It often seems to me that there is no end to my spiritual struggle. The more I delve into the Orthodox way of life the more it seems I am called to do. This seems to be the very nature of the spiritual path. The more we examine our lives, the more clearly we can see into the depth of our soul and the more we uncover. As we uncover the hidden "gems" buried in our innermost being, the closer we come to God.
A lesson well taught by our spiritual fathers is that the key to spiritual growth is a constant yearning to be more like Christ. To do this we must continually seek a cleansing in spirit and forgiveness for our current ways. This is called metanoia: changing our life to be like His, calling on God to be cleansed and to be forgiven and then to forgive others.
Hieromonk Damascene says,
"As long as we remain in the condition of metanoia, ever deeper levels of our corruption will be revealed to us, and we will be continually purified and re-created by the wordless Word in our hearts."
Archimandrie Sophrony writes,
"Whoever tries to follow Christ 'wherever He goes' (Rev 14:4) will be inevitably rent again and again––at every rise from a lesser to a wider cognition, from a small measure of love to a greater."
The problem of today's culture is that we seek instant gratification. This is what we want from our spiritual life as well. We say a prayer and expect an immediate answer. We correct a bad habit only to find a new one postponing the reward we thought would be ours. Many of today's approaches to spirituality only increase our numbness about our deplorable condition. Pseudo happiness is sought and false joy covers up the real condition of our life that we need to face for out spiritual growth. Continuous metanoia is a lifelong process says Hieromonk Damascene.
"We must understand that , contrary to what our conditioning leads us to expect, inward purification is a lifelong process. Continuous metanioa is the only way:" A miracle––says Fr. Sophrony; "the more is 'see' God, the more ardent does my repentance become, since I the more clearly recognize my unworthiness in His sight."
To practice continual metanoia, we need to embrace watchfulness as the foundation. St. Hesychius writes, "We will travel the road of metanoia correctly if, as we begin to give attention to the spirit, we combine humility with watchfulness and prayer with the power to rebut evil thoughts." Watchfulness (nipsis in Greek) is the state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety.
St. Nicephorus tells us, "Watchfulness is the sign of true repentance (metanoia).... It is the unreserved assurance that our sins are forgiven. It is the beginning of contemplation or, rather, its presupposition, for through it God, descrying its presence in us, reveals Himself to the Spirit. ti is a serenity of the spirit or, rather, the repose bestowed on the soul through God's mercy. It is the subjection of our thoughts, the palace of the mindfulness of God, the stronghold that enables us patiently to accept all that befalls."