Some biblical considerations on the relationship between experience and education.
Man, after the fall of the first men, has the tendency to seek earthly rather than celestial things, though his very name of man ([mathematical expression not reproducible]) is showing him as a being who has a look for the highest ones and who is preoccupied with the heavenly ones.
The fallen man remains a person still, but he loses the natural connection with God, losing the happiness he desires so much in this life.
The beginning of spiritual ascension
In The Old Testament, we find many examples from which one can deduce the importance of experience in achieving spiritual life, or in other words, man's habit of being in his natural, innate state. Any experience (whether it be liturgical, prayer, etc.) is intended to bring man coming into his senses. The state of repentance is the state in which man goes from the image to likeness to God. This man's coming into his senses, this experience of returning to the state of normality, represents a whole complex process, which supposes (from the man side) first the "will" - that is, to wish. But this determination of man is insufficient only at the stage of unexpressed desire but not in deeds. There are several stages of the coming into senses that we will detail with examples in the following subchapter; these are briefly: meditation / reflection which has as a goal the awareness (the present state), the drawing of a plan or the conceptualization and the implementation of the ideas.
There is a state of false repentance to which man can come through the formal fulfillment (or only in an external way) of the commandments. Those people who formally obey the commandments but have hardened or unhealed hearts are called in the Scriptures by the Savior "whitewashed tombs," "hypocritical" people who cleanse only the outside of the cup or the dish but inside they are full of extortion and gluttony (Matt. 23:25-27). Moreover, even from the time of Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah gives us the words of God that says: "Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me, worship of Me has become merely like rules taught by human beings." (Isaiah 29:13). We could say, in other words, that "repentance" without repentance is a change only at the level of deeds made for certain purposes that do not include the sincere desire for perfection, union with God.
Apart from the actual experience, resulting from its actions, it also requires an inner reflection in the practice of spiritual life. Even from the Decalogue--which God gives to Moses--one can see this aspect in the sense that the first nine of the ten can be fulfilled in a superficial or external way, for example: we can honor the day of rest only by the eyes of the world, we can honor the parents but in our hearts to think the bad ones about them, we cannot steal but long from our heart after another's belongings, etc. But the last commandment, the tenth, refers to our inner world, and it is like a kind of warning or, in other words, a reminder of the fact that "God does not seek for the face of man" (Deut. 10:17, Gal 2:6), that is, he seeks not his own deed, but also his heart, that is, the attitude with which he did it.
As a first conclusion to what has been said so far, we can say that the path of spiritual life begins by purifying the passions of a person who has a sincere attitude to reach the likeness of God.
The cultic or liturgical experience has an important role in the spiritual formation of man, but it must be noted that the external deeds committed in liturgical practice do not help to spiritual progress if man does not "determined to obey God's will" (Ephes. 6:6)
A first example of how God is looking for the heart of man and not his external deeds is found in Genesis, where is told the episode where the two brothers Cain and Abel offered each of its fruits. Even though Cain wanted and even fulfilled the cultic ritual to God to offer the gifts of the earth, yet God sought "toward Abel and his gifts, and to Cain and his offerings not sought" (Gen. 4:4- 5).
About Noah, the Scripture says that "he was just and righteous man among the men of his time, and walked in the way of the Lord" (Gen. 6:9), but his contemporaries say in Genesis, "all the heart's hearts and desires are directed to evil all the days" (Gen. 6:5). The Scripture does not detail the cultic actions that Noah did or his liturgical experience, but we can easily conclude from the biblical account that all the acts Noah did in order to come into contact with God were made from his heart, with a sincere desire to glorify God.
Another example is that of Abraham. He, as soon as he has heard the words of God, does as the Lord commands him: he departs from his land without delaying his departure or doubting what he has heard (Gen. 12:4). Then the experience of circumcision can be seen as a cultic aspect in which man obeys the will of God and brings himself as a sacrifice within a ritual. The gift of God is not delayed to appear, but "it may be said that the theophany of Mamvre can be a kind of reward for the man who has become deserving of God in that he has subjected Him completely unconditionally" (Semen 2007: 22-23).
Any expression of the love for God within the cult (either public or private) in which man brings glory and thanksgiving to God is absolutely necessary to be made on the one hand, in a state of awakening and not with indifference, on the other hand, according to the command of God and the tradition of the Church, even if one are less or more advanced in spiritual life. These aspects are detached from two sequences of the Leviticus:
Chapter 10:1-2, tells us that "Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord". Although it does not come clear what this "unauthorized fire" means, one can see it as signifying a violation of the divine commandment, but also mocking this work. The two sons of Aaron approached God in a negligent manner, ignoring the importance of their ministry.
In the same chapter, at v. 9, God commands Aaron: "you and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come". So Lord asks man to be awake when he worship. Such a state of awakening leads to an experience in which man prepares himself with all his spiritual powers to receive God in his life.
