The Ladder Part 2

Step 4: Obedience

-Obedience ultimately the burial place of the will, because you submit your will and desires to someone else.

-St. John is insistent that without obedience no one will attain heaven. Fr. John Mack comments “We do not obey so that we may fulfill some external set of rules and thus earn God’s favor and love…Our obedience does not earn us anything. Rather the act of obedience changes us and makes us ready to receive the love [and grace] which God has already given to mankind in Christ.”

-Obedience cuts off our self-will and pride. Obedience is the cure for pride. (Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.)

-It must be remembered that St. John was originally writing to monastics. One way that monastics fulfilled obedience was by being totally obedient to their abbot or spiritual father.

*How do we fulfill obedience as no-monastics? (Suggestions by Fr. John Mack)

-obey those in authority

-obey father confessor

-submit to family and friends

-emulate saints

-listen to spiritual friends (especially before embarking on spiritual goals)

-canons of the church: fasting periods

Step 5: Repentance

-Repentance: metanoia – to change one’s mind. To say what I am doing is sin, and then change what I do.

What are things that we can do to help use repent?

-pg. 33 St John second paragraph.

-One motivation is to remember the seriousness of sin…it cuts us off from the life of God

Step 6: Remembrance of Death

“The man who lives daily with the thought of death is to be admired, and the man who gives himself to it by the hour is surely a saint.”

“Someone has said that you cannot pass a day devoutly unless you think of it as your last…This, then, is the sixth step. He who has climbed it will never sin. ‘Remember your last end, and you will never sin (Sirach 7:36).’”

This is a virtue that I do not remember thinking much about before becoming Orthodox. Yet it is one which constantly appears in Orthodox literature. American society in general has become so sanitized in their view of death that it either becomes forgotten or becomes a realm of fantasy that is only seen on television. In the past, people died in the homes of their communities. Plagues might strike community. Infant mortality was higher. Animals were killed regularly by families in order to provide food for the family. I am thankful for modern life, and that we no longer have to worry about some of those things, but it has removed the daily remembrance of death from our vision.

St. John “Anyone who wishes to retain within him continually the remembrance of death and God’s judgment, and at the same time yields to material cares and distractions, is like a man who is swimming and wants to clap his hands.”

-Remembrance of death is not a morbid fascination or desiring of death

St. John, “Not every desire for death is good. Some, constantly sinning from force of habit, pray for death with humility. And some, who do not want to repent, invoke death out of despair. And some, out of self-esteem consider themselves dispassionate, and for a while have no fear of death.”

-In the evening prayer of St. John Damascene, we are enjoined to look at our bed as at a coffin, not knowing whether or not we shall rise on the morrow.

St. Theophan the Recluse: sees this as a way to soften your heart to God’s grace; use deaths of others to remind you of your own fate.

Imagine what happens after death—the judgment, hell, and even heaven

Prayer of Chrysostom:

Lord, accept me in penitence. Lord, do not leave me. Lord, do not lead me into temptation. Lord, grant me good thoughts. Lord, grant me tears, remembrance of death, and humility. Lord, grant me the thought of confessing all my sins. Lord, grant me patience, courage, and meekness. Lord, implant in me the root of blessings and the fear of you in my heart. Lord, grant that I may love you with all my mind and soul and that I may do your will in all things. Lord, deliver me from contentious men, from the devil, from bodily passions and from all unholy deeds. I know, O Lord, that you act according to your will; may your will also be in me, a sinner, for you are blessed unto all ages. Amen.

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