The discussion about the struggle with our own demons and with the evil from the world as well was reopened in a short time after I had thought we had clarified this aspect. But the subject was approached again and as the father made me get used to, it reached a way which took off a veil from the eyes of my soul. Thus I understood the meaning of true freedom and the power the vices have upon our souls.
Our Lord Jesus Christ told us: `Be wise like the snakes and meek like the doves`
`It’s true, father and I must admit that I understand the idea of wisdom but I don’t understand quite well that part about freedom.`
`Let’s see then. Do you consider yourself a free person?`
`Depends from what point of view we speak. If I take into account the financial aspect, I have installments at the bank, then I am caught in a system I honor with my presence at my job. At these are added the responsibilities, the duties I have in the family. If I add all these I could not say that I am free.`
`But what about the convicts, are they free?`
`No, not even as I am.`
`You see there are many who are in jail and they are freer than you. There are plenty of examples of people who freed themselves in the meaning discussed by us now and I refer at the saints from the communist jails.
I begin to understand what you mean.
The freedom we are talking about doesn’t mean financial independence to give you the chance to travel anywhere in this world, but at the freedom obtained as a result of the struggle with our own temptations and irrational passions.
`Father here are included as well the addiction of different habits as a form of enclosing our own freedom?`
`Certainly. We can give a classic example well known by everyone and I refer at drugs. Here are included all the things which cause us an addiction and weaken our will: nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana. The addiction of these drugs is directly proportional with the degree of intoxication. But we find many other examples as harmful as these, like those which cause great losses to the families with such an addict. The tasteful victuals can create addiction too and there are many others it’s not necessary to mention. You understand what I mean anyway. Who is addicted to such habits is a man enslaved by his own vices. And to gain our freedom we must struggle with our own passions, with our own inner wishes until we defeat them. This is the idea of freedom. To run away of temptations, vices or other addictions. It doesn’t matter if you have a very hard job or a family for whom you must assume certain responsabilities, since you understood the idea of freedom in a wrong way.
Freedom refers at what may dominate us, may impede us to move forward or pushes us down. These are the things which must be eliminated completely, cut from the root. This thing means in fact spiritual struggle. You must be concerned of this. This is the meaning of your life. Without this struggle where to make steps forward, everything else is mere theory and Orthodoxy has a practical part: the struggle with the personal passions until their defeat. Everything resumes at a single word: the elimination of all the irrational passions.
But there is still something I don’t understand. If everything was given to us why not to use them? Is it wrong to use them? Why be so radical?
`There is nothing forbidden from what exists, everything was created for the man, for his welfare. That’s true. But there is something which you will notice if you look at your inner self carefully. Everything was given to us must be used moderately, with love and gratefulness for the One Who gave them to us. We must live a balanced life without excesses. Have you ever exaggerated with anything?
`With something? With everything. The confession guide you gave me is incomplete. I have something more to add to it.
And how do you interpret this?
That I am a passionate person, full of vices and addictions.
If we were balanced people even if we had everything at our discretion we wouldn’t reach any extreme situations, exaggerations and enslavement by a vice. But the centre of our balance was lost. Better said, we decentred it. And this is because we don’t live a righteous spiritual life. The spiritual struggle is a sport just like any sport, with distinct rules. If you break them you are punished, if you break them badly you are severely punished. We break the rules of the game severely many times and for this reason we are punished accordingly and we come to lose all our control. Especially the control on our life. And when you realize you don’t have control anymore it may be too late. The body says: I want to drink, so you give it to drink, many times in excess. I want to eat much, very much, so you give it as much as it demands. Not to mention other demands, some of them shameful, you fulfill for its sake. The body leads you, it is your master instead of being you its master. It took control over you and you became its slave. You will release yourself only when it won’t do what it wants from you. Look at the smokers. Many of them say:
I give up when I want. But when they try they find there is a force which dominates them, over their powers. Then you realize that someone else is the leader. If you give the freedom of your body someone else takes control over it immediately. The normal question is who takes control?
I don’t know who. The demons?
Yes, this is the answer and we aren’t afraid to say it straightly. In the moment you intend to take back what belongs to you someone else puts you on the top of his list of enemies. In consequence there are bigger temptations and if you are not prepared you fall immediately. You in fact don’t struggle with a passion or an addiction but with a demon who took control on that area. That’s why is terribly hard to win that fight. But it’s not impossible. You give up on alcohol, you are tempted by anger or debauchery. They don’t leave you. They catch youy from where they can. There starts another struggle. And so on till the end. That’s why we can say that the struggle with a passion is a struggle for regaining freedom. From the outside is an inner struggle but in fact is a struggle with an invisible adversary, who is terribly strong and who will attack you until you die. Only when we reach the shunning of passions we can speak about freedom, only then you can say that you are a free man. Once the demon leaves he takes the passion with him so you will be freed of it. In other words you won’t suffer of that passion anymore. You will know that a passion left you when after you gave up on it you look at it with disgust and reject it and it doesn’t attract you anymore. This is the true freedom our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about. When you win the fight the skies are opened.
From what you say I understand that is a long, hard and tiresome struggle.
You better begin it, live taking as models those who succeeded to do this, and I refer at the Holy Fathers, armed with faith in your soul beyond absurd and you will succeed. Orthodoxy is living ardently. The theory is good but you must start the practice. Don’t stand on the edge of the ground, enter the game. There is someone who can pray for you not to fall.
Excerpt from the book Down to earth , complete edition, author Ionuț Riteș.