As the title of this blog states, my desire and I believe the very goal of Orthodox Spirituality is "nepsis" or Sober Joy. Another way of translating this word is "quietness."
Either way, this goal of Orthodox spirituality is defined as moving from the fractured, chaotic, and divided mind of self centeredness to the peaceful, sober, hopeful, and joyful rest of authentic communion with God, the Holy Trinity. This lifetime work, this lifetime struggle, this lifetime journey is infused throughout the Divine Liturgy, the cycle of prayers, the rhythm of fasting and feasting, and the mindset of Orthodox Christianity. The whole of salvation is summed up in the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov when he instructed a seeker to "acquire the Holy Spirit."
So, what is it about acquiring the Holy Spirit that produces the spiritual sobriety necessary to be in authentic communion with God?
First, we must admit to our lack of sobriety. We live in an age where intoxicants come at us from all sides. Our own woundedness feeds this desire for the oblivion of intoxication. Our pain, our fears, our brokenness, all feed this temptation to escape from reality into an illusion of numbness. But this intoxication, whether from chemicals, ego, or even religion, always lies to us. In the end our lack of sobriety actually feeds the very pain, fear, and ego we were trying to escape.
This is why the Church is such a shock to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The Church, the Faith, the Tradition of Orthodoxy all call me to sobriety, to face reality, to confront my pain, to admit my fears, to confess my ego. But this is nothing less than the path to salvation, albeit a terrifying path.
Though terrifying, it is actually the only way for me to escape from the debilitating effects of a life numbed by the intoxicants of a fallen world. I will not be able to come into the unfiltered Presence of the God Who made the universe if I have never sobered up. I will HATE His Presence. It will torment me. Just like a drunk can't stand loud noises or bright lights, so I will be miserable in God's Presence because I came to Him stupified by the lies of my own sufficiency.
The Church calls me to cry out "Lord, have mercy." Not in some pagan attempt to dissuade the wrath of an angry father, but to constantly say to my own soul "Sober up!" Stay Awake to your need for mercy. Don't let the temporary lies of intoxication rob you of the eternal joys of communion with God!
In the next few posts I want to explore the path to sobriety the Church provides for me. As with any inebriated soul, this process will be painful, but that pain is both temporary and nothing to be compared to the joy of a sober gaze into the Face of a loving Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner.
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