What emerges in reading the fathers is the subtle and yet intense interior battle that takes place within the human heart. We are often men and women of great contradiction. We can love and hate the same thing at the same time. We can create unholy alliances with others whose passions speak to our own and nurture our own. "Like speaks to like." And so we are taught that we should seek the company of those who love and desire God. Even if our experience in this world is one of isolation, if we feel alone in our pursuit of virtue, we should not be filled with any anxiety. One righteous man who does the will of God is better than a multitude of those who disregard the Commandments. As the Scriptures tell us, “from one wise man a city will be replenished.” Furthermore, when it comes to desire, we must keep Christ clearly before us and keep our eyes upon him. If we are simply following the pack, there will be many things that distract us from Him and losing sight of Him we will turn off of the narrow path that leads to Life. Desire and zeal for the Lord must be sought and grow over time. There is no static position within the spiritual life. Our hearts must long for the Beloved and drive us to pursue Him.
The fathers also speak to us about how necessary it is to test this desire, to scrutinize those who, in particular, are pursuing the ascetic life. As Christ counsels us to count the costs, so we see in the fathers a firmness in challenging those who would follow them in the ascetic life. Self-will and self-esteem offer only temporary motivation. It is love alone that endures.
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