St Nikolai (Velimirovich): On The Gradual Nature Of Spiritual Development
“For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:13–14).
Those who feed on the food of the milk of sensual reflection cannot easily distinguish between good and evil. They usually come to the conclusion that all faiths are equally the same in value; that sin is the indispensable shadow of virtue; and that evil, in general, is the unavoidable companion of good. A true Christian cannot come to such erroneous conclusions. A true Christian is a mature person who is not fed on milk, but who is distrustful of the senses, and who judges much more finely and makes a finer distinction between the value of all that is and all that has been. The Christian, indeed, is given clear directions for distinguishing good from evil by God’s Revelation; nevertheless, long and laborious study is necessary in order that the Christian, striving for perfection, might in every given case know what is good and what is evil. This knowledge should pass over into feeling in order to be trustworthy and without error. Both good and evil wish to touch the heart of man. That is why man should be trained, by the feeling of the heart, to immediately recognize what approaches him—in the same manner as, with his tongue, he immediately senses the salty and the unsalty, the sweet and the bitter.
Brethren, let us endeavor every day and every moment to purify our hearts, so that our hearts might always be able to distinguish good and evil. For in everything that happens to us, the question is posed: “What is good and what is evil?” This is precisely why it does happen to us: so that we can realize what is good and follow after good. We face temptations a hundred times a day. He who has eyes to see, let him see.
O Lord, Lover of mankind, warm our hearts with good which is from Thee. Make us wise, O Lord, to be able to distinguish good from evil. O Master, strengthen us, that we might always embrace good and discard evil for the sake of Thy glory, O Lover of mankind, and for the sake of our salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
“Give me a word!”
When the Logos of God is raised up in us by our practice of the virtues and by contemplation, He draws all things to Himself (cf. John 12:32); He sanctifies in virtue and spiritual knowledge our thoughts and words about the flesh, the soul and the nature of beings; He sanctifies also the very members of our bodies and our senses, and He places them all under His yoke. So let the visionary of divine things eagerly ascend in pursuit of the Logos until he reaches the place where He is. For, as Ecclesiastes puts it, He ‘draws to His place’ (Eccles. 1:5) all those who follow Him, and as the great High Priest He brings them into the Holy of Holies, where He Himself, who became as we are, has entered as a forerunner on our behalf (cf. Heb. 6:20).
- St Maximos the Confessor