"Theology without action (praxis) is the theology of demons."
—St. Maximos the Confessor
We praise and admire those who struggle long and hard to perfect themselves in an art, a profession, or a sport, but rarely do we realize that each of us is called upon to struggle long and hard to perfect our souls. In fact, the most important thing of all is our salvation, and we devote small time and effort to it, or none at all.
A wise 19th-century spiritual father, Theophan the Recluse, had this to say about the struggle for salvation: "Of course, you need labor and effort, both mental and from the heart. Do not spare yourself. If you do, you will ruin yourself. Do not spare yourself, and you will have salvation. Abandon a certain wrongful activity that often strikes and afflicts almost everyone: That is, the fact that we spare no labor on any matter except when it comes to that of salvation. We want to think that we have only to contemplate salvation and desire it, and everything is all set. That is not how it happens in reality. The matter of salvation is the most important thing. Consequently it is the most difficult. This is by virtue of its importance and by the labor required. Labor then, for the Lord's sake! Very soon you will see the fruit. If you do not set to work, however, you will be left without anything and be unworthy. Deliver us, Lord, from this!"
—St. Theophan the Recluse, The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It, Letter 51
How do we go about this saving labor? First of all is the labor of prayer: We have to devote time every day to prayer, starting with our morning and evening prayers. Second is fasting, starting with simply following the church calendar in its guidelines for fasting. Third is the examination of conscience and confession of our sins, which has as its foundation a daily examination of conscience at the end of the day, which will enable us to prepare for a good confession. Fourth is acts of almsgiving and charity, beginning with kindness and forbearance to those immediately around us.
Most essential is the struggle to prepare for and receive Holy Communion more frequently. The Body and Blood of Christ are the actual source of our life as Christians. Think of it this way: When we are baptized, we receive a new life, in which, though we continue to be nourished by nature, we are also thenceforth nourished by grace, in order to become immortal and incorruptible in the Heavenly Kingdom. Holy Communion is the pre-eminent and most essential grace-filled nourishment. When we cut ourselves off from Communion through sins, carelessness, or simply infrequent communion, we return to a corruptible and dead state, in which the baptismal grace lies inert and un-activated.
Let us, therefore, not indulge our fallen nature, but rouse ourselves to faith and good works, by means of which may we partake of the saving grace of Christ's Redemptive Sacrifice.
The Supreme Necessity of Being in the Church
The holy Church is God's most supreme, most holy, most good, most wise and necessary establishment upon the earth. She is "the true tabernacle'' of God, "which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. viii. 2)—not Luther, not Calvin, and not Mohammed, nor Buddha, nor Confucius, nor any other suchlike sinful, passionate person. The Church is a union of people established by God, united among themselves by the Faith, Doctrine, Hierarchy, and Mysteries. She is Christ's spiritual army, equipped with spiritual weaponry against the numberless armed hordes of the devil: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. vi. 12). She is a spiritual hospital where mankind, enfeebled by the open wound of sin, is cured by grace-filled treatments given by God—by repentance and communion in the Holy Mysteries of Christ, in Christ's Body and Blood, and by the word of God, by the instructions and counsels and consolations of the shepherds of Christ's rational flock. She is a common laver of purification, rebirth, and sanctification; she is God’s sanctuary in which all are sanctified by the Holy Spirit through Baptism, Chrismation, and the other Mysteries, and the Divine Service. She is the spiritual sun of the world, enlightening and giving life to all who sit in the darkness and shadow of death and who are dead through sin.
- St. John of Kronstadt, The Church, the Treasury of Salvation
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