Every year as I embark on my annual journey through Great Lent I find myself yearning, if not craving, the same thing: quiet. For me, Great Lent is a pregnancy, a time to grow my spiritual spark into a flame.
This year, my Lenten theme is “straight teaching.” I need to teach myself to straighten up – internally and externally. You see “orthos” means “straight” and “doxa” means “teaching” so Orthodoxy literally means “straight teaching” – I need to actually be Orthodox in my heart and everyday lifestyle – not just in show.
So, I’ve created The Doxa series, which starts today and will run until Bright Week. The Doxa is a collection of Orthodox quotes, parables, and stories that will share weekly wisdom from the spiritual fathers, hopefully enlightening and awakening our hearts to straighten its path.
I pray The Doxa helps you silence the noise of the world and turn your attention inward, synchronizing your life with the Light of Christ. For in this Light, we are aligned with our highest self, path, and purpose.
May God open your heart and bless your journey through Great Lent. I’ll see you on the other side where we shall joyful celebrate new life!
In alignment with monastic tradition, The Doxa will begin with excerpts from St. John Climacus of the Ladder. Personally, I find his readings a little hard to understand, so I suggest you take your time and let his wisdom seep into the depths of your soul – your soul will understand for it is hungry and this is its food. Today’s reading is long but it will set your mind in the right direction.
On renunciation of the world
All who have willingly left the things of the world have certainly done so either for the sake of the future Kingdom, or because of the multitude of their sins, or for love of God. If they were not moved by any of these reasons their withdrawal from the world was unreasonable. But God who sets our contests waits to see what the end of our course will be.
The man who has withdrawn from the world in order to shake off his own burden of sins, should imitate those who sit outside the city amongst the tombs, and should not discontinue his hot and fiery streams of tears and voiceless heartfelt groanings until he, too, sees that Jesus has come to him and rolled away the stone of hardness from his heart, and loosed Lazarus, that is to say, our mind, from the bands of sin, and ordered His attendant angels: Loose him from passions, and let him go to blessed dispassion. Otherwise, he will have gained nothing.
Those who aim at ascending with the body to heaven, need violence indeed and constant suffering especially in the early stages of their renunciation, until our pleasure-loving dispositions and unfeeling hearts attain to love of God and chastity by visible sorrow. A great toil, very great indeed, with much unseen suffering, especially for those who live carelessly, until by simplicity, deep angerlessness and diligence, we make our mind, which is a greedy kitchen dog addicted to barking, a lover of chastity and watchfulness. But let us who are weak and passionate have the courage to offer our infirmity and natural weakness to Christ with unhesitating faith, and confess it to Him; and we shall be certain to obtain His help, even beyond our merit, if only we unceasingly go right down to the depth of humility.
All who enter upon the good fight, which is hard and narrow, but also easy, must realize that they must leap into the fire if they really expect the celestial fire to dwell in them. But, let everyone examine himself, and so let him eat the bread of it with its bitter herbs, and let him drink the cup of it with its tears, lest his service lead to his own judgment.
Those who enter this contest must renounce all things, despise all things, deride all things, and shake off all things, that they may lay a firm foundation. A good foundation of three layers and three pillars is innocence, fasting, and temperance. Let all babes in Christ begin with these virtues, taking as their model the natural babes. For you never find in them anything sly or deceitful. They have no insatiate appetite, no insatiable stomach, no body on fire; but perhaps as they grow, in proportion as they take more food, their natural passions also increase.
To lag in the fight at the very outset of the struggle and thereby to furnish proof of our coming defeat is a very hateful and dangerous thing. A firm beginning will certainly be useful for us when we later grow slack. A soul that is strong at first but then relaxes is spurred on by the memory of its former zeal. And in this way, new wings are often obtained.
When the soul betrays itself and loses the blessed and longed for fervor, let it carefully investigate the reason for losing this. And let it arm itself with all its longing and zeal against whatever has caused this. For the former fervor can return only through the same door through which it was lost.
In the very beginning of our renunciation, it is certainly with labor and grief that we practice the virtues. But when we have made progress in them, we no longer feel sorrow, or we feel little sorrow. But as soon as our mortal mind is consumed, and mastered by our alacrity,* we practice them with all joy and eagerness, with love and with divine fire.
This is the first step. Let him who has set foot on it not turn back.
– St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Tomorrow Step 2: Detachment.
1 brisk and cheerful readiness.