Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? Deuteronomy 31:17
If our Lord does not dwell in our courts, woe be unto us! Daily we are bombarded with news from the corners of the globe concerning deeds of violence, wickedness, and great sorrow. From the beginning, when Cain slew his brother, the propensity was born for man to raise his hand against his fellow man. The root of this act was planted by the Evil one – the hater of man.
Nearly a week has passed since the latest bout of violence. Tragically, this was yet another incident in one of our schools. In recent years the depth of the carnage has not ceased to amaze us – schools, churches, hospitals – places once understood to be safe places – have now become memorials of the growing evil lurking among us.
American society is becoming polarized, transforming the issue and becoming a political battle, all the while the root of the issue is missed completely. Many are quick to point fingers and demand instant action to solve the problem. But what is THE problem? Is it simply a matter of gun control? Is it an issue that society failed a youth, who later waged a personal war in their battle with horrible demons lurking in their souls. Is any one person to blame? Should the parents shoulder the guilt, the neighbors, the friends, or the broken social services systems that failed to prevent this?
We are all at fault! We allow evil to reach its tendrils deeper and deeper into our hearts. We have all failed to love our neighbor – leave respect our neighbors. We have failed to love God, in so doing we have allowed all manner of vile things to fill this hole.
Innocence is lost. Evil has prevailed. Man no longer fears evil, he simply ignores it as if it did not exist. This is the root of the problem. So long as we allow evil thoughts and inclinations to take root in our heart, we are capable of terrible things. Without self control, man acts on any thought, any inclination that enters his mind. Without restraint man is left run wild, like an unbridled horse. Without the teaching of the Church (self control, moderation, love for neighbor), evil rushes to fill the void. If nature abhors a vacuum, evil flocks to fill it. This is why we need Great Lent beloved faithful! Like a parent finds a child will become spoiled if they receive everything they ask for, our souls are spoiled when we do not say NO to sin, NO to temptation, NO to our desires.
The Orthodox Christian rejoices at this time of Great Lent and acknowledge that this is the time to wage war against the sins and evils lurking in our heart. The Church has called us, through many examples, to strengthen our souls and minds through the exercises of fasting, prostration, and prayer to strengthen our self control. Self-restraint entails reigning in the passions, which inflict us through all of our senses.
“Those who are zealous for righteousness, must think deeply and work constantly on a strict control and right direction of our five outer senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Our heart constantly craves and seeks comforts and pleasures. It should find them in the inner order of things, by keeping and bearing in itself Him, in Whose image man has been created, Who is the very source of every comfort. But when in our downfall, we fell away from God, preferring ourselves, we lost also our foothold in ourselves, and fell into the flesh; thereby we went outside ourselves and began to seek for joys and comforts there. Our senses became our guides and intermediaries in this. Through them the soul goes outside and tastes the things experienced by each sense. It then delights in the things which delight the senses; and out of all these together it builds the circle of comforts and pleasures, whose enjoyment it considers as its primary good. So the order of things has become inverted: instead of God within, the heart seeks for pleasure without and is content with them.Those who have listened to the voice of God – ‘Repent!’ – do repent and lay down for themselves the law of re-establishing the original order of life, that is, of returning from without to within, and from within to God, in order to live in Him and by Him, and to have this as their first good, bearing within themselves the Source of every comfort.Unseen Warfare by Lorenzo Scupoli (edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by St. Theophan the Recluse)