01 April 2009

Thoughts on Striving Against Temptation

During Lent, especially as we struggle to keep the fast physically (in foods) and spiritually (in prayer) and relationally (in acts of love toward others), the devil often besets us with our foulest deeds and imaginations. He does so to detract us, to discourage us and to steal our joy. Yet these temptations, for which we often fall prey, are nothing. They are, literally, bundles of no-things. They are thoughts and images (often, very vivid, too vivid), but they have no sustainable reality apart from our will to entertain them, toy with them and (God forbid) act upon them.

Because these maddening temptations are “no-things” does not mean that their pull is not strong, or even seemingly impossible to resist. Black holes and vacuums, both of which contain nothing, are very powerful forces in nature. But by God’s grace through prayer and fasting—in other words, by staying the Lenten course—we can overcome. Perhaps not immediately; in fact, usually only after years of striving do we obtain the victory. For the devil is persistent in his goal of dragging us to hell; and our flesh is equally stubborn in its ungodly desire to be gratified. Nevertheless, these “strong men” have been undone by the stronger man (Lk 11). Therefore, we need simply to remain close to him in prayer and deed, and flee to him when we stumble and when we fall for the devilish lies that the “no-things” are real.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Father John:

Great words of exhortation. Tonight at Saint Tikhons Seminary we prayed St. Andrew's Canon in its entirety. Talk about a "confessional service".

Just as taste from tonight echoeing your words:

"In privation Jacob the Patriarch endured the burning heat by day and the frost by night, making daily gains of sheep and cattle, shepherding, wrestling and serving, to win his two wives.

By the two wives, understand action and knowledge in contemplation. Leah is action, for she had many children; and Rachel is knowledge, for she endured great toil. For without toil, O my soul, neither action nor contemplation will succeed."