Whereas we have become concerned with the external sin and the details of who, what, where and when. It has not always been so. The patristic writings of the Church are concerned, almost exclusively, with asking the question, “why?” Surgeons get paid the big bucks to remove the cause of our physical symptoms. We want to imitate them and move, as best we can, to investigate the root causes of our sin. The hope is to get to where disease can be caught early and eradicated.
Most of us go to confession prepared to recite all the symptoms of our disease. It is true that the symptoms can help us discover the nature of the disease. But confessing the symptoms does not always seem to bring the healing freedom we hope for from Christ. We are after full and radical healing so we need to find what works. Freedom in Christ sometimes requires finding the triggers, the dis-ease of the soul and the unhealed emotional wounds that act out in destructive repetitive behaviors.
The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church have identified several steps a temptation takes to captivate and ensnare us. It is the process of the will where we move from freedom to slavery. The list that follows is from the book “The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit” and is a helpful example how temptation moves from a simple suggestion that can be easily pushed aside to a full-blown addiction where we are trapped. Here is the list. Let me know what you think.
- Provocation: the suggestion that first emerges that can incline either to virtue or vice. This is the spot to recognize and cut it off.
- Conjunction: responding with feelings which can either reject the sinful idea or entertain the idea
- Joining: when we haven’t rejected the sinful idea we move from entertaining it be an inclination to act upon the thought
- Struggle: the moments between willfully entertaining the sin and the decision to commit the sin.
- Habit: responding to the evil until it becomes a more constant feature of character. At this step the mind is preoccupied with the passionate urge
- Captivity: man gladly and violently rushes to satisfy this passion.