HE Must Increase, Not I

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (St. John the Forerunner speaking about Jesus, John 3:30)

“You say that you have no success. Indeed, there will be no success so long as you are full of self-indulgence and self-pity. These two things show at once that what is uppermost in your heart is “I” and not the Lord. It is the sin of self-love, living within us, that gives birth to all our sinfulness, making the whole man a sinner from head to food, so long as we allow it to dwell in the soul. And when the whole man is a sinner, how can grace come to him? It will not come, just as a bee will not come where there is smoke.

There are two elements in the decision to work for the Lord: First a man must deny himself, and secondly he must follow Christ (Mark 8:34). The first demands a complete stamping out of egoism or self-love, and consequently a refusal to allow any self-indulgence or self-pity–whether in great matters or small.”  (St. Theophan the Recluse, Heavenly Wisdom from God-illuminated Teachers on Conquering Depression, pp. 55-56)


The Self-Giving God

“If the work of God in creation is the work of love, then truth demands an imagery which will do no justice to the limitless self-giving which is among the marks of authentic love: and the imagery which the head demands may have a new power of appeal to the moral sensitivity of the heart. As a parenthesis, we may illustrate the kind of imagery which might express the self-giving of God in creation. A doctor tells of an operation which, as a young student, he observed in a London hospital. ‘It was the first time that this particular brain operation had been carried out in this country. It was performed by one of our leading surgeons upon a young man of great promise for whom, after an accident, there seemed to be no other remedy. It was an operation of the greatest delicacy, in which a small error would have had fatal consequences. In the outcome the operation was a triumph: but it involved seven hours of intense and uninterrupted concentration on the part of the surgeon. When it was over, a nurse had to take him by the hand, and lead him from the operating theatre like a blind man or little child.’ This, one might say, is what self-giving is like: such is the likeness of God, wholly given, spent and drained in that sublime self-giving which is the ground and source and origin of the universe.” (W.H. Vanstone in The Time of the Spirit: Readings Through the Christian Year, p 5)

Love Comes with Emptying Oneself

“Souls on fire with the quest to become super men and women may even fail to notice and appreciate treasure in such ordinary vessels. It is our culture’s incessant and infantile desire to withhold love until we find the perfect body, the perfect mind, the perfect mood, the perfect mate, or until we possess the perfect ‘me-ness’…which renders us vulnerable to the same old seduction that began long ago in a Garden called Eden. To the degree that we are all striving, in one way or another, to become something, we are missing out on the privilege of being nothing. Yet ‘it is the Father’s good pleasure to give (us) the kingdom.’ What is the blindness and grasping that leaves us in search of something that will make us worthy of what can only be given as gift? Like the first Apostles, ‘we do not understand about the loaves.’ We still choke on the apple of self-sufficiency, a fatal mistake. The simple fact is God-esteem is infinitely more life-giving than self-esteem and infinitely rarer. The road of love begins where I end.” (Stephen Muse, Being Bread, pp. 65-66)

Feeding the 5000