Friday, June 27, 2014

The Spiritual Battle

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite

"For not for us is the battle against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the worldrulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."--Eph 6:12

There has always been need for the faithful to do battle.  I do not mean physical battle, which God only commanded for a time, but spiritual battle.  Even in the Garden, Adam was called to fight against the serpent and failed, as one tradition views it.  So Satan and his demons have since then been lurking on the earth, "prowling like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."  Yet God has not abandoned us to the maw of the dragon: He gives us the grace to defeat the wicked one.  Christ trampled death by death, and He also trampled Satan and his power.  He Who cast out demons while on earth continues to cast them out when we call upon Him.  In the spiritual life, then, we are always combating demons, but with the help of the Lord we can overcome the foe, by participating in the victory Christ already won for us, even to the point of shooing the demons away with a feather duster, as St. Antony did.  So in reading the below excerpts regarding our spiritual battle, let us always be firm in the fight, always running the race to gain the crown, remembering the sobering declaration of Evagrius: "Prayer is warfare to the last breath."

"The warriors who take part in this unseen war are all who are Christians; and their commander is our Lord Jesus Christ, surrounded and accompanied by His marshals and generals, that is, by all the hierarchies of angels and saints. The arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place is our own heart and all our inner man. The time of battle is our whole life.With what weapons are warriors armed for this unseen warfare? Listen. Their helmet is total disbelief in themselves and complete absence of self-reliance; their shield and coat of mail--a bold faith in God and a firm trust in Him; their armour and cuirass--instruction in the passion of Christ; their belt--cutting off bodily passions; their boots--humility and a constant sense and recognition of their powerlessness; their spurs--patience in temptations and repudiation of negligence; their sword, which they hold ever in one hand, is prayer whether with the lips or within--in the heart; their three-pronged spear, which they hold in the other hand, is a firm resolve in no way to consent to the passion which assails them, but to repulse it with anger and wholehearted hatred; their pay and food, sustaining them in their resistance to the enemy, is frequent communion with God, both through the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, and inwardly; the clear and cloudless atmosphere, which enables them to see the enemy from afar, is a constant exercising of the mind in the knowledge of what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and a constant exercising of the will in desiring only what is pleasing to God, peace and quiet of the heart."--St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite

"Thy Kingdom come. By this sweet word we obviously offer God this prayer: Let the opposing battle front be broken and the hostile phalanx be destroyed. Bring to an end the war of the flesh against the spirit and let the body no longer harbour the enemy of the soul. Oh, let them appear, the royal force, the angelic band, the thousands of rulers, the myriads of those who stand on Thy right hand, that a thousand warriors may fall on the front of the enemy! Strong, indeed, is the adversary, formidable, yea, invincible to those bereft of Thy help. Yet only as long as man is fighting alone; when Thy Kingdom comes, the pangs and sighs of sorrow vanish, and life, peace, and rejoicing enter instead."--St. Gregory of Nyssa
St. Gregory of Nyssa

Nota Bene: The quote from St. Nicodemus is from his introduction to Unseen Warfare, which is St. Theophan the Recluse's Slavic revision of St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite's Greek edition of Lorenzo Scupoli's Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise, from the translation by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1987).  The quote from St. Gregory is from his Sermons on the Lord's Prayer III, found in The Lord's Prayer. The Beatitudes, translated by Hilda C. Graef as volume 18 of the Ancient Christian Writers series (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1954).

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