The Church offers to perfect the purity that we lack; i.e., our integrity. Integrity, first of all, as the awareness of our fallen condition; subsequently, integrity as our obedient response to the call of Holy Church.
Let us direct our attention, in part, to the state of integrity of our mind. Our mind is spiritually "afloat." And it would be well were this, its "floating" state to convey it from the shores of our old man to the quiet haven of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
At the present moment, we observe an intense polarization in society, which is taking place as a result of the fragmentation of human thought-processes, of human beliefs. Some believe in the Truth, striving to subject their lives to the Truth. Others believe in human falsehood; and, when this falsehood sufficiently permeates their awareness, they either wage war against God, or else they fall, at first, into spiritual somnolence -- a dreamy-sweet fantasy to the effect that our lives are, as it were, under our own command, and that it is, hence, possible to indulge ourselves in accordance with any and all self-established criteria of hedonism, altruism, humanism and socialism; in addition to which, they currently think to cripple Orthodox Serbia in the name of NATO-ism. How often man imagines himself to be an eagle, soaring high-aloft upon the wings of his human achievements -- when, in essence, he is more like a wet hen that constantly abides in its own passions. How many are the world catastrophes that are occurring now, but man does not heed the warnings from on high.
Let us gaze attentively at the human mind, whereof human sinfulness now boasts so. How does the sinful world evaluate the power of the mind, on the one hand; and what do the Holy Fathers teach concerning it, on the other? In the first instance, there is the presence of a keen mind, but of one limited by its own mental hubris; in the second, there is an infant-like mind, which is humble and meek, but at the same time rich in spirit -- the Holy Spirit.
We are capable of feeding our body. But how are we to nourish our mind? Here the Church teaches us with God-inspired words: "lift up my downbent mind to Thee," we read in the penitential canon; "enlighten the eyes of my mind," "Lord grant us, with an emboldened heart and sober thought, to pass the entire night of the present life" -- we read in the morning prayers. In prayers of thanksgiving, we beseech the Mother of God: "enlighten the rational eyes of mine heart." Addressing our guardian angel, we implore: "direct my mind with thy prayer." And St. John Chrysostom states to a certain grieving widow: "if thou dost submit to wisdom and reflect upon just who it was that took thine husband, and about the fact that we, bearing magnanimously our orphaned state, bring our reason to God in sacrifice, then thou shalt be in a condition to overcome thy grief." It is interesting that the Holy Fathers, comparing the mind of Adam prior to the Fall with the fallen mind, say that whereas, at that time, Adam's mind soared like a bird, the most brilliant mind of the fallen nature is but like the crawl of a turtle.
The venerable John of Damascus teaches us that "everything divine is above substance, speech and understanding. For example, whosoever will begin to discuss how and for what reason God brought everything out of non-being into being and will desire to attain to this knowledge by way of the natural mind, the same will not attain to it. But he who, being guided by faith, will meditate upon the goodness, omnipotence, truth, wisdom and righteousness of God, for such a one everything will be smooth and straight, and he will find the direct route."
The venerable Isaac of Syria tells of the distinction between the material and the spiritual minds. The holy apostle James, in his epistle, compares the wisdom that comes down from above with earthly, soulish, demonic wisdom. (James 3, 14-18)
What can help us Christians to develop our mind spiritually, and not allow it to lead us off into the far country?
At the Liturgy we hear the words: "the doors, the doors, in wisdom let us attend." And the question arises -- are we of the faithful or of the catechumens? For this call is an ominous [ _groznyi_ ] one. And what is to be done? Are we to flee from this call, sensing in it the ominous admonishment which cautions the unworthy who have dared, as it were, to penetrate into an holy place? Or to fall prone, recognizing oneself as "faithful" -- even if thoughtlessly fallen away from the Faith -- but prepared now, in one's unworthiness, so clearly and intensely understood, to laud Christ-God -- if only from a distance? To call out to Him, to His merciful kindheartedness: "the doors, the doors"
But there exist not only doors that close before us, but also doors that open before us: the doors of repentance, the doors of merciful kindheartedness. That is the leaven that should uplift our mind.
Discovered amongst the papers of the venerable starets [elder ] Amvrosii of Optina was a letter from one of his spiritual daughters, which had been especially preserved by the starets: it had been written by a charitable landowning woman renowned for her works of piety. Here is what she related to the starets concerning a dream she had had:
"There is a field. There are many people upon it -- simple folk, coarse folk [ sermyazhniki]. In the distance is Christ. A woman directs herself toward Him, in the blessed conviction that she is going to Him, as one of His "own," as a child of His. And Christ does not see her; does not notice her. The throng passes by, each person in turn -- and the Lord sees each and every one of them. Only the woman-landowner, alone, who had served Him so zealously with acts of piety and charity, remains unnoticed. The two of them remain alone, she and the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord does not see her. Wrenched by terror and grief, she collapses at His holy feet with the plaint: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner." And in that selfsame moment she feels upon her head the benign touch of His divine hand and hears the most-sweet voice of Jesus most-sweet: "It is [precisely] such [people] as these that I need."
Deacon Andrey Rudenko Holy Trinity Monastery 1999
Excerpted from _"Pravoslavnaya Rus'"_ ["Orthodox Rus'"], Vol. 71, No. 12 (1633), 15/28 June 1999, pp.1-2 (in Russian). Translated into English from the Russian by G. Spruksts. English-language translation copyright (c) 1999 by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All Rights Reserved.
Permission is hereby granted to use the English-language version of this essay for non-commercial purposes, as long as the appropriate credits and this entire notice are included therewith.
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