The work towards which you are striving is a great and most valuable work. It must be accomplished properly. It is all internal; the external aspect of the Church in only an addition. The whole power of the work of the Church consists in the purification of the heart from passions….
Originally, man was created right, but he fell and became out of tune. What occurred in him was this; self-centeredness became attached to him, and brought with itself a whole mob of passions which distracted him away from goodness and attracted him towards sin. Man indeed suffers in this condition. Thus, the Lord has ordained upon earth that there be a clinic – the Holy Church and the Holy Mysteries. In baptism people deny Satan, all his works, all service to him, and all his pride, and they accept power to overcome them. After baptism, the fallen ones are to go through Confession, wherein the lost powers of grace are renewed. If the penitent again fall, he again arises… and so to the end of ones life. This is the common path of salvation.
It is painful to fall while the conscience is truthful and the feelings of piety and fear of God are alive. How to remove this unpleasantness partially depends on our will. Thus, one gets inspired in spirit, considering how to make one’s life such that one will unwaveringly fulfill the vows of baptism and repentance, how to live without the stinging of conscience, how to not hurt God, how to overcome and uproot the passions. Not placing any hope in successfully fulfilling this by means of the world, one flees to the Church. In such a way the entry into the Church is a resolve to live without giving oneself over to the promptings of the passions and uprooting them in order that one may preserve oneself before the face of God in a pure state.
This is your task! Give your attention to it, and direct all your powers towards it. The Christian life – the major points of which are fasting, obedience and prayer – provides you with an order of life which does not give food for the passions, and whereby the passions will not be aroused. But it does not destroy the passions. One can be absolutely correct in behavior, yet be filled with passions in the heart. It is important for the heart to penetrate into what comes from it, and to smite everything passionate. Before you is that battle, and the warfare is ceaseless. If you want to save yourselves – enter into yourselves, stop with attention at the heart’s entrance and smite all that comes from the enemy… become fervent for purity of heart!
~adapted from “Kindling the Divine Spark” by St. Theophan the Recluse
hat tip: Sunday Bulletin of Holy Theophany Orthodox Church