The sun came out only for moments today. It was overcast for the most part until the early afternoon. Then the fog came billowing by, and settled for the day and night.
There’s word we might have snow. It’s snow like weather, it’s cold enough, but the last few precipitation predictions have been rather over bold. So, I don’t expect to see a white morning. For now, it’s enough to hear the condensation drip off the trees with the gusts of wind.
I read from the Philokalia this afternoon and took note of these words from Symeon the New Theologian:
The goal of all who pursue the spiritual path is to do the will of Christ, their God, to be reconciled with the Father through communion in the Spirit and so to achieve their salvation. For only in this way is the soul’s salvation attained. And if it is not attained, our labor is fatuous and our work vain. Every path of life is pointless that does not lead the person pursuing it to this consummation.
It just occured to me that the grace/law argument could be assumed here by those not too familiar with the spiritual path. This isn’t about salvation by faith, that’s a different matter. This is Paul’s Philippian comment as well:
2:12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
And so the one seeking to work this out finds the path which leads to the goal, and wanders wherever the Spirit leads, hoping to taste of God’s goodness along the way.
This isn’t new to me, nor what struck me this morning. It was the following passage which made me pause a moment.
The person who, totally forsaking the world, retires to the mountains as though in pursuit of stillness and who then showily writes to those in the world, blessing some and paising and flattering others, is like someone who, after divorcing a foul and slatternly whore of a wife and going off to a distant land to expunge even his memory of her, then forgets why he came there and longs to write to those living with that whore, and sullied by her, even deeming them happy. If not bodily at least in heart and in intellect he shares their passions inasmuch as he deliberately condones their commerce with that woman.
Those who purify their senses and hearts from every evil desire while living in the world indeed deserve praise and are surely blessed. Correspondingly, those who dwell in mountains and caves, but who pursue human praise and blessing, deserve censure and rejection. In the eyes of God, diviner of our hearts, they are adulterers. For the person who wants his life and name and ascetic practice to be known in the world prostitutes himself in God’s sight, as, according to David, the Jewish people once did (cf. Ps. 106:39).
A person can keep quoting relevant passages essential to developing this more, but this is good for now. For it in some ways reflects the lessons of my past year.
One could even see these very words as relating to this passage, though this isn’t what I’m considering. I see this present section and this website more as a way of communicating to those in similar situations than a way of seeking attention. I starved to know how others were walking the spiritual life, and so I thought it might be a way of help to document my own journey.
But, I do notice the connection, and I notice it because it is a precipice I know I walk alongside in other areas of my life. I know I have fallen full into the temptations described and have spent the last two years trying to work that out of my system. This describes the lessons I am learning and the nature I must watch out for in myself.
I yearn for the Spiritual path… but not enough. I yearn for the outside world… but not enough. It is a combination which is both cruel and curious. It is a combination which speaks of both who I am supposed to be and who I am not supposed to be, all dependent on my perspective and orientation in each moment. I am not called to be a mystic on a mountain. Nor am I called to be an office worker pining for a promotion. There is a unity of my calling which seeks both inward and outward, yet it is a narrow path which will find both without finding desperation and death.
It involves humble obedience and letting go. It involves doing as I see right, not doing for what I want to be right. It is a fluid pursuit, not a pursuit of ambitious self-realization.
It is a becoming less, not a trying to do more.
When I step off this path I fully become that person described in the passage and I hate myself for it. I feel it in my sinews and bones, my whole soul despises what I have become. When I walk rightly, I feel it in my whole being, which exalts God not me, which glories in what I can do with others, not what I can show myself to be to others.
Walking this narrow path is why I walk with fear and trembling, why I seek to accept the ever growing urge for prayer and why I let go of those things which others say I must grasp.
Because, the fact is that I’m finding something. I’m finding something in these last few weeks, and it is good. It is revealing the purpose of my being, which is to find humility and wholeness together in and through the work of the Spirit who draws all people towards wholeness. In nothing I am finding something, and if I can just manage to take hold of that I will be of some value.
The path has become steep and even more narrow these last few weeks, and I don’t know why or what it is leading towards, if anything. I can only walk, and continue to learn to pray, and continue to let myself be drawn back towards the ancient paths of Truth that have become overgrown in my life and in the life of many I know.
I see in Symeon’s words a hope and a warning. I am walking right today… but I must continue to keep my wits about me, for my failing is always quite near. I only know that continuing to walk is worth it… worth it all. I’ve seen the pearl of great worth and press on after it.