Sunday, August 30, 2015

Love and zeal (St. Nektarios)

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentile unto all men . . .” (II Timothy 2:24)

OUR PIOUS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, the laity in Christ, must also take care not to be led astray by the spirit of the world and to confuse imprudent zeal with the true spirit of evangelical love.

St. Nectarios of Aegina offers us, in just a few lines, an image of the true zealot of Christ:

“The zealot according to knowledge, motivated by the love of God and his neighbor, does all things with charity and self-effacement; he does nothing that might bring sorrow to his neighbor; such a zealot is enlightened by knowledge and nothing prompts him to deviate from what is morally right” (see Self-Knowledge, pp. 135-136).

The zealot blessed by Christ is a model for the true Christian, the principle characteristics of whom are fervent love for God and neighbor, gentleness, religious tolerance, forgiveness, graciousness of manner, and, in general, all of those fruits of one dwelling in the Holy Spirit.

By contrast, that unfortunate Christian who is inspired by zeal not according to knowledge is a “ruinous man” who literally turns the Gospel of Grace and love upside down.

Let us see how the saints of the Orthodox Church view the zealot whose zeal is not according to wisdom:

his zeal is a “seductive fire, a consuming fire”

“destruction comes forth from him and desolation follows in his wake”

“he beseeches God to send down fire from Heaven and to devour all of those who do not embrace his principles and convictions”

he is “characterized by hatred for those of other religions and confessions, envy and persistent anger, violent resistance to the true spirit of Divine law, an unreasonable obstinacy in defending his own views, a passionate zeal for prevailing in all things, the love of glory, quarrels, contention, and a love of turmoil” (St. Nectarios, ibid.).

Orthodox spirituality has always considered it essential that zeal go hand-in-hand with love, so as not to become deviant:

“Zeal for piety [or preserving the Church and Holy TraditionBMB] is a good thing, but when combined with love” (St. John Damascene, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. SCIV, col. 1436).

The magnificent epistle of St. Dionysios the Areopagite to the Monk Demophilos, in which he expounds in a God-inspired way on the subject of the extremes of importune zeal, shows that this “temptation” among the pious is ancient.

But now let us juxtapose with the demon of imprudent zeal the zealots of Patristic deity, calling to mind their Patristic precepts:

“We will not approve of your fits of rage, which are alien to genuine zeal (‘unenviable impulses’), even if you should invoke Phineas and Elias a thousand times” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. III, col. 1096C, “Epistle to Demophilos the Monk [or Therapeutes, a term used by St. Dionysios for a monastic],” 5).

Likewise, our Savior, through the Apostle Paul, “teaches us that we should educate with gentleness those who reject the teaching of God”; “for the ignorant need to be instructed, not punished, just as we do not chastise the blind, but lead them by the hand” (ibid.).

Let the pious Faithful never forget that the criterion of the genuineness of our love is not imprudent zeal, but withdrawal from all of our passions:

“Strive to love every man equally, and in short you will drive out all of your passions” (St. Thalassios, Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 213, and Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XCI, col. 1441B).

Our zeal for piety, like every other spiritual endeavor, is of doubtful purity and genuineness if it does not incline the heart towards love and humility:

“For every pursuit and every endeavor involving great toil that does not end up in love and a contrite spirit is futile, and yields no profitable result” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, Catechesis I, Sources Chretiennes, Vol. 96, pp. 143-145).

Hence: “Zeal for piety is a good thing, but when combined with love!”

Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili

Όταν σου έρθει θυμός, κλείσε το στόμα σου! ( Γέροντος Ιωσήφ του Ησυχαστού )

«Ο θυμός καθ’ εαυτόν είναι φυσικός. Όπως τα νεύρα στο σώμα. Είναι και αυτός νεύρον ψυχής και οφείλει να τον μεταχειρίζεται ο καθείς εναντίον των δαιμόνων, ανθρώπων αιρετικών, και παντός κωλύοντος από την όδόν του Θεού. Εάν δε θυμώνεις κατά των ομοψύχων αδελφών ή, εκτός εαυτού γενόμενος, χαλάς τα έργα των χειρών σου, γίνωσκε ότι κενοδοξίαν νοσείς και κάμνεις παράχρησιν του νεύρου της ψυχής. Απαλλάττεσαι δε διά της αγάπης προς πάντας και αληθούς ταπεινώσεως.

Διά τούτο όταν σοι έλθει θυμός κλείσε το στόμα σου δυνατά και μη ομιλήσεις εις τον υβρίζοντα ή ατιμάζοντα ή ελέγχοντα ή πολυειδώς σε πειράζοντα άνευ λόγου.

Ο άνθρωπος είναι πλασμένος ήμερος και λογικός και επομένως ο θυμός δεν αρμόζει ουδέποτε εις την φύσιν του, ενώ με την αγάπην πάντοτε ευδοκιμεί και υποτάσσεται. Με το καλό και με την αγάπην μπορείς να κάμεις πολλούς να ημερέψουν και αν κανείς είναι καλοπροαίρετος, τον κάμνεις ογλήγορα να συμμορφωθεί, να γένη Άγγελος Θεού».

«Μη ζητήσεις ποτέ σου να ευρείς το δίκαιον, διότι τότε έχεις το άδικον. Αλλά μάθε να υπομένεις ανδρείως τους πειρασμούς, οιουσδήποτε και αν επιτρέψει ο Κύριος.

Χωρίς πολλές δικαιολογίες να λέγεις «Ευλόγησον»! Και χωρίς να σφάλλεις να μετανοείς ότι έσφαλες. Εν επιγνώσει ψυχής και όχι απ’ έξω, δι΄ έπαινον, να λέγεις πως έσφαλες και μέσα να κατακρίνεις. Μη ζητάς εις τις θλίψεις σου παράκληση από τους ανθρώπους, διά να παρακληθείς από τον Θεόν. Μη νομίζεις ανάπαυσιν οπόταν ομιλήσεις, εάν ζητήσεις να ευρείς το δίκαιον. Το δίκαιον είναι να υπομείνεις ανδρείως τον επερχόμενον πειρασμόν διά να βγης νικητής καν έπταισες ή δεν έπταισες. Ει δε και λέγεις «μα διατί;» μάχεσαι τον Θεόν, τον αποστείλαντα λυπηρά διά την εμπαθή σου κατάσταση».

πηγή: Γέροντος Ιωσήφ του Ησυχαστού-διδασκαλίες, «Έκφρασις Μοναχικής εμπειρίας», εκδ. Ι. Μ. Φιλοθέου -Αγ. Όρος