Disciplining the Mind: Spiritual Knowledge
We all read the Bible and memorize verses, but do we implant these spiritual principles that the verses contain in our minds? In Deut 6:6_9 we are told, And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
That means that we have to assimilate what we read in the Bible and imprint them in our hearts and minds, until they become part of our thought process. Examples,
The Bible tells us in Luke 6:26 "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!" and again in Luke 6:22_23, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven." According to this, to be despised is more blessed than to be praise. Have I implanted in my mind that when people praise me this is dangerous for my spiritual perfection, and when they despise me and say evil things against me falsely, I am blessed? You may say that this is impossible but it has been done
Bishop Youannis of blessed memory used to go every Thursday to preach in a near by village. As is usual in Egypt he had to share a cab with some other people to go to that village. It so happened that a fanatic Moslem used to take the same cab in the same time on Thursdays, and as soon as Bishop Youannis would enter the cab, he would turn the other way and spit! This went on for years. One day the Bishop went on the Taxi but the other guy never came. Bishop Youannis felt grieved in his heart and started complaining to God, Why did you deprive me of this blessing Lord? Is it on account of my many sins that you decided that I am no more worthy of this blessing?
Another Bishop of blessed memory is Bishop Samuel who was a tireless worker for the Lord, and as usual he had many enemies, people who hated him and sent him very nasty letters. He kept these nasty letters in a drawer. Each time he felt discouraged or cast down, he would open the file and start reading the nasty letters and he would feel refreshed once again because he saw in each insult that he read in these letters a blessing. This is what we mean by implanting what we read in the Bible on our hearts.
The Fathers took training in accepting insults and rejecting praise so seriously. The book of the Paradise of the Fathers tells us two wonderful stories about this discipline of the mind. (1. Go praise the saints.. Go insult the saints 2. the monk who paid someone to insult him)
The Bible tells us in I Jn 2:15, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" and again in James 4:4, " know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
Have we implanted this in our minds? The way to perfection is despising the world and all the things in the world. St. Paul says in Phil 3:8 "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." St. Paul says I"d rather loose everything to gain the knowledge of Christ, considering all things of the world as dung. Garbage! Have you implanted in your heart that this world is a big garbage can and all the things in it are garbage? If I still look at a car and I am spellbound with awe, is this not becoming an idol that I worship. I remember one day I was giving a group of young people a ride, coming back from an activity, all the way from Mississauga to here, all they talked about was cars. Have you ever seen one of those big trucks that carry the carcasses of cars, flattened into pieces of metal on the way to the dump? Or have you ever seen a car dump? It looks ugly. Every time you covet a car tell your mind, in a few years this car will be an ugly piece of metal sitting in an ugly car dump. Train your mind to despise worldly things and to covet spiritual perfection.
The Bible tells me in Prov 16:32, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." Did I implant in my mind that controlling your anger is actually strength and not weakness? It is easy to respond to angry words with angry words or to aggression with aggression, that is the easy way the way of the weak. But to control your anger and not to respond in the same kind is the difficult way the way of the strong and the mighty. Have you implanted in your mind that turning the other cheek is not cowardice but is actually courage? You tell me it can’t be done, but I tell you it can (story of the monk)
St. Paul tells us in Phil 1:23, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:" and again in Phil 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Did I implant in my mind that death is actually a gain and not a loss, and that to depart and be with Christ is far better? Have I trained my mind to covet that which an eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have come upon the heart of man? Have I got the proper spiritual understanding of the true meaning of life and death?