Monday, September 18 (5), 2023
Gal. 4:28-5:10; Mk. 6:54-7:8
The Lord is reproaching the Pharisees [Mk.7:6-8] not for their external order of things and rules of behavior, but rather for obsession with them, for their fixation on the outside worship, for their carelessness about the inner condition of their hearts.
We cannot do without externals. The loftiest innermost matter needs externals, as a means both of expression and protection. Indeed, external is inseparable from internal, as if in a union with one another; it is only in false theories that they are taken apart. But it is also obvious that external by itself is nothing: its value is determined by the inner substance, and if the latter is missing, the former is completely useless.
Though how deeply we are attached to the external appearances, shapes and images of the inner substance! So strongly we tend to link one with the other, that having accomplished the