Soteriology


“The work of the salvation of our souls is the greatest and most wise work, and to learn this work, this art, it is necessary to have recourse to those to whom this work is known, who have completed it. This work of salvation, this work of repentance, is especially known to the Saints, since they have especially endeavored to concern them selves with it, and have carried it in a surpassing manner, one saving for their souls and pleasing to God. Indeed, the Saints have left this spiritual inheritance, this art of repentance and salvation, to the Orthodox Church, having laid up in Her, as in a secure treasure house, all their understanding, their instruction, their zeal, their art, their experiences Let us therefore learn repentance and salvation from Her. We all have come and do come to the church services for Sundays, holidays, ordinary days, and for the Great Fast. All these services teach us repentance and salvation. Have you heard the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete? Heard the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian? Heard the troparia and canons for the Great Fast? What a spirit of repentance is in them! What a compunction, what contrition for the sins of sinful mankind! What a thirst for salvation and pardon from God! What wails and tears of sinners repenting! Behold and learn repentance and propitiation of the Lord from the holy Church. Attend well, reflect, comprehend your sins, have contrition, repent, vaunt not yourselves, do the works of mercy: for the merciful shall obtain mercy.”

– St. John of Kronstadt

“Nothing troubles the man who is given over to the will of God, be it illness, poverty or persecution. He knows that the Lord in His mercy is solicitous for us. The Holy Spirit, whom the soul knows, is witness therefore. But the proud and the self-willed do not want to surrender to God’s will because they like their own way, and that is harmful for the soul.

Abba Pimen said: ‘Our own will is like a wall of brass between us and God, preventing us from coming near to Him or contemplating His mercy.’

We must always pray the Lord for peace of soul that we may the more easily fulfil the Lord’s commandments; for the Lord loves those who strive to do His will, and thus they attain profound peace in God.

He who does the Lord’s will is content with all things, though he be poor or sick and suffering, because the grace of God gladdens his heart. But the man who is discontent with his lot and murmurs against his fate, or against those who cause him offense, should realize that his spirit is in a state of pride, which has taken from him his sense of gratitude towards God.”

– St. Silouan the Athonite

“What can I do for God? Nothing. In fact, I can’t even seek Him; I can’t even repent. But what I can do is to struggle. This means that I can commit myself to a life of asceticism, to the practice of spiritual exercises. And I will undertake such a commitment in a manner appropriate to my way of life, that is, depending on my situation, character, physical strength, psychological disposition, my history, my heredity, in terms of my gifts and so on. Whatever role these factors play, there will be a commitment to asceticism.

Earlier we said that pain begins with the experience of pleasure. Of course, we wanted only the pleasure, not the pain. But now I must embrace pain in order to regain true pleasure. Why? Because we were created for pleasure. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of “delights”, for this is what the word “Eden” means.

… asceticism is a way in which I as a human being, set about attracting the attention of God. … Does God have need of such activity? I will say only this: it is something I can do, and God wants me to do what I can. …It’s my preparation in order to seek, want, actively desire, love and finally, receive God. What we’re attending to now are the preparations, just as we would sweep the house in preparation for a visit by our spiritual father. Thus I give expression to my inner disposition by enduring the coldness, and filth that is within me, and accepting my nakedness and acknowledging it before God. Asceticism is the way I cry out to Him.”

– Elder Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit p. 18-19

“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts of the Apostles 14:22).

“In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Martyrdom of St. Peter the Aleut

The Lord Jesus prophesied this and by His example He proved it. The apostles also said this and by their examples they proved it. All the God-bearing Fathers of the Church, confessors and martyrs said this and they proved this by their example. Therefore, is there any need to doubt that, through a narrow door, one enters the kingdom of God? Should we hesitate for a moment that, “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God?” No, there is no basis nor justification for doubt. Can sheep live among the wolves and not be attacked by them? Can a candle burn in the midst of cross winds and not sway back and forth? Can a good fruit-bearing tree grow along side the road and not be disturbed by passersby? Thus, the Church of pious souls cannot but be persecuted and be persecuted by heathens, by idolaters, by heretics, by apostates, from passions and vices, from sin and transgressions, from the world and by demons. So it is that not one devout soul can remain without persecution, be it externally or internally, until it is separated from the body and the world. Someone might oppose this and prove it otherwise according to his calculation and according to his logic. But, in this case, neither the mind nor the logic of one man is of any avail. Thousands who were crucified speak otherwise, thousands burned alive cry out otherwise, thousands who were beheaded prove otherwise and thousands who were drowned witness otherwise. O my brethren, the Christian Faith is mighty not only when it agrees with sensory reasoning and sensory logic but when, and especially when, it contradicts sensory reasoning and sensory logic.

