“Theology without action (praxis) is the theology of demons.”
~ St. Maximos the Confessor
When Jesus said, “You are gods,” “be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” or “the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father,” this is to be taken literally.
~ Translators note from Theosis: The true purpose of human life
This may seem a trivial reference when considering matters of faith, but in the film “Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End”, the pirate Will Turner says something to his friend Jack Sparrow that I think, sums up, at least at this point in my life, what is the primary deficit in my capacity for progress toward union with Christ.
Synopsis: When Capt. Jack Sparrow learns the method of gaining command of the Flying Dutchman (by stabbing the heart of its captain), and in turn gaining immortality aboard the magical ship, he begins to have visions of sailing the high seas forever, “free from death itself”. His plans however do not take into account the purpose of the Dutchman and her crew – to ferry souls to the afterlife, and Mr. Turner has to inform his friend, “You’ve got to do the job though, Jack. You have to ferry souls to the next world. Or end up just like [Davy] Jones.” This may seem an odd metaphor for the Christian experience but bear with me and I will attempt to explain.
Just like Jones, I refuse to participate in the remediation of my debt and because of this I am only a shadow of the true human being that was intended. As St. Ignatius of Antioch said before his death, “My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being.”
I call myself a Christian and I am expectant of God’s assistance in my life and the coming of His kingdom, but I am a disloyal servant to Him. I say I have faith but I do not live in function of my alleged belief. Like Jack Sparrow I see the glimmer of immortality, and I want it for its own sake. However, as with the Dutchman, immortality has its own purpose – to provide for the ability of God’s servants to stand in ceaseless praise of and thanksgiving to their Creator. I was intended to be, in the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, a doxological, Eucharistic being. But as Fr. Hopko says, “with refusing to praise and refusing to thanks, [I] was plunged into darkness.” And I end up falling into that despondent darkness as the result of “trying to be a Christian without God”. Trying to be the captain of a dutiful vessel, but defiant of the inherent responsibilities. Attempting to claim faith with no proof in action.
Just as I have expectations of God, by calling myself a Christian I assume the weight of divine expectations, but I do nothing to fulfill them. I am frustrated with my daily falling away but I make no efforts to strengthen or stabilize – “for the good that I will, I do not; but the evil that I do not will, this I practice”. When the time comes to pray, or incline toward God in whatever manner, there are always more pressing worldly affairs to attend to – more pressing than the state of my eternal soul apparently. I waste the time given to me in enjoyment of bawdy entertainment, drinking, eating and general attachment to the world; in search of perpetual distraction. In so doing I incur the wages of sin on my eternal soul, resulting in the distorted and decaying image of a human being. I spend my time delaying participation in the life of God in favor of worldly diversions and become more and more fetid in the process. Yet I am fully aware that my intended destiny is to become by grace, what God is by nature.
“This reconciliation is made actual through the struggle (podvig in Russian) to conform to the image of Christ. Without the struggle, the praxis, there is no real faith; faith leads to action, without which it is dead. One must unite will, thought, and action to God’s will, his thoughts, and his actions. A person must fashion his life to be a mirror, a true likeness of God. More than that, since God and humanity are more than a similarity in Christ but rather a true union, Christians’ lives are more than mere imitation and are rather a union with the life of God himself: so that the one who is working out salvation is united with God working within the penitent both to will and to do that which pleases God.”
Interesting Note: Prelest or plani is the closing off or estrangement of the person to existence or Objective reality (what is real or truth), alienation being called amartía.