BY FATHER EL MESKEEN
“He who follows, grows and becomes free”
The Spiritual Law is generous and positive, like God Himself.
From Spiritual Economy, by Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor), Spiritual Father of the Monastery of St. Macarius, in the ancient desert of Scetis
Part III – The Spiritual Law is the law of love…
In this spirit, when a person begins praying (particularly with the Psalms) he feels that the words in his mouth are not ordinary, since they bear new meanings, directions, and promises for him. For although the word uttered by his mouth is the same as that which is recorded in the psalm, it nevertheless becomes as though it were uttered by God to give him a satisfying answer, comfort, or a promise of salvation. This, in spite of the fact that prayer seems as though it were issued on the part of man alone; for the Holy Spirit secretly enters into prayer and begins answering a person with the self-same words that have been uttered.
This is the key to inward economy, for without the Holy Spirit’s intervention in prayer, words become very feeble and devoid of any directed message: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Rom 8:26). As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit will never cease guiding anyone who is open-hearted and open-minded, but will implement the words of prayer and reading in an amazingly shrewd manner.
Hence, any prayer or reading presented without an open mind and without an intention to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, is regarded as being foreign to well-managed spiritual economy, and its owner never reaps from it any considerable progress: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 7:21); “I will pray with the spirit and with the mind also” (1 Cor 14:15).
Prayer is a spiritual rule, and as such is absolutely positive. Spiritual rules are neither like the physical laws of nature, nor are they like the laws of the state which the government establishes to guarantee security and justice. Physical laws are generally locked, that is, they do not open towards anything beyond themselves. They are stingy, they punish but do not reward. Actually, they limit the freedom of man.
The rules of spirituality, however, are like the steps of a ladder; if you stand firmly on one step, then that step qualifies you for ascending to the next one up. Here, ascent is infinite, for spirituality has no limits. Hence it is easy to see that spiritual laws are not locked. It then follows that in our feelings we must not confuse physical with spiritual laws, and thus, on account of our painful physical experience with the word law, become anxious over spiritual laws.
Law in spirituality is very generous, and he who abides by it gains infinitely. If you obey faithfully, you are made fit for a higher rule with more generosity and freedom. But anyone who rejects or violates spiritual law does not fall under its vengeance like one who ignores the law of gravity or violates the law of the state. Spiritual law is genuinely positive; as with God himself, there is no negativism in it whatsoever. Another way of putting it is that it is only by accepting and obeying God that you can have a relationship with him.
He who follows, grows and becomes free; but he who rejects spiritual law deprives himself of growth and freedom. If you would like to consider a simple illustration of the work of spiritual law, you can find it in the saying of Christ: “Walk while you have the light lest the darkness overtake you” (John 12:35). Spiritual law is, as it were, a light in which we take refuge in order to walk; in its guidance we progress step by step. So long as we cling to the Light, we progress. If however, we neglect or ignore it, it will not abandon us or avenge itself upon us, but darkness will overtake us and we shall no longer be able to walk…
If we follow this law, we walk in the light… we shall grow in love… For we shall walk, by necessity to the source of light itself, that is to say, to Christ who is Light; meaning that we will grow in love till we reach the fullness of the stature of Christ who is perfect love. This is an exquisite expression of growth without end…
To be continued