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Self-denial

Beloved faithful, often times when we read the Gospel we encounter directives from our Lord which seem puzzling to us. Some might even say that these commands are antiquated and impossible to fulfill in today’s world. The Orthodox are blessed to have many teachers to help us to understand and to demonstrate how to put these words into practice. So it is with these simple yet difficult words from the Gospel of Matthew, “Let him deny himself”. Reading a bit further we see that our Lord bids us to deny ourselves and follow him. How can we do this, with all of our responsibilities to family, work, and our communities? Behold the words of a Saint Theophan:

   The Lord demands resolute self-denial of those who want to follow Him: Let him deny himself (Matt. 16:24). It could be expressed like this: Cast aside your interests and pursue only the interests of the Lord. You will be fulfilling this when you always do what is pleasing to Him. How can one do this? Mind carefully what is in you, and what is around you on the outside, and discern strictly in one or another situation, be it internal or external, how to act in the way that is most pleasing to God. Then, not pitying yourself and not inserting your own calculations, act accordingly, with complete self-denial.
St. Theophan the Recluse – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year
The spiritual-babe will ask, how do I know that I am doing the “right thing” in this situation or that situation? We need only remember these blessed words from Saint Theophan: ” Cast aside your interests and pursue only the interests of the Lord…always do what is pleasing to Him. How can one do this? Mind carefully what is in you, and what is around you on the outside, and discern strictly in one or another situation, be it internal or external, how to act in the way that is most pleasing to God. “
These are the words to guide us in all situations – act in a manner that is most pleasing to God!
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