Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Little Spiritual Help #2 - The Inner Kingdom

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware


Here is an excerpt from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's excellent book The Inner Kingdom. Enjoy!


'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' (Matt. 5:8). Made in God's image, man is a mirror of the divine. He knows God by knowing himself: entering within himself, he sees God reflected in the purity of his own heart. The doctrine of man's creation according to the image means that within each person - within his or her truest and innermost self, often termed the 'deep heart' or 'ground of the soul' - there is a point of direct meeting and union with the Uncreated. 'The kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:21).

This quest for the inward kingdom is one of the master themes found throughout the writings of the Fathers. 'The greatest of all lessons,' says St. Clement of Alexandria, 'is to know oneself; for if someone knows himself, he will know God; and if he knows God, he will become like God.' St. Basil the Great writes: 'When the intellect is no longer dissipated among external things or dispersed across the world through the senses, it returns to itself; and by means of itself it ascends to the thought of God.' 'He who knows himself knows everything,' says St Isaac the Syrian; and elsewhere he writes:

"Be at peace with your own soul; then heaven and earth will be at peace with you. Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you, and so you will see the things that are in heaven; for there is but one single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the kingdom is hidden within your soul. Flee from sin, dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the stairs by which to ascend."



Archimandrite (now Metropolitan) Kallistos Ware; The Orthodox Way pages 70-71 St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York 1st Paperback Edition 1979 (Revised since this edition in 1995).

5 comments:

Paul said...

Father James, How in the world are we to live like this? I have no peace in my soul. I don't know myself.I certainly don't know God. I think if I just take a small something and work on that part of my life, then the other parts wil fall into line. They don't. Some days are good days, some days are not good days.

His Grace's comments seem to far off to be of any use....

Fr. James Early said...

Paul,

I think that the states described in these passages by the Fathers are more goals to work toward than states that most of us will actually achieve on earth (at least not permanently).

Would you please email me at fatherjames7@yahoo.com? Thank you.

charlene said...

Father James,
I can relate to Paul's frustration with this passage. After many readings, I think I figured out what it is saying, at least on some lower level of understanding. I am sure there are also many levels that are well above my head at this point in time. I think St. Basil is saying that when we stop focusing on the secular world (which for us would be our jobs, the traffic, the state of the economy and such)and when we stop focusing on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and other comforts of our world, can we examine who we truly are. Close these things out for a bit and only then can you begin to "know yourself". Knowing yourself does not mean a list of what you are and are not good at, it is not a list of attributes or when and where you were born. Rather, it is that you are a child of God, fashioned in God's image, magnificently made. Only then can we realize that we are not alone, that God is right there with us, that we belong to Him,and that none of the rest is really important. Please correct me Father if I am out in left field.
charlene

Fr. James Early said...

Charlene,

What you said is correct. I would add that there is another side to knowing yourself, and that is knowing well our own sinfulness and our total hopelessness without God (and our total dependence on him). "For I know my sin, and my iniquity is ever before me," David writes in Psalm 50/51. "Without me, you can do nothing," Jesus says in John 15:5. It involves a balanced approach to ourselves, neither hating ourselves, nor being too much in love with ourselves.

charlene said...

Father James,
Thank you for for your help with this, and for adding an extra layer or two. Would it be fair to say we should hate our sinful actions, the fact that we fail and fail and still fail again to live up to what God has created us to be, but not hate ourselves. Do you think that hating oneself can be as much a rejection of God as loving ourself too much? Can't self-loathing at times lead to suicide, the ultimate rejection of God's ability to work in one's life? I realize I have strayed a bit, but would this be why either extreme is bad?
charlene