Also for the spiritualization of the body and for the detachment of man from his habit of being attracted more to the earthly, God ordains the fasting for man to repel through asceticism the bodily passions. In The Old Testament, there are many direct specifications regarding fasting (Lev. 16:29, 31, Lev 23:27, 29, 32, Num. 29:7, etc.) specifications refined and developed in The New Testament writings. For example, saint Luke the Evangelist urges Christians, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap." (Luke 21:34) Because of gluttony for food and drink, not only the body, but the soul and the heart becomes heavy in the sense that it is drawn more towards the earthly, and loses its nimbleness and easiness of searching and acquiring the heavenly. The fasting, among other things, is a way to support prayer; it is not a goal in itself, but a spiritual exercise, an effort by which we help the prayer of repentance and transform the hunger after the material in hunger after the spiritual. During fasting, the Christian eats less and prays more, making this experience of detachment from material things, in order to seek more non-steadily and eternally ones.
Within the liturgical experience, the experience of prayer is also included as an actual experience of the encounter of man with God as personal relationship. The Psalm emphasizes the sincere desire to seek Him and to come into contact with Him: "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart" (Ps. 9:1), "Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips." (Ps. 16:1). On the other hand, at the opposite (if we're looking only at the content of the Psalms), the deceitful man is hated by God and his prayer is not received: "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee" (Ps. 5:4), "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things" (Ps. 12:3).
From these few examples, we can keep the idea that in the cult, man coming in contact with God to praise Him, to thank Him or even ask Him for something, makes all this useless if the external deeds are done with some hidden thought or formally and do not spring from an open and sincere heart.
The role of education in the Jewish family
The child in the Jewish family was considered a gift from God and the fact of having no children for the married couples was considered a curse. The birth of a child was seen as a blessing from several points of view: the nation could perpetuate, the growing child could help the family in household activities and, more than that, the perpetuation of the Jewish law and the continuity of God's worship (Vatamanu 2011: 247).
The child in his first years of life was educated with the purpose to imprint in little one theoretical teachings and their transposition into practice:
Education in the Israeli family has a socio-economic, cultural and religious role. Learning the father's job could mean guaranteeing a future job, but also ensure the continuity of a craftsmanship tradition. The duty of sons was to obey, to learn and to fulfill the mosaic perceptions. (Vatamanu 2011: 294)
Later, when the child grew up, "the catechetical" discussions and the common prayer within the family were continued outside of the household, through public worship practices that contributed to the spiritual formation of the God-fearing Israelite" (Vatamanu 2011: 295).
With regard to the verbs that define the act of education in The Old Testament writings, we want to recall one of these to emphasize that education in general and religious in particular means the formation of character in a way in which man has the capacity to receive and to apply the teachings received in a lucid and attentive manner to the purpose it has, namely, "the holiness of one's own life by reference to the holiness of Jahwe" (Vatamanu 2011: 515): the verb shanan which means to sharpen appears in Holy Scripture in Qal, Piel and Hitpoel. Its general meaning is encountered in relation to the sharpening of swords and battle lances. It also appears in the texts as a technical term in relation to education and, in this context, can be understood not as mere learning but as a sharpening of the mind. If in the case of a sword we remove the rust we make it able to cut something, in a similar way things can be seen in education too: "The theological meaning of this verb in Piel is that the message of God penetrates deeply into the soul and mind of the one who listening to it, shaking his senses, making him shine and being ready to cut out of his soul all the passion" (Vatamanu 2011: 162).
We see from this example how the education that was given to the child in the parental home was the main purpose of forming the character so that with the physical growth there would be spiritual growth to help resemble the likeness of God as He himself commands the Jewish people: "Be holy, that I the Lord am holy" (Lev. 11:45).
The prophetic experience
If in the Garden of Heaven God spoke with the man face to face, after falling into sin, over time, this relationship of man with God was cooled down. People have increasingly departed from God, but He has chosen from the people of Israel people who have pleased them, and through them talked with the people to awaken him from this state. The prophets were chosen by God to fulfill His law, making the effort of destitution and, desiring for spiritual life, made obedience "the grave of pride and the resurrection of humility" (John Climacus 2007: 80).
Although the prophets had a profound and direct experience with God, they did not dare to try to know God according to His Being (which is impossible), but they sought their personal experience, to divinely have the immediate effect of transmitting the will of God to the fellow human beings, but also the immediate implementation of the message received:
As interpreters and intermediaries between the divine and the human, the prophets hear the word and the will of God along with His saving plans [ ...]. After benefiting from the encounter with his Creator, man never returns more trained in the knowledge of God, but always brings exclusively the message of God's will to His plans [...]. The prophets do not say anything about what God is, but repeat innumerable times how He is in relation to man, and especially what He wants from man and the world in general. Therefore, those who have met with God never declare that they are God's theoretician, but are almost perfect connoisseurs of His will. (Semen 2007: 5-8)
In the books of the Old Testament, the prophet's experience is the highest version among all the possible human situations in relation to God. The texts of the prophets show that, above all, every call of God takes place within man, as we find, for example, in the Prophet Avacum: "I will look to see what he will say to me" (Habakkuk 2:1). God does not speak "to" the prophet, but "to him". The Prophet hears God with his inner, spiritual hearing. The prophetic experience is not one of face to face, of the opposite, but it is primarily an inner experience.
