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Warnings for the spiritual life: Don’t be silly. Don’t jump! (Part 1)

When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul.  Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, To deliver you from the way of evil (Proverbs 2:10-12)

I thought I would post these important warnings for the spiritual life as soon I could as they are incredibly important to be aware of. You might already be aware of these concepts, but in anything, no one ever lost much by being too careful. I wrote this probably like 2 years ago after I delved deeper into the life-changing study of holy books. Here I present it…

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Never jump spiritually. Never read the virtue of a saint and think you can imitate it as it is. That is mad. There is always a reasonable and sound explanation as to how they reached the levels they reached. It took them a long time, many years of struggle to achieve what they achieved. This applies in terms of things such as alms-giving, prayer and especially in terms of fasting, which is very dangerous to imitate and damaging to the body if a beginner tries to foolishly imitate the strict fasting of Pope Kyrillos for example. That is wrong and should never happen.

My story

I actually fell into this. In my foolish and devilish zeal, I was determined to draw nearer to God according to my own false conceptions and stupid ideas. For three months at some time in my life I fasted and prayed A LOT, completely beyond my ability and my spiritual level. As a result, I became really skinny and got quite sick and everyone around me – my family, people from church – noticed.

But then God eventually had mercy on me through a priest, and I was made aware that I was being tricked by the devil. It hit me hard that what I was doing was by the influence of the devil. Gradually, I began to amend my life, to recover my health and return to a more sane and a humble spiritual frame of mind.

Anyhow, forget all talk of the pursuit of virtue for now, because the absolute first virtue that someone need to work on is prayer – the mother of all virtues, without which you cannot do ANYTHING or grow in any other single virtue – and learning how to pray correctly and truly. To do this you need to read more about prayer. Check out one of my previous posts.

Spiritual growth is very gradual and very slow. It all happens simply through consistent and genuine struggling, according to our current strength and ability. For example, someone beginning to pray for the first time is not foolishly required to pray 40 mins morning and at night, which is certainly beyond their abilities. No.

Rather they are asked to pray perhaps 10/15 mins morning and at night and to continue this with great consistency and perseverance. Then God’s grace comes to the struggler and after a while (weeks/months), it becomes easier and they can pray longer. Here are relevant quotes to support what I’ve said:

“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” (Heraclitus of Ephesus)

“As we study the Lives of the Saints, humility must be our safeguard. We need to soberly apply what we read to our own conditions and circumstances, realizing our own infirmity, not thinking too much of ourselves, not dreaming of ascetic feats that truly are beyond us. As Fr. Seraphim Rose used to say, we must take spiritual life step by step, and not expect to make one great leap into sanctity.” (Hieromonk Damascene; 1)

What numbers of souls have perished in this snare of the enemy, for, carried away by the ardour of foolish zeal and in their self-mortification exceeding the measure of their own strength, they perished in ascetic feats of their own invention and became the laughing stock of evil demons! Of course, this would never have happened, if they had followed good judgment and advice, and had not forgotten that these feats of self-mortification, though praiseworthy and fruitful where there is sufficient strength of the body and humility of the soul, must always be controlled by good sense and used only as a means to spiritual progress, instead of becoming an aim in themselves, and must sometimes be reduced, sometimes increased, sometimes changed and sometimes stopped altogether for a time. (Extracted from “Unseen warfare”)

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References

  1. Extracted from the article “The place of the lives of the saints in the spiritual life“. This is one of my favorite spiritual articles on the internet! You must read it! It has so much treasure buried in it and if you don’t you will lose out on so so much!

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