21 October 2007

One measure of progress in the spiritual life -- Wisdom Sunday

What is it to be a "spiritual giant" in the Christian faith? I've heard it said of this or that person that he (or she) is (or was) a spiritual giant. I've been on a sort of sabbatical, during which time I've given much thought to this -- as well as other things. I have found this bit of wisdom worthy of serious attention.

Progress in the spiritual life is shown by an ever-increasing realization of our own worthlessness, in the full and literal sense of this word. The moment that we ascribe some value to ourselves, in any sense whatever, it will mean that things have gone wrong. It is also dangerous; the enemy will draw close and begin to divert our attention, throwing stumbling blocks in our path. A soul that thinks highly of itself is like the crow in the fable who listened to the fox's flattery, and let the piece of cheese drop in order to show off. May the Lord help you to become more thorough in the task of attributing no value to your labours. See to it, as well, that there are fewer images in your soul and more thought and feeling. Persevere with the inner prayer you have begun; this is the way to reduce the flow of images through the mind. The moment will come when you will feel the issue of them stanched, like the issue of blood in the woman (Luke 8.44). -- Theophan the Recluse


Incidentally, the "inner prayer" Theophan is talking about is the so-called Jesus Prayer, which goes like this: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I think the desire on the part of a Christian to be a so-called spiritual giant is unworthy, perhaps even sinful. I think we shall do well enough just to do -- or to try to do -- our duty.

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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