In the life of the prophets (in particular) we find concrete cases of man's encounter with divinity. The call to this mission
comes only to the one who has already committed himself to the commandments. Indeed, to the one who proves that he already has a zeal for the Lord, all that is required even more. [...] God offers him an extra work to the one who has been successful in His life, that is, already in one way or another, in the work of the divine commandments (Semen 2007: 38)
--Noah is presented as the only person of his time who "has found grace in the sight of the Lord God" (Gen. 6: 8). In contrast to the fact that "the wickedness of men is magnified on the earth, and that all the hearts and wishes of their hearts are directed to evil all the time" (Gen. 6: 5), Noah tells us that "He was just and righteous man among men of his time, and he walked in the way of the Lord" (Gen. 6:9). For this good perseverance in spite of all the troubles encountered in everyday life, God chooses him to bring to an end a unique project in the history of the world;
--about Abraham, before the moment God first speaks to Him (Gen. 12:1-3), nothing is told of his life except that he was married to Sarah, had no children, and was seventy-five years old. God's call to Abraham also includes a blessing that may seem untrue, since he and his wife were elderly: "I will raise up from you a great people" (Gen. 12: 2). From the text of Scripture, it does not comes why God calls him to such a great dignity, and blesses him in this way, but we can detach from the immediate fulfillment of the divine will that Abraham received with humility and faith the fulfillment of the Lord' s will throughout his life, the burden of not having children;
--long before God was entrusted with the mission of delivering the chosen people from the Egyptian bondage, Moses proves to be a strong "supporter of the righteousness and protection of the oppressed (Exod. 2:11-17)" (Petre Semen 2007: 38) fact that can be observed throughout the life of the company.
The prophets were simple men chosen by God to reveal to His people His will to turn from the evil to the good, from the depths of sin on the heights of virtues. But to be elected, if we take each case, we can easily see that the prophets, just before their calling to this dignity, have responded with love to the love of God by fulfilling the commandments of the law and living according to His will.
The experience of spiritual filiation
We find in the Holy Scripture many situations in which we are presented how spiritual experience is transmitted from person to person. On the one hand, the prophets, people who have already earned a rich experience of spiritual life and, on the other hand, their disciples who have their teachers as living example of spiritual living:
* The Book of 1 Samuel presents "The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli" (1 Sam. 3:1). While he was lying in the tabernacle of the Lord, Samuel was called out by God, but, knowing the divine voice, he went to Eli the priest, believing he was called by him. Eli sends him back to bed, telling him he did not call him. This call of God takes place three times, and for the third time Eli, realizing what is happening, teaches the child to answer to God:
Then Eli understood that the Lord called the child. And Eli said to Samuel, "Go back and lie down, and when the one calling you will call you again, you will say, Lord, say that thy servant heareth." "And Samuel went and slept in his place. A third time the Lord called, <<Samuel!f>> And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, <<Here I am; you called me.>> (1 Sam. 3:8-9)
In this case, one can notice the intense concern of the spiritual son to remain obedient to his teacher and the paternity relationship between the two who aims to increase in spiritual life and implicitly in closeness to God;
* Elijah, after meeting with God on Mount Horeb, meets Elisha and calls him to the apprenticeship with a gesture of throwing the cloak. Elisha left his family and his work and "Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant" (1 Kings 19:21). During the time of his apprentice he "poured water on Elijah's hands" (2 Kings 3:11), which shows that he lived with his spiritual father, whom he served. When Elijah ascended to heaven, Elisha received his teacher's cloak as a visible sign of the prophetic harisma, and from Elijah's disciples he became the spiritual father of all Israel (2 Kings 2:13-14).
The Old Testament rightists have delivered their virtuous teaching and deeds to the disciples and, and through them, to each generation in part. This method of transmitting the tradition of deification before Christ will occupy a central place in Christian practice. Spiritual philosophy, besides external didactic aspects, also has a spiritual side of prayer, which we will see above all in Christianity: the spiritual father generates spiritual sons through prayer (Gal. 4:19).
The actuality of Old Testament examples
Although The Old Testament writings speak of some people who have fulfilled the word of God in their lives and who lived thousands of years ago, they are actual today and not just "today" but will be by the end of the ages because "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today and forever, is the same" (Hebrews 13:8). The man who is on the way to God or who has begun to walk this way from face to likeness, no longer listens to his consciousness because his consciousness can pull him down--to the worldly ones--by listening more to the senses and judging all through the senses. And then man does not look at what he would like, but what he was commanded to do and trust in the commandments God gave him because Christ is hiding in commandments, so they are especially proof of of love for Him and for His neighbor (Jn. 14: 21). As men, in fulfilling the commandments, we enter into a state of obedience, and we do nothing but to resemble God-the Son who "humbled Himself, by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Phil 2:8).
