The fear of God

The fear of God is not at odds with the grace of God. So what is the fear of God? Essentially, there are two sorts of fear.  There is an ungodly fear and Godly fear.  The key point about Ungodly fear is that this drives you from God.  Genesis 3:10 Adam is afraid and so he hid.  There is the ungodly fear that drives you from God.  This is the fear that the Israelite’s have in Sinai hearing the trumpets, they draw back in fear.  This is a fear of the rebel.  The fear of being exposed and so they run.  They have a fear that drives them away from God.  And this is ungodly fear.  It comes from not knowing God.  Therefore fear and doubt are regularly connected in scripture.  Wrong fear being the cause of unbelief.   Revelation 21 puts fearful and faithless together and says their portion is in the lake that burns which is the second death.  Where The spirit of God  produces a fear of God, that drives us to God. The devil’s work is precisely this to promote the fear of God that makes people flee. So we Christians must ask ourselves these questions.

  • Do we have fears that make us question whether there was ever a work of grace?
  • Do these fears make us question whether we doubt there is any comfort from the word and Spirit of God?
  • Do these fears keep us back from taking hold of the promise of salvation by Jesus Christ?
  • Do these fears tend to the hardening of our hearts and making us desperate?

If we answer yes to these questions then there is no grace in it. For these cannot be the natural effects of the workings of the spirit of God.  These are not His doings.

On the other hand, Godly fear is the fear the Spirit produces in our hearts.  Jeremiah 32:38 They shall be my people and I will be their God, I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me forever for their own good and their children after them.   So the Spirit puts the fear of me in Verse 40 their heart that they may not turn from Me.  That is the Godly fear the Spirit produces.  The fear that draws us to God and keeps us from wandering away from God.  And clearly this Spirit induces fear is not merely about fear of punishment that we might be punished if we wander away because the fear is associated with all the good that He does for them in Jeremiah 33.  They are overwhelmed by His graciousness.  No faith means no fear of God. Devil’s faith means devils fear. Godly fear flows from a sense of Love and Kindness of God to the soul.  Where there is a sense of hope of the kindness and mercy of God by Jesus Christ, there can be none of these fear.  Godly fear flows from a sense of hope of mercy from God by Jesus Christ.  Nothing can lay a stronger obligation upon the heart to fear God than a sense of or hope in mercy.  This begets true tenderness of heart, true Godly softness of spirit. This truly endears the affection to God and in this true tenderness to God lies the very essence of the fear of the Lord. In other words Fear defines true Love for God.  It does not balance it out. It defines it. We are called to love God. That word love we can mistake it thinking it means the other loves that we have. But the nature of love is defined by its object. Love for God is not right unless it knows God in all His perfections.  You could think it is the grace of God that makes us love God and that the holiness of God makes us tremble. But not so. God’s holiness and majesty does not lessen our love for God. It shapes it. Godly fear is love defined.  The fear of God is the right overwhelmed response to God’s full revelations of Himself. Godly fear shapes our love for God. 

How can we grow in this Holy fear?

This fear comes from knowing God.  Particularly through His word.

Deuteronomy 6:1 This is the commandment your Lord God command me to teach you…that you may fear the Lord your God..You your sons

So learning from the word of God we drink in the fear of God. We drink in this right conception of who God is and so develop a right overwhelmed response to Him knowing who He is.  God’s glory and majesty like light shining into darkness, they expose us. In encounter with God, not only grow to know Him but in His light we grow to know ourselves better too.  Therefore an encounter with God must create a trembling at who He is and horror at who we are.  In His light we see His holiness and our unholiness.  We see ourselves.  But this pain of seeing ourselves truly is a sweet pain to the believer for we want our sin blasted away.  If God shall come to you indeed and visit you with forgiveness of sins that visit will remove the guilt but it will increase the sense of thy filth, it will increase your apprehension of your filth.  And the sense of this that God has forgiven filthy sinner will make you both rejoice and tremble. You rejoice and tremble. A blessed confusion will cover your face.  There is a fearful response to God His glory and grace. Rejoicing at His holiness, His graciousness and Goodness and trembling at it and trembling at our filthiness all at the same time.  There is a relationship between fear and joy. The right fear of God is intimately related to joy in scripture.  Fear is closely concerned with the glory of God. Revelation 15:4 “Who will not fear O Lord and glorify Your name.” The fear of God is concerned with the glory of God and enjoys it. True praise is full of a right fear.  Psalm 2 Rejoice with trembling.  That is the right rejoicing before this God and yet in Nehemiah 1:11 “O Lord let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delights to fear Your name.  As fear defines our love for God, it defines or shapes our joy in God.  Saints take a pleasure in fearing the Lord.  There is a delight in it.  This fear shapes what sort of joy we have.  This is key as we talk about our enjoyment of God. Our enjoyment of God is shaped by the object of our joy.  How then is this fear of the Lord so life savingly useful?  Proverbs 1:7 tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It means you do not have a true knowledge of God, You do not know God if you don’t fear Him.  You do not have a true knowledge of yourself if you do not fear Him.  The fear of God drives the believer to want God and to want to know God more.  The fear of God shapes our learning.  Without the fear of God all our abilities are a liability.  The fear of God purifies us. Isaiah 8 verse 11 talks about how the fear of the Lord brings strength to His servants….let Him be your fear

