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Soul and Self

“It is impossible to know God and not know the self. It is also the case that it is impossible to know the self and not know God. St. Gregory of Nyssa described the soul as a “mirror.” And though this image can be abused, it is, nevertheless, the case that it is within the soul that we see and encounter God. The search for God is thus a search for the self as well. If these are authentic, they tend to occur together.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“…we believe that God is in the “depths” of our lives as the source, and up from this source flows many forms, seeking always to incarnate His presence. In its face we cannot rest; our reaction to this “flow” cannot be one of fatigue. Saint Gregory of Nazianzos knew this: “Now it is time, truly it is time, oh my soul, to know yourself and your destiny … Look to yourself, oh my soul! Yield not to fatigue.” Saint Antony said, further, “He who knows himself, knows everything,” and Saint Peter of Damascus adds, “To him who has come to know himself is given knowledge of all things.” (Metropolitan Philip Saliba and Fr. Joseph Allen)

“True self-knowledge is to see one’s own defects and weaknesses so clearly that they fill our whole view. And mark this — the more you see yourself at fault and deserving of every censure, the more you will advance. Until the soul is established with the mind in the heart, it does not see itself, nor is it properly aware of itself.” (St. Theophan the Recluse)

“I marvel at the ache of the soul, how it winds its way like water around the objects we place in its path. What a glorious thing. No dam of bounty, status, noise, psychology, or distraction is sufficient to protect us when the pangs of our true selves come calling. I have felt my share. And like my fellow night pilgrims, steering toward whatever they have constructed as their promised lands, I am simply trying to keep my eyes on the road and trust it takes me to a better place. I have lived for a brief time in the warm fold of Valaam Monastery with men and women who are responding to the pangs of their true selves. They, and their spiritual ancestors, tell me that the true self is not the distorted, hollow construction of personal whim and cultural manipulation that so often meets our gaze when we look courageously into ourselves. No, the true self is the shining pearl beneath. It is the image of God that bears my name. And it is worthy of deep respect and vigorous celebration. It is worth rescuing.” (Fr John Oliver)

“Since our soul is wounded with inordinate self-love, or worship of self, which is the basis of all the other corrupting passions, struggle or effort must be expended, in order to put our faith into action. In this way, divine Grace assists us in the struggle and we experience purification from the passions.” (His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph)

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