From the experiences of The Old Testament righteous, we can emphasize a first aspect: unconditional obedience to God. The examples of The Old Testament righteous are current and useful in spiritual life. The experience of obedience may seem to be not easy, but renouncing its own will in favor of God' s will--which the penitent hears through the mouth of the confessor--becomes the prerequisite of receiving grace in the hearts of those who obey and who resembles Him who, by obedience God the Father, saved us. As an example, we can bring Noah and Abraham who have experienced the obedience of the word of God, fulfilling it as soon as they have heard it. Even the prophet Jonah, who did not want to obey God, did not find his peace until he obeyed. In turn, the ninuts, they fulfill the word of the Lord told by Jonah, and they save their souls and the city from destruction. The obedience of the Christian in our day to the word of God spoken through the mouth of the confessor is also underlined by St. Paul by the words, "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. .." (Heb. 13:17).
By the commandments of God man can be shunning of passions, spiritualizing his body. The purification of passions together with advancing into virtue is the maintenance and improvement of the bodily and soul health, as shown by current research. Fr. Prof. Ioan C. Tesu says that:
Medical sources show that almost 80% of contemporary man's illness is due to the defective life style, and cancer rates (the second suffering as spread in the world after cardiovascular affections) show an increasing incidence of digestive cancers, which seem to be generally the first place in terms of spreading or many of them are due to poor nutrition. Colorectal cancer is even referred to as "poor nutrition illness," a diet based on excess animal protein, without substantial fiber intake. Recent medical studies (such as the "China study") recommend a "Mediterranean" diet based mostly on vegetables, fruits, ocean fish, etc. and limiting the consumption of "red meat", especially pig and beef, only on special occassions. Moreover, there are clinics around the world specialized in the fight against cancer, which, finding that the cancer cell is energetic, ie it needs protein to multiply, leading to neopasia or metastasis, seeking to slow down the process of development of this disease by eliminating the sick of the flesh. But this demonstrates that fast itself is also a source of bodily health. (Tesu 2012: 7)
The Holy Fathers speaking of pride, gluttony and fornication, it shows them as three of the greatest sins that cast man from God. In Orthodox spirituality it is stated that
every passion has a contrary virtue, which man has to discover and work to perfection. Advancement in this work means, at the same time, destroying the passion to the contrary. The struggle against passions, for the acquisition and practice of virtues brings true spiritual happiness to the soul of the spiritual. (Tesu 2001: 7-8)
Thus, against the three passions (mentioned above) can help fasting, charity and prayer:
fasting, against the flesh; charity against gluttony, and prayer against pride. The one who prays, stands like condemned before the Lord, with great humility, even through these good deeds, man brings a perfect sacrifice to himself and to his things. By charity, his work; through fasting, sacrifice the body; by prayer, brings his soul to the Lord. (Agapie of Crete 2009: 353)
About these three works of the spiritual man speaks the Savior in the sermon on the mountain. Christ thus updates some aspects of the spiritual life to show that they practiced in a superficial way do not make any use on the spiritual plane but, on the contrary, more chastisement:
* In this regard, regarding prayer, we have the following exhortation: "But when you pray, come into your chamber and, closing the door, pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in he will reward you" (Matt. 6:6). As material nutrition sustains biological life, prayer also sustains spiritual life as the work by which man remains spiritually alive. A man who does not pray to God ie does not meet God in prayer is a man who is spiritually dead. Prayer as a connection of man with God is the most powerful spiritual food. For some contemporary people, prayer can mean an obsolete, outdated or retrograde work. However,
in recent years, more and more results suggest that spiritual life has significant health effects while improving mental well-being. In addition to spiritual fruits, the regular practice of prayer offers people a sense of tranquility and physical relaxation. Many other medical benefits from practicing prayer and meditation have been highlighted in various research: improving the immune response, improving blood pressure, lowering the level of cortisol (one of the stress hormones). (Mihalache 2017: 152)
* During fasting-Christian times the Christian eats less and prays more, supplementing the material food with spiritual food. The scientific evidence of recent years (Mosley, Spencer 2013: 15-73) highlights the beneficial effects of the fast. These include: reducing the risk of developing a range of age-related diseases, reducing cancer risk, obesity, diabetes, cartilage, protecting the brain from dementia and cognitive decline, improving mood, etc.;
* the results of recent research on the voluntary experience of compassion reveal the benefits of practicing this virtue, including: the beneficial influence of the quality of moral judgments, receptivity to new things, acquiring balance in tense situations, significant diminution of negative emotions (anger, anxiety or sadness), reduces the level of inflammation in the body, etc. (Mihalache 2017: 119)
Volunteer activity--specialists say--has some beneficial effects in comparison with the activity done for certain purposes of immediate interest whose positive effects are reduced or even nonexistent (Begley 2010: 102). These recent discoveries support the Savior's words concerning fasting and mercy: "Whenever you fast, don't be gloomy like the hypocrites, because they put on sad faces to show others they are fasting. I tell all of you[k] with certainty, they have their full reward!" (Matt. 6: 16), "[...] whenever you give to the poor, don't blow a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they will be praised by people. I tell all of you[a] with certainty, they have their full reward!" (Matt. 6:2).
