Protopresbyter Dr. Georgios Lekkas is a priest of the Diocese of Belgium
Childhood, adolescence, and adulthood constitute three distinct stages in the spiritual development of a human being.
From a spiritual point of view a ‘child’ is a person who lives centered on himself. He projects his needs onto others, is nourished by their recognition and admiration, perceives everything and everyone as a means of self-preservation, and fears loneliness more than children fear the dark. Fanaticism is a symptom par excellence of this kind of immaturity.
Spiritual childishness is a form of autism. It suggests an inability to communicate with the other, who, as a mere extension of myself, does not exist in actuality, or rather exists only as something expendable. To one who is still a child in spirit, the only person who exists is himself: all others are merely human in form. He can, therefore, sacrifice them on the altar of his self-preservation without any remorse, for they are no more than a necessary means for him to perpetuate his superiority.
One enters spiritual adolescence from the moment one begins to recognize another person as of equal value to oneself. Discovering the value of another usually is usually contingent on having the painful experience of love. A person in love learns the value of the other at the moment he realizes that he himself is nothing without them. For the person in love, the other is no longer a means to perpetuate his superiority, but a fellow human being who is his equal and who may even have the power of life and death over him.
The spiritual ‘adolescent’ knows how to listen to his fellow man, converse with him, learn from him, and finally love him no less than he loves himself. He desires to be a member of a society of others who are at least equal to him, and he recognizes in this society the highest possible form of human life. Sharing is the ultimate manifestation of spiritual adolescence.
The spiritual ‘adult’ is one who lives not just to please another person but to please the God-Man Christ himself. The God-man Jesus created human nature anew so that every man can become by grace what the God-man Jesus is by nature. For the spiritually mature man, Christ is the truest version of himself. He desires to die completely so that he may live wholly and, if possible, only through Christ.
The ‘adult’ according to Christ loves everyone and wishes to serve in everyone the love of Christ that embraces us all.
The deification of man through grace is usually a painful and drawn-out process – like changing one’s skin. The resistances mobilized against it are enormous, but through the grace of God, they all smoothed out as if they were made of paper. The life of the spiritually mature is then summed up in these three expressions: ‘thank you; forgive me; please’. He thanks Christ for everything; he desires to be forgiven, as one who is in all things unworthy of Christ; he begs Him for everything, just as He has willed it for all time. Christ is now the great beloved, not because man is worthy of loving Him, but because He makes Himself known to us as perfect love, which desires us in spite of our darkness.
The stages of man’s spiritual development do not necessarily correspond to the stages of his psycho-physical development. There are many cases of holy men and women who were spiritually mature from their earliest years, just as there were undoubtedly even more cases of spiritual infancy that was never transcended.
Second Sunday of Lent, 12.3.2023.