Saturday, July 28, 2012
The Chief Hypocrite
Yesterday I wrote these words: "Irenic words and actions have little force when they proceed from a disturbed heart. They are the words and actions of a hypocrite, a dissembler." I have been thinking about them while I was mowing my lawn this afternoon. I feel like I need to go to confession to confess that I am the chief hypocrite.
I struggle to maintain peace within myself. True, I have experienced extended periods of peace--say, several hours long. However most of the time I am not at peace within myself. And some of the time, I am not at peace and do not even realize it because my passions have so roused me that I'm caught on the front lines of mental warfare. I'm arguing with my thoughts, I'm throwing biscuits at the dogs.
Sometimes, even while this is going on in my head, I am forcing myself to say prayers, I am speaking to someone about reconciliation with himself, with others, with God. I am doing what I think will make for peace--even as I struggle to return to peace in my own soul. Fr. Michael: Chief Hypocrite.
And yet, as a young child plays grownup thus beginning to learn to be grown up, so I think spiritual children must pretend a little to grow up (the word "hypocrite" comes from the Greek word for pretend or act). We must pray as ones who are close to God even when we feel far away. We must speak the truth even when we struggle ourselves to fully embrace it. We must bring peace wherever we can even as we are painfully aware of the disturbance in our own soul. We must pretend to be good even while we are still struggling to drive wickedness out of our own heart.
The kind of child-like hypocrisy that I am talking about is not the same as being duplicitous. The hypocrisy of duplicity is to behave one way in one context and another way in a different context. This is the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Repenting of duplicity is perhaps one of the most foundational areas of repentance. Pretending to be good in one context while intending to be less than good in another is a willing embrace of hell-like torment. It is an intentional division of yourself resulting in an inability to know yourself: which self are you?
However, the child-like hypocrisy of the beginner in the spiritual struggle is the painful tension of becoming. What I am leaving behind still haunts me--and sometimes even "possesses" me. Nevertheless, it is what I am leaving behind. I am becoming the New Man that Christ has already implanted in me like a seed. I am learning to act like a Christian (a little Christ), even if it means that sometimes I feel like I am pretending.
May God bless the play of His children, we little hypocrites who long to be grown up Christians.