From the very earliest days of the existence of the Church, acts of mercy and charity were an essential part of church life. Our Lord Christ Himself said that whosoever has fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, has done those things for Christ Himself (see: Matthew 25: 31- 40).
After Apostolic preaching began in Jerusalem, Christians who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles’ feet, and distribution was made unto every man, according to his need. (Acts 4: 34–35). Moreover, daily meals were organized in Jerusalem (and later in other cities) for the needy. Once, this even caused a dispute between natives of Jerusalem and the so-called Grecians – who were also Christian Jews, but who lived in various Greek cities in the Diaspora. (see: Acts 6: 1–7). The Grecians considered that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. (Acts 6: 1). Therefore, the
Apostles decided to choose from among the faithful seven men of honest report to take on the responsibility of seeing to charitable activities, as it would not be good for the Apostles themselves to leave the word of God and serve tables (Acts 6: 2).
The enemy will not go near a creature of God when they are pure at heart
– Elder, how does one become a slave of one’s passions?
– In most cases, we let the enemy do harm to ourselves by our inattention or by becoming overwhelmed with pride. Just one careless thought or word might be enough to let the evil one take hold. I know of one strong and family. One day, the man said jokingly to his wife: “Watch out – I might divorce you!” His wife followed suit, and joked back: “It’s you who had better be more careful, as I might divorce you, too!” They were not being serious, but the devil was already standing by and rubbing his hands. He seduced them into having an argument that put them on the brink of divorce. They were so determined to go ahead that they could not think of anything else – not even the future of their children. Luckily, they met a priest who managed to bring them to their senses. “Are you seriously going to end your marriage over such a small thing?” he said.
High spirituality enjoys much acclaim in many works of literature, art, music and cinema; even revolutionaries are sometimes honoured as saints. Some elements of spirituality may indeed be present in these works, as writers, musicians and film directors can be very good at portraying some of the Christian virtues, such as sacrificial love, honesty, conscientiousness, or bravery. Yet, as Feofan the Recluse has rightly said, none of this constitutes genuine spirituality; at best, it refers to living from the soul. For even despite its remembrance of the Lord, the soul’s true desire is to settle its worldly, temporal life, as St. Feofan teaches. He writes: “All it knows is grounded entirely in what is given to it by experience; all its workings are directed towards meeting the needs of a temporal life, and its sensations derive from, and are based upon its visible states and situations. Anything above this that is none of its concern”.
Life in the spirit is grounded in a different foundation. Saint Feofan sees the spirit as a power that emanates from God, knows God, searches for God, and finds comfort only in God. Convinced of its Divine origin by some profound intuition, it is conscious of its complete dependence on Him and feels an obligation to please Him in every possible way, to live through Him and in Him. No-one can attain the level of human dignity in whom there is no movement or action of the spirit».
In other words, to live in the spirit means to be unreservedly connected with God, to seek God and to desire to please Him. This means that a spiritual person will often act against the established customs and conventions, “defeating the natural way of things”. For example, while having a family will be a natural life choice for most people; many who live in the spirit will choose not to establish a family; they will not do so for their own pleasure or comforts of the flesh, but in order dedicate their lives to serving God and people.