The Holy Fathers have determined the stages of spiritual development: purification of the heart from passions, illumination of the mind, and deification. They very concretely describe the spiritual struggle as well as the spiritual occurrences atMoreThe Holy Fathers have determined the stages of spiritual development: purification of the heart from passions, illumination of the mind, and deification. They very concretely describe the spiritual struggle as well as the spiritual occurrences at each of the stages respectively.
With thorough reading and comparison of the works, one can even observe how a systematization of spiritual life according to the stages of development and according to the spiritual occurrences at each of the stages clearly surfaces and takes shape. This systematization has not been fully elaborated upon by any of the Fathers and it is the subject of a specific theological work, still it is yet another witness to the marvelous harmony in spiritual life in general.
This systematization, although not fully defined, can be observed in the collected homilies in this book, because it is the theoretical basis both of the interpreted Gospel readings and of their thematic dissemination. The aim of such an interpretation, which in this case is also undergoing its own promotion, among other things, is to clarify the order and harmony of spiritual development in Orthodox spiritual life. Without the knowledge of the order, arrangement and harmony of Orthodox spiritual life, we leave great room for an inauthentic spiritual life and for false representation, both before ourselves and before others.
It often happens that some represent themselves as “undeluded spiritual guides” and others as “faithful spiritual children,” while their deeds and words are not in agreement with that which they themselves are witnessing. Such people do not have the inner spiritual cover for their place in the Church and an environment in which they can hide this is becoming to them. Therefore the Holy Fathers say that ignorance is the greatest evil.Each man, in accordance with his stage of spiritual development, needs appropriate preaching, suitable food for his mind and heart.
If at the interpretation of a Gospel we lose sight of the pastoral dimension—that is, the spiritual and intellectual need of the given audience—then we have empty preaching. The homilies you are going to read have been delivered before monastics and are intended for them. Likewise, they are intended for the priesthood. Most of them have been delivered at the Holy Liturgy, following the Gospel of the day, in the churches of the Orthodox Diocese of Strumica, before faithful people previously prepared to receive the word. However, we believe that if the unprepared reader also approaches the study of this book ascetically, much of what is written in it will eventually find its place in his mind and in his heart.It is good, when we are in delusion—and no one is out of delusion—at least to know and bring to awareness the fact that we are in delusion, because we will by all means live and behave a bit more humbly.
With our haughty and self-loving behavior, we are precisely the ones who estrange people from the faith and from the Church of Christ. People get estranged from God by their prejudices about the Church—which after all are created by us, not by the Church itself—about which they in essence know nothing. Therefore, it is even better that we, in constant struggle, fulfill the holy commandments of Christ and through this come to know God personally and to bear witness to Him.
Let us not be like the chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes of Christ’s time, who, with no struggle, with no building of a personal relationship with God, wanted to come to know the Truth: “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24), or: “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?” (Mark 11:28)- may we not possibly hear the answer that is dreadful for us: “Neither will I tell you!” (Mark 11:33).
In this sense, one should also understand the title of the book as a call to personal ascetical-hesychastic and gnoseological struggle in the Church.