Killing the passions

30 January 2019

Christians who are striving aren’t feather-brained dupes, nor are they naïve, simplistic, superficial, shallow, gloomy, weird or abstracted.

If they are, they’re not real Christians. Striving Christians are hopeful, joyful, sincere, honourable, whole and humble.

The starting-point for self-improvement isn’t at all self-centred. The sense of my sinfulness makes me contrite, not afraid or upset.

The belief that I can change, that I’m a great sinner, shouldn’t be wishful thinking or false modesty, but sure, precise and unflinching words and action.

May the discovery of the good God’s infinite love, and of my own rebellion, apostasy and estrangement from Him give me hot tears of genuine repentance.

May God’s love for us move me, bring me to contrition, stir me and restore me. The starting-point, then, is acceptance of my sin.

This honest acceptance will bring from God repentance which will make my soul hate what it loved and love any good it had forgotten.

An Athonite Elder was once asked: ‘What is the Holy Mountain?’ He answered: ‘We have a lot of people here who are repenting. Or rather, we’re all repenting’.

Another Elder said: ‘A monk is clothed in repentance. He’s consumed entirely by the love of God and lives in repentance’. These last words are very important.

Repentance isn’t a passive attitude where we bemoan our fate and curse our fortune.

Rather, according to Abba Isaac the Syrian, it’s the heart burning with love for God, other people and the whole of creation. Those who repent have the flame of love burning in their heart and try to make up for the time they wasted in sinning They lament their offences.

They don’t worry or become anxious about themselves, about how such a wonderful person managed to make a mess of things, because that implies a great deal of self-pride. You can’t have love for God if you don’t love other people.

This love makes me tolerant, forgiving, sympathetic, kindly, amusing and charming with other people; not hard, judgmental, critical, severe, scowling and dogmatic.

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