Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What is Essential in the Spiritual Life

The book of Genesis tells us that human beings were created in the image and after the likeness of God.  Many of the Fathers of the Church understand this to mean that “in the image” refers to that which is given to us in creation and “after the likeness” refers to our human potential to become like Christ, like God in as much as is possible in human nature.  

St. Basil says that “you come to be according to the likeness [of God] by undertaking kindness.”  He says further, “Take on yourself a heart of compassion and kindness, that you may put on Christ. For through those things by which you undertake sympathy you put on Christ, and drawing near to Him is drawing near to God.”

There is a faculty in us that St. Basil calls “good will."  This is the faculty by which we recognize and cooperate with the Grace of God through sympathy, compassion and kindness.  And it is through sympathy, compassion and kindness that we become like God, participating in the life of God, doing the works of God (doing what God is doing).

So often I forget that my spiritual life is not so much about my inner state, my relative level of tranquility or distraction.  Sure these are important matters, but not essential, at least not according to St. Basil.  What is essential is that I weep with those who weep.  What is essential is that I speak and act kindly.  What is essential is that I have compassion, suffering with those who suffer.  What is essential is good will.

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