Tag Archives: the Church Militant

Part 1, Spiritual Violence, airing September 19th


Sunrise During a Forest Fire

Sunrise During a Forest Fire

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

(Matt 11: 12)

Our Lord’s life and ministry was one of spiritual violence – from the death of 14,000 children by Herod to His own voluntary death. Let us explore His words in greater depth to understand what Christ meant by “the violent take it (the Kingdom of Heaven) by force.”

First let us listen to Blessed Theophylact and his commentary on this passage from the gospel of Matthew, which is proceeded by:

“Christ by saying of Himself that He is greater than John the Baptist, strongly urges them to believe in Him, showing that many are by force acquiring the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, faith in Him. And there is need of great force, for in order to leave father and mother and to despise one’s own life, how much force is needed?”

Good question to leave us with!

Our first step in acquiring the Kingdom of Heaven, according to not only St. Theophylact, but many Saints of the Church, is our faith in Christ, which I have discussed in past podcasts. I invite those of you who are new listeners to go back and listen to some of my podcasts on faith.

Our second step, which is what we are going to explore in this first of two podcasts on spiritual violence is ‘the violent’, which is us, as the Church Militant on earth, ‘take the Kingdom of Heaven by force’. Blessed Theophylact is saying that there is a need for great force – what does he mean?

For an answer to this question I will turn to St Theophan the Recluse:

“…In a Christian it is a battle with oneself involving much labor, intense and sorrowful, and he must dispose his faculties for something for which they have no inclination. (This lack of inclination is due to our fallen world and nature.) Like a soldier, he must take every step of land, even his own, from his enemies by means of warfare, with the double-edged sword of forcing himself and opposing himself.

St Theophan the Recluse, The Path to Salvation

Let us explore these two concepts of forcing and opposing one’s self:

Forcing is an act of will. In the case of a Christian, we must first put our faith and will in God’s will and love, striving to follow His commandments and Christ’s life example. This is an essential effort on our part that is uncomfortable to our fallen nature, yet so essential to our spiritual nature. It feels violent and that is where the term spiritual violence comes from. It feels as if we are opposing ourselves, which is partially true. The opposition, which will give life to our spirit in Christ, is against our fallen nature, our passions, sinful thoughts and actions.

Now let us review how we oppose our fallen nature, passions and sinful thoughts and actions:

Going back to our Lord’s quote again:

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

St. John spoke of the baptism of repentance – but in and of itself, repentance before Christ was incomplete. That is why Christ says “the violent take it by force”, for we need to have repentance with faith and love in Christ to win our spiritual battles or we lack the force to ‘fight the good fight’. Repentance is a form of spiritual violence we render on ourselves, a form of ascesis, to draw to us the grace of God, which will aid us in our battles.

Christos Yannaras, The Feedom of Morality, says the following about repentance and being a soldier for Christ:

“Repentance is a change in our mode of existence: man ceases to trust in his own individuality. He realizes that existing as an individual, even a virtuous individual, does not save him from corruption and death, from his agonizing existential thirst for life. This is why he takes refuge in the Church, where he exists as someone loving and loved. He is loved by the Saints, who give him a ‘name’ of personal distinctiveness and take him into the communion of their love despite his sinfulness; and he himself strives to love others despite their sinfulness, to live free from the necessities of his mortal nature. He struggles to overcome his individual resistances, his individual wishes and autonomous impulses, not in order to “improve himself” individually, but in order to measure up to the “frenzied” love of Christ and the Saints, to the preconditions required for personal life (in Christ) as opposed to natural survival.”

In light of this passage, how shallow is the worldly concept of improving one’s self! How much time have we spent pursing this goal rather than winning the Kingdom of Heaven? Can we see how much ‘improving ourselves’ is in opposition the teachings of Christ?

How much more inspirational it is to ‘measure up to the “frenzied” love of Christ and the Saints, to the preconditions required for personal life (in Christ) as opposed to natural survival.’

Thus we must assert ourselves in Christ, for the sake of Christ and love of our neighbors, which draws God’s grace to us.

What are other tools our Lord gave us in our efforts to render spiritual violence to our passions and sinful inclinations and aid our regeneration by grace? Let’s see what St. Paul has to say:

“For Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (our passions and ingrained worldly beliefs we have constructed to defend ourselves without God.); casting down imaginations (Again here the Holy Fathers caution us to avoid slipping into our imagination which can lead us astry – we rather want to strive to seek inspiration from all the Church has provided us), and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having inner readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”

(2 Cor 10:3-6)

This is spiritual violence – when we realize our enemies are not our neighbors but our sinful thoughts and actions. Let us get angry at them rather than at others! Again what is our goal in being an active member of the Church Militant?

Let’s go back to St Theophan the Recluse for the answer to this question:

“Finally after long labors and exertions, the Christian principles appear victorious reigning without opposition; they penetrate the whole composition of human nature, dislodging from it demands and inclinations hostile to themselves, and place it in the state of passionlessness and purity, making it worthy of the blessedness of the pure in heart–to see God in themselves in sincerest communion with Him.”

St Theophan the Recluse, The Path to Salvation

May God aid us in our spiritual struggles! My God help us to win the Kingdom of Heaven! Let us go forth and participate more fully in the Church Militant and our regeneration by grace.

In part 2 of this series on spiritual violence we will explore more of the tools Christians use to ‘fight the good fight’ and attract the grace of God to us.

In Christ,

Veronica