The fourth spiritual evening discussed another great gift that the Messiah brought us: obedience. When Father Julian of Prodromos Skete in Holy Mount Athos was asked by some fathers about humility, he said: “Oh, humility! Humility is not of the earth. Christ brought it from heaven!”
St Porphyry the Kapsokalivite would say, “Obedience is true humility.” In other words, obedience is the seen form of humility, of the working humility. The essence of obedience, according to Saint Silouan the Athonite, is “trusting what you say more than what I say.”
Obedience is impossible to acquire, it is not natural; Christ brought it to us, and we must ask it of Him day by day. It is the only way to enter His spirit. He is the Obedientiary, par excellence: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6.38); “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4.34); “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22.42).
The holy Apostle Paul urges us to have the mind of Christ: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus … he humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2.5–9); and “… though he was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5.8–9). If we want to be like Him and follow Him, we must acquire obedience.
When the Savior, the Messiah came, He did not propose obedience to Himself, but to the Father. He did not establish Himself as the target (although He was), but as a way to the Father, setting obedience as a principle. He shows us how to do it. “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak of My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” (John 7.16–18).
And He loves to teach us obedience. Father Arsenie Papacioc, in a letter to a nun, wrote: “Do not spoil the joy and hidden beauty offered by obedience, which carries so many mysteries, knowing the Savior commands it because He likes nothing more than to cut off His will right along us. Behold Him, Whom we listen and Who is happy to cut His will along with our own cut will.”
When we are in a dungeon, we must trust the other to get out of it. That is what the Savior did. He came into our dungeon and showed us the way out. And that way is obedience. So, it is necessary to gradually develop our trust in other people more than in ourselves. Thus we will gradually get rid of the dungeon of sin and selfishness.
Saint John Climacus says that “the fathers have laid down that psalmody is a weapon, and prayer is a wall, and honest tears are a bath; but blessed obedience in their judgment is confession of faith (martyrdom), without which no one subject to passions will see the Lord.” So obedience is the means of eliminating passions. St Sophrony the Athonite attests to this as well, “Obedience is the most terrible weapon against the passions.” That’s because by obeying, I deny myself. I cut off my will and selfishness. All passions are based on self-love, egoism. Obedience, along with excising one’s will, is cutting the passions from the root. Root that is nothing but selfishness, self-love.
Obedience can be applied in a variety of ways. Father Zacharias Zacharou says of obedience in the family: “Obedience in family life is not like obedience in a monastery; it is a continuous competition in doing the will of the other. Thus the family lives as in Heaven in full harmony.” In a monastery, an abbot distributes obediences to the monks, who must cut their will, but in a family, obedience is a competition of love in fulfilling the other’s will. The fruits are the same. Obedience must be performed because there is no other way. Only those who practice obedience can taste the richness of life it gives. He who obeys the other receives him in his heart. That is how the heart widens. If we don’t do that, we remain limited.