Monday, March 9, 2009

WOA 1 - On a Resolute and Sustained Purpose

Well, my series on Orthodox Christians and the Scriptures is going to have to be put on hold for a while. My adult Sunday School class will resume meeting this coming Sunday, and I need to begin preparing for it. In the class over the next several weeks, we will be reading and discussing Tito Colliander's wonderful book Way of the Ascetics (WOA from here on). To prepare for the class, and to help the members of the class prepare, I plan to post a reflection on each chapter, one per day (except weekends) on this blog. I pray that they will be helpful and benefical to all of you who read this blog, even if you are not able to attend the class.

(I hope to post at least one reflection in the "Scriptures" series per week, perhaps on Saturday or Sunday, if I can).

Here is a reflection on the first chapter of WOA: "On a Resolute and Sustained Purpose."

If a person wishes to be saved--to successfully walk the path of theosis and to gain eternal life and a place in God's eternal kingdom--the single most important thing they must to is WANT to be saved. No one who does not really want to be saved will. But it is not enough just to want to be saved; one must want it bad enough to DO something about it. For example, I would guess that there are a lot of people who would love to be able to run a marathon. But very few are willing to actually put forth the effort to do the training required to be able to run one.

In the same way, probably 90% or more of people who believe in God want to be with Him after they die. But how many are willing to do whatever it takes? Not very many. Salvation requires not merely wishing for it; it requires action. Colliander comments on this need for action:

Faith comes not through pondering but through action. Not words and speculation but experience teaches us what God is. To let in fresh air we have to open a window; to get tanned we must go out into the sunshine. Achieving faith is no different; we never reach a goal by just sitting in comfort and waiting, say the holy Fathers. Let the Prodigal Son be are example. He arose and came (Luke 15:20). [Fr. James' note: by "faith," I believe that Colliander means the true faith that leads to salvation. Thus in saying "faith," he also means "salvation."]

And if you have not already begun your struggle towards salvation, the time to start is now. Whether you are old or young, whether you have been a Christian for many years or for a brief time, it is neither too late nor too early to begin, for as Colliander says:

However weighed down and entangled in earthly fetters you may be, it can never be too late. Not without reason is it written that Abraham was seventy-five when he set forth, and the laborer who comes in the eleventh hour gets the same wages as the one who comes in the first.

Nor can it be too early. A forest fire cannot be put out too soon; would you see your soul ravaged and charred?

In baptism, you received the command to wage the invisible warfare against the enemies of your soul; take it up now...this moment, the instant you make your resolution, you will show by your action that you have taken leave of your old self and have now begun a new life, with a new destination and a new way of living. Arise, therfore, without fear and say: Lord, let me begin now. Help me! For what you need above all is God's help.

What better time than this Lenten season to re-focus ourselves on God and His kingdom. What better time to get serious about taking our spiritual life to the next level? What better time to, as the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (12:1-2)

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).


Clint said...

RE: your comment about Faith and salvation.

Father, bless.

You know, I think many people misunderstand the definition of faith. They equate it with belief. But in reality, they are not the same thing. They are certainly related to one another, but still not exactly the same.

I have always understood faith to be a belief that prompts action. That is why James 2 speaks of a dead faith and a live faith. True faith is one that acts. A dead faith is just a simple belief (such as Demons believing in Christ... yet still trembling).

Does this fit with Orthodox teaching? Am I on the right track here?

November In My Soul said...

This excellent post would drive my Protestant friends crazy. Salvation through works is in their mind heresy. Personally I find great comfort in being on the journey working out my salvation day in and day out. Being "saved" by grace alone was never much comfort to me. It seemed too easy, too risky. May we all want our salvation enough to get out of our comfortable routines and be about the Lord's work.

Thank you Father for all your hard work. Being 40 isn't all that bad. I'll be 49 this year. My memory and my hair seem to have disappeared somewhere.

Fr. James Early said...


You're right on the money, as usual.


Thank you for the kind words. I agree totally with you. Oh, and BTW, I'm actually 41, but who's counting? :-)