I have a friend on Facebook whom I don’t see eye to eye with on politics. I keep him on my friends list because he is a person of good character, anti-racist, and an Orthodox Christian. A National Public Raido listener once complained of that station’s liberal perspective on the news. But, he remained a supporter of NPR because, “you can’t learn anything in a vaccum.” For us to maintian a few friendships despite political and other differences can be beneficial.
On Veteran’s Day, he posted a picture of himself during his active duty Marine Corps days. Dude was in his BDUs with his sleeves properly shortened exposing a rather impressive pair of biceps holding his M-16. I remarked that he would be one of the last person I’d get into a bar room fight with. His reply was a sucker punch that floored me, “that was ‘play time’ compared to the spiritual battle we each face.”
Here is a man who successfully completed a very difficult basic training and had been in situations where he had to be constantly vigilant and maintain deep resolve to complete his missions. But, he counts the spiritual war that we all face to be even harder than military active service. Perhaps if he was a clergyman, or monk, who had responsibility for the souls of others and to accurately teach the holy tradition handed down to us from Christ and His Apostles; his statement wouldn’t have been as surprising. This brother is a layman who understands that the battles we face in the spiritual realm are against a more far more dangerous enemy. Warfare with him and his minions is of the utmost importance. The consequences of how we face the fight are eternal.
We are at the eve of the Advent season. Orthodox Christians fast as we prepare to celebrate the great gift given to us from the Father, His Only-Begotten Son. I think that it is good for all Christians to embrace the fact that we should approach this season with seriousness in our struggle against Satan. This is especially a good time for us to enter into spiritual warfare as there are so many allegations of sexual misconduct in all areas of our society.
This time of year, we are surrounded by the adversary’s most diabolical agents all at once. Among them (and they are numerous) consumerism convinces us to make extravagant purchases, even if we can’t afford them, and that we are being selfish and petty when we don’t. Envy assaults us as we see desirable materials goods and we crave to have them, or something “better,” without being grateful for what we do have. Gluttony drags us into eating and drinking large quantities of, often, unhealthy things under the cover of “celebrating the season.” Ingratitude frequently partners with other demons to increase their strength. Even carnal lust finds some room as self-indulgence makes the air of this time of year quite toxic. As if a cherry and sprinkles on top of this sundae of evil, our hypocrisy lets us make a little contribution to the same poor people whom we either ignore or blame for their condition the rest of the year without truly seeing them as the image of God and fellow human beings.
We cannot allow ourselves not to enter into spiritual warfare during this season, or any other time of the year. No matter what form of Christianity you practice, all of us must make time for reflection and self-examination. We cannot afford to be nonchalant about this struggle as the life and death of our souls are at stake. No, we must not walk around with a scowl on our faces dressed in sackcloth and ashes. But, let us consider the great gift God offers us; salvation through His Son who was made man. We are called to give ourselves to be one with Him. We must, likewise, lay aside every weight that holds us back from this goal and cast aside every sin that traps us into complacency and compliance with the evil one. Our struggle is to be one with God. This is not an easy struggle.
But, we do not fight alone. The presence of the Holy Spirit is with all who call on the name of the Lord. We have spiritual fathers and mothers to aid us as we confess our sins. Prayer is essential and maintaining a rule of prayer strengthens us against demonic attacks. We have the scriptures and holy writings outside of the Bible worthy of reflection and meditation. There are saints who have walked in our shoes who have left a witness for us on earth and pray for us in heaven.
I urge myself first and all others to take this season seriously. Whatever sins you know are a problem for you, fight boldly and bravely against them. Even those sins that aren’t difficult to overcome, be watchful as they can become stumbling blocks and traps if ignored. Talk with your earthly spiritual guide about how best to approach the celebration of Our Lord’s birth so that your soul can gain the greatest benefit and growth. If you fall in the process, repent and continue on the spiritual battlefield.