In chapter four of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Saint Paul, we read very profound and significant words which I would like to explain: “But even if our outer person is wasting away, our inner person is being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4, 16).
Who is this outer person? That’s the one who’s well-known to people, who consists of flesh and blood, of a nervous system and bones. The person who perceives external, material nature through the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Its spiritual life is restricted to the perception of material creation through the five senses and the processing of this by the intellect and the heart. Its interest in spiritual matters hardly ever transcends its earthly interests.
But from as early as ancient times, there have always been deep thinkers who have understood that the life of our soul and spirit isn’t determined simply by reactions to the material world. They understood that people have the ability to realize that there is a spiritual world. The Greek philosopher Plotinus compared that double life of the soul and spirit to that of amphibious animals which are able to live on land as well as in water. In the same way, the human soul lives not only with earthly thoughts and the perceptions of the five senses, but also has an incomprehensible, sixth sense, unknown to us, which is the means of receiving the secret admonitions of the Holy Spirit and the awareness of its guardian angel. Through this we can have a profound, living, relationship with God, the Angels, the Mother of God and the Saints, through our prayers.
Inexplicable premonitions, forecasts, foretelling and prophetic dreams also belong to this spiritual manner of dealing with the world. Everyone should read the Book of Esther in the Bible, which begins with the astonishing narrative of a prophetic dream of Mordechai concerning his struggle against Haman. The dream later became true in all its smallest details.
Martin Luther once found in a library an old theological essay in which he read an idea which made a great impression on him. The author said that the human soul has two eyes. One is turned towards people’s ordinary lives, while the other has the ability to view life in the other world, which, in essence, is its destination anyway. But these eyes can only function separately from each other and the spiritual life becomes visible only when the eye that beholds the material world is closed.
Another way of looking at this is that the stars shine in the heavens during the day as well, but we don’t see them because the light of the sun blocks them out. The stars begin to appear only when the sun sets and night falls. In the same way, it is only when the hubbub of worldly cares fades that the soul can hear the faint and gentle voices from the world above.
Our inner person, then, is our spirit, which is directed above, to the heavens and is free of worldly interests and desires. The life of people who are spiritual differs radically from that of worldly people in that the longer people who are worldly live, the more they wither and grow old. Their bodies, starting at forty or even earlier, begin a process of degeneration: the muscles weaken, they have difficulty in walking, sight and hearing become weaker, the memory starts to go and the teeth fall out.
But the internal person, on the other hand, is renewed throughout the course of our conscious lives, as long as the spirit isn’t dragged through the mud of our life on earth and remembers the words of Saint Paul: “Lift up your hearts”. If that eye of ours that sees only the things here on earth becomes weaker and, in the end gives out completely, then the other one, whose function it is to gaze upon the spiritual world, begins to see more clearly. So, in this way, our inner person is renewed day by day and comes closer to God.
So far, when I’ve mentioned the impact of the other world on the inner person I’ve been talking only about the actions of the Holy Spirit and of the luminous powers on high. But it’s extremely important for us to remember that the dark powers of Hell, the devil and his angels also exercise other kinds of invisible forces on us. With everything in their power they try to hinder the task of renewal of our internal person and to prevent it from making its way to God.
I hope, my brothers and sisters, that you know the words of Saint Paul in all their profundity. “But even if our outer person is wasting away, our inner person is being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4, 16). I expect that you can draw your own conclusions from what I’ve said to you and understand that the aim of our life is the renewal of our soul with great patience on this cheerless and thorny path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s also the tireless battle against the devil and his evil angels, who attempt to deceive us and draw us aside from this road of salvation.
The divine assistance of the Holy Trinity will strengthen us along this difficult path. Amen.