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What Fear of God is and what it is not

The fear of God is not the animal -like fear of this world. Our fear is like that, and we must strive to conquer it by the grace of God. Such fear is from Hades. Our life is filled with fear. We fear what tomorrow will bring, what the future has in store for us. That is an animal-like fear.

The fear of God is when you love Him, when you truly love Him with all your heart and you strive never to offend or sadden Him– not only with your deeds, actions, and words, but also with your thoughts. You try to please Him in everything you do or say. That is the fear of God — the fear of doing anything that might sadden or offend our parent.

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Quest for the Transcendence

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Man is made in the image and likeness of God.  God is infinite and we are finite.  He is the Creator and we are creature.  So we are made to commune with Him.  We are made to transcend the imminent.  We are to go beyond just the earth.  We are to commune with the infinite, the eternal and immortal God.  But the Theology in the West says that communion with God is the reward for the future, because they separated in their theology the supernatural life of God from the natural life of man in which the communion was cut short because man lost grace until the redemption of Christ came.  So what we need to do is reconnect that but in Western theology they say it is when you pass this life that connection is made unlike the Eastern (Orthodox Theology)

In the Orthodox Church, that connection is always there because there is the Kingdom of God present through the Holy Spirit and the Church is a reflection of that not a replacement or a preparation only for the future.  So the future is now to put it plainly in Orthodoxy.  

As Christ said, in Luke 17:20-21 “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

But the Western theology and all of us people living in this have a need to commune with God now.  We can’t just have a waiting period for the reward.  We must have the presence of a person in and through the Liturgical worship and the theology of the Church now.  But what do you do if you have a system where man is considered autonomous or independent even without grace and he can live well in the natural world and merely wait for the reward of the supernatural world in the future? What is man to do living in this type of theology?  We still have the impulse to be with God now.  Here is what happened in the West as a result.  So instead of having an open door to the Kingdom which is ever present, the space or the natural place that is void becomes something that we try to make consciously or unconsciously governmental, economically, politically or socially into a facsimile (an exact copy) of the kingdom of God because we need to transcend ourselves.  We need to give ourselves to a greater thing.  We need to have meaning and expression, which goes beyond our immediate needs.  We cannot suffer from a lack of meaning in our lives. 

And then here is the interesting thing.  What we have done if we have made Utopia into kingdoms because that kingdom of God is theologically closed off to us.  There is no where for the transcendent urge of intuition to go there.   But man is going to create a secular kingdom.  He is going to have ultimate fulfillment somehow to try and make it in the worldThat is where you get ideology to replace theology.   That is where you get the isms’ (Communism, Fascism, capitalism, socialism) all these isms that really aren’t.   They can’t really give you the whole meaning of that because only the Kingdom of God can do that.  But we keep trying to reinvent how we are going to reach complete happiness.  That is what modern society is structured to create enough distractions for us so that we can think and we can find a paradise of utopia in the natural setting.  We keep expecting from politicians to do only what God can do.  We keep expecting from social structures and governmental policies what only God can give.  We invent new things all the time that we think are going to be the one thing that will make us happy and fulfilled.  But happiness and fulfillment can only come through the penetration of the kingdom of God unto the earth which ideally in Orthodox theology we have not lost being a reflection of through earthly things of the heavenly reality.   

