The journey of the Orthodox believer begins when you make a profession of Faith to follow Christ and His Church. This however does not end your struggle, as many “once saved always saved” low Church Protestants would like you to believe. The remainder of your life must be spent going through a process of theosis: becoming one with God through prayer, fasting, doing good works, increasing your Faith and mortifying your worldly and flesh related desires. One of the most important steps in your journey up the ladder of salvation is taking the call to temperance in one’s life.
When many hear the word temperance, they think that it just means not drinking alcohol, but what it really means is having the virtue of self restraint. Throughout our lives we will be plagued by fleshly desires and demonic influences that will attempt to tear us off the ladder of salvation and into the very pits of Hell, but through the power of God and a steadfast desire to renounce the ways of the materialist world, we can shake off these urges and temptations and become closer to our Creator.
Saint Theophan the Recluse said,
“The demons lodging in a person, do not always reveal their presence, but lurk there, stealthily teaching their host every evil and turning him away from every good thing; so this person is certain that he is doing everything on his own, but meanwhile he is only fulfilling the will of his enemy.
Just commence prayer and fasting and the enemy will immediately depart, then wait on the side for an opportunity to somehow return again. And he truly will return, as soon as prayer and fasting are abandoned.”
The demons that can dwell inside us can show themselves in a variety of different ways. They can reveal themselves when you get overly angry at a person or situation and have a meltdown, hurting yourself or those around you through harsh words or actions that are not Christlike. Other ways they can reveal themselves is through not having moderation in your life that throws your life out of an organic and wholesome balance. This can range from a Facebook or Internet addiction to drinking too much alcohol.
Before I go off on telling my readers how to live, I must have a Matthew 7:3 moment and discuss my own failings and to ask your prayers for my soul. Matthew 7:3 tells us “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” I will be the first to admit that I am a fallen sinner, the chief among sinners and that every day of my life I fall in my race to live a pious, temperate and fully Orthodox life. I never once want anyone to think that I believe myself to be a paragon of virtue, while I struggle against sin and temptation every second of every day I still fall dramatically short of the goodness and grace of our Creator.
Each article that I write about becoming a Legionnaire is not an instruction manual. They are each pieces of my own personal walk with Christ as they happen and my fight to become the best Orthodox Christian and steward of my extended family I can be.
It is said that one of the best ways to teach and to lead is through one’s own example so to that I think a personal story might be helpful in explaining temperance. One of my biggest vices in my adult life has been drinking too much too often. I have never been an alcoholic or anything of that nature, but while drinking I have said things and acted in ways that is unbecoming of a Christian husband, father and fried and of course a political activist.
One doesn’t have to be drinking while driving or getting into fights for alcohol to negatively impact them or their loved ones. For that my brothers and sisters I ask your sincerest apology from anyone I have hurt, offended or impacted through my behavior. In our political struggle we are on the knife’s edge of actually pushing these ideas forward enough that we can really begin to make gains politically and socially and I cannot ever allow my behavior to jeopardize that.On that note, however, after my reading of the writings of several Saints on this subject of temperance, I decided that for my spiritual life and for the sake of being the best patriarch to my family and steward of my people I needed to give up alcohol in my life. The most hard-hitting quote was from Saint Isaac the Syrian who said,
“Whoever does not voluntarily withdraw himself from the causes of the passions is involuntarily drawn away by sin. These are the causes of sin: wine, women, riches, and robust health of body. Not that by their nature these things are sins, but that nature readily inclines towards the sinful passions on their account., and for this reason man must guard himself against them with great care.”
To guard ourselves we must remove ourselves from the things that lead us down the path of temptation which often leads to sin. We cannot keep the things that tempt us to sin lying around in our lives if we truly repent of our sin and look to move past them. Repentance in Greek means “to turn away from” and we must utterly and completely turn away from anything that is a hurdle in our spiritual pursuits.
Now most folks can drink moderately just fine. I am not one of them. Do not take this as a call to start pouring bottles of wine or beer down the drain if alcohol is not an issue for you, but for me it was and it had to be addressed. We as Christians cannot “opt out” of certain parts of the Christian walk just because we do not like them or they might be hard or have an impact on our social lives.
We are called to be members of the Church Militant, soldiers for Christ in every single of our waking moments and just like soldiers we cannot disobey the commands of our superior officers. Our commander however is no mere general, he is the Lord of all of Creation, the King of Kings and he has entrusted us with a responsibility to follow Him into battle against the forces of darkness.
