Orthodox Thought Control  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Metropolitan Jonah (b 1959) is the head of the Orthodox Church in America. While still the abbot of a monastery, he wrote an essay called "Do not resent, do not react, keep inner stillness". ++Jonah took over the reigns of a church racked by a prolonged financial scandal and is no stranger to controversy himself. However, the essay is well worth reading in full; I just hope that Jonah (a convert from Anglicanism, incidentally) is able to maintain the kind of spiritual equanimity he talks of in his new position. The excerpt comes from Fr Stephen's site (he's also an ex-Anglican), which has a link to the complete essay. A hat-tip to Bryan Owen of Creedal Christian.

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One of the things which is so difficult to come to terms with is the reality that when we bear anger and resentment and bitterness in our hearts, we erect barriers to God's grace within ourselves. It's not that God stops giving us His grace. It's that we say, "No. I don't want it". What is His grace? It is His love, His mercy, His compassion, His activity in our lives. The holy Fathers tell us that each and every human being who has ever been born on this earth bears the image of God undistorted within themselves. In our Tradition there is no such thing as fallen nature. There are fallen persons, but not fallen nature. The implication of this truth is that we have no excuses for our sins. We are responsible for our sins, for the choices we make. We are responsible for our actions, and our reactions. "The devil made me do it" is no excuse, because the devil has no more power over us than we give him. This is hard to accept, because it is really convenient to blame the devil. It is also really convenient to blame the other person, or our past. But it is also a lie. Our choices are our own.

On an even deeper level, this spiritual principle--do not react--teaches us that we need to learn not to react to thoughts. One of the fundamental aspects of this is inner watchfulness. This might seem like a daunting task, considering how many thoughts we have. However, our watchfulness does not need to be focused on our thoughts. Our watchfulness needs to be focused on God. We need to maintain the conscious awareness of God's presence. If we can maintain the conscious awareness of His presence, our thoughts will have no power over us. We can, to paraphrase St Benedict, dash our thoughts against the presence of God. This is a very ancient patristic teaching. We focus our attention on the remembrance of God. If we can do that, we will begin to control our troubling thoughts. Our reactions are about our thoughts. After all, if somebody says something nasty to us, how are we reacting? We react first through our thinking, our thoughts. Perhaps we're habitually accustomed to just lashing out after taking offense with some kind of nasty response of our own. But keeping watch over our minds so that we maintain that living communion with God leaves no room for distracting thoughts. It leaves plenty of room if we decide we need to think something through intentionally in the presence of God. But as soon as we engage in in something hateful, we close God out. And the converse is true--as long as we maintain our connection to God, we won't be capable of engaging in something hateful. We won't react...

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 at Thursday, January 21, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

1 comments

Anonymous  

Instead of achieving theosis (whatever that is)how about hiring people who aren't thieves?
Learn to walk before you claim that your religion teaches people to fly.

December 25, 2010 at 11:01 PM

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