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March 29, 2022

An Interpretation of the Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian: On Lust for Power (4)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

"Lord and Master of my life, give me not a spirit of lust for power."

What is the spirit of lust for power? This is the desire to excel, to rule over others, to take first place. This striving to excel destroyed the archangel - the head of all angels - and made him Satan, that cast him out of heaven. This desire to dominate ruined Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who envied the glory of Moses when he led the people of Israel through the wilderness into the land of Canaan; they wanted to overthrow him and usurp power, and the Lord punished them with a terrible execution: the earth opened up and swallowed them up with all their families.

Lust for power moved all heretics who exalted themselves above the Church of Christ; they wanted to put their own selves in place of the current of the Church, or else they wanted to become leaders in the Church.

Lust for power moved all people who shook the world with their national uprisings. There were writers with corrupt thoughts who corrupted entire generations.

Lust for power - the passion to rule - the Lord Jesus Christ condemned in a speech against the Scribes and Pharisees, the hypocrites. He condemned their passion to be the first, their desire to be presented at feasts, to receive greetings befitting the leaders of the people. The Lord condemned them and said to His disciples, and through them to all of us: "Whoever wants to be the first, let him be ... a servant to all" (Mark 9:35). This is the opposite of lust for power - it commands to strive not for a high position, but to be the last, to be a servant to everyone.

You see how lust for power is a passion to have influence, a passion to take first place, how it is contrary to the spirit of the gospel, the spirit of humility. And it owns everyone, there is no one who would not be infected with it - even small children. We know how it happens when children play: some little boy will stand out, start to lead, then command everyone, he is ready to join the fight when someone disputes his primacy of leadership.

Even among hermits, even in monasteries, where there should be no arbitrariness, where everyone must remember the commandment to be a servant to everyone, even there lust for power rules people, although in a secret form. Before people, they do not seek primacy, but by excessive fasting and vigil they try to excel over everyone.

In worldly life, this passion dominates everyone: everyone strives for the highest position, they crave encouragement, everyone wants honor. Many parents instill ambition in their children, a passion to excel, try to make them occupy the highest position in life, and thereby corrupt their children.

Isn’t it necessary to understand that the highest position is the lot of the few, that everyone cannot excel, occupy a high position. In fact, this is the lot of exceptional people, marked by God. Extremely many strive to occupy such a social position, do not disdain any means to achieve this goal, use connections, fawn, serve, will do anything just to achieve their goal, to occupy a high position in society, to become one of those in power.

Often the Lord punishes them: their unhappy passion ends in failure. They become embittered, refuse public work, go into the family circle and become isolated in family life. But pride torments them even here, and they torment their families, they torment their neighbors, and there is no peace in their souls.

These are the fruits of lust for power, that is why Saint Ephraim in his great prayer asks God to deliver him from the corrupting spirit of lust for power, so opposite to humility, without which it is impossible to take a single step in the Christian life.

If so, if it is not necessary to strive for the highest rank, to strive for primacy, how can we say that we should not strive to rise, to strive for the highest dignity, but only the highest, not perishable and worthless dignity, but to acquire that dignity that is great in the eyes of God. The path to honor has been shown to all of us, higher than which there is none, with which no earthly achievements, no honor can be compared. The way to the Kingdom of God is shown to us, it is said that we can become friends of God, children of God. We will achieve this goal only by striving to fulfill all Christ's commandments. There is no need to be embarrassed if we are placed in a low, imperceptible position in society, we must remember that the Lord knows how to lead us onto an extremely wide path when we do not wait, do not strive for earthly glory.

The Lord often, in addition to our efforts and will, gives this glory. Glory flees from those who pursue it, who yearn for it, and finds those who run from it. True glory, glory from God, is given to those who do not pursue it.

It is necessary, without thinking about power over people, to delve into how you can develop your abilities and talents given from God; humbly, quietly delve into the development of one's abilities in silence, in ignorance of the world. And it may happen, as has happened more than once, that the Lord will raise such a person to the unattainable heights of glory.

We know many examples from the history of science and philosophy, from the life of prominent scientists who spent their lives in poverty, in ignorance of the world, were even persecuted and shunned, were in complete contradiction to what people infected with the vice of lust for power are looking for; in silence, in poverty, in solitude, they worked on the tasks of science and philosophy and did deeds that glorified them in the history of mankind, made them bright stars of the progress of mankind.

Remember, the Lord knows how to mark people, to distinguish human deeds done according to the commandments of Christ. "Whoever wants to be the first, let him be the last, let him be a servant to all" (Mark 9:35).

Pray with Ephraim the Syrian for deliverance from the grave vice of lust for power. From this vice may the Lord Jesus Christ deliver you all. Amen.