Today, many believers call "a temptation" almost any life's turmoil: from a breakdown of a washing machine to being late for an important meeting on work. But what is temptation from the point of view of the Church? Is it an inevitable part of the Christian life, or can it somehow be obscured? About this "Thomas" talked with the cleric of the church of the saints of the first-ever apostles Peter and Paul in Yasenevo, Archpriest Alexei Sysoev.
"Father Alexei, what is temptation?"
"No matter how paradoxical it may sound, but temptation is one of the most important values of our life. Temptation is a test through which God's Providence is realized. Without them, a person could not move towards holiness, he would not have an incentive for growth, development, moral and creative formation. That is, without temptation, it is impossible for a person to make a step. And although the first temptation in paradise corrupted the person by severing the connection between him and God, but as the fathers of the Church write, only in this way a person from a state of innocence and ignorance was able to acquire awareness and, freely choosing the true and the good and rejecting the evil one, became a righteous man .
If you look at the Greek verb "peyradzo" - tempt, then, in addition to the meaning of "put to the test," it translates as "checking the value of something or someone." And to all of us the well-known word "art" comes from the Old Slavonic word "scary" - a test, a test. That is, a person who has been tempted becomes skillful.
The temptation in itself is directly related to the evil that plagues us from everywhere. Although from the Holy Scripture Christians firmly know that God is evil and did not create death. And He does not rejoice in the destruction of the wicked. But the Lord, without tempting anyone, uses this evil power so that man, after overcoming temptation, becomes like Christ, who once in the desert during the forty-day fast, rejected the triple temptation of Satan, affirming the truth of life (Mt 4: 3-7; LK 4 : 6-8).
Tradition brought to us a story about the catastrophe that happened in Heaven when Lucifer and some of the angels fell away from God. After the incident, the devil, tormented by envy, decided to ruin a man. In the Holy Scripture we read: God created man for incorruption and made him an image of his eternal being; but the envy of the devil entered into the world of death, and experience it belonging to its lot (Prem 2: 23-24).
- And what did the devil envy?
- Man - his excretion, a mysterious and completely incomprehensible depth for him. In Paradise, Satan managed to seduce a man, managed to bring him into a sinful state. Man became a prisoner of death, in a sense even a homeless, vulnerable. But the opportunity remained through repentance and through the constant overcoming of the temptations surrounding all sides to regain the lost connection with God and defeat the devil.
It was amazing: Satan himself turned out to be an instrument of God. The Lord began to use it so that a person, overcoming his slander and intimidation, grew and perfected as a Christian, making the final triumph of truth over the mundane vegetation in time.
The initiator of the temptation is the devil. The strength with which he tries to crush a man is enormous. It indefinitely produces death, a threat to everything that exists, but at the same time its destructive power sets boundaries that God establishes.
The other day I communed with one woman. The disease that struck her is terrible. And she can not get out of it: one will cure, the other will catch. She can not sit down, and she can not eat, so her food is given in a liquid form. Every time I come to such people, I am horrified at the way with which hatred and cruelty the devil is trying to destroy a man, how he is trying to wipe him from the face of the earth with all his strength.
And how many suffered the sufferings of Christ: and flight to Egypt, and wanderings, and infidelity of people, and disease, and deprivation. But, as the Apostle Paul wrote, the power of God in this Christ's infirmity was accomplished (2 Cor 12: 9). The Lord Himself passed all the horror and pain of human life up to the terrible, painful death on the Cross. And this reveals the main hope of every Christian, after all, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, Christ endured, being tempted, he can also help the tempted (Heb. 2: 18). We firmly know that the Lord not only showed us how to endure temptations, but more than that - He Himself will always be with us, helping to endure all trials with dignity.
Therefore, it is not so important for a Christian that the temptation is directed against him by the devil - in this sense, and the alleged phrase "the devil beggar" does not work. If he is with Christ, if He is ready to walk His way, then every skill goes to him for good. Inside temptation, a person concentrates, straightens up, takes on a new look at the world around him.
- It turns out, without temptations, human life is unthinkable? Are they inevitable?
- Yes. Rev. Isaac the Syrian writes: "Outside of temptations, God's Providence is not seen, it is impossible to acquire boldness before God, it is impossible to learn the wisdom of the Spirit, nor is there any possibility that Divine love will be established in your soul." Without temptation, it is impossible to achieve a special inner silence, concentration.
Moreover, the very essence of a person - his physical and spiritual structure - is a temptation for him.
A person begins to experience a profound inner conflict from childhood: he feels his limitations, weakness, weakness and at the same time some immense and mysterious inner depth that puts him above the entire created world of God.
On the one hand, we are completely lost, we know little and do not understand, we react uncomfortably to certain events, make mistakes, stumble, constantly lose something. Our physical abilities are many times inferior to the capabilities of most animals, which are faster than us, and are more adroit, and are better adapted to the environment. They do not hesitate to make instinctive decisions. Because animals are inextricably linked with nature, and man is not. He has absolutely no place in this natural world to gain a foothold. He is always out of place, constantly in search.
