Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hate: The Road to Abiding Love

This may seem like an unusual title but what it suggest is absolutely essential to the spiritual life.  As I have continued my meditation on Hesychios’ treastise on “Watchfulness and Holiness”, the following paragraph jumped out at me: “This watchfulness and this Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner) must be intense, concentrated and unremitting.  It is written: ‘Not everyone who says to Me: “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father’.  The will of the Father is indicated in the words: ‘You who love the Lord, hate evil’ (Ps. 97:10).  Hence we should both pray the Prayer of Jesus Christ and hate our evil thoughts.  In this way we do God’s will” (Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 164).  

We are to hate evil - hate our evil thoughts.  Hate is word people are terribly uncomfortable with these days.  But, while we are to despise no man and treat all with charity, we are to desire the Kingdom and the will of God above all things.  We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  That is, our love for God must be complete.  

But in reality our hearts our divided and we are pulled away from God by our sinful passions and desires.  Far from abandoning ourselves to God’s will, we are willful individuals - often slaves to our wants and needs.  We are tempted not only to pursue that which is clearly evil or sinful but to cling to the things of this world, even those things that are good, and to make them our god(s).  In doing so, unfortunately, we can make even good things evil in our preference for them above God and his commandments: Hence the staggering words of Christ: "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."  Indeed, one might even argue that such things can become the greatest source of temptation for us precisely because they tend to have the deepest hold upon our affections.  In the spiritual battle, knowing our own weaknesses and the ways we are tempted, we must have a clear and unambiguous contempt for anything that could pull us away from God and the path of holiness.  

This is what we are often unwilling to do.  Rather than setting up a sentry in our hearts, we enter into an uneasy alliance with our sinful tendencies either through rationalizing certain behaviors or because our consciences have become so coarsened that we can no longer recognize that which is sinful or evil.  Our hearts grow hard and insensitive to the One who has given all in love for us.  The words of the Bridegroom leave us unmoved or are drowned out by the seductive voices of this world and their empty promises. 

Only when we have a hatred for that which is evil and for our evil thoughts will we be fully engaged in the spiritual battle.   Only then will we become truly vigilant in guarding our hearts and pray with that concentrated intensity of which Hesychios and the other Fathers speak.

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