Interiorizing the Monastic Vows: Obedience to God, Receptivity to the Spirit of Truth and the Creative Freedom of the Life of Grace
In this final post on the interiorizing of the monastic vows, Evdokimov continues to unfold for us the nature of the monastic vows in light of Christ’s temptation on the mount and how each Christian is called to a “personal adaptation of the three monastic vows.” In light of one of the comments made on a previous post, it is perhaps important to draw attention to the fact, that for the Fathers and in the view of Evdokimov these vows constitute not demands imposed nor something tied to the vocation to the religious life, but rather constitute “a great charter of liberty.” Our true freedom is to be found in God and the life of grace he has made possible for us. Certainly, Evdokimov is drawing out one aspect of this truth, but nonetheless one that I find quite compelling and beautiful.
Evdokimov takes us back up on the mount to reflect upon Christ’s response to the Tempter: “‘Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou worship.’ . . . True obedience to God implies the supreme freedom that is always creative. Christ shows this in his manner of accomplishing every law; he fulfills and raises the law to his own mysterious truth of being grace. Likewise the negative and restrictive form of the decalogue - ‘Thou shalt not’ - is fulfilled in giving place to the beatitudes, to the positive and limitless creation of holiness. Obedience in the Gospel is receptive of truth, and the latter sets one free.”
Such a view of things, Evdokimov tells us, has profound implications not only to how we view our lives in Christ, but how we understand something such as spiritual direction. He writes: “A spiritual father is never ‘a director of conscience’; he is before all else a charismatic. He does not engender his spiritual son, he engenders a son of God. Both, in common, place themselves in the school of truth. . . . All obedience is obedience to the Father’s will in sharing in the acts of the obedient Christ.” There must be “no idolatry of a spiritual father, even if he is a saint. . . . Obedience crucifies man’s own will in order to arouse the final freedom - the spirit listening to the Holy Spirit.”
When we consider closely what Evdokimov describes, what a beautiful invitation goes out to all of us and what pathways it opens up for us. He writes: “He who builds his life on the three monastic vows does so also on the three replies of Christ. By these three vows a Christian does not bind himself; he frees himself. He can then turn to the world and tell what he has seen in God. If he has learned how to grow to the stature of ‘the new man’, of the adult in Christ, the world will listen to him.”
**All quotes from “The Struggle with God” by Paul Evdokmov pp. 127-130