Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Chastity and the spirit of idleness

Father Elias Morkos - Deir El Harf Monastery
   In the Lenten prayer of “O Lord and Master of my life”, written by Saint Ephrem the Syrian, we ask the Lord: “Give me not the spirit of idleness, meddling… But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity…”.

   This is a full program for life, the life of every Christian living in the midst of the world like other people but who is, striving to lift up his spirit from the trifles and vanities of this world, to reach, in chastity, His Creator.

   Chastity is everything. It is not only physical. A married person who is loyal to his/her partner is chaster than a monk who is confused by many thoughts. The body does not sin but it is the spirit that defiles or sanctifies it, therefore defiling or sanctifying life with him and in him.

   The spirit of sloth and meddling is when one cares for many idle things and clings to one thing after another, without being firmly fixed on anything in particular; the person is thus scatterbrained as if having different personalities which are gradually weakening. If we feel confused and oppressed… in all this there is a smell of sin.

   Whereas the spirit of chastity is when one does not cling to any of the superficial things but contemplates in one thing, which is simple and not complicated, constant and unchanging. In chastity there is the oneness of the person and virtue. The person feels assurance and peace and is exalted… in it, is the smell of sanctity.

   There are levels in chastity. We fight bodily desires by focusing on intellectual and artistic matters which are of a higher degree. But complete chastity fights the idleness of the mind too and that is by pure spiritual contemplation; in other words, by lifting oneself to higher degrees to what is beyond this universe… this is apophatic theology.

   In apophatic theology we enter into undefiled chastity which rises above all what the senses and the mind can understand: God is not stone, nor fire… nor intellect, nor beauty… God is much simpler. He is not known and cannot be known except by lifting ourselves up, gradually, from everything related to this world until reaching complete ignorance and deep darkness where we encounter the “Light of Lights”.

   The Liturgical service always summons us to chastity: “For the peace from above… Let us now lay aside all earthly cares…”, and with the repetition of “Holy God” we contemplate the holiness of God, kneeling in reverence to Him… Most important are the Epiclesis and the Holy Communion where we set everything aside and unify ourselves with God.

   In the Holy Bible it is said: “O Lord, Your works shall be magnified greatly”… which carries us from the level of seeing the works of God to contemplating His wisdom… “I must be about My Father’s work” …and also Jesus Christ said: “seek first the Kingdom of God”.

Archimandrite Elias Morkos (+2011)