“Adam’s soul,” St. Silouan writes, “was perfect in the love of God and he knew the sweetness of Paradise, but his soul was unpracticed and he did not resist when Eve tempted him as the sorely-afflicted Job resisted when tempted by his wide.”
Both Adam and Job had experienced the love of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit. They were in fact “perfect.” Yet one lost grace and the other preserved it. Why? Silouan introduces the word “practiced” in order to explain how Job, even while enduring hardships, retained God’s grace.
“Spiritual warfare,” Fr. David noted, “is scientific.” It is not simply basking in God’s love, doing good or preserving the commandments. It is a detailed and systematic process of daily “training” –following the coach’s regiment, practicing, and building the spiritual muscles, skills, speed and “mental toughness” that are essential for victory.
In the Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacos illustrates such “scientific” spiritual “training process” through a ladder of 30 steps which, those who wish unity with God, must ascend one-by-one. Each step represents a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered.
Like a sergeant training a recruit, Silouan acquaints us with the weapons and tools in our individual arsenal.
In this spiritual warfare of ours we must look to the state of our ammunition and provender. Our ammunition is our humility, our provender—the grace of God.
“Simple,” someone may say. “I’ve heard of this.” Yet Silouan often talks about the difference between abstract knowledge and its embodiment and application. Here he talks about the need for spiritual alertness, discernment, and deployment. How often do we recognize the hidden and underutilized spiritual resources within us? How often do we immediately deploy such God-given abilities (such as for humility) at the moment we become outraged by an insult or scornful toward a different political opinion? A great deal of “training” is required.
The practiced soul knows well the weapons at its disposal, recognizes when to utilize them and does not allow inflamed passions, distractions, laziness or intimidation to prevent it from their deployment.
Yet, in spite the rigor and scientific nature of the warfare, there is a clarity and simplicity to it.
Fierce is the war we wage; yet it is a wise was and a simple one. If the soul grows to love humility, then all the snares of our enemies are overturned, and his fortresses taken.
There is a simple choice before us between fighting to get our way and satisfy our wants —prestige, wealth, indulgence of passion, lack or restrictions, etc.—and submitting our will to God to acquire peace.
But if you find fault and are rebellious, if you want your own way, your soul will fail
It is as simple as this.
Silouan paints vivid pictures of why grace is worth every degree of sacrifice:
When the soul is full of the love of God, out of the infinity of her joy she sorrows and prays in tears for the whole world…
Our lives with grace are simply “easy,” Silouan tells us. We no longer have to struggle to resist temptations and acquire virtues we are not accustomed to live with. We are united with God and now embody the virtues that were once external.
Guard the grace of God; with grace life is easy… When grace is in us, we are truly humble, wise, submissive, meek and pleasing to God and man; but when we lose grace, we wither away like a shoot but from the vine.
The short, temporary satisfaction of getting our way is replaced by true and lasting joy and peace.
With God all is well, all is pleasant and joyous; the soul is at peace in God and walks, as it were, in a fair garden in which live the Lord and the Mother of God.