Obedience to God and renunciation to his own will in favor of His will means that man should deny himself. This denial leads to an inward transformation and the actual fulfillment of the Lord's will is a natural continuation and a continuous renewal of the spiritual life. The model of obedience of the Christian is Christ, He Who, by doing the will of the Father, has saved us. Man, disobeying the commandments of God, can not attain to joy in Christ, so long as his life in sin, far from God, grieves the Holy Spirit (Ef. 4:30).
At the end of this first part we can say that all commandments aim at destroying passions in man and its spiritual growth. By each commandment in part, man experiences his natural state and, at the same time, the path to the likeness with God. The fulfillment of all commandments is a necessity because if one would be missing, man would be partially healed as Saint John Hrisostomos says:
Don't tell me, "I've done most of the straightening!" If you have not straightened it all up, consider you've done nothing! For this little thing, if overlooked, destroys the rest. Indeed, often people building their houses and putting the roof, if a single tile flee out and they have not put it back, the whole house is destroyed. (John Chrysostom 2011: 295)
But the formal fulfillment of the commandments is the way that leads to the likeness of God as
[... ] when the external forms of worship lack the support of the inner soul background from which they must spring (inner piety, religious feeling, godliness, consciousness and religious culture) they degenerate to empty forms that lack the religious content, in ritualism, formalism, bigotry, or other pseudo-religious forms, which are performed automatically or mechanically, by virtue of tradition, habit or religious ignorance. (Braniste 2015: 71)
Therefore all that matters in this spiritual approach is that man should be present with his entitr being in this sacramental work of fulfillment of the word of God, from his heart, according to His will.
The importance of experience in the spiritual becoming of man
In this second part we will look more closely at some of the details from the life of certain people mentioned in The New Testament writings to see what experiences they had and what they have gained from them, in order to accustom spiritual life. Spiritual life primarily focuses on the inner life, and the inner life according to the gospel of Christ requires a continual, everyday effort. This habit of practicing what has been heard or learned presupposes that man has a goal or purpose, and the purpose of the Christian for he does all these things is the communion of eternal love with God and all His saints.
The experience of conversion
In The New Testament writings we observe several ways in which God "enters" men life, and they remain marked by the experience of their encounter with God. Here are some examples, highlighting the following: man's encounter with God, obedience to the word of God, the consciousness of unworthiness (repentance), and "touching" by God.
Man's meeting with God
Saint Evangelist Luke tells us how Jesus was passing through Jericho, and the tax collector Zacchaeus was impressed by why he had heard of Him, he wanted to see Him, but he could not because of the crowd and, because he was a shot man and so he climbed a sycamore tree. Arriving at Zacchaeus, Jesus stops and tells him he has to stay in his house. Zacchaeus puts the good beginning to his life, and Christ, receiving his repentance, says the words: "Today salvation has come to this home, because this man is also a descendant of Abraham, and the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost"(Luke 19:9-10).
The experience of Zaheu's encounter with Christ started from a simple curiosity: "he was trying to see who Jesus was", but he had the surprise that Jesus would look at him and speak to him, inviting Himself to his house. After the Savior urges him to come down saying "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down! I must stay at your house today" he hastily descended and received Him, rejoicing, thereby showing that he is obedient to the word of God, not having thoughts but having the same benevolent attitude of fulfilling the word of God as soon as he hears it, like The Old Testament righteous: Noah, Abraham, Samuel, and so on. (Cyril of Alexandria 1998: 251-253)
Listening to God's Word
Evangelist John presents the encounter between Christ and the Samaritan woman at the Jacob Well. Christ, on his way to Galilee, does not bypass Samaria, but passes through this place, and rests at the Jacob Well. Going beyond the superiority of being a Jew, and knowing that "Jews do not have anything to do with Samaritans" (Jn 4:9), he nevertheless get into conversation with this woman of another nation and other faith. He begins the conversation by asking her to give Him water, and she is surprised she is considered worthy to be told, that she is considered worthy to be asked to give Him water. At the beginning of the conversation she seems to be ironic or even arrogant, but in time, Christ speaking to her about the living water, she changes her attitude, believes in His words and asks for this water. (Steinhardt 2008: 155) The key moment of this conversation is the sincerity and lack of hypocrisy of woman after Christ tells her to call her husband. She does not apologize, try not to deceive him, and therefore the Savior receives her repentance and makes her an apostle and a confessor of His divinity.
