diseases, prayers and medicines – In everyday conversations, we often hear people say to themselves, “Blessed are you that you can believe!” What can these words mean? Aren’t they an attempt at a frivolous and superficial apology to oneself and to others, to the laziness of the spirit, the carelessness of the soul, the insufficient activity of the mind, the passivity of the whole human being to natural need, if not command – and of the heart, and of the mind, and of the will of man – to believe? Or some people are really born without the ability and receptivity to the faith, like that barren fig tree in the gospel that bears no fruit. And others are born as a healthy and fruitful tree, whose faith has grown from the root?
Source: Prof. Dr. Vladeta Jerotic, “Only deeds of love remain”
IS IT DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE FOR CHRISTIANS
In everyday conversations, we often hear people say to themselves, “Blessed are you that you can believe!” What can these words mean? Aren’t they an attempt at a frivolous and superficial apology to oneself and to others, to the laziness of the spirit, the carelessness of the soul, the insufficient activity of the mind, the passivity of the whole human being to natural need, if not command – and of the heart, and of the mind, and of the will of man – to believe? Or some people are really born without the ability and receptivity to the faith, like that barren fig tree in the gospel that bears no fruit. And others are born as a healthy and fruitful tree, whose faith has grown from the root?
Can we say, as some say, that faith is simply a talent similar to that which, for example, the talented artist received at birth and did not acquire afterward?
According to the Orthodox understanding that we find in St. Macarius of Egypt, faith is not an act of the will alone, nor of the heart alone, but of the whole person. Therefore, faith embraces the whole mind, the whole will, the whole heart, all the psycho-physical elements of the personality. But neither the mind nor any other element can embrace all faith. The mind is part of faith, but faith is never just part of the mind. The mind can exist without faith, but faith cannot exist without the mind. He who believes must believe with the mind. This is what the wise St. Macarius teaches us. After these teachings, I think it will be easier to answer the many questions we ask ourselves and others about man’s faith and belief.
By resolutely rejecting any opinion, like the teachings of Calvin and Zwingli on predestination, as well as the opinion of those “Christians” who imitate the representatives of some other religions who are more inclined to believe in destiny than in God, according to which opinion or teaching some people are born with faith and it is not difficult for them to believe all their lives, while others are born without faith and so it is no wonder that all their lives they cannot believe, I will first answer in the affirmative to the first question from the title of this article. Is it hard to believe in Christianity? Yes, it is difficult. If we take seriously enough what St. Macarius of Egypt said about the faith, we will be convinced that it is difficult to believe in such a way (by the way, the only possible one).
The famous Danish Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) wrote in one place that “the Christian is less common than the genius.” Although such a view is exaggerated and pessimistic, it still takes us back to St. Macarius and his precepts to the Christian man who believes or thinks he believes.
In fact, what type of Christians do we most often find among people? Some believe most often with their heart; others, inclined to philosophy, believe mainly in the mind (Amor Dei intellectualis by Spinoza or “philosophical faith” by Carl Jaspers), others, especially Protestants, seem to believe primarily by will, that is, they express their faith through the outward activity as good deeds and charity. Can we say that these people are not good-believing Christians because they believe in only one, or mostly one part of their whole being, even though each of these parts is valuable and necessary for the faith? Of course, we could not say such a thing; but before our spiritual gaze again stands the definition of faith and the commandment to the believing Christian, set so many centuries ago by a “genius” Christian, St. Macarius of Egypt.
From all that has been said so far, I could draw the following conclusion. All people are born with the root or “germ of faith” (Your eyes saw my germ – Ps. 139), but from external conditions (upbringing in the family and at school) and even more from personal efforts and constant, lifelong work on the Lord’s levels. (the inherited body-mind structure and the conditions in which we live) depends on what degree of perfection we will reach in our faith.
There is no artistic talent, even if it is innate, without constant work for its processing and improvement. Faith in God is not a talent at all, but a “natural” gift of God given to every person at birth. It then depends on man how much through repentance and good works he will approach that holistic ideal of faith for which St. Macarius teaches, and with this approach to the wholeness of faith (that is, to the faith of the heart, mind, and will) he will open himself. , in freedom and love, for new gifts of God.
WHY AND HOW PEOPLE SEEK GOD
Do people seek God at all? Judging by today’s people, at the end of the twentieth century, we could conclude that most people do not seek God. Without arguing whether this is really the case or whether the search for God has always been a need only for the individual, it is better to ask ourselves what is more “natural” for man – to seek or not to seek God?
And this question will not be easy to deal with, because we should first answer the question of which nature we think of: the unattainable primary, the secondary, or the long-alienated tertiary nature of man. For all people who believe in the invisible and unknowable Creator of heaven and earth, the search for God – in nature, in the “starry sky above me and the moral law in me” (Kant), in the beauty of works of art and in general in the gift of creativity, in the love that leads two beings to their not only physical but above all spiritual unity, in the zealous priestly ministry, in the scientific passion for discovery, and so on. – is the most natural thing in the world. But for many other people who doubt God’s existence or do not believe in Him, the question of seeking God is not unimportant. Because they are also looking for Him, even without knowing it.
The belief of some philosophers and modern psychologists is that to the instinctual actions of man we must include the instinct for knowledge, expressed as the “will to meaning,” corresponds to our basic thought, expressed as “seeking God” or “waiting for God.”.