A person does not know what will happen to him tomorrow, and what happened before him - the past quickly becomes vague, with time it loses its outlines. Moreover, a person does not understand well what and how to do with his present. The very presence of consciousness is extremely weakening the person: from all sides he is amazed by doubts, by uncertainty in his chosen life strategy.
But at the same time, a person feels that he has been given some colossal gift of life, that the very consciousness that shakes him from side to side, at the same time opens up to him endless opportunities for development and improvement.
Man himself is placed above all created things, as evidenced by the first chapters of Genesis. His calling is immense, so that the Apostle Paul prophetically writes: For the creature (that is, the entire world: visible and invisible - Note ASC) expects with hope the revelation of the sons of God (that is, man. .), because the creature was subjected to vanity not voluntarily, but at the will of those who conquered it, in the hope that the creature itself would be freed from slavery to decay into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom. 8: 19-21).
In this inner conflict of a man - his weaknesses, limitations and height of vocation, a wealth of gifts, some inexhaustible and himself to the very end of an unknown depth - Hamlet flour is revealed. A certain field of terrible tension is formed, within which the person is initially subject to temptation. And worse, a man can not part with such his own existence. He can not say: "I return my ticket, I do not want to live like a man." He must accept the challenge of temptation and transfer it with dignity, to perform the "revelation of the Sons of God", that is, to become godlike, to reveal in full all those powers and talents with which the Lord has endowed him.
- And if a person refuses to accept this challenge? If he does not want to bear this burden and it is enough for him to live without embarrassment, without claiming "holiness" and "deification"?
- If a person is not ready to respond to this call, he begins to live simply, philistine - the temptation of being heals. The natural, the blind, the instinctive begins to overcome him. But this rolling into the world of nature - and this is also flour - will never end, because, as I have already said, a person can not abandon himself, from the God given to him. If his personality does not want to bear the burden of his being, then the inner for him closes and he begins to see everything in everything only external, accidental, as though slipping on the surface, missing the most important and essential. Such a person lives vainly, and this is very dangerous, because the outside, as one saint said, is ominous.
The "external" person easily becomes the object of manipulation, his spiritual immunity instantly falls. And God does not want this because, when he introduces each person into the world, He beforehand completely trusts him, recognizes him, and man, having lived his deadline on the earth, must have this trust, must justify it before God. This is the main question that is put before a person in any temptation. Can a person live as a Christian - creatively and responsibly? Not as an animal that exists by some life program, but as a godlike personality.
However, here we come to another problem. A person in this world is not alone. He is surrounded by other people who are equal and similar to him in everything. But the person realizes that in him, as in a being put over all creation and called upon to own it, some evil principle slumbers, from which he can not renounce for some reason. Something in him suddenly wakes up, and he makes his neighbor hurt, pushes him from him, overthrows him.
This opens up a new depth of temptation: a person is surrounded by co-equal beings, in relation to which he must act correctly, must accept them completely. And if a person could this unwholesome beginning within yourself to cope if he held on to inflict harm to another, by the same token, he was able to defend our common humanity.
- That is, do you think that a worthy passage of temptation is connected with how a person will build relations with his neighbor? And who is the neighbor?
- The neighbor is not a neighbor. A neighbor is someone who, by one or another coincidence, was nearby: on the train, in the queue, at the bus stop. But the ideal of humanity requires that you even in this accidental neighbor discover the son of God. And when this happens, when a neighbor becomes a neighbor, then your entire being in all your life activity is structured in the right way.
Everything in this world finds its place, it is harmonized around this action. There arises the mystery of the relationship of the Trinity: you, I and Christ. Only in Christ, we get the opportunity to go over the self-centered in ourselves, overcome this unwholesome beginning, do the right thing. Thus, the neighbor is one who is seen in God's way. Only after passing this temptation does a person become truly creative.
At the same time, the world around us can not be embraced in any way, it can not be delineated, limited or explained - neither from within, nor from without. It only seems clear and familiar to us, but in fact, as soon as we stop looking at it superficially, we immediately encounter a heap of insoluble problems. Therefore, the world can not be explained - it's just not in our power, it can only be passed.
- And what does it mean to pass?
"It means to find in it the way of Christ and to pass this way. Remember how the Lord Himself said of himself: I am the way and the truth and the life (Jn 14: 6). Yes, we can not know the world, but we have something much more valuable, namely, the right thing to do. At first, a person feels that he is from the "dissolute" becomes "worthy", that is, one who has found the way. He overcame his self, opened the obsession with himself. In relation to his neighbor, he managed to abstain - not to drop him, not to offend simply because he is nearby and he is annoying. So, through the right deed, through recognition in the other person of the neighbor, all mankind and the life of the whole world are justified.
Such is the deepening plan of the Lord for us. He did not want to be one Holy, All-Powerful, Good. God wanted His creation in his wonderful, unspeakable mystery and beauty to be completely open to someone. Someone had, as Gregory the Theologian wrote, to become a worthy spectator of this world. But, to see him, as God, man must go through the path of temptation worthy.
