Posted by: oldbelieving | January 19, 2012

Orthodox Spirituality Part 2: Man’s Spiritual Nature, by Fr. Alexey Young

Lesson 2, Part 1: Man’s Spiritual Nature

-Degrees of knowledge/ways of knowing via St. Isaac of Syria:

1. Body- human wisdom and knowledge, esp. sciences; carnal knowledge; not wrong or bad

2. Soul- when we keep commandments of Christ strictly we begin to acquire knowledge of soul

-as acquire such knowledge we are able to fast, pray, understand Scripture, struggle to acquire virtue, fight temptations – allows us to acquire this higher knowledge

3. Spirit- knowledge that Saints acquire; state of holiness – see invisibly, hear inaudibly, comprehend incomprehensibly the glory of God

-this is communion with Saints, absolute surety about Resurrection bc of communion with God

-teachings of Fathers spring from this experience- Fathers tell us to taste and see for ourselves

-knowledge of Soul and Spirit are closed to those who approach Scriptures and Fathers from perspective of bodily knowledge- much theology/scholarship is at this level – theology by ppl who haven’t experienced God

-Matt. 5:38 – be ye perfect as is Father in Heaven – how is it possible to be perfect?!

-“perfect” is synonymous with “holy”

-English word “holy” derives from Anglo-Saxon term for “whole” – both words related in their root to “heal” – tells us something important about holiness

-how can I become perfect/whole?! – goal of Christian life is to partake of Spirit, union with God’s energies

-he who attains this state is a Saint- participate in God’s perfection

St. Seraphim to Motovilov: true goal is acquisition of Holy Spirit; various practices are means to end

-Motovilov: how can we know we are communing with God? St. Seraphim tells him to look at him, he shines with light of Christ, makes snow pale almost into shadows; Motovilove feels warmth coming from St. Seraphim, penetrating his own body; Motovilov also shining with same light- able to “see” clearly

-necessary condition for union with God is active purification – replace vice with virtues, otherwise other passion fill the void – holiness is sharing in perfection of God

-being ego-centric is choosing death; theo-centrism is to choose life – this mode of being conquers death

-our spiritual nature has as lowest component the soul

-at Fall man’s spiritual nature fractured: lowest part of spiritual nature is seat of passions, imagination, emotions; higher part is spirit

-“soul” corresponds to bodily knowledge

-passions, emotions, imaginations come into existence at Fall – given for man to survive outside Eden; but can also serve for man to wall himself off from God, not have remembrance of God

-most of us who spend in time in realm of imagination, emotions, passions – live in lowest part of spiritual nature that will die with body

-ego-centrism concentrates all energy on lower part – food, clothing, etc – Lord tells us not to worry about these; esp. when young care much about passions dealing with sexual behavior – begin to die out as get older

-sex is part of body and bodily knowledge- esp. within blessed context of marriage- becomes less important as get older

-one who is theo-centric does not encounter limitations of space, time, corruption- Christ walking on water, walking through wall: mode of being that has conquered death

-shouldn’t  come to Church for own satisfaction

-Saints are living proof that theo-centrism is reality; at St. John’s canonization one priest said: because he lived in our place and time we have no excuse- perhaps this is why God revealed him to Church – so we know we can become holy in America

-his incorruption is sign that something about death is not same for him- in some small way he didn’t taste of death –his body didn’t return to dust, something already in process of conquering death–foretaste of resurrection

-sometimes have idea that spirituality is appeasing God- NOT about this, but about healing, becoming whole

-in Church experience some healing, wholeness, holiness- just make a little effort- not just expecting life to come, we’re in it already

-Fathers say Kingdom isn’t life after death but communion with God that starts in this life: if you don’t find Christ in this world you wont find him in next

-to find Christ in this world have to understand beginning: Adam pre- and post-fall

Part 2

-imagination (phantasia) resides in lowest part of spiritual nature – the soul

-before Fall imagination was disciplined, Fall energizes it so its dominated easily by false ideas, images

-Saint has overcome images- imagination and fantasy become dormant

-OT full of false images of God being worshiped – we all do this though- money, success, reputation, etc

-should take care of soul before body because body will die

-angels don’t have imagination- only men and demons do – “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” “an inactive mind is the playground of the devil” – demons can enact many images to arouse our imagination

-demons active images from our memory – porn for example

-more spiritually ill a man is the more he can be troubled by imagination, images, etc

St. Theophan the Recluse: highly active imagination can bring psychological abnormalities; the spiritually alert have almost no imagination bc they’re experiencing reality of God

-thus Saints appear emotionless in icons; Saints can look at us directly bc they can look at sin without judging

-what do we do about imagination? Carry crosses without murmuring- change imagination and its product – emotion- into something highly spiritual – through the Cross joy has come to all the world

