Spiritual Warfare

Bishop Seraphim : Article
Spiritual Warfare
[Published in “The Canadian Orthodox Messenger”, Summer 1994]

Each year when we approach Great Lent, we understand that we will be in for some stresses by means of temptation. This year was certainly no exception. Everywhere it seems that the faithful who were trying earnestly to improve their focus in serving Jesus Christ, and Him only, were put to the test severely. In the face of these situations we learn to trust our Lord more and more. We learn how to endure faithfully. We learn how to be witnesses, even unto death. And did you know, even here in Canada, we have heard of some of our Orthodox Christians having so suffered for the sake of Christ ?

Then Pascha comes, and we generally set to enjoying our fast-breaking and feasting, unhappily usually more with food than with praise of the Lord. The time we are now in, post-paschaltide, can be even more dangerous. Just as the Lord warned us in the case of exorcism, lack of vigilance can result in the devil that was removed in the lenten house-cleaning going off and returning with seven others worse than himself. We must learn that what growth is achieved by our spiritual exercises in the fasting periods will not stay unless we are careful to keep our attention on the Lord.

With this in mind, let us consider the subject of repentance in the light of spiritual warfare. Let us also remember that this spiritual warfare is not something we simply do by ourselves : we do it together, whether we perceive this or not.

It is easy to see someone else's sins, but not so easy to see our own, nor to admit our own. That there might be lack of peace or harmony in any given community, family or relationship is not the fault of "someone else" alone. If we are honest, we must admit that in our own sinfulness we all participate in it, and we must all therefore repent.

The way of Christ, the way of the Gospel, calls us to forgive. When we are hurt by others, intentionally or unintentionally, we must not hold a grudge, nor keep
remembering the pain over and over. This is the fallen way of the fallen world. We must, as we sing in the Beatitudes, pray for those who do wrong to us, and forgive them in Christ (and I do not claim that this is easy). If we are ourselves ready to follow the Gospel path, it opens the way for others who find it difficult to begin.

If we are looking for peace and harmony in our communities, there must be more love and mutual trust in Christ. Although I often blame lack of clear communication for many of the troubles that afflict us, the real problems come from this : lack of love in Christ. We wage agendas on each other. We dare to judge each other’s salvation, to make harshly critical comments against one another. We accuse one another of ill-will, or even evil activity or intent. What we do not see, and do not want to see or admit, is that all of this evil, this ugliness, this sin, is exactly what is in our own hearts.

These are the very dangerous daily temptations that afflict you and me throughout the year, and it is into this dark, death-dealing evil that we are going to fall and be bound if we do not pay close attention to daily repentance. If we do fall, we must immediately cry for help to God to pull us up again. However, more than this, we need in our daily prayers to pay close attention to our responsibility for supporting our brothers and sisters out of their pitfalls too, not behaving as sharks and being bloodthirsty, or as chickens picking to death another who has fallen into injury or weakness.

Let us pray for and with each other, support one another in our path of repentance as we try together to be like Christ, to reveal Him to others, and to be transparent in His love.