We have already completed half of the spiritual journey of the holy Paschal Lent. We have celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as triumph of the correct Christian doctrine against heresies. In the midst of the turmoil of American orthodoxy, we ask ourselves what it means to confess the correct doctrine and at what cost we will protecting it. Secondly, we celebrated St. Gregory Palamas, the teacher of the uncreated energies which spring forth from God and can be received by faithful people who are diligent in pursuing the divine. Thirdly, we propped ourselves on the Cross of the Savior, on the third Sunday of Lent, acquiring new strength to continue the Lenten struggle for spiritual benefit.
On the fourth Sunday of Great Lent we honor St. John of Sinai, also known as
The Ladder of Divine Ascent has 30 steps of ascetic struggle beginning with leaving behind of the world and ending with the trinity of virtues: faith, hope, and love. We will stop upon Step 4 which speaks about the joyous and ever remembered obedience: “Obedience is a total renunciation of our own life, and it shows up clearly in the way we act… Obedience is unquestioned movement, death freely accepted, a simple life, danger faced without worry, an unprepared defense before God, fearlessness before death…Obedience is the burial place of the will and the resurrection of lowliness.” A scholion to this text says that denying the soul we understand the renunciation of one’s own human will, according to the Savior’s words from the Sunday of the Holy Cross: “whosoever wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself…” Therefore, it is not a matter of destroying the soul or to negate it, but placing it in God’s hands. Obedience is death to death and affirmation of life, affirmation of the soul to the body, in order to stop the body’s eternal death. Obedience is a reasoned submission, a rejection of selfish existence in isolation through agreement between our existence and the rational of God. And obedience as burial place of the will signifies one’s personal refusal to consider life as prey, rapture according to the words of St. Paul, and to offer it to God from Whom comes eternal life.
Could these words be valid only for monastics? Could the obedience described here as a step on the path of theosis, be a spiritual struggle set apart for those of the times of St. John Climacus? We may believe so. But then the words of the Savior exhorting us to be His followers by taking up the Cross refer also to another time and other people. Who are we then, as Christians of the 21st Century, without obedience and without the Cross? The words of