St. Gennadius of Constantinople wrote,
“Do not say: ‘I have sinned much, and therefore I am not bold enough to fall down before God.’ Do not despair. Simply do not increase your sins in despair and, with the help of the All-merciful One, you will not be put to shame. For He said, ‘he who comes to Me I will not cast out.’ (John. 6:37) And so, be bold and believe that He is pure and cleanses those who draw near to Him. If you want to accomplish true repentance, show it with your deeds. If you have fallen into pride, show humility; if into drunkenness, show sobriety; if into defilement, show purity of life. For it is said, ‘Turn away from evil and do good.’ (I Pet. 3:11)”
And with those words of the Holy Saints I am attempting to show true repentance for my shortcomings. I have now gone over a month without touching a drop of alcohol and I plan to go many more months in sobriety as I work to take care of my newborn child, care for my wife, grow in my Faith, and continue to advance my political mission. This, however, is just one of my faults and in my life as a Legionnaire I plan to dedicate myself to steadily eradicating the various lustful and prideful passions inside myself, as all Christians are called to do.
To be a true Legionnaire you must remember the words of our eternal Captain, Corneliu Codreanu, who wrote,
“From this Legionary school a new man will have to emerge, a man with heroic qualities; a giant of our history to do battle and win over all the enemies of our Fatherland, his battle and victory having to extend even beyond the material world into the realm of invisible enemies, the powers of evil. Everything that our mind can imagine as more beautiful spiritually; everything the proudest that our race can produce, greater, more just, more powerful, wiser, purer, more diligent and more heroic, this is what the Legionary school must give us! A man in whom all the possibilities of human grandeur that are implanted by God in the blood of our people be developed to the maximum.”
We are called to be the tip of the spear religiously and politically to become the truest examples of Christian love, charity, and a healthy Christian patriotism. Our immediate families and our extended family need us to be soldiers for Christ, warriors for them, and devoted and pious Orthodox believers. Being a Legionnaire is not about having a patch, a t-shirt, a membership card or an affiliation with a crew, it is about deciding to kill the inner materialist inside of you and stand heroically for Faith, family in folk.
All of us should take time through prayer and meditation to look inward in ourselves to find the roadblocks in our lives that separate us from Christ and from our kinsmen. By identifying things that hurt us spiritually we can then begin to solve the problems. Our actions and what we put into our bodies should be considered because as 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us”Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” As a temple of the Holy Spirit we must work to purify our bodies, minds and souls through temperate living, love, and unyielding Faith.
We also must treat our fellow Legionnaires as brothers, and like a family we must help each other in our struggles. Not every individual will have the same struggle. Some battle pride, others anger, still others battle lust or greed, all of these however can be overcome and crushed through the power of God and the support of our spiritual and ethnic family.
We must pray for each other and every Legionnaire should pray for every member of his nest both morning and night, to pray that God blesses every single Legionnaire with strength, with grace and with salvation. Our battle is against power and principalities both physical and spiritual and we must consider that in all that we do. Calling upon Christ, Mary the Queen of Heaven and the Blessed Saints should constantly be on our lips and in our hearts.
We must also physically help our Legionnaire brothers in their times of need. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are without shelter, give them a home. If they are depressed, be there for them and comfort them. If they cannot pay their bills, sacrifice financially for their sake. Mark 12:31 says “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” This spirit of selfless sacrifice and love towards our brothers and sisters, our families and our communities, is one of the most important callings of our spiritual life. To be able to do this though we must wage the Inner Crusade against our passions.
This battle if we win or lose calls us to be valiant warriors for the Cross and for our folk. At the end of the world, Judgment will come and God will judge us based on our Faith and our actions, so let us hasten to live lives as sin-free and pious as we can for we do not know the hour when judgment or our own death will come.
Saint John Maximovitch said,
“What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him… The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help from God, acknowledging his own weakness and sinfulness. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian.”
Brothers and sisters, I call you all to think over the coming days and weeks about which vices and stumbling blocks you have in your life and to take a plan to overcome them. Throw out that vice and vow to spend more time in prayer, repentance and charity. We cannot wage a physical war against our foes if we do not first wage the spiritual war against Satan, his demons and our own sinful flesh. We must support each other in this spiritual and physical struggle and like one giant family may we help each other work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Christ calls us and our people need us to be the absolute best we can be, are you up to the challenge?