Orthodox America

  A Harvest of Virtues Some Thoughts on Spiritual Life

The first man was created in the image and likeness of God and was set in Paradise to enjoy the fruits of God's creation. When he was expelled through sin, all creation suffered and the earth began to bring forth thorns and thistles. From this time on man had to toil to bring forth bread in the sweat of his brow. And not only literally, for man's soul was likewise disfigured by sin which he carries like a hereditary disease.

This law of sin acts like the law of gravity, pulling us away from God. The thorns and thistle s of our passions find the "ground" of fallen human nature very suitable for growth. Hence, spiritual Life involves constant observation to see where the weeds are. and also considerable toil to get rid of them, at the same time making sure that the wheat (our God-given talents) grows properly, for we must produce a harvest of good wheat for God.

Adam fell away from God because of disobedience, but Christ. the new Adam, r e u nit e d man with God through obedience to the Father. Obedience is the foundation of spiritual maturity. The Holy Fathers say that obedience is higher than fasting and prayer.

      In the psalms we read: "The Lord is my refuge and my Saviour, of whom then shall I be afraid?" This is how a man who is obedient to God thinks. He humbly sees that Christ is his Saviour, and he is obediently willing to allow God to do the work of saving him.

      But there is one condition of obedience to Christ: we must carry our own personal cross, Through the mystery of Golgotha Christ has already taken up most of the burden, but God leaves a little load, according to each individual's strength, for our purification and sanctification. This obedient carrying of our own cross is one of the means by which we begin to regain the image and likeness of God, lost by our first parents in the Garden of Eden. When man fell, it shattered the whole universe, the present beauty of which is akin to that of a broken vase.

     Both righteous and sinners leave a mark for many generations. By learning about our weaknesses and passions as well as our strengths, we arrive at a general picture of our own "inner man," our real self that is usually hidden behind the facades of our passions, the different faces we display to other people. Passion brings suffering and pain, severely disturbing the soul. And it is when we try to keep God's commandments, especially His words about learning meekness and humility from Him, that we find some rest from our passions.

     Our interactions with others, beginning with the family (the "little church"), will gradually help us to see the inner man. By experiencing unpleasant things inflicted upon us by other people , , and by accepting everything in a spirit of faith, obediently striving to fulfill the Commandments, We begin ~o mature spiritually. The signs of this obedient maturity are Meekness and humility.

     Meekness is non-aggression. It is behaving in such a way that one would rather suffer, even innocently, rather than let someone else suffer because of us. This, too, was God's "justice": man sinned, Christ suffered.

      Humility is realizing with our whole being (not just with the mind) that God is everything and without Him we are absolutely nothing. He is the source of all life and all goodness, Just as the sun is the source of all energy and life on earth. When we accomplish anything worthwhile we should attribute it to God and thank Him, because without Him we could not have done it; as He Himself said, "Without Me you can do nothing."

    Let us toil diligently to weed out the tares of the passions and to acquire the spirit of obedience to Christ. Only in this way will the garden of our souls produce virtues: humility and meekness. When the Lord thrusts in His sickle, may He find an abundant harvest unto the salvation of our souls.

Fr. Nicholas Karipoff
Holy Protection Cathedral Melbourne, Australia