Chapter Seven: ON THE
LOVE FROM THE SELF TO CHRIST
IF we move out of our
self, whom do we
encounter? asks Bishop Theophan. He supplies the answer at
once: We meet God
and our neighbour. It is for this very reason that denying
oneself is a
stipulation, and the chief one, for the person who seeks
salvation in Christ:
only so can the centre of our being be moved from self to
Christ, who is both
God and our neighbour.
This means that all
the care, concern and love
that we now lavish on ourselves is then quite naturally and
noticing it transferred to God and thereby to our fellowmen.
Only so is the
left hand kept from knowing what thy right hand doeth,and
your alms are
actually given in secret (Matthew 6:3-4).
Until this has come
to pass, we cannot be
filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another
in a real, non-material way. Our attempts along this line must
be false because
they are our own and spring from our will to please ourselves.
It is especially
necessary to understand this, for otherwise we become easily
confused on the
road of specious helpfulness and smug well-meaning that leads
inevitably to the
swamp of self-satisfaction.
Refrain from busying
yourself, therefore, with
charity bazaars, sewing meetings and other such occupations.
Busyness over many
things is, in all its forms, chiefly a poison. Look within,
accurately, and you observe that many of these apparently
spring from a need to deafen your conscience: that is, from
habit of satisfying and pleasing yourself (Romans 15:1).
No, the God of love
and peace and complete
sacrifice does not care to live in the midst of bustling and
ado to please
oneself, even if this is carried on perhaps under some kind of
is one way to make a test: if your peace of mind is troubled,
if you become
dejected or perhaps a little angry if for some reason you have
to give up
performing the good deed you had planned, then you know that
the spring was
Perhaps you ask, Why?
Those who are experienced
answer, external hindrance and opposition meet only the person
who has not
yielded his own will to God: and for God an obstacle is
unthinkable. A truly
unselfish act is not mine, but God’s. It cannot be obstructed.
Only for my own
plans, my own wishes-to study, to work, to rest, eat, or do a
service to my
fellowman–can some external circumstance “get in the way,”
I am grieved. But for the person who has found the narrow way
that leads to
life, that is to God, there is only one conceivable
hindrance, and that is
his own, sinful will. If he now wishes to do something but is
not permitted to
carry it out, how can he grieve? For the rest he is not making
any plans (James
But this is another
of the saints’ secrets.
Do not be deceived. A
Christian ought himself
also so to walk, even as he walked (I John 2:6) who did
not seek his own
will (John 5:30), but, was born on straw, fasted forty days,
watched in prayer
long nights through, healed the sick, drove out evil spirits,
had no place to
lay his head, and who finally let himself be spat upon,
scourged and crucified.
Think how far you are
from that. Ask yourself
continually anew: Have I watched in prayer a single night?
Have I fasted a
single day? Have I driven out a single evil spirit? Have I
myself be insulted and beaten? Have I truly crucified the
5:24), and not sought my own will?
Keep all this freshly
For what is denying
oneself? He who truly denies
himself does not ask, Am I happy? or, Shall I be satisfied?
All such questions
fall away from you if you truly deny yourself, for by so doing
you have also
given up your will for either earthly or heavenly happiness.
will to personal happiness is the cause of unrest and division
your soul. Give it up and work against it: the rest will be
given you without