Those who want to live a godly-life will be persecuted. This the apostle prophesied at the beginning of the Christian era and twenty Christian centuries render a multi-voiced echo to confirm the truth of the prophecy.

O resurrected Lord, grant us light that we may be pious to the end and give us the strength to endure persecution to the end.

– St. Nicholai of Zhicha

“The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit, and the man in whom the Holy Spirit lives feels that he has paradise within him.

Perhaps you will say, ‘Why is it I have not grace like that?’ It is because you have not surrendered yourself to the will of God but live in your own way. Look at the man who likes to have his own way. His soul is never at peace and he is always discontented: this is not right and that is not as it should be. But the man who is entirely given over to the will of God can pray with a pure mind, his soul loves the Lord, and he finds everything pleasant and agreeable.

Thus did the Most Holy Virgin submit herself to God: ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.’ And were we to say likewise—’Behold the servant of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word’—then the Lord’s words written in the Gospels by the Holy Spirit would live in our souls, and the whole world would be filled with the love of God, and how beautiful would life be on earth! And although the words of God have been heard the length and breadth of the universe for so many centuries, people do not understand and will not accept them. But the man who lives according to the will of God will be glorified in heaven and on earth.”

– St. Silouan the Athonite

“Lack of self-control is actually an evil both ancient and modern, though it did not precede its antidote, fasting. By means of our forefathers’ self-indulgence in paradise and their contempt for the fast already in existence there, death entered the world. Sin reigned and brought in the condemnation of our nature from Adam until Christ.

The flood covered the whole earth because of the self-indulgence of Adam’s descendants in this world of ours and their disdain for the chastity which came before. In those days God said to Noah, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in these men, for they are flesh’ (cf. Gen. 6:3 LXX). The deeds of those who are flesh are none other than unlimited eating, drunkenness, sensual pleasure and the evils that spring from them. Because of the abominable depravity and self-indulgence among the men of Sodom, fire fell on them from heaven (Gen. 19:24). ‘Behold’, says the prophet Ezekiel, ‘this was the iniquity of the men of Sodom, in fulness of bread they committed abomination’ (cf. Ezek. 16:49-50). By means of this abomination, ignoring human nature they fell into unnatural unions. What deprived Esau, Isaac’s firstborn, of his birthright and his father’s blessing? Of course it was lasciviousness and an unreasonable demand for food (Gen. 25:25-34; 26:34-35, Heb. 12:16). Why were Eli’s sons condemned to death, and why did he meet a violent death at the news of the death of his children, whom he had not disciplined with proper care? Surely it was because they took the meat from the cauldrons before the time and used it (1 Sam. 2:12-17; 4:11, 17-18). Also, the whole Hebrew nation, while Moses was fasting on the mountain for their sake, were indulging themselves to their own detriment. They ate and drank and rose up to play, as the Scripture says (Exod. 32:6), and their sport was worshipping an idol, for it was then that the incidents surrounding the fashioning of the calf took place among them.

Sensual pleasure causes ungodliness as well as sin, but fasting and self-control result in the fear of God as well as virtue. Fasting must be accompanied by self-control. Why? Because eating our fill, even of humble foods, is a hindrance to the purifying mourning, godly sorrow and contrition in our souls, which bring about unswerving repentance leading to salvation. For without a contrite heart we cannot really lay hold of repentance. It is the restriction of self-indulgence, sleep and the senses according to God’s will that crushes our hearts and makes us mourn for our sins.”

– St. Gregory Palamas

“Carelessness and laziness over salvation is a clear sign that the life of the spirit has not yet begun, and everything has to be started over again. By the way, do not despair in this case either. Life is still given to us so that we would come to our senses and repent. This has to be done. There is still the favorable time of the fast left. Use it, and let us take care to complete the course of our treatment in preparing ourselves for Communion as is meet! Then, having made peace with the Lord in the Sacrament of repentance and having received Him in the Most Pure Mysteries, we will begin the work of life, which ultimately leads to light and perfection of spiritual good things that witness that the Lord is in us and we are in Him. Amen.”

– St. Theophan the Recluse

Source

Next Page »