Tag Archives: St. Theophan

God will take away your gifts…

So here we are, ending the third day of the Great Fast. This is the time of the year when we are to really strive to live lives pleasing to God, to purify ourselves of harmful passions, and to fill our lives with spiritual thing things. I’ve been reading a wholly edifying book known as the Unseen Warfare which was written by a Roman Catholic priest in the 1600s, and over time made its way to Mt. Athos, and then to Russia where two Eastern Orthodox monks, St. Nikodemus and St. Theophan translated, edited, and made some changes to it.

In chapter 20, How to overcome negligence, it states:

Let the conviction never leave your thought that a single raising of your mind to God, and a single humble genuflexion to His glory and in His honour has infinitely more value than all the treasures of the world; that every time we banish negligence and force ourselves  to do the work we should with diligence, Angles in heaven prepare for us the crown of a glorious victory; and that, on the contrary, not only has God no crowns for the negligent, but that little by little He takes back from them the gifts He bestowed upon them for their former diligence in His service, and will finally deprive them of His kingdom if they continue to be negligent, as He said in the parable of guests bidden to supper, who were too lazy to come: ‘For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper’ (Luke xiv. 24).

This is a very power statement, and one that I believe we should really think over during this lenten period.  It is only be continuing to progress on the spiritual path, by continuing to subdue and conquer our harmful passions and striving to align our will with the will of God that we can be assured of the Kingdom of God. If we are negligent in this task, and focus instead of gratifying our own base instincts and working to please our selves, or even if we just stop in a neutral position, God won’t punish us right away, but the longer we wait to restart our work, the more of His grace God removes from us until we have fallen so far from Him that we lose our salvation.

I pray that God will keep us all strong over the next 46 days until Easter, that we will have the strength, courage, and conviction to run the entire course of the fast, and that we can use this time of “concentrated Christianity” to regain what Grace we’ve lost, and refocus our energies into worshiping the Most Holy Trinity. May God bless you all!

IC | XC
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NI | KA

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“Lord, help us.”

St. Theophan the RecluseFor Christmas my Nouna (Godmother) got me a book from the Orthodox Calendar Company called 2009: Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints. It’s a neat little book that gives the life of one of the saints for the day (while listing all the other saints celebrated) along with a quote by one of the Saints.  Today’s quote comes from St. Theophan the Recluse:

Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but is given only to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their powers to the test, then cry out with their whole heart, “Lord, help us.”

This quote is really interesting in my opinion as it says a few things about how the Orthodox see salvation.

Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but is given only to those who seek and work…. This is interesting because it says that we have to work for our salvation. Now, this is not saying that it is through good works that we achieve our salvations, not at all. What it is saying is that while the grace of God is freely given, we have to actively and continually seek out that grace. Nothing comes without effort. Salvation is not as simple a thing as saying “Jesus, I believe in you.” The effort which we must put forth is trying to overcome our fallen will; our passions and the demons who latch on to our weakness to exploit those passions.  The work that St. Theophan refers to are those things which help us to overcome those passions: trusting in God, helping the needy, praying–especially praying–attending the Divine Liturgy with an open heart and mind rather than merely being ‘present,’ etc. All of these things help us to overcome our will so that then we can fully consciously say “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

…and only to those seekers who, after putting all their powers to the test, then crty out with their whole heart, “Lord, help us.” The Fathers teach us that one of the first steps towards really working out salvation “with fear and trembling” is not think much of ourselves. We are to not put trust in ourselves since we are fallen creatures and to learn to rely on the power of God for everything. If we achieve some task, we are to recognize that it was only through the help of God. If we overcome some sin, we are to recognize that it was not through our own power, but the power of God working through us. In this way we learn to overcome pride, and gain the virtue of humility. St. Theophan tell sus that the help of God only comes to those who trying everything in their own power to come close to God, and seeing that fail, cry out for God’s help. We cannot reach God on our own, through our own powers!

Lastly, St. Theophan tells us that when we cry out to God, we are not to cry out “Lord, help me,” but rather “Lord, help us.” We must remember that our religion, our faith, is not one of just ‘me and God.’ All of us, as creations of God, are striving together towards God. We can rely on each other help us through tough times and we must be able to support others while they are going through rough times. We do not have to ‘run the race’ alone!

There is so much wisdom in these two sentences. What always amazes me is how insightful and wise the Fathers and Saints can be while still being so concise. May God bless us all to be able to see this wisdom!

IC | XC
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NI | KA