Man needs a vertical trajectory for meaning in life.  When he turns it horizontal that is when you get in trouble and you try to make a religion out of society.  That is when you get in trouble with all these isms’. That is what creates cults.  Orthodoxy is rather immune to cults except when people use this western mentality to intrude the Eastern theology and then you have a mix between cultist activity and forms and then Orthodoxy.   That is why it is a very good idea to be humble in the Church.  We should not be carried away by perfection of theology either.  Don’t think that you can apply everything to someone that comes to you. 

Overall, Man needs to transcend himself.  In order to find meaning, he has to have God to give him meaning.  The reason is because he is made for that.  God became man so that man might become God by grace.  We are not content merely to have a terrestrial (relating to earth) life.  We must have a celestial meaning.  We must have a heavenly goal.  We must have a heavenly home.  We have to go there.  If that is closed off from us or if it becomes merely secular, we are going to try to make out of this the best thing we have.  That temptation of trying to make out of the earth what only the heaven can be is apocalyptic.

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Monasticism and Profound humility

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In Paradise, man was in communion with God and God was life and security for him.  Disobedience and the falling into sin disrupted this life giving union with God.  And thus death entered the life of men with devastating consequences.  Men lost the security and support that he had from God.  Out of fear and the struggle for survival, he then conceived his own way of life based on his own natural created powers.  Previously, he had kept the commandments of God and enjoyed every good thing and lived in-corruption.  After transgression however wishing to be protected from the fear of extinction, he took refuge in the following three substitutes.

  1. Self-will and the persuasiveness of his logical reasoning. He put his confidence in his mind.
  2. The pleasure of the senses and the desires associated naturally with reproduction.
  3. The possession of material goods.

Each one of these three alienated him from the life of God in their respective fashions by relying on the persuasiveness of his own logical judgment and his own will, he built a wall between himself and God.  In succumbing to the pleasure of the senses, he puts on the garments of skin and undergoes the second estrangement.  Although life is maintained, it is changed into death, that is into life of self-love combined with spiritual death.  Finally, through his attempt to acquire much goods for many years so as to feel secure, he undergoes the third estrangement which completely darkens his intellect and hardness his heart.  He is thus given over to vanity and to the folly of worshiping the creature more than the Creator.  The fall into these three forms of alienation disposes the conscious of men negatively with regard to God, to his neighbor and to the world.  In his relationship to God, he gives preference to himself.  In his relationship with his neighbor, he is led by his passionate desire to dominate and in his relationship to the material world, he is given over to the frenzy of acquisitiveness. Monasticism aims to alienate the above three fold alienation and thus to restore men to a genuine existence. This aim is realized by the accomplishment of three corresponding monastic vows.

  1. Obedience
  2. Virginity or chastity
  3. Non-acquisition or Poverty

The observance of these 3 vows together with a fourth vow of stability that the monk should remain at the Monastery unless he is assigned to another place, aims at the attainment of pure prayer and perfect likeness to Christ, the Son of God.  It is in this sense, that monasticism offers men the possibility of emulating Christ in humility and crucifixion without being destroyed.

The one who wishes to learn in the spiritual school of the Gospel must keep firmly to three principles.

  1. To blame himself
  2. Not to trust in his own reasoning
  3. To hate his own will

When man blames himself, he becomes aware of his spiritual poverty and he finds a firm base of his ascent to the kingdom of his heavenly father. The principle of self-condemnation establishes in him, the unshakable conviction that without the grace of God, he can do nothing.  Self-condemnation requires faith.  It is not a psychological state.  It is a spiritual practice in the face of God.  Furthermore, when he places his trust in the Words of Christ rather than in his own reasoning he perceived the Luciferic pride which has corrupted his existence from the very beginning of the very first day of his life.  He is crushed by his nothingness before the divine measure of Christ’s commandments.  Because the commandments of Christ is not given by men.  This will humble his heart and attracts the grace of the Holy Spirit which removes corruption accumulated through sin.  Finally, the principle of hating his own will implies perfect acceptance of the cross of Christ in his life which frees him entirely from every attachment to this world.

Archimandrite Zacharias on ‘Living outside the camp of the world’

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THE HEART THAT IS FILLED WITH ANGER CANNOT RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT!

