O My Sinful Soul, What is This Thou has Desired?

March 11, 2008

I have lived my life wantonly on earth and have delivered my soul unto darkness. But now I implore Thee, O merciful Lord, free me from this work of the enemy and give me the knowledge to do Thy will.Who doeth such things as I do? For just as a swine lying in the mud, so do I serve sin. But do Thou, O Lord, pull me out of this vileness and give me the heart to do Thy commandments.

Rise, wretched man, to God and, remembering your sins, fall down before thy Creator, weeping and groaning, for He is merciful and will grant thee to know His will. — from the Canon of Repentance

As the Fast begins with all its intensity during Clean Week, it becomes harder and harder for me to fast from sins–sometimes feeling even harder than following the rule of xerophagy. And, for a self-professed “foodie,” that’s saying something. Nevertheless, I find myself beset by all my passionate attachments; it seems that as I exert a little extra willpower to silence the voice that says “eat eat eat,” I allow the passions of lust, pride,wrath, and sloth room to expand their influence. This, the second day of the Fast–along with the failures and setbacks already experienced yesterday evening and this morning–serves to teach me that, once again, I’m going about it the wrong way. I cannot stop myself from sinning; my own will is insufficient to the task of silencing all the passions at once. I can do nothing on my own–I can only conquer through Christ, through submission to His will. My sinful soul has desired all the things of this world: power, pleasure, dominance, leisure. If my treasure remains there, my heart cannot be in the Kingdom. I have to stop wanting, and learn to let it be Christ that liveth in me, so that I no longer live.

Can this be learned, though? Isn’t the language of “learning” the spiritual practice, the spiritual disciplines, insufficient to grasp the true meaning of theosis? And what about those conflicting desires? I want the Kingdom, but am I truly this unwilling to do the work?

The experience of the Great Fast teaches us a lot about ourselves, every year. We shine just the tiniest, most minuscule fragment of the light upon the darkness with which we have covered over our souls, and we see just how incomprehensible true being–that is, being in communion with God–really is.

O Lord and Master of my life,
Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair,
lust of power and idle talk; ++
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. ++
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my
own transgressions and not to judge
my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. ++ Amen.

+ Pax vobiscum.

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