“Father Maxim,” I began as we walked at the center of the road, “the other day you said something that puzzled me.”
"What did I say?"
"That the Ecclesia (εκκλησία, Greek word for Church) is an arena of an ongoing battle, an ongoing warfare, spiritual warfare as you put it. This is military language."
"Why did it puzzle you?"
"I was under the impression that the Ecclesia is a harbor of peace and healing, not a battleground."
"Of course it is a harbor of peace and healing. Let me explain so that you don't get scandalized. You have to realize that the Ecclesia is available to us as a vehicle for our salvation. Such a pursuit implies a struggle against those forces that labor to block our ascent toward God."
"I assume you mean satanic forces."
"What else? We need to learn how to engage in this spiritual warfare in order to prevent such adversary forces from sabotaging our ascent toward God. This is what Apostle Paul and the other elders of the Ecclesia taught us. That we need to become experienced warriors of this relentless spiritual struggle." Father Maximos paced a few more steps and continued. "We need to become aware of the machinations and duplicitous ways of these forces so that we don't end up becoming their victims."
Father Maximos looked pensive. Then, seemingly changing the subject, he continued. "People are confused. They think that the aim of our existence is primarily to become good human beings, or to become moral, socially well-adjusted, and well-balanced personalities."
"I thought becoming good is what the Ecclesia is all about."
"No, not only that. This pietistic notion is not the essential purpose of the Ecclesia. It is a gross misconception. What the Ecclesia primarily teaches," Father Maximos said emphatically, "is the means through which a human soul may attain Christification, its saintliness, its union with God. The ultimate goal is to become perfect in the same way as our Heavenly Father is perfect, to become one with God. Christ didn't come into the world to teach us how to become good fellows, how to behave properly, or how to live a righteous life in this world. Nor did he come to offer us a book, even if this book is called the Bible or the New Testament."
"Well?" I probed as Father Maximos stood still for a few seconds and looked upward toward the heavens, marveling at the Milky Way. With no moon and no artificial lights anywhere near, the night was perfectly crystal clear. Father Maximos remained silent for a few seconds. Then he went on.
"He came to the world to give us Himself. To show us the Way toward our salvation," he replied as we resumed our walking. "Don't you remember what Athanasios the Great said? 'God became human so that humans may become God?' "
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Excerpt from: The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality, by Kyriacos C. Markide. Published by Image (Doubleday), New York, NY, 2001 ISBN: 0-385-50092-0. Pages 116-117.