On the Grace of God and Human Efforts

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St. Theophan the Recluse  1815-1894

A God-pleasing life is nurtured by both [grace and zeal] inseparably. Grace will not lend any help without our own efforts, nor can our own efforts do anything lasting without God’s grace. It is the union of of freedom and grace that accomplishes the task. Do not ask which is larger, which smaller; which one begins, which follows because we cannot comprehend this. But simply bear in mind: Both are equally important, for one can do nothing in us without the other.

Hasten to accomplish what is in your power, like the holy Prophet David, who first mentioned zeal, but then called for grace. What is from God is always ready, if only we were ready. For that reason, he does not augment his prayer, but only cries: Oh, that my ways were directed! (Ps. 118 (119):5)

To graft commandments to the heart to such an extent that they will permanently dwell there and direct the heart itself — this is the doing of God’s grace. No matter how hard he may try, man cannot do it on his own. Thus, with all man’s efforts, the transformation of the heart is achieved through grace and through grace alone. Here is the substantial difference between a Christian and a pagan!

Yet without works and spiritual deeds in fulfilling the commandments, grace will not graft anything to the heart, leaving it as it is, with all its passionate tastes and attractions, even though a person may have been baptized and partakes of other sacraments. Here lies the difference between Christians who toil hard spiritually and those who do not find it necessary to constrain themselves, although they conduct themselves honestly. The law do spiritual life dictates that what a person does not struggle for will it be given by God’s grace, although with his own effort alone he will not succeed in anything. (Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, p. 23, 38-39)