Our Need for Grace and the Acceptance of the Heart to Act It Out
By Archdeacon Habib Guirgus
In the midst of all the wars and disputes that never cease, and in the heart of all the continuous struggles that never end, "what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other" (Galatians 5:17). For this reason St. Paul cried out saying, "I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:23-25).
precipitated in us some evil roots. Its seeds are all corrupted, and this made
our nature weak. It caused our nature to incline towards wickedness since our
early years, resulting in a weak and feeble will. Our knowledge is menial, like
a hidden spark under the ashes. Our mind became covered with a
thick cloud of darkness, which disabled it from doing what is useful. Thus, it
is prevented from being illuminated by freedom and the light of the divine
truth. Because of this, we see man seduced and tempted by the lusts of the
body, no matter how firm he grasps onto virtue. What can our souls do in a
fierce war like this, where factors pull and oppose each other?
Do not give up, O beloved, or be a coward, for we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (cf. Philippians 4:13). Listen and hear carefully to the voice of the Lord saying: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9). Then you may answer with the same words of the Apostle Paul saying: "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Corinthians 12:9, 10).
In the midst of this vicious war, God grants you grace from on high, whereby you become able to overcome the powers against you.
It is an overwhelming gift, which God grants to us privately in our hearts, slowly but surely, which in turn changes our emotions one step at a time, leading the inner senses to perfection.
Just as you do not feel the trees grow, or feel the effect of the food in your body, so does grace affect your heart slightly, and works in your soul fairly, until you come "to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).
He distributes His gifts as He wishes, as much as He wants, and as He sees fit for everyone. Not all of the ground is the same - every part buds and brings forth different fruit. God, as well, pours His grace on our hearts according to His wisdom, "To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues" (I Corinthians 12:8-10).
God imprinted in us holiness in such a way that it will not be effaced. Grace works in us naturally. If a branch is not dried up, it will not be ready to blaze; in the same way, you should be ready for the action of grace, and prepare yourself to receive the gifts of the Spirit.
Endure in grace and live by it, for without it you are barren, while with it you will bring forth fruits of righteousness and salvation.
Acquire grace day and night - in hardships and in prosperity, in time of comfort and in time of agony - for it will lead you and guide you, protect you and preserve you, strengthen you and help you. Once you are supported by it, you will be able to carry out what is above nature, since it changes what is bitter to something sweet, transforms tribulation into prosperity, makes dryness into softness, changes salty water into fresh water, the rugged into the accessible, disgrace into happiness, and abjection into joy.
It will become your weapon, strength, and shield, for eternal salvation.
It will teach you the truth, and educate you in wisdom and respect.
It will give you comfort, enlighten the way for you, cast away from you sorrow and distress, and remove dishonor and fear.
It will be your permanent companion, which will guide you on the road to goodness, and change you into the likeness of God.
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