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Spiritual Wisdom from Elder Proclu

Monk Proclu (Nicău)
Elder Proclu was born on November 13, 1928 in the Romanian village of Micolu Belan, in the Neamts region. At age twelve he left for the monastery of Sihastria, where he lived as a novice for eight years and received the monastic tonsure in 1948. Monk Proclu was a faithful spiritual son of Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie) and followed his words all his life. In 1959, the campaign began in Romania against monasteries, when they were closed and all the monks who had not reached retirement age were expelled. This included Fr. Proclu. He was thirty-one years old. At the blessing of Elder Cleopa he returned to his native village and began to live the heremetic life, secluding himself in a poor hut. Fr. Proclu spent the rest of his fifty-eight years of life in this ascetic labor and on January 27, 2017 peacefully departed to the Lord in the eighty-ninth year of his life.

Let’s do everything out of love!

I am glad that you are in search of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever holds fast to the Church will acquire paradise. For whomever the Church is Mother, God is his Father. Otherwise in vain do we pronounce the prayer, “Our Father”. Whoever prays “Our Father” must accept the Church as his mother.

In reaching the place where it is written, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we have to think whether we have offended anyone in any way but never asked forgiveness for this. Or, has anyone ever asked us to forgive his mistake and we did not forgive him? If I don’t do what it says in the prayer, it means that I am lying when I pray, and I am not a true child of God.

Truly, one can only say “Our Father” if he forgives all who have caused him pain, difficulties, or sinned in any way against him. Whoever does not forgive, well I don’t know how he can pray that prayer. Such people are cruelly mistaken.

The greatest problem of our times is enmity. The heart that is filled with anger cannot receive the Holy Spirit!

When you are overtaken by remembrance of wrongs, your heart is filled with anger and your soul feels that it is in hell. To the best of our ability, let’s not take revenge on those who offend us. Let’s not remember evil from anyone; and if anyone upsets us, let us pray for him: “O Lord, forgive the one who has upset me!”

The best way to defeat the devil is by patience. As long as we endure and do not take revenge, the spirit of peace calms us. To the degree that we pray for our enemies and take all the blame on ourselves, we will feel great peace in our souls. And if our thoughts tell us that “so-and-so is also to blame and not just me,” and this thought conquers us, then the Holy Spirit leaves us, we begin to feel heaviness in our souls, and we can’t endure anymore.

If a person has no humility, then after many punishments, blows, and sorrows he begins to acknowledge that he is nothing but an animal, a beast, and at times even lower than a beast. Then he begins to seek the Truth, the Light, and he becomes ashamed that he sinned. And if he still has days left in his life, he begins to repent. But if he doesn’t… God preserve us!

Sorrows and hardships help us acquire the gift of dispassion and humility. The gift of dispassion is acquired especially by those who do not want to take revenge.

If I want to help someone, I need to help him with mercy; I have to have mercy for him, and everything I say to him must be said with mercy. I will achieve nothing by gnashing my teeth, for it is the Lord’s commandment to do everything with love.1

Judgment of our neighbor drives away the activity of the Holy Spirit

In difficult situations, like prison, evening (night) prayer is very helpful. Let us pray to the Good God with all our hearts! And as we do this, so that our prayer might be accepted, let us not bear grudges against anyone; and if anyone bears a grudge against us he won’t achieve anything—as long as we bear no hard feelings against anyone. Then our prayer will be acceptable to God. It is a great thing to pray without having any unpleasantness with anyone else! Nighttime prayer is very valuable.

Some come to me and say: “So-and-so cast a spell on me and the devil entered into me. I am tormented; I went to the Unction services, went to church, but to no effect.

I say to them, “Look, these prayers help very much if when the time comes to lay down to sleep we do not go to sleep with a distracted mind, but fall asleep with prayer and bear no evil against anyone.

As long as I consider that so-and-so cast a spell on me, my prayer has no power. The Holy Spirit helps when we bear no evil against anyone.

If it should happen that I judged someone or said something bad about someone, I can correct this sin by running to confession, remembering that person in prayer and never saying anything bad about him.

If we see that someone is looking at us with anger, we need to pray in thought for him that the Good God would bring him peace. This helps very much in winning over a person who has enmity toward you. An enemy can be won over like this: with gifts and a kind word. Then the Holy Spirit casts out the evil spirits that have taken him captive, and he makes peace.

Whoever does not want to go to church and make a good beginning has a conscience that no longer reproaches him, and God abandons him. And then, since the Holy Spirit has abandoned him, the devil forcefully gets the upper hand over him and he can end up drowning, or fall under an automobile, or even hang himself.

