Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Nistheros

“The good Christian,” says the wise Abba Nistheros, “must take account of himself morning and evening and say: ‘What, from all that God desires, did I do, and what did I neglect to do?’ Only in this manner will one succeed in conducting himself in accordance with the will of God.”

I love this Saying.  In much of the Orthodox theology I’ve read over the years, sanctification is very much a journey to get to God. Tito Colliander, a Finnish Eastern Orthodox writer,  wrote a wonderful little book which I am delighted to see is still in print calledWay of the Ascetics: The Ancient Tradition of Discipline and Inner Growth.

Salvation is not taken for granted as a result of baptism or as a result of accepting Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior and asking Him to take over one’s heart. Salvation is attained through holy living.

Abba Nistheros reminds us that to pause in the day to personally recollect if the way we lived this day might have been pleasing to God.  The General Confession of the Book of Common Prayer expresses it this way. ” we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”

One other thought is about making a good death. Many Christian writers over the centuries have written about the spiritual experience of making a good death.  When a person accepts and acknowledges that death is imminent and is surrounded by loved ones, commits one’s self into the hands of God, that is a good death.

Of course, these days what with the wonders of medical science, it is somewhat harder to achieve.  But it can be done.  A friend of mine recently lost her father to cancer and the manner of his dying was excruciatingly painful for all who loved him, and yet at the same time, the description was beautiful. Heartbreakingly, movingly beautiful.

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