Christ, through the Samaritan woman, calls all humanity to make an effort in the knowledge of God. He gradually discovers His divinity and lets man make at least a minimal effort to know Him. Steinhardt, wondering how Jesus directly revealed His divinity to this woman of other nation, another faith and a sinner, says,
Because they liked the woman's courage, cleverness, love and impetuosity. He did not seem cruel to him, just dainty, intelligent and free from his mouth [...]. These delightful attributes, which are not insolent, although at the mercy of the good, have pleased the Lord, a great amateur of courage, of intelligence, and of boldness and firm characters (Caananean, the persistent widow), of upright men. But to whom I am not worthy of affection for the bastards, the flatters, the undead, the hypocrites. And the Samaritan is not frightened, nor flatter and nor hyppocryte and ready to be defeated (when Christ tells her she have no man, she does not contradict Him, she does not hide herself, suddenly realizing she is in the presence of a prophet, perhaps the Messiah) [...]. Lord reveals Himself [...] because she is a woman of character, and not a miserable one [...]. (Steinhardt 2008: 159-161)
Another episode from which we can discover the importance of the enlightening experience in human life is that of Simon's call to the Apostle presented by Saint Evangelist Luke. Christ asks Simon to leave the shore to speak to the crowds, and after finishing preaching, He urges them to go fishing again, although he useless hardly worked all the night. Despite the fatigue and the fact that it was not the right time for fishing, Simon does not shirk, finds no excuse but listens to and fulfills His word. After the miracle of fishing, he falls to Jesus' feet, acknowledging his own unworthiness. With this experience of obedience to the word of the Lord, there is a transformation in his life. Simon does not remain the same as before.
Let's conclude how this change has been achieved. In the first phase, Simon, despite all the shortcomings (fatigue, disappointment, sorrow, etc.), listens to the word of That unknown person and takes Him his own ship, offering Him not only the ship but also his time, waiting for Christ to end the word. After Christ ends the speech, he asks Simon to go fishing and after this first experience of obedience he trusts the Lord and listens to Him again, with the willingness to do what Jesus asks. After experiencing the miracle of fish catching, or better said after the experience of obedience and fulfillment of the commandment, Simon get the fruits and realizes his own nothingness and recognizes his own unworthiness in the face of God.
In the two examples (Sameritan woman and Simon's call) one can surprise the experience of man's transformation following Christ's encounter. However, sometimes the heart of man can not receive and bear this word of the Word, being not enough sensitive, receptive. The experience of obedience to the words of God can have every person in several circumstances in life: in the confession - through the mouth of the confessor, or through people, by chance, by reading Holy Scripture, etc. And if this obedience does not just remain at the level of "hearing" but is followed by the fulfillment of those words, it produces a transformation that surpasses any human logic. The experiences of Samaritan woman and Simon are so amazing as neither of them can remain indifferent to the person they face: Samaritan woman leaves the bucket and runs into the city asking his fellow countrymen, "Is not that Christ ?" (Jn 4:29) and Peter, after bringing the ships to the shore, "left all things and followed Him" (Lk. 5:11).
"Touching" by God
The Savior's wonders are not all made by the word alone but in some He touches the person to heal it, while in others He is touched and thus gives healing (Lk. 6:19, 14:36). Reaching Christ and receiving healing can preach the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist in which the Christian touches Christ receiving healing of body and soul. This is what St. Cyril of Alexandria says about:
[when] the child of the centurion rose up, saying, "Child, rise up!" He caught her hand, as it was written (Mk. 5: 35-41; 8: 49-56). For He, as God, and life giver, making all by His commandment, but also by touching His holy body, showing Himself a unique and related work through both. For when he came into the city called Nain, and was carried out the dead only son of his mother, He touched the dead body, saying, "Young man, I say to you, Arise! " (Luke 7: 14). So he did not only give the word to work the resurrection of the dead, but to show His life and his body, as I said before, He touches the dead through him, and through him communicates life to those who have died. And if by the mere touch of His body He makes the dead alive, how do we do not get a richer blessing of living life when we eat Him? (Cyril of Alexandria 1998: 408-409)
In the case of a woman with a blood leak, she only touches the "lap of His garment" (Matt. 9:20) and receives the healing. It is significant that this affects only the garments of Christ because His human garment (that is, the garments) represents His humanity. This shows that we, in the mystery of the holy Eucharist, do not share ourselves with His Being, but only with His deified humanity.
The repentance or the experience of coming into senses
In Orthodox spirituality, "repentance is seen in two aspects: as the mystery, on the one hand, and on the other hand, as a permanent work in the soul, sustained by unceasing prayer, the eviction of evil spirits, and by the suffering of trouble" (Petcu 2011: 79). Etymologically, the word "repentance" means renewing the way of thinking and living, changing the perspective or mentality. The repentance proclaimed by the Savior and, shortly before, by Saint John the Baptist, does not refer to a simple regret for the sins committed, but refers to a permanent state of man who seeks to acknowledge the error, firm determination not to sin and , more than that, the longing of man after eternity, after communion with God. At the beginning of the preaching activity, the Savior addressed the people with the words: "Repent the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 4:17). The same exhortation had also been uttered by His Forerunner--St. John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2). The disciples, in turn, when they were sent to preaching, began their activity as a central message of repentance "and coming out, they preached repentance" (Mk. 6:12). The Savior during His work refers to repentance, saying that the righteous need not repentance, but sinners (Matt. 9:13). But why would sin need repentance? For "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), and no man can acquire the kingdom of heaven if he does not repent.