Do not fight against a person; we have to fight against the spirit of evil. Our fight is like this: We cannot do anything of our own strength, but the Holy Spirit helps us to the measure of our prayer with humility.2

Monk Proclu (Nică

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Love your enemies

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Love of enemies

For St. Silouan, this true compassionate, Christlike love for all mankind leads the believer to grieve for the salvation of every human person, just as he were grieving for his own salvation. St. Silouan’s fervent desire for the salvation of every human person can be summed up further in his words: “Love cannot suffer a single soul to perish.” Basically, what he’s saying here is that true love cannot bear to see any human being suffering in hell. Therefore, when he says, “Our brother is our life,” St. Silouan is actually implying that all mankind—indeed, every human person—is truly our neighbor, our brother, and our life. He stresses that it’s the Holy Spirit who teaches true Christlike love and compassion.

Such love and compassion lead ultimately to Christlike sorrow for those who are not being saved. St. Maximus offers an additional point. He states repeatedly that not only is the true disciple called to love everyone—that’s hard enough in itself, isn’t it?—he adds: you have to love each and every person equally. That’s how you become like God, in imitation of the perfect love of Christ for all mankind. Can you do it?

There’s one other aspect of St. Silouan’s teaching on love and how it leads to theosis [that] we have to talk about. Here’s where we come into play. This is relevant and practical and most applicable for all of us here, and this is the special emphasis that they place on love for enemies. We didn’t talk about love for enemies yet. This theme is fundamental to his entire teaching. Elder Sophrony refers to love for enemies as the cornerstone of our whole teaching. It’s the ultimate synthesis of all our theology: love for enemies. I wonder what he’s going to get at here.

To begin with, the commandment of Christ to “love thy enemy” is not found in any other religion of the world. It’s uniquely Christian. As compared to the commandments of the Old Testament, the commandments of Christ appear revolutionary. It’s opposite to the prescription of the Mosaic law. The Lord himself proclaims:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I tell you not to resist an evil person, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I say to you: “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Love for enemies thus characterizes the true disciples of Christ. Before discussing this aspect of St. Silouan’s teaching, we first have to ask ourselves, I think: Who is this enemy, anyway? Who is the enemy whom Christ commands us to love? Is that ISIS? Al-Qaeda? Is one supposed to understand the word “enemy” in a common, everyday sense of the term, as an outright antagonist or a rival? Or is it perhaps a deeper, more spiritual understanding of this word, “enemy”? The Lord himself refers to an enemy as anyone who strikes us, anyone who sues us, anyone who forces us against our will or persecutes us. In many cases, however, an enemy is not necessarily the customary adversary or antagonist; rather, an enemy is he who is the source of a particular spiritual trial or a temptation.

Let’s repeat that: an enemy is he who is the source of a particular spiritual trial or a temptation. An enemy thus can strike us and persecute us not only physically but also, and perhaps more often than not, he wounds with words. This could be both intentional as well as unintentional. An enemy, in this specific context, is therefore not your typical adversary, antagonist, or outright rival. In this particular sense, an enemy is he, whether he’s aware of it or not, who may be the source of a spiritual trial, a temptation, or a tribulation which afflicts us and which causes us grief or sorrow.

Many times, it is he with whom one has a close and personal relationship who is often perceived as this kind of a spiritual “enemy,” and this is indeed the person whom the Lord is calling us to love. This person, whether intentionally or not, who makes us suffer and who makes us feel scorned or despised, who might hurt our feelings to the point where we become angry and hateful, he who makes us feel sorrowful or grieved—this is the enemy who is to be loved. This would include members of our own families, our relatives, our friends, fellow members of our parish community, as well as those with whom one is sacramentally linked or has spiritual bonds, even clergy and their families, colleagues, co-workers, fellow students. It seems as if the most difficult, the most fierce and humbling of the inner conflicts of spiritual warfare stem from one’s personal relationships with the people with whom one is closest. It’s easier loving and praying for the guy off in Afghanistan, but how about in my own family?

St. Silouan refers to this broader, more spiritual definition of “enemy.” He includes as an enemy anyone who offends you, anyone with whom one is angry, anyone you condemn or detest, as well as anyone with whom you’re not reconciled, and also with whom you find fault or look upon with an unkind eye, he says. For St. Silouan, in this particular spiritual sense, our enemy is anyone with whom we are angry, anyone we despise or detest, anyone we find fault with, anyone with whom we are not reconciled.

