“If we make every effort to avoid death of the body, still more should it be our endeavor to avoid death of the soul. There is no obstacle for a man who wants to be saved other than negligence and laziness of soul.” ~Saint Anthony the Great
In this world we live in, there is a constant flow of information about how we can best prolong our lives. If we eat these certain foods, take these vitamins and herbs, or do this exercise program, we too can live to be 100. And if we read books, play games, and do puzzles, our minds will still be sharp at 100. There is nothing wrong with doing our best to live healthy lives, to keep our physical and mental bodies in good condition. But we must also remember that human beings are complex. We have a physical body, a mind, and a soul that also needs work. Death is inevitable at some point, but the death of the soul is not inevitable.
- How much of our lives do we spend on improving our bodies through exercise and proper diet?
- How much of our lives have we spent on improving our intellect?
- And finally, how much of our lives have we spent on our souls and matters of eternity?
“People are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent people are not those who have great knowledge of the sayings and books of the wise people of old, but those who have an intelligent soul and can discriminate between good and evil. They avoid what is sinful and harms the soul; and with deep gratitude to God, they resolutely adhere by power of practice to what is good and benefits the soul. These people alone should truly be called intelligent.” ~Saint Anthony the Great
Sin is usually pleasurable and we enjoy it greatly in the moment. It is not until later that we realize what harm it has done to our souls. It is when we recognize this truth that we can begin to purposely avoid these things. These sins can be very small or they can be gigantic in nature. Either way, they should be avoided. Saint Anthony continues:
“The truly intelligent person pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the direction and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul.”
As we take our daily vitamins and exercise our bodies and our minds, we should remember our souls as well. Schedule time to: pray, study Holy Scripture and read spiritually edifying books, participate in Church services, receive Holy Communion, and to give thanks to God throughout each day. If you need a place to begin, this prayer would be a great way to start each morning:
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will; teach me to pray; pray Yourself in me. Amen. ~The Morning Prayer of St. Philaret