to realize that, without God, there’s nothing you can do about anything and, having come to understand this, to then have recourse to His assistance in full confidence. The conscience must direct the soul properly and inform it infallibly as to what is the right thing in every situation. It can’t do this, however, if it’s not pure and illumined.
So let’s clean it through ascetic efforts and observation of the Lord’s commandments, which liberate the heart from the passions, and let’s illumine it with the divine light by studying the Gospel. From there we’ll draw wise rules by which we will guide our conscience in the holy will of God.
St. Theophan the Recluse (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!