With this importance attached to this theme of love for enemies, we have to naturally ask the next question, then. Now the enemy has been identified; now what do we do? What does he mean by the word “love”? What is this love for enemies, anyway? How are you supposed to love an enemy? The word “love” is so freely and frequently used, it may take on a variety of diverse meanings. For St. Silouan and for the Fathers in general, love is not simply a sentimental emotion; that’s not what love is. Nor can love be reduced to mere tolerance of another person. You think that’s what love is? You’re going to just tolerate this guy? Neither is love for enemies a show of non-violence; that’s not the love we’re called to. It’s not a returning evil for evil, nor is love just an attitude of neutrality; that’s not good enough. Love is not the mere absence of hatred.

True love is an effort to do goodto someone who hates you. Often, in the effort to do good to an enemy, we may assume that we have to go to great lengths in order to show our love and to prove our love. However, it’s not the outward showing or proving of love that matters most. Love is proven to be true when it instills inner peace within the heart of an enemy. This is the genuine mark of love: when out of sheer compassion, one tries to instill peace and calm into the heart of another human person, especially one of our so-called enemies. This is not accomplished through gifts and through pomp and through ceremony and making a show out of it. According to St. Maximus, it’s accomplished through simple words, through a humble attitude, through a gentle demeanor toward one of our enemies. That’s how you show love. St. Silouan refers to love for enemies as “the compassion of a loving heart.”

However, love must not be confined to the emotion of compassion. Love is not an emotion. Love is action. The Lord himself urges the believer into action. He teaches:

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you.

The Lord here presents love as action, as doing good, as blessing, as praying, as offering, as giving. Clearly, Christ commands the believer to respond to and to react to an enemy with good and positive acts. Love for enemies is not simply a show of neutrality. It entails a positive reaction. It entails an active response.

Paradoxically, it might also be said that it’s not so much what one does that reveals your love. Sometimes it’s what one does not do or what one does not say that truly shows genuine concern for the inner peace of one of our so-called enemies. The truth and the integrity behind the believer’s actions is manifested by his not returning evil for evil, such as not returning angry words or a haughty attitude or a disturbing look or aggressive remarks. When the believer, out of concern for the inner peace of an enemy, does not react with scorn and hatred, and when he does not attempt revenge, then he’s on his way to truly loving as the Lord commands us to do.

The Church Fathers also offer other practical methods and techniques that can be used in trying to actively love an enemy. For example, St. Maximus recommends that the believer try to never speak ill of an enemy to anyone. Elsewhere, he advises to “dwell on the good things of the past,” and that way it’s more easy to cast out the hatred of the present day. St. Symeon the New Theologian teaches we should always think positively. He says, “Remain calm. Try to stay in control of one’s anger in your attempt to love an enemy.”

Another important element in loving one’s enemy is the ability to forgive him. This is especially significant for St. Silouan. He writes:

If you forgive your brother the affronts he puts upon you, and love your enemies, then you will receive forgiveness for your sins, and the Lord will give you to know the love of the Holy Spirit.

To forgive an enemy. True love occurs when you not only forgive, but also when you forget and no longer remember or dwell on those past offenses. It’s not enough, therefore, to just forgive someone for his sins against you; you have to also forget them, just as our Lord not only forgives us but forgets our sins. St. John Chrysostom says, “There is nothing more grievous than the remembrance of injuries.” To be willing to forget completely, and even to actually cover up what one may have suffered in the past, this is a mark of true Christlike love. Do you see how difficult it is? Do you see why there’s only a few saints among so many of us?

However, for St. Silouan, love for enemies is identified above all else as prayer. Prayer is the ultimate expression of true love. To love your enemy is to pray for him, and more exactly it’s to pray for his salvation in Christ. In this light, St. Silouan offers his own definition of true love, and he writes:

The soul sorrows for her enemies and prays for them, for they have strayed from the truth. That is love for our enemies.

And elsewhere:

The Lord is love. He gave the Holy Spirit on earth, who teaches the soul to love her enemies and pray for them, that they too may find salvation. That is true love.

St. Silouan states clearly: Love for enemies is prayer for their personal salvation in Christ. St. Isaac the Syrian, he’s more specific about praying for one’s enemies. He refers to it as “praying for their protection.” Can you do that? Pray for the protection of your enemy, and that he may receive mercy from God?