In The New Testament, we have many examples of people who repent and receive forgiveness (the prodigal son, the tax collector Zacchaeus, the harassed woman, the thief on the cross, Peter and Paul the apostles, etc.). For example, the prodigal son asks for his fortune, he goes to a distant country where he scatters, livelihoods. The limitation of its biological existence leads him to reflect more seriously on his condition. Thus he begins to come to himself by reflecting on his life what leads to the awareness of his state ("how many my father's servants are repleted of bread, and I am starving here!" Lk. 15:17), he makes a plan of what he has to do ("rising up, I will go to my father" Lk.15:18) and immediately put it into effect ("and, rising up, he came to his father "(Lk. 15:20). He finally arrives at his father who was waiting for him to return: "and yet far away, his father saw him, and he was pitied, and running, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (Lk. 15:20). The Savior through this parable wants to show the repentance of a man and the stages through which he passes, but above all, the great love of God's people.
We can ask ourselves: how does man do and how does God do for man to reach repentance? As we see in Scripture, God always has the initiative. But the contribution of man is the will, that is, if desired, the determination to do something for his correction. And this human desire must be expressed. It is not enough for man to be determined and so, but he also needs to do something about it. Human desire is the expression of his freedom, but also the step that opens the relationship with God. God gave him freedom and respects him, but He can not help unless man puts his side.
In the Holy Scriptures there are accounts of the lives of some people who sooner or later experienced the experience of repentance, for example: the woman lashed with the ointments of the Savior's feet, Zaheu sinks into the tree and responds to the call, the prodigal son, so many reasons not to leave that country, however, he rises and goes to his father, the robber on the cross fails to do the acts of repentance, but in the last moments, moving, he asks Christ "remember me, Lord when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42) etc.
Taking a closer look, we also find some factors in repentance that prevent man from learning about spiritual life. A first factor is the lack of proper motivation in the act of repentance, ie "repentance" without repentance. The work of man on his way to resemblance to God can be done superficially, by the eyes of the world or for certain advantages. The Savior Christ most often rebukes people in His earthly work for hypocrisy; rebukes those who are somehow in their interior, but points out something else, pleading for a false, cosmetic image, believing that no one can fall into their hearts but are surprised when Christ does it. The Savior, we can say, has a sympathy for sinners who truly repent, but also an antipathy to those who appear to other men or even to God as righteous.
Another impediment to spiritual learning is self-justification. This is the opposite of the state of repentance. The logic that man enters into as being right and justifying his deeds before God--many times even--is at odds with the state of repentance, opposing the opening to God and the other, and inevitably leading to the death of the soul.
On the other hand, the apostate woman, the Apostle Peter, and others, in their repentance, are crying for their sins, and falling for them they receive the forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:47; Some Sacred Fathers, including Saint Simeon the New Theologian, say that crying for sins may be considered a second baptism:
[...] those who sleep in the night of sins, the Good Master is made a small light, God being, he remains all incorruptible, saving our impotence. And then, by opening his mind to his mind and looking at the nature of those who are, as he never looked, he was filled with astonishment and tears, without want and without pain, the tears by which he cleansed with the second baptism[...]; the first Baptism has water that preaches the tears, has the anointing ointment that is the precursor sign of the spiritual mirror of the Spirit, and the second baptism is no longer the face of truth, but it is the truth itself. (Simeon the New Theologian 2011: 32-33)
We see, therefore, in the writings of the saints evangelists that some people have done certain acts of repentance (mercy, fasting, prayer, etc.), but have not changed their lives; the experience of "repentance" did not change them, so the Savior rebuked them, seeing in them the mood with which they did all this, but on the other hand others repented, putting good on their lives, receiving forgiveness of sins. Not the experience of being virtuous but cunning counts for salvation, but the permanent experience repentance and make it a program for entire life. "Repentance" without repentance is a great hindrance to spiritual life, among the ugliest things before God is self-righteousness. Christ tells us that not the way of the "white-washed tombs" is the true one but the one who has that state of unworthiness expressed through words from a grieving heart: "[Father] I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Lk. 15:21), but who still hopes in the mercy of God: "O God, be merciful to me, the sinner" (Lk. 18:13).
The Eucharist--the mystic experience of man's union with God
Through the holy Mysteries we generally share the work of the Holy Spirit sent by Christ to the world. In the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist we have the possibility to unite in mystery with Christ--the One whom we love so much--by sharing with His Body and Blood. Avva Isaiah The Hermit thinks that Holy Communion is "union with God" because living in sin is nothing but breaking the bond with God and breaking away from the divine. St. Paul's exhortation: "But let man examine himself, and so eat of bread and drink of the cup" (1 Corinthians 11:28) is an exhortation to reflection or to self-seeking, and this research can be done to the extent that man introduces into his life moments of silence in which he seeks God more and looks more closely at his inwardness. Everyone can accomplish this approach of spiritual introspection or effort to seek to understand the causes of his separation from God. This research extends to the Sacrament of Confession, after which God forgives man's sins. Man experience the forgiveness of confessed sins to God with "broken and humbled heart" and repentance is received by God and forgives the man who continues to consider himself unworthy of this great mystery; and thus this joy experiences God's mysterious presence in his life, and still experiences the heavenly kingdom.