-start small: pick one cross to bear without murmuring- will soon feel difference, slowly add crosses

-St. John Chrysostom: start small, told man to begin by not losing temper with wife- don’t scold or reprimand, no sarcasm or yelling, etc: dont worry about boss, co-workers, kids, etc – just focus on wife for now

-after one week of full success then add children (if you slip you start over); if necessary take one child at a time

-if we make even feeble effort we have attention of God, angels, Saints – He’ll send little extra grace

-bearing Crosses begins to have effect on emotions, imagination

-with minimal struggle begin to cooperate with energies of God – begin to put things back in proper place

-Cross necklace should be reminder that Christ has saved us, we’ve given ourselves over to Him as slaves – slave doesn’t have will of his own, only obeys

must have obedience to holy law of fasting– cant bring God anything unless give up own will

-fasting can be very difficult or we ignore it altogether bc we’re so used to instant gratification- but must compel our will to take control of just one thing- subdue passionate part of spiritual nature

-obedience is non-resistance- if someone asks for coat give it to him, etc; Christ didn’t tell us to first evaluate the situation- will he spend this money on alcohol? But giving is for US not for the panhandler – need to deprive ourselves of something

virtue of self-abandonment to God: what is God’s will for me today? Each moment brings obligation to fulfill duty – go to work, do dishes, mow lawn, etc – focus all attention on this duty as something given by God to grow spiritually- in duties is concealed God’s will for us

-He gives us everything necessary for salvation

St. Herman: invited aboard a ship to dine with Captain and others; asked them what they regard as most worthy of love and what do you want for happiness?

-riches, fame, glory, beautiful wife, command of fine ship St. Herman says each of you want what you think is most worthy of love – they agreed. He continues – what can be more worthy of love than Christ? they agree, he asks if they love God – they say of course! How could anyone not love God? St. Herman bows his head, says: I, a poor sinner, have tried my whole life long to love God and I cant say I love Him as I should. To love Him is to think of Him always and always do His will. Do you love Him in this way? They admit they didn’t; from this day forth, from this hour, from this minute you will love God above all

Q: does Patristic use of “imagination” correspond to creative arts?

A: Fathers say all beauty is reflection of God, can lead us to higher forms of beauty and ultimately to God- instead of being just images they lead us to reality

-much of our art is NOT beauty- it is ugly and sinful; distinguish btwn what is truly art and what leads to ego-centrism and fulfillment of passions

-classical music builds good tastes, leads children to higher beauty

Q: creative arts for children?

A: should be encouraged within context of beauty

-Royal Martyrs were extremely pious, French tutor very aware that Nicholas and Alexandra wanted education to be centered around Church year: practice for a drama didn’t happen in Lent – children supposed to focus on the fast and Church services- involvement in arts can be centered on Church life

Q: seems easier to unite with Christ as monastic

A: monastics are single-minded, but Fathers also say its possible for someone in the world to achieve communion but requires discipline

St. Basil instructing priest-monks to confess laypeople- be gentle bc their life is so much harder than ours

Q: fracturing at Fall – what happens in Resurrection to reunited body, soul, spirit?

A: reuniting of fracture must begin in this life bc passions wall us off from God, must begin here and now bc it wont magically happen in next life

St. John of Kronstadt:  if we live one day keeping commandments faultlessly we will have taste of Paradise

-incorrupt relics tends to happen in Saints particularly known for dispassion

Q: holiness of families?

A: from Scriptures we know family is holy as institution of God even if particular members aren’t holy, family has objective holiness; Church is utterly holy and without blemish despite sinful people

-everything, including rocks, are in process of sanctification- we know that all of creation fell and all creation awaits redemption

-possible to have holy business, other institutions

Q: how to feed ours and kids souls, make them receptive to holiness?

A: surround children with that which is beautiful – control over TV, museums; start when they’re young

Dostoyevsky: beauty will save the world

Q: can we be impassioned over good causes?

A: yes, spiritual fervor; Lord is angry when driving money changers out – righteous anger over honor of Father’s Temple, angry not for Himself but for His Father

-we can have righteous anger or fervor as long as its not for me personally- abortion for example

-have to be guided by Church on this, be careful bc there are false virtues – politics for example

-people gave lives for Civil Rights – Church wouldn’t condemn this; but if it also harms others or own family then it would be questionable; case-by-case basis

Fr. Seraphim was detached from politics but he voted- educated himself enough to make informed vote

-need detachment from spirit of times

Q: if emotions/imaginary are temporary why did He give them to us?

A: they weren’t given to us in their current form, we created them at Fall

-became separated out from whole spiritual nature which was united to God completely

-when became separate from His grace then imagination and emotions became empowered; began to create false idols to worship

-with God’s help we can undo damage God did – Theotokos is perfect model of this

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