The love for enemies commanded by Christ cannot be reduced to simple passiveness or non-violence. It’s an active response of true and compassionate prayer for their ultimate salvation. However, it has to be pointed out that for St. Silouan, such love does not depend on human endeavor alone. He stresses that if one does indeed love his enemies, it’s due directly to the grace of the Holy Spirit. It’s beyond us. We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to love our enemies in this way. He writes:

The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God, we cannotlove our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love.

From this perspective, we see that the commandment of Christ to “love thy enemy” reveals the way towards man’s perfection and sanctification. When we come to truly love our enemies, we then participate truly in the life in Christ. St. Silouan regarded the presence of love for enemies as a sign of real action of grace. He who loves his enemies is likened unto the Lord.

It’s interesting to note that Elder Sophrony directly identified love for enemies with uncreated, divine light. He clearly considered love for enemies as the manifestation of grace, and he wrote:

The bearer of such love is the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, the brother and friend of Christ. He is a son of God and a god through grace.

There’s our path to theosis. We could say that to the degree that we participate in this grace of divine love for enemies to the same degree, we thereby participate in the love and in the divine life of God. In this light, the Lord’s own words spoken to his apostles can be taken quite literally.

But I say to you: love your enemies, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

The more we imitate Christ by loving our enemies, the more we truly know Christ and participate in his divine life. We not only believe in Christ and in the sanctification of our human nature, but we come to live the life in Christ, through Christlike love. Among the spiritual fruits obtained through love for enemies, St. Silouan includes the gift of true inner peace. “If we love our enemies, peace will dwell in us day and night,” he says. He teaches that even though we may pray and fast, if we fail to love our enemies, we will never have peace within our soul. According to St. Silouan, “he who carries the peace of the Holy Spirit within him will automatically spread peace to those around him.” Furthermore, he teaches that he who gives peace to others will also be given peace, and indeed much more than he originally gave.

In a world clamoring and protesting for peace, amid all the violence and the hatred that seem to saturate our society, this particular message of peace is especially relevant today. There will be no peace in the world, neither in society nor within the family if man does not first acquire the peace of our Lord within his own soul. This peace has to begin first inwardly, within our own soul, and only then can it flow outwardly, toward our fellow man, and thereby affecting the communities in which we live, and by extension our society as a whole. Herein is the relevance of St. Silouan’s teaching on love for enemies.

Our so-called enemies, therefore, must be seen in a spiritual and in a more positive light. Our enemy is in reality a unique opportunity for us to attain, by the grace of God, to our salvation, to our sanctification, to our theosis. In reality, our enemy is our way toward participation in divine love. Love for our enemies opens the way to our communion with God, and indeed with all mankind. An enemy is an opportunity to be cherished, not an opponent to be scorned. The more we participate in the philanthropic love of Christ for all mankind, the more we will come to appreciate the unique worth that Christ places on each and every human person. This includes our enemies. This is the ultimate manifestation of the life in Christ. This is what it means to be alive in Christ. It’s to acquire the same consciousness of Christ, the same compassion as Christ, and the same desire that Christ has for the salvation of each and every human person, including our enemies.

To conclude, through his participation in divine love, St. Silouan experienced directly its deifying effects. He experienced the most personal way the inherent unity of all mankind. Seeing his brother as his own life, St. Silouan prayed for the salvation of others even more than he prayed for himself. This is where his love and this is where his life in Christ ultimately led him. He became Christlike. He participated personally in Christlike love, in Christlike compassion, in Christlike prayer for the salvation of all mankind.

If we, too, can learn to love our enemies, we, too, can become like St. Silouan. Through love, we, too, can become like Christ, but such a high and exalted degree of love is rarely found today. Many people talk about love. Many people are looking for love, yet few see the significance of the spiritual perspective of this divine mystery of love. Although many different philosophies and religions, as well as all the countless poets and playwrights throughout history, all offer their own perspectives on this mysterious nature of love, none share the truth of our Orthodox Church. I’ll end with the words of St. Maximus the Confessor. He writes:

Many people have said much about love, but only in seeking it among Christ’s disciples will you find it, for only they have the true love, the Teacher of love. Therefore, the one who possesses love possesses God himself, since God is love.

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Resurrection Factor – Josh McDowell

An unbeliever turned into one of the greatest apologetic.

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