The Christian, partaking holy communion, does not have the experience of the mystical union with the One with whom he shares, but
the full union in which Christ draws us to Himself by extending Himself with His body in us also means our union with the other believers ...]. The union with Christ in the Eucharist is the basis and source of a full love among the members of the Church, for all its members are "contractible" not only with Christ, but also among themselves. [...] The Eucharist is by far the mystery of the unity of the Church. (Staniloae 2010: 93-94)
As previously said, in order to bring ourselves closer to communion, an effort of inner cleansing is required, it is necessary to have the experience of destitution and the conscience of our own unworthiness. Fr. D. Staniloae says that not only the Body and Blood of the Lord who are given to us as food spiritualizes us, but also our effort to cleanse us, preparing for this meeting:
[...] when Theophanes of Nicaea asks the priest to have the hand that touches the Lord's body as clean as the spoon, and the mouth more honest than the cup, because in the purity of the hand and the mouth is also an effort directed toward its interior, this demand also applies to believers who share it. That is why, in Orthodoxy, the faithful fast, confession, reconcile with all toward they did wrong, and keep themselves far from all sin before Holy Communion. And these are so many acts of spiritualization, which, if repeated, often lead the faithful to a spirituality deeply embedded in their being, which has become a characteristic of their life. (Staniloae, 1979: 510)
And elsewhere he says: "[...] this cleansing is not produced by Christ in me without my effort. Christ gives me not only a state of cleansing, but also a power for this purity" (Ibidem).
In conclusion, we can say that Holy Communion is given to the Christian after an effort of inner cleansing by exhibiting the desire to receive Him inside and, receiving Him, get power to keep away from sins. Having the consciousness of God's presence, the Christian strives to walk on the road of destitution. Through the ever more frequent encounter with Christ in Communion, man persevere in this cleansing work, being more and more attentive to his inner life, and has more and more consciousness of unworthiness, but also a hope that, while unworthy, God will prevail: "Meate Me , Master, me, unworthy, to eat your preached Body and to drink Your precious Blood with faith and love".
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Agapie of Crete (2009) Mantuirea pacatosilor. Bucuresti: Egumenisa.
Begley S (2010) Antreneaza-si mintea, modeleaza-si creierul. Vidu V, trans. Bucuresti: Curtea Veche.
Braniste E (2015) Liturgica generala, vol. I. Bucuresti: Basilica.
Cyril of Alexandria (St.) (1998) Comentar la Sfinta Evanghelie de la Luca. Gheorghe Babus, trans. Oradea: Pelerinul roman.
John Chrysostom (St.) (2011) Omilii la statui, vol. II. Podaru A, trans. Iasi: Polirom.
John Climacus (St.) (2007) Scara. Filocalia sau culegere din scrierile Sfin-silor Parinsi care arata cum se poate omul curasi, lumina si desa-varsi, vol. IX. Staniloae D, trans. Bucuresti: Humanitas.
Liviu P (2011) Sfantul Grigorie al Nyssei despre Taina pocainsei si a Euharistiei ca trepte spre indumnezeire. Teologie si viasa. XXI (LXXXVII): no. 5-8.
Mihalache AS (2017) Esti ceea ce traiesti. Bucuresti: Trinitas.
Mosley M, Spencer M (2013) Dieta prin post. Chircea B, trans. Brasov: Adevar divin.
Semen P (2007) Experiensa umanului cu divinul dupa Sfanta Scriptura. Iasi: Performantica.
Simeon the New Theologian (St.) (2011) Cele 225 de capete teologice si practice. Filocalia sau culegere din scrierile
Sfinsilor Parinsi care arata cum se poate omul curasi, lumina si desavarsi, vol. VI. Staniloae D, trans. Bucuresti: IBMBOR.
Staniloae D (1979) Taina Euharistiei, izvor de viasa spirituala in Ortodoxie. Ortodoxy, 3-4.
Staniloae D (2010) Teologia Dogmatica Ortodoxa, vol. III. Bucuresti: IBMBOR.
Steinhardt N (2008) Daruind vei dobandi. Iasi: Polirom.
Tesu IC (2001) Virtusile crestine, carari spre fericirea vesnica. Iasi: Trinitas.
Tesu IC (2012) The spiritualy and bodily benefits of the fast. Lumina, 18.
Vatamanu C (2011) Educasia la poporul ales. Iasi: Doxologia
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
|Previous Article:||The silent sound of the stone: the sculpture of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery of Iasi.|
|Next Article:||School-related stress in the postmodernist mirror.|