I love to come up with little aphorisms, and collect others I hear and read. My little sayings come out of two main sources: my overall life experience as a flawed human striving for perfection, and as a pastor, trying to guide flawed humans to perfection.
I will never tire of reminding myself first and everyone who will listen to me or is at least standing in the church that the purpose of our life is perfection. We just recently had a wonderful selection from the Apostle Paul that says this:
(The purpose of the church is for…) “The perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”
I spoke about this in the between services homily on last Saturday, which was the Eve of the Sunday after Theophany, when it is absolutely appropriate to talk about the process of and importance of perfection, since baptism makes this process possible (The purpose of the church, and of baptism. (mp3 format))
Basically everything I say pastorally is in order to pursue perfection, which the scripture understands as absolute completeness, without anything lacking, and holiness, without anything added.
It’s your thoughts, stupid!
Our major problem in life is how we think about things. When we think wrong, we do stuff that is wrong, whether the wrong remains privately within ourselves, in our thoughts, or is expressed in our actions and attitudes. Wrong thinking ALWAYS (ALWAYS, ALWAYS!) leads to disturbances within us, and destroys our inner peace. We think wrongly, but hide it maybe 99% of the time, but the thoughts, attitudes and bad priorities have their effects on us. I think all soul destroying unhappiness is because of our wrong desires, which we either suppress with effort (and therefore turn the unhappiness into joy (over time! It is a process!), or give into outright (delaying and increasing unhappiness), or tepidly resist, causing us to be in a state where we are “neither fish nor fowl” – perhaps not appearing to do wrong, but inside a battle rages and tires us.
Salvation: When our outsides match our insides.
Here is another definition of salvation: When our outsides match our insides. This is the state of perfection, when we do not need to fake anybody (or ourselves) out – we love the Lord’s commandments, and the prophesy is fulfilled in us: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.
When our outsides match our insides, there is no internal war within us, but instead, great peace, and holiness.
We must understand a little bit about evil to understand the aphorism. It is never possible, even for a very evil person, for their outsides to match their insides. They may never consciously have a Godly thought or action, but they remain a creature made in God’s image, and the voice of God will always be calling to them, leaving them without peace. The only way for our inner disposition and our outer life and deeds to match is for us to hear and obey the voice of God calling us to holiness.
We have an epidemic of depression, anxiety, addiction, other mental illnesses, sexual promiscuity and perversity, and many other soul destroying and strength sapping practices, and all of these things are a way in which the outward man is not matching who the inward man should be. The mortal part of human life (our life here and now, on the earth) is a battle to have our outsides match our insides. The battle is long and bloody, but it is the only way to perfect peace. As we fight this long war with many skirmishes, we will have many moments when our insides tell us one thing, but our outside does not reflect this. If this is because of our inner battle to “do good and avoid evil”, this skirmish strengthens us, even if it appears to us to sap our strength. Here are some real world examples, gleaned from my experience as a confessor, and a flawed human.
Making our insides match our outsides – real world examples.
Somebody cuts us off in traffic. Inside, we have the thought to curse then, and perhaps we even “hear” the words, or to flash our lights, give them the finger, etc, BUT WE DO NOT DO IT! A great victory has been won, and over time, the insides WILL match our outsides – we will not have that flash of profane anger.
We see a sexually suggestive picture or provocatively dressed person, and we want to look more, and have a feeling that “just does not feel right” inside us, but, with effort, and maybe even with a delay, we look away, and utter the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. We did not come through the skirmish completely unscathed, but we have won the victory nonetheless. In time, we will be like the old man who could converse with the prostitute without any lust, (while his disciple, who was not as far along in the road to perfection, quite appropriately covered his head in his cowl, to avoid looking at her). Someday I will tell you that story – it is one of my absolute favorite ones from the monastic fathers (I do not know where it is, if one of the readers of this essay does know, please contact me).
We DO NOT LIKE somebody in our office, school, gym, family, etc. There may be good reasons for this, but whenever we see this person, there is a darkening in our soul, and we feel the cold fingers of anger, or disgust, or any of dozens of judgmental thoughts and feelings. We want to avoid even seeing them, much less speaking to them (especially if unpleasantness usually develops), but we master ourselves and say “Good morning”, or “I am about to get a cup of coffee, would you like one”, or something else that we do not feel inside (but we know we should). This is not in ANY WAY hypocrisy! We are ordered to be kind to one another. It is bad if we are not kind “inside”, but we doubly sin if we show this unkindness outside too.
Another way to fight with these inside feelings is to do one thing every day, and not do another, ever. The thing we must do even if we do not feel good about this person “inside”, is to pray for them EVERY DAY, even if it is through gritted teeth. Keep it simple, and short. God knows what they need, and He does not need to be reminded of their faults. Write their name down, and every day, say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on (name)”. Ignore the thoughts that arise up within you. We are trying to be like the second son, here – the one who initially did not want to do the will of his father, but eventually did so. We are like this son if our thoughts are bad, but our actions are good. What did God say about this son? He was the one who did the will of his Father, and over time, we will hear this too.
The thing we MUST NOT do is slander this person, or gossip about them. If you do this, discipline yourself by praying for them even more – instead of one little Jesus prayer, say 10 or a full prayer rope for them. You try this, and see if your feelings about a person do not moderate and you gain some peace regarding them.
Here is another example that I will speak about obliquely, since I do not know who will read this essay. If a person has a problem with impurity, especially with themselves alone, but perhaps because of fornication of any kind, and they feel bad about it, it is a bad thing to just sit there and feel terrible about what you did, again. Our reaction to sin can be more debilitating than the sin itself. Every time you fall into sin, PUSH against it. We have an excellent little book called “The Prayers for Purity”. It is long, and not too easy, but then, getting rid of habitual sin, when our insides want to follow God’s perfect law, and our outside often do something else, is NOT EASY either. Note to self: order more of these books.
The Scripture tells us that “All men are liars”, and this is in large part because we hide within ourselves thoughts, desires, attitudes and priorities which are not in keeping with who we say we are and the person we present to the world. May God help us to be “truth tellers”, that is, to have our insides match our outsides. Amen.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2012 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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 “The purpose of the church, and of baptism. (mp3 format)”, a homily on the reading for the Sunday after Theophany, Ephesians 4:7-13 – http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-theophany-04_2012-01-21+purpose-of-the-church+he-led-captivity-captive_ephesians4-7-13.mp3
 With apologies to the old campaign slogan “It’s the economy stupid”
 Yes, you read it correctly. I state categorically that depression and anxiety are mental illnesses. We are all on a continuum of mental health, and EVERYTHING that is not according to the will of God is a mental illness, according to the Christian understanding of the term. Lust, jealousy , anger, laziness, aimlessness, not having meaning in life, and about a billion more things that are part of our fallen lives are all illnesses of the mind. ?Here, I am not speaking about the brain, but the “nous”, which is the reasoning part of the soul. When our nous is completely in concord with the will of God, we will have ZERO mental illness.
 Psalm 34:14 Brenton “Turn away from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”
 Matthew 21.28-32 (read 10th Wed after Pentecost). Only in Matthew. Amazingly, even though I have mentioned this parable a zillion times in homilies, I have no homily of mine that I can refer you to that is about this passage.
 Here is a short version, online – http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/purityrule.aspx . Here is a link which has some of the prayers in this rule: http://www.saintgregoryoutreach.org/2010/01/prayers-for-purity.html. the booklet is $4.00, available at http://orthodoxpress.org/catalog/prayer_b.htm
 Psalm 116:11 Brenton “I said in my amazement: Every man is a liar.”. This Psalm is said in the Preparation prayers for Holy Communion.