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Spiritual Progress and Regress

“It is not those who begin the race who are seen as champions, but only those who finish the race. As Jesus taught us in Matthew 10:22 – “… he who endures to the end will be saved.” So too, in the spiritual life it is those who persist in the faith to the end who partake of Christ. (The rest abandon Him sometime along the way).” (Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“The spirit of persistence springs from an inward conviction that life is but one single way that leads to the kingdom of heaven. Persistence in walking along that is then the only means of arrival, the only means of overcoming difficulties. Those who stop on the way, for whatever reason, have fallen in Satan’s snares: ‘Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you’ (Jn 12:35). That is, so long as you walk, the light attends you and leads you, but if you stop, darkness—that is, the enemy—will overtake you at once. Regression is a kind of miscarriage of the soul, a failure, and a fall into its deadly pride and its strange desire for perdition: ‘No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God‘ (Luke 9:62).” (Matthew the Poor)

“The world is not set up to guarantee us permanent bliss in this life. Any progress that we make in revealing the image and likeness of God can be quickly and easily undone, even in a moment...Under stress, we all regress….People these days do not value things that last. But when the trials of life come, they realize that they have taken the good things of life for granted, and what is valuable has slipped away from them. Then, they begin to seek something that endures….Indeed, all of us have limits. And yet we find in the Church people who are able to endure, by the grace of God, and not just “for a time” (Mk 9:17). Endurance is a matter for prayer. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).” (Rev. Christopher H. Martin, St. Basil, Dynamis 9/7/2020)

“Due to the frenetic pace of our life and at times to needing a break from this work, we may forget what we learned and relapse into old ways of thinking, perceiving, and behaving. Healing work must become a part of our daily spiritual activity or ascesis. So long as we integrate this work and newfound insight and self-awareness into our daily spiritual practice, any serious setbacks or regressions should be minimal and easy to recover from.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)

“Every year we have autumn and winter when things begin to die and then die, and spring and summer when things begin to come back to life and then come back to life fully. What we see in physical nature is part of spiritual nature too. Often something about our lives and ourselves must begin to die and then completely die so that something better can fully live. The biggest death internal to us is that of the self or ego. The irony is that it is not truly the self or who we are. It is the false self that we cling to but we don’t see it that way until something jolts us, such as suffering, which God often permits so we can wake up. Once we die to that self and literally invite God into us, we become who we are meant to be, our true self. Sadly, many of us regress and go back to the old self. But God does not abandon us when we do that and continues to wait for us to choose Him again.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“We should always be wary of applying linear notions of progress to our prayer life and asking ourselves: “What stage am I in?” “How far have I progressed?” Whatever “progress” in prayer is supposed to mean, it certainly doesn’t work like that.” (Martin Laird) “We think we know a lot, but what we know is very little. Even those who have striven all their lives to bring progress to mankind—learned scientists and highly educated people—all realize in the end that all their knowledge is but a grain of sand on the seashore. All our achievements are insufficient… When a person is meek and humble, he will advance in knowledge.” (Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica)

“The Myth of Progress proves to be irresistible, especially to those repelled by traditional Christianity and its unpleasant doctrines of guilt, judgment, and repentance." (Joseph Loconte)

“We all have a natural tendency to lay blame on others, when in truth we must blame only ourselves. When facing our own sins and shortcomings, it is easy to put the blame on others, yet our faith tells us that spiritual progress can come only with the acquisition of a humble and contrite heart. As long as we put the blame on others for our shortcomings, we remain stagnant on the spiritual path. The saints give a clear witness that progress toward holiness comes when we look only at our own faults.” (Abbot Tryphon)

“Even in our relationship with God, we experience mountain tops and valleys, or what some of the Fathers refer to as the abundance of Grace and the withdrawal of Grace. Of course, in a very important sense, abundance and withdrawal of Grace refer our experience. Our experience of abundance and withdrawal of Grace does not mean that God is any less present in our lives. God is present in the abundance of Grace and in the withdrawal. Nonetheless, the mountain tops and valleys of our spiritual life are often quite troubling. Each new valley brings us again to our knees as we wonder if we have made any progress whatsoever in our spiritual life, if we have taken even one step nearer to God. When we are on the mountain top we think we have finally made it, that we have finally acquired a bit of the Grace of God.” (Fr. Michael Gillis)

"By keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ, we are empowered to move toward holiness of life, for the good that rises up in our hearts comes from Him. As we struggle for transformation of heart, even if we fall a dozen times, we do make progress, and each step we take brings us closer to the Kingdom of God.” (Abbot Tryphon)

“We often write and talk about our “walk with God” not our “run with God.” This is because… walking is a biblical expression that pictures a believer’s steady normal progress with God.” (Sacramental Living Blog, Foundation Study Bible, Ephesians 2:2)

"If we are to make spiritual progress, we must not, and cannot, constantly give in to whatever we want, whenever we want it…spiritual progress comes from a dedication and focus on our sacramental life with often include moderating ourselves…Asceticism is an unpleasant idea in our present culture, which measures happiness and progress with the increase of capital and consumption." (Archimandrite Sergius, Sacramental Living Ministries, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon)

“God reveals Himself to the human race gradually, making known His energies and attributes … do you see how we learn all things by gradual advance?...Our lives are always a work in progress (Demetrios J. Constantelos, St. John Chrysostom, Dynamis 4/8/2015)

“For change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged. A small oak grows into a big oak: if it became a beech, that would not be growth, but mere change.” (C. S. Lewis)

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