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Tares and Wheat
22-04-2010, 07:48 AM,
Dear Antony-Paul

What you say in reference to yourself should be understood to refer to all of us!

How often, even unconsciously, do we desire to be seen as what we are not.....or to flaunt our ?spirituality? by, as it were, adopting bigger phylacteries and broader fringes (Mat 23:5) or ostentatiously giving alms (Mat 6:2) or carefully measuring out our obligations (Lk 11:42) while overlooking love and justice. Or engaging in some sort of ?spiritual Olympics? by fasting longer, praying more, prostrating at a gymnastic rate, reciting more psalms, attending more Church services ? and making sure others know about our ?holiness?.

However, please be gentle with yourself! Beating ourselves up over our manifest imperfections can be just another form of pride. I recall once attending a Protestant service in which a ?sin Olympics? appeared to be enacted....everyone competing to be more wicked than their neighbours, more hopeless, more depraved, committing more and worse sins, and being further than anyone else from God.

We are the sons and daughters of the Living God, created in His image and fashioned after His likeness, although (as the magnificent declaration in the Byzantine funeral rite states) marked with the wounds of sin. It is our striving, rather than our failing, that matters ? awareness and repentance and determination to be transformed is required, rather than bitter regret or self-flagellation.

Yes, good spiritual guidance is important, if not essential, both to preserve us from self-satisfaction as much as from self-pity. Sadly, the tradition of such spiritual guidance has been somewhat lost in modern times, and confession and absolution (although in themselves important) seem to have replaced a more important form of spiritual guidance. It was never the Orthodox tradition for confession and absolution to be along the traditional Roman Catholic lines (?I lied three times, swore seventeen times and felt lust in my heart twice....?). Orthodox penitence is not a sort of ?sin accounting?. It was always seen to be more a form of what we would now call ?spiritual psychotherapy?, helping the individual to overcome, move on, grow and move closer towards that which he or she was created to be.

I have been blessed by the gentle guidance of three ?spiritual directors? in my life. Two were lay women. The first (before I became Orthodox) was a wonderful Lutheran woman who, I only discovered years after her death, had studied with Carl Jung. The second was a Jewish psychotherapist. I had decided that since I was lecturing about psychotherapy in one of the courses I taught I should probably experience it! I went to check it out ? and stayed for the incredible guidance she gave me and the insights she assisted me to gain into my own faith. The third was an elderly, incredibly conservative Orthodox Priest, but one who moved from rigid arch-reactionary in outward things to gentle shepherd in spiritual guidance.

There are now some excellent texts on Orthodox ?spiritual psychotherapy? available in English, and some very good studies of the Orthodox tradition of spiritual guidance (the term I prefer to ?spiritual direction?). If you would like details of these, do let me know.

The most common spiritual advice I have to give to people might sound abrupt and improper: ?God is not an accountant!? Neither the running totals of sin nor of ?good works? is what matters. It is your developing relationship with God and the developing of your potential as His son or daughter that is important.

Fr Gregory

Messages In This Thread
Tares and Wheat - Fr Gregory - 12-04-2010, 02:08 AM
[] - Fr Gregory - 22-04-2010, 07:48 AM
[] - Antony-Paul - 22-04-2010, 11:33 AM
[] - John Charmley - 23-04-2010, 11:17 AM

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