Moscow, Apostle to America
Kellia: Jeremiah 15:10-21 Epistle: Ephesians
4:17-25 Gospel: St. Luke 7:31-35
The Church and Salvation V ~ Interior Work: Ephesians 4:17-25,
especially vs. 23: "...be renewed in the spirit of your mind." In
Ephesians 4:14-19, the Apostle Paul speaks of three aspects of the
cooperative work that the Faithful share with God to attain their
Salvation. The last of these, "giving one's self over" to the life of
God, is primarily interior work, a struggle to know the Lord and His
will within the heart, specifically within the "nous," which connotes
the deepest place of the heart (vs. 17). For this work, one must search
within for God's illumination, ever responding to His love with love.
The Epistle for today is concerned with this interior work.
Notice that at the beginning and at the end of the reading St. Paul
speaks of the "mind." In the original it is the "nous" (vss. 17,23).
In the first instance (vs. 17), the Apostle speaks of the way the
peoples of this world "walk in the futility of their [nous]." Then, as
he continues, he urges us to take up the task of the inner work, and so
he speaks of being "renewed in the spirit of your [nous]" (vs. 23). The
point is that in Scripture and in the Fathers, this deep center of the
inner life is the primary site of the fall, but more, by God's grace and
our labors, it also becomes the "high mountain" where Christ's
everlasting light dawns upon us. It is within the "nous" that the Lord
becomes transfigured to the eyes of the heart, in "as far as [we can]
Therefore, the interior work of Salvation necessarily centers upon the
healing of the "nous" - on its restoration - so that we "no longer walk
as the rest of the Gentiles (the peoples of earth) walk, in the futility
of their [nous]" (vs. 17). Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos draws
attention to the teaching of St. Maximos concerning the "great battle
which is waged by the demons to capture the nous and to attract it to
impassioned thoughts." By defeating the "nous," as St. Maximos says,
the demons "lead it to sin in the mind [dianoia, the rational faculties]
and, when this has been done, they induce it, captive as it is, to
commit the sin in action."
The great Confessor echoes the Apostle's description of the men of this
age: "...having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the
life of God...being past feeling, [they] have given themselves over...to
work all uncleanness with greediness" (Eph. 4:18,19) - first the defeat
of the "nous," then interior corruption, and finally the behavioral
acting out of the sin.
Let us say, "Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57), for as members of the Lord's Body, the
Church, we receive the potential for Salvation, the true way to "be
renewed in the spirit of [our nous]" (Eph 4:23). Notice what the
Apostle says: "...you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have
heard Him and been taught by Him" (vss. 20,21). "Hearing and learning"
from the Lord Himself initiates the obvious work of putting off the
"former conduct," that which can only lead to corruption and greater
indulgence of "the deceitful lusts" (vs. 22). St. John of the Ladder,
who knew well that actions follow the darkening of the "nous" and the
rest of the interior life says: "Control your impetuous nous in your
distracted body...hold back your nous, so busy with its own concerns."
"Holding back" the "nous" requires a variety of efforts related to
hearing and learning from Jesus our Lord. Principal among these are:
ascetic self-control (which is the point of fasting and the other bodily
disciplines), stilling the heart through watchfulness, prayer -
especially the Jesus Prayer - love of God which grows in us through
remembering the Lord, His Kingdom, the zeal of the martyrs, our
departure from this life, and the judgment to come. Ultimately, as the
Apostle notes, the renewal is interior, taking place within one's
spirit, being brought about by the Holy Spirit when we unite our efforts
with His in the renewing of the "nous."
O Christ our God, our most gentle Love, enter Thou into us and receive
us to Thyself.