A few days ago we were blessed to have a series of lectures which I found quite intriguing, and so I thought I would share some thoughts that our experience so far in Belgrade has sparked in me…
At a very fundamental level of our being, humans are creatures rooted in argumentation, or rhetoric. Just as there are three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in whose image and likeness man is fashioned, man having three chief properties—the will, the mind, and the spirit—so also are there three levels of rhetorical construction, consideration, and persuasion in an argument—the logos, or rationality within the argument; ethos, or the projection of the persona of the proponent of the argument; and pathos, or appeal to the emotions of the reader, audience, etc. If we are indeed rhetorical creatures in some deep sense, it would not be strange for our actions and impulses, then, to formulate, and betray reasoned, although perhaps not always strictly rational arguments, whether what betrays us (our actions) reveals our ideological or existential presuppositions, our personal flaws sense of aesthetics, or what-have-you. The importance of correct thinking and speaking then cannot be stressed enough, and this is certainly an important aspect of our tradition as Orthodox Christians.
Indeed, viewing the world through this lens and using these terms, it can be shown that God Himself formulates the creation of the cosmos with an argument. The logos: creation is good; pathos: “I, being love, desire to love” (that is, love cannot exist, or even be understood conceptually apart from the object of its affection); ethos: “thus sayeth the Lord,” and such and so on. God the Word, Jesus Christ, insists through His ministry on earth that there be no division between flesh (the material), soul (the life), and spirit (the divine) in the resurrection, but rather, our life in this age is a struggle to exercise the unity therebetween; Just as God is the living God who says, “I AM WHO/THAT I AM;” just as the Holy Spirit was “above the waters” during the creation, so also then, it can be shown how the Lord is not absent from the created world, but rather, as Christ says, “my Father is working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)
In a similar manner, prayer can be understood as a concentration of the faculties of our soul—our thoughts, feelings, and desires—in order to petition God for something. The saints all urge us to seek humility and communion with the Lord and many of them write that by seeking the fulfillment of our own will, not only will we be overwhelmed by temptations and irritations when things constantly run contrary to our desires and worldview, but also they tell us that we are only able to find peace through reconciling our own will to God’s, in striving to imitate Christ. In the same way that Christ likens the resurrection to gathering wheat, and removing tares from amongst the harvest, we must uproot sin from our life, from our soul, in order to meet the risen Lord. Just as when even a small portion of a weed’s roots remain in the ground, the whole plant will regenerate itself, so also allowing even a small trace of bad habits which breed sin to remain within us will render fruitless our efforts to be united with God through prayer. If we meet Christ, Who has been laboring for our salvation, Who intercedes with mercy for our sake, and we have not been thankful for what we have received in this life—whether through forgetfulness, hardness of heart, or any manner of distraction—then what will be left to us that can affect our salvation when we are helpless? The Lord has already saved us from sin, from the devil, and from death during this life; all that is required of us, and indeed must be required of us, is to humbly submit and say, “let Thy will be done in me, Thy servant.”
The cognitive dissonance then which I experience is, how to say, that I feel not put to any use despite knowing that, as Orthodox Christians, we believe Christ calls us all to interior knowledge, to attaining to, struggling for spiritual awakening; whereby, we struggle for the salvation of all. There can never be, then, even one insignificant or uselessness moment, but only laziness, insensitivity, and/or forgetfulness of God’s mercy, that creation is a gift (as many of the saints urge us to remember). As Christ Himself tells us, “what I say to you, I say to all: watch!” (Mark 13:37)
May then that the Lord will bless us, may we edify one another in prayer and worship, and may we all be saved.