November 11, 2014

Homilies on the "Lord's Prayer", Also Known as the "Our Father" (7 of 9)

"And Bring Us Not Into Temptation"

The entire life of man is an ordeal. For this reason Christ taught us to pray to God - "Father, do not allow us to enter into temptations, precisely because we are weak and sick." Besides, all the discomforts that have come into our life are a continuation of that first and great temptation received by the first-formed in Paradise. They succumbed to the temptation, even though they had the Grace of God and were entering into communion with Him. How much more can this happen to us who have a mortal and impassioned body, with all its consequences.

The [Greek] word temptation (πειρασμός) comes from the verb "tempt" (πειράζω) which means "to test", "to examine", or to put it in a bad sense it means "seeking to be seduced". Hence, temptation means whatever tests us, putting us into testing and examination and seeking to seduce us in order to lead us far from God.

In Holy Scripture temptation is not abstract, but it is a particular person, which is why the devil is characterized as the "tempter". This "tempter" tested Christ in the desert with the known three temptations, and of course was defeated by Christ, because the human nature was employed by the divine nature in Christ and the devil could never have been victorious. Through the various events of life, with thoughts, fantasies and the challenges of the senses, the devil tempts us, teases us and tries to turn us against God.

Temptations, according to the Fathers of the Church, are of two kinds. There are those that come from pleasure and those that come from pain. Temptations of pleasure are voluntary, since we cause them or seek them with our freedom and we enjoy them. Temptations of pain, which are associated with sickness, pain, poverty and death we do not seek, but they come to us due to the perishability of our nature. Just as temptations of voluntary pleasure and involuntary pain differ, so also should they be treated in different ways. Voluntary temptations of pleasure we should avoid, to avoid seeing and hearing what will cause us pleasure and enjoyment. For involuntary temptations of pain, such as the sickness, pain or death of our loved ones, we must pray that they not come, but when they do come we should endure them with patience and ask for God's help.

Christ teaches us to ask God that He not allow temptations, meaning the involuntary temptations of pain, thereby demonstrating our vileness, that we are weak and in this way He suppresses our conceit. This means that we should not willingly rush towards temptations, but to humbly seek from God to not allow them. Thus, with such a humble spirit, the victory, with God's help, will be brighter and the defeat of the devil more laughable.

The phrase "and bring us not into temptation" shows us something else that should be highlighted, that the God Who runs the world and our personal lives allows temptations to come to us, mostly the involuntary and painful ones. And the question is why God allows it. The Fathers write that temptations are permitted by God, sometimes out of His good pleasure, because he wants to show our faith and patience, as well as to sanctify us more; sometimes by economy and concession, to protect us from some evil that would take place if we did not have temptations or in order for us to repent of some sin we committed; and sometimes as abandonment, because the Grace of God is removed from us due to various sins we commit and we have not felt the need to repent.

There is no man who does not receive temptations in their life, whether they be voluntary temptations of pleasure of involuntary temptations of pain, whether through thoughts or desires put into us by the devil, or through people and situations that the devil uses to tempt us. The issue is how we deal with these temptations. Because the way we deal with them determines our salvation or our condemnation. Our effort to avoid the temptations of pleasure and supplicating God to not allow involuntary temptations of pain to come, and when they do come we must endure them with fortitude and faith in God, this is what will help us return to the state from which the First-formed fell. But all these things take place with the help of God and our freedom.