Part I – Obedience
Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!
When researching for this podcast I realized that I could not talk about humility without first speaking about obedience, for according to many of the Holy Fathers, from obedience comes humility.
“Obedience and humility go hand-in-hand. They feed and nourish one another. We cannot learn obedience without humility, and we cannot acquire humility without obedience. Together, these two virtues can take us to the very heights of spiritual perfection.”
Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for all walks of life
What does St. Paul say about this dynamic duo?
“And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.” Phil. 2:8
In this season of rejoicing, let us reflect on the obedience and humility of Our Lord, which freed us from sin and death, which allowed us to be resurrected in Him.
The key to unlocking our regeneration is grace hinges on these two virtues, for grace will not come to us if either obedience or humility is missing.
My resources for this:
- My Elder Joseph the Hesychast by Elder Ephraim
- Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life by Archmandrite Vassilious Papavassilios
- The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus
The Fruits of Obedience
My Elder Joseph the Hesychast
“Francis (the future Elder Joseph) and Father Arsenios behaved like angels towards their elders. They prepared the food, clean the house, and did whatever was necessary with joy and love. In fact, they even try to foresee what the elders would need in order to please them more. They had so much reverence for those old monks that they were even more obedient to them than children to their real parents. For this is the true meaning of obedience: to remove your ego from the center of your soul and to place God and your elder there…
For many of us who do not have an elder, our elder come in the form of those around us– our daily obedience’s – to our spouses, parents, pastors, teachers and employers with joy and love.
…It was not long before they saw the fruits of their obedience. Because of their obedience, it was natural that they found great ease in prayer. In this way, Francis realized from his own experience why the holy Fathers praised holy obedience….
Isn’t that amazing! They found great ease in prayer due to their obedience! Elder Ephrim also commented that when he first became a novice he was quite ill with beginning stages of TB. He understood though that by keeping perfect obedience if he died he would go directly to heaven! Therefore, he was not concerned about dying.
…Ever since then, Francis held holy obedience as the foremost virtue. He emphasized no other virtue more than this one. In fact, he later wrote to someone: ‘Personally, I have never seen anything more comforting in my soul than perfect obedience.’…
When Papa–Ephraim was an old man, he recollected the good old days and said: ‘O, blessed obedience! What can I tell you? When I was under obedience, I had a special kind of grace, a different kind of prayer. It was as if I were flying, for prayer springs from obedience–not obedience from prayer. Be obedient for now, and later you will acquire grace.’…
…Elder Joseph told us: ‘When a person is obedient to an elder, it doesn’t matter if the command is wrong; it will turn out well for him simply because he is being obedient. It doesn’t matter who his elder is. What good did it do Judas that he had Christ? None! … What good did it do Adam, who was in paradise, and his ‘elder’ in a sense was God? None, because he was disobedient.”
“When Grace comes to a man, it makes him God. But when it departs from him, then he is ready to fall into every heresy, every delusion, every moral deviation, and even damnation. Everything is supported by the grace of God. But Grace also has its requirements before it will dwell in man. It seeks his good intentions, his willpower, and his struggle. Together with grace, man becomes an angel. Without grace, he deviates and becomes a demon.” St. John Climacus
I know this from experience with my husband and parents. In times of great stress – when I trusted in their instructions and followed them – when I was obedient to their wishes, in spite of my fears and thoughts, things worked out in a marvelous manner – far better than I could have imagined.
From Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life
Step 4 – Obedience
“…The virtue of obedience is rooted not in fearful pragmatism, but in humility. True obedience, like true love, cannot be forced–it must be free. Obedience and humility go hand-in-hand. They feed and nourish one another. We cannot learn obedience without humility, and we cannot acquire humility without obedience. Together, these two virtues can take us to the very heights of spiritual perfection…
…From obedience comes humility… and from humility comes discernment. (St. John Cassian, Conference 2.)
Take courage from this. For few are able to do something as basic and simple as to obey, then you are already on your way to learning one of the greatest and highest virtues of all: humility. People may think obedience is for children. They are right! No one is as humble as a little child. Thus no one practices obedience better than infants. Let us remember what we said in chapter 1: Children are the greatest example of what God wants us to be…
Obedience to God
It may seem blindingly obvious, but we are obedient, above all, to God. And this is expressed not only in keeping his commandments, but also in the action of prayer. Only an obedient heart can truly pray, for the end of prayer is not speaking to God, but hearing and heeding what he is saying back to us. Furthermore only a humble person can really pray, because only when we are humble do we not rely wholly on our own judgments, actions, and capabilities….
The root of the word obedience come from French, obieir or Latin, oboedire: to hear or to listen to. It is only though our obedience – that we can eventually hear God in our heart.
…for the end of prayer is not speaking to God, but hearing and heeding what he is saying back to us.
…If our obedience is sincere, it bestows upon us the peace from above. If we practice it ungrudgingly (even if we do not like what we have been asked to do), we will find inner stillness and ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding’. Phil. 4:7
Obedience in Marriage
Obedience is part and parcel not only of monastic life, but also of married life. Husband and wife are subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). They are not to seek their own will, but must subject themselves to the will of the other, for they are no longer two independent individuals, but one flesh. No marriage can work if the two do not sacrifice their own wills in loving obedience.
How well I know this after 27 years of marriage to my dear, patient husband! Until we made being obedient to God our first priority, we could not become obedient to each other. Our prayer life has helped us to trust each other and to trust that we can place our obedience with love in each other if our trust is first in God. This came out of many struggles….
St. John Climacus
For obedience is entirely foreign to the hypocrisy and one’s own will.
Obedience is the tomb of the will and the resurrection of humility.
Stay tuned for our next podcast on humility…
Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!