- But after all, in the prayer "Our Father" Christians ask: "And do not lead us into temptation." Does not this contradict your words?
- No, it does not contradict. After all, we already understood that temptation is the basic condition of all human life activity. It raises a person in his activity, in his humanity, leads him, hints at something. Temptation is filled with a tantalizing, provocative force. However, without the help of God, man would simply be crushed by his weight.
Let us remember what Christ said to the Apostle Peter during the Last Supper: Simon! Simon! Behold, Satan has asked to sow you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and once you turn, establish your brothers (LK 22: 31). St. John Chrysostom so interprets this passage: "What does it mean to" sow "? Drive, traverse, shake, move, shake, tear, as happens with seeds sifted through a sieve; but I did not allow it, he said, knowing that you can not bear the temptations, because, the expression: "so that your faith does not fail," shows that if Christ had committed, his faith would have died out. "
And the Monk John Cassian on the words of the temptation in the prayer "Our Father" writes: "So, the words of the prayer:" do not lead us into temptation "- not that mean" do not let us ever taste, "but" do not let us be defeated in temptation. "
Job was tempted, but not tempted, for "not to the dada of insanity to God" (and did not say anything unreasonable about God), and did not defile the mouth with blasphemy, which he inclined to tempter. We were tempted by Abraham, we were tempted by Joseph, but neither was introduced into temptation, for none fulfilled the will of the tempter. "
When a person is in the face of temptation, the whole Church and all his close Christians should prayerfully mobilize, stand shoulder to shoulder in order to provide all possible spiritual and moral support in this trial. This is the subtle duality of temptation: on the one hand, it is necessary for man, and on the other - requires extreme attention, caution, concentration, full trust in God, without whose help the temptation can simply crush the person and the devil will triumph over him.
That is why the believer in no case should independently seek "to run into" temptations, about which Basil the Great writes, for example: "One should not throw oneself into temptations before the time, before God's that visit, but on the contrary, one should pray that to fall into them. " And Isaac the Syrian warns: "Pray not to enter into temptation first of all concerning your faith." The Holy tells us that the devil always tries to inflict his main blow precisely on our faith. Therefore, in no case should one lose the presence of God: a person - in whatever situation he is - must understand that the test he is going through is not an accident. He must look at temptation with the eyes of faith, not allowing annoyance, irritation, murmur: such a reaction is engendered by our egoism. And if a person admitted a murmur, then, as we have already said, he becomes external, and therefore extremely vulnerable. The external must be transformed into the inner, and the inner one - this is the sphere of faith: Faith is the fulfillment of the expected and the confidence in the invisible (Heb. 11: 1).
One can give an example to better understand what the holy fathers are writing about. Imagine a small child crawling around, trying to touch everything, he is interested in everything. He is in the stage of the first and most fascinating acquaintance with the world. And in the process of this acquaintance, though he gets abrasions, accumulates experience of his first mistakes, but nevertheless, the world itself is developing, comprehending itself in the world. However, if parents do not follow him, if he is alone with this completely unfamiliar world, his life will be in jeopardy.
So God, through the temptations with which He allows us to experience us, enables us to move towards perfection, righteousness, or, if you will, spiritual maturation. But, as a caring Parent, the Lord does not leave us alone with these trials, so that we will not be mutilated and not perish, but move towards the Good.
- What help does the Church have in tempting a person?
- God, for that, arranged the Church, that in it we receive help through the ordinances established by Him, we gain support through the instructions of the priesthood. Only in the Church, a person weakened by struggle, embarrassed, sometimes completely lost, can receive the necessary strengthening. Here he is met by the confessor, here God invisibly strengthens him, gives him food - Holy Communion, sanctifies the feat of this man, so that he was not suffering, but holy. So a person, being in the Church, becomes a real soldier of Christ.
- But how to understand what is temptation, and what is not? Are there any criteria?
- No, of course, no criteria. Temptation is always an individual, personal event. And only the person himself is able to determine for himself what is happening to him and what he is going through.
We are too used to labels, to some understandable delimiters, to instructions written for us, and this is very dangerous. Because the spiritual life of a person can not be adjusted to a grid of rigid classifications, which we then blindly follow.
A living, creative way of faith with such an approach is simply impossible. That is why, by the way, when believers today call all their life's failures a temptation, they will idle talk, and in idle talk, it is said, you can not escape sin (Proverb 10: 19).
- And in your life have there been such events that you accurately determined for yourself as temptations?
- No, this does not sound like a dictaphone. This is always kept secret and I will never talk about it publicly. It is impossible to bring the inner life of any person to the court of a journal article.
It must be remembered that temptation is a school in which we learn to be "conductors" of the continuous flow of Divine love. In temptation, we remelt our heart, discovering a completely new view of the world - the look of love. And love is the most important name of God. So a person becomes a co-worker with God, and even more - becomes God by grace.