Putting this all together as an Orthodox Way of Life
When we surrender we must follow the will of God. We give up our own definition of the world and let the mystical truths of God overwhelm us and let our reason struggle to make sense out of it rather than determining what it is we sense and feel. Let our mind seek its explanations from the writings of the Church Fathers and their interpretation of Scripture. Let the hymns of the Church speak to our inner being.
Christ made the will of God very clear to us by His own life and His teaching. He gave us two commandments:
1. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.
2. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mat22:37-39)
it is not possible to do God’s will without some degree of self sacrifice,
struggle and endurance.
How do we grow spiritually?
growth is the result of two principles
We grow spiritually when the human will acts based on the divine will through grace.
This doctrine of the church is based on the Incarnation. Christ had two wills. One that was human and another that was divine. In Christ, the human will, even through it was fully human freely followed the divine will. It is our task to learn to align our human will with God’s will and to act in cooperation with God. It is the divine will that leads and the human will that is to follow. They are never equal. The human will is to always be subservient to the divine will. This is our spiritual struggle and we need the help of God’s grace through the sacraments of the church and our own purification.
endurance and struggle on our part. We have to overcome the control
the body has over our soul. We have to uproot the passion of the
body and affirm the virtues constantly correcting ourselves.
It also requires grace. God’s grace works with great patience, wisdom, mysterious management of the mind, while man struggles with much endurance. With endurance the work of grace is made perfect in us. We have examples n the Bible of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and David.
What is Grace?
The grace of God not only gives us the knowledge of our duty, but also inspires us with a desire that we may be able to accomplish what we know. Once you have the idea that you can accomplish salvation by your own power, grace departs and leaves you in your struggle and misery awaiting your surrender and contrition.
Peter says the following:
to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness,
and to brotherly kindness love.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (II Peter 1:3-9)
Paul reminds us.
The Orthodox way of life calls on us to resist temptations and to practice virtue. It is a life of continual transformation and growth. It is not a static one or one that waits for grace to change us but is based on cooperation with divine grace. It is a life of repentance or metanoia. It is one that requires the Holy Spirit to help us. This help is always available to us in the Church when we prepare ourselves and are sincere in our efforts.
is Repentance or Metanoia?
Metanoia is the gateway to knowing oneself and other as well as the gateway to heaven. It is a process that leads us inward but also leads outwards, changing our behaviors through our inward efforts at change. Repentance cannot be accomplished by emotion or guilt, but by an awareness of one’s separation from God and one’s neighbor. It is an attitude that needs to color our entire life and be a continual struggle. It is a way of life, a process of transfiguration, in which our heart and mind continually receive illumination from the Holy Spirit. It is a continuous path, and constant striving, and all embracing motion or movement. Repentance is ultimately the gift of the Holy Spirit who transforms our heart. It is not the direct fruit of our individual effort.
Putting it all together
The chart above show give us an outline of the Orthodox way of life. Going from left to right it begins with the fall of mankind from Paradise. Then we have the saving Incarnation of the Son of God. This was the general salvation and opened the path for our personal salvation. Our personal path begins with an awakening to the Truth of the Scriptures and a faith in God. Awaked to the Truth we then seek baptism to be united with the Body of Christ here on earth in His Church. We enter the church with its healing sacraments and our personal effort and endurance to change our way of thinking and behaving. We purify our minds trying to get the bodily passion under control and to allow the soul to take its natural place as the leader. The ascetic disciplines of prayer, fasting, study of scripture, meditation on the Truths and worship make up these. Then the act of repentance for that which we are committed to change in our way of thinking and doing. Communion is a way to take into our being divine grace in the form of the actual blood and body of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. All this is guided by grace which becomes stronger as we engage in this never ending cycle, acting in cooperation with the divine grace. This action then leads us towards theosis and we learn to live the commandments to love god with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as we love ourself. At some time then we will face the Final Judgement when we will be accepted into God’s Kingdom and reunited with our bodies if we have faced earth before the time of the Final Judgment has come. The result is a eternal life in Paradise.