Carrying out careful and extensive research on the origin of the idea of God in man from prehistoric times to the present day, one of the greatest historians of religion in our time, Mircea Eliade, in his major work History of Religious Ideas and Beliefs unequivocally finds that even in the old Paleolithic has traces of faith and deification of the invisible and supernatural forces in the so-called primitive prehistoric man. Then why do we doubt that the “search for God” has been inherent in human nature from the very beginning of its existence! Indeed, a person’s heart must be very hardened in order for him to become indifferent, rejecting, or completely dull about the question: do I seek God or not, do I need God or not, how do I find God? (The fool said in his heart: there is no God – this thought from the Psalms of David is paraphrased by the modern Spanish philosopher Unamuno: “The scoundrel said in his heart: There is no God! And it is true. Because the righteous can think in his mind: God does not but in his heart, only the scoundrel can say so. ”)
In both the Old and New Testaments, we read that God wants man to love Him (because he who seeks must love in order to find what he seeks; and vice versa…) with his whole being, which means nothing. other than to seek Him with all his being. Now we can return to our main question: why and how do people seek God?
Let’s ask ourselves how people most often seek God. Cold, without enough energy, because they do not have enough faith, they seek God somehow by the way. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich warns that in this way God will not reveal himself to man.
We must seek God, says the bishop, like a drowning man, who saw on the shore a man who could save him, and to whom he turned “with his whole being.”
The materialization of life, accompanied by the roughening of human feelings, and especially of religious ones, which has progressed over the centuries to the point of robotizing everyday human life today, has influenced one to forget or suppress centuries of preference. of God and “His righteousness.”
Once upon a time, the morning began with a prayer to God to bless the deeds of man on that day, and the day ended with a prayer of thanksgiving for the happy ending of the day’s work. From the first place in human thoughts and feelings, God was moved to the second and third, to reach today the last place in the human order of “seeking God.” Doesn’t it then seem natural that great calamities must happen to today’s man – to snatch a sincere cry that reaches God, before breaking through the armor of today’s human insensibility and reaching the heart, because “faith, says Pascal, is strength of the heart ”?
We have already begun to answer the question of the reasons that motivate people to seek God. Sorrows, misfortunes, various illnesses, and problems of a personal or family nature are the most common reasons for seeking the forgotten and now called God again.
“Without sorrow, there is no prayer to God,” the people said, and Bishop Nikolai added that “suffering is the shortest path to faith.” Although human misery is an occasion or urges to seek God, the question remains open, especially in today’s time of unbelief, false faith, or indifference to faith, whether grief is “the best teacher in life” leading man to God. In his slightly cynical way, Friedrich Nietzsche did not lie when he warned us with the words: “Illness can be a stimulus for life, but for such a stimulus you must be healthy enough.” Not a small number of people, especially in our time and in our country, who after experiencing misfortune (collectively or personally) have lost the little faith in God that they had before, becoming even militant atheists and opponents of God. Weren’t the temptations too strong for such a person or for an entire nation, so that the poison of unhappiness, instead of acting as a stimulant to strengthen immunity, poisoned the whole organism?
We cannot always understand God’s Providence sending great misfortunes to an entire nation. However, when it comes to the individual, we believe that the apostle Paul is right to strengthen us by saying that God will not allow man to be tempted more than he can bear, but temptations serve above all to strengthen our faith. I wonder if these and similar words of the Apostle Paul have value not only for the people who have remained Christians for two thousand years but also for the man of our century – inventor and victim of atomic energy, the camps. Dachau and Colima, of a ruthless and brutal murder in both war and peace, from the age of brainwashing, artificial insemination, and gene manipulation.
I am afraid that both the words of Christ and Paul, and those of all Christian saints, uttered not by the abstract, cool mind, but by the life experience of the whole person (both heart and mind), are now deeply foreign and incomprehensible. for the man of the pre-apocalyptic era. Is a Gandhi possible at all today, who, with his many weeks of starvation, deliberately questions his life and thus reconciles the warring Muslims and Hindus, ending the war between them (1947, India)? Wouldn’t people act with Christ today if He had come again, in the same way, that the Great Inquisitor “greeted” Him according to Dostoevsky? I do not know, but God knows the ways and means to approach man and give him a chance to seek and find Him again.
I would only like to touch in passing on the “negative” (sorrows and troubles) and “positive” ways or reasons why some people seek and find God. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that these may be scientists who do not find peace until their science (physics, astronomy, molecular biology, psychology, etc.) approaches or at least hints at the cause of the secret of life. . In our century, such scientists as Einstein, Heisenberg, Planck, Tesla were not few. There can be no other way out of the search for God in philosophy (which is “love of wisdom”), because philosophers, when they are deep enough, sincere and tireless seekers of truth, “discover” God, despite the “horror of metaphysics” (Leszek Kolakowski), in a philosophical way. The great artists: musicians, artists, writers, seek and discover God both for themselves and for others most easily (only at first glance) in the moment of creative inspiration, guided by their never-before-explored talent or inspiration.
Thus, God is sought and found both by way of observation (according to scientists), and by way of mind (according to philosophers), and by way of feelings and intuition (according to creators). They all reveal God’s works to ordinary people in the discoveries of science, in philosophies, or in the beauty of artistic achievement. Often, on their own, going through the thorny path of martyrdom and discovering God (sometimes unconsciously), scientists, philosophers, and artists offer ordinary people the opportunity to discover God indirectly, so that they too, through the joy of watching or listening, to seek and find God. Isn’t joy this most direct and shortest way, way, and reason for seeking and finding God!
(to be continued)