… the warriors who take part in this unseen war are all who are Christians; and their commander is our Lord Jesus Christ, surrounded and accompanied by His marshals and generals, that is, by all the heirarchies of angels and saints. The arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place is our own heart and all our inner man. The time of the battle is our whole life.
These words, written by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain in the forward to his rendering of Unseen Warfare*, sum up in a graphic way the life of the Christian. Christ himself states in Matthew: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” That is, the message of Christ does not mean that we can sit back and enjoy peace, rather it is a call to arms.
[Y]ou must ceaselessly fight against yourself and against everything that panders to your own wills, that incites and supports them.
Here the author of Unseen Warfare defines our enemies. Using these quotes we can draw up a general battleplan:
1. Every Christian is to be a warrior.
2. Our commander is Christ
3. Christ, as well as each Christian, is supported by His generals – the Angels and the Saints.
4. The battle field lies within each of us, in our own hearts.
5. Our enemies are our passions and everything which supports them, which includes the demons.
6. The battle will last our entire life.
Equating the Christian with a warrior is nothing new, but what exactly does that mean? The Orthodox Church teaches that our great task here on earth is to struggle to regain our natural state of being; the way humanity was before the Fall. The way this is done is by waging an ‘unseen warfare’ against our enemies, the chief of which is our passions.
Our passions are those desires and impulses which we drive us to seek our own will above the will of God. They are not bad in of themselves (being created by God) but ever since the Fall we have largely lost the ability to control them. Have you ever noticed how quick to anger we can become if wefeel someone has slighted us? How easily we are subdued by lust? The demons love the lack of control we have and they are quick to manipulate our passions to steer us away from God.
Luckily we are not left to fight these enemies on our own! We have on our side all the legion of Angels in heaven, as well as the saints who have gone before us. These saints have already fought the same war we are fighting now. They have overcome and subdued their enemies and are quick to help us if we ask. More powerfulful than all of these though is our commander, Christ Jesus – God Himself! They key though is that we absolutely must ask for assistance, and put our trust fully into our commander. During a battle each individual soldier might not be able to know or understand the entire scope of what is going on around them. All they are aware of is the current enemy they are facing and they must trust that the general has an overall command and understanding of the war at large. So too must we trust that God knows what we are facing, as well as what is to come!
This battle is not one that we will ever be able to completely win in this lifetime. There’s no such thing as ‘once saved, always saved’ since there is no way to completely conquer these passions while we are alive. So, we must struggle daily in the battle with the hope that at the end we will be victorious.
Lofty speech aside, this is a battle which I personally am having a terrible time with. It is so incredibly easy to push God out of my mind and to not be aware of the battle which is constantly raging. There is one particular sin which, no matter how aweful and remorseful I feel afterwards, I seem to keep commiting. I feel like I am only now beginning my ‘training’ if you will on how to fight back against my enemies and I am still so very weak.
Please, pray for me that God will send me an army of his servents to help me in the fight.
Likewise, I pray the same for all of you!
As the saying goes: Iesou Christos nika — Jesus Christ conqueres!
IC | XC
NI | KA
*This reference, and all future references to the book Unseen Warfare refers to the edition published by the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press in New York.