Seeking God in Simplicity

“For, as St John Klimakos  (d. 649AD) says, God reveals Himself, not in response to our exertions, but in response to the humility and simplicity that come through faith, that is, through the contemplation of the Scriptures and of created beings.”  (St. Peter of Damaskos, THE PHILOKALIA,  Kindle Loc. 32216-20)

porphyrios Elder Porphyrios, A Greek monk and priest who died in 1991 and was canonized a saint in December of 2013, offers in his spiritual guidance direction very much in the tradition of St. John Climacus mentioned above.  Elder Porphyrios was concerned that too often Orthodox assume that the only way to follow Christ is to follow a strenuous life of ascetic self-denial.  Instead he emphasized that there is another way which he termed “bloodless” – a way in which we each focus with love on Christ rather than on self-inflicted suffering.  It is being a disciple of Christ through love.

“Devote your efforts, therefore, to these spiritual things and ignore all the other things.  We can attain to the worship of God easily and bloodlessly.  There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil and the easy path with love.  There are many who chose the hard path and ‘shed blood in order to receive Spirit’ until they attained great virtue.  I find that the shorter and safer route is the path with love.  This is the path that you, too, should follow.

That is, you can make a different kind of effort: to study and pray and have as your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church.  Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul.  Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.  The same holds for our passions and our weaknesses.  Do not fight them, but transform them into strengths by showing disdain for evil.  Occupy yourself with hymns of praise, with the poetic canons, with the worship of God and with divine eros.   All the holy books of our Church – contain holy, loving words addressed to Christ.  Read them with joy and love and exaltation.  When you devote yourself to this effort with intense desire, your soul will be sanctified in a gentle and mystical way without your even being aware of it.   . . .

By reading these books you will gradually acquire meekness, humility and love, and your soul will be made good.  Do not choose negative methods to correct yourself.  There is no need to fear the devil, hell or anything else.  These things provoke a negative reaction.  I, myself, have some little experience in these matters.  The object is to live, to study, to pray and to advance in love – in love for Christ and for the Church.

What is holy and beautiful and what gladdens the heart and frees the soul from every evil is the effort to unite yourself to Christ, to love Christ, to crave for Christ and to live in Christ, just as Saint Paul said, It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me.  This should be your aim. Let all other efforts be secret and hidden.  What must dominate is love for Christ.  Let this be in your head, your thought, your imagination, your heart and your will.  Your most intense effort should be how you will encounter Christ, how you will be united to Him and how you will keep Him in your heart.”