24 March 2013
Spiritual Growth Requires Constancy
What Fr. Seraphim said:
“Constancy is something which is worked out by a spiritual regime based upon wisdom handed down from the Holy Fathers - not mere obedience to tradition for tradition’s sake, but rather a conscious assimilation of what wise men in God have seen and written down. On the outward side, this constancy is worked out by a little prayer and we have this basic prayer in the Church services which have down to us. Of course in different places they are performed according to one’s strength, more or less.
“Constancy also involves a regular reading of spiritual texts, for example at mealtime. We must be constantly injected with otherwordliness in order to fight against the other side, against the worldliness that contantly gnaws at us. If for just one day we stop these otherworldly spiritual injections,’ it is obvious that worldliness starts taking over. When we go without them for one day, worldliness invades - two days, much more. We find that soon we think more and more in a worldly way, the more we allow ourselves to be exposed to that way of thinking and the less we expose ourselves to otherworldly thinking.
“These injections - daily injections of spiritual food - are the outward side, and the inward side is what is called spiritual life. Spiritual life does not mean being in the clouds while saying the Jesus Prayer or going through various motions. It means discovering the laws of this spiritual life as they apply to one’s own position, one’s situation. This comes over the years by attentive reading of the Holy Fathers with a notebook, writing down those passages which seem most significant to us, studying them, finding how they apply to us, and, if need be, revising earlier views of them as we get a little deeper into them, finding what one Father says about something, what a second Father says about something and so on. There is no encyclopedia that will give you that. You cannot decide you want to find all about some one subject and begin reading the Holy Fathers. There are a few indexes in the writings of the Fathers, but you cannot simply go at spiritual life in that way. You have to go at it a little bit at a time, taking the teaching in as you are able to absorb it, going back over the same texts in later years, reabsorbing them, getting more, and gradually coming to find out how these spiritual texts apply to you. As a person does that, he discovers that every time he reads the same Holy Father he finds new things. He always goes deeper into it . . .
“Fr. Nicholas Deputatov, who is obviously one who has much love for the Holy Fathers, has read their writings, underlined them, and written them out in books. He says: When I get in a very low mood, very discouraged and despondent, then I open one of my notebooks, and I begin to read something that inspired me. It is almost guaranteed that when I read something which once inspired me, I will again become inspired, because it is my own soul that was at one time being inspired, and now I see that it was something which inspired me then and can nourish me now also. So it’s like an automatic inspiration, to open up something which inspired me before.”* (Fr Seraphim Rose, p 466-7) [Not of This World page 456-7]
* footnote on page 457: An elderly priest in Australia, whose uplifting book on the inward spiritual life, Bogosoznanie [Awareness of God], was published by Platina in the original Russian in 1975. Fr. Seraphim translated portions of this book into English and printed them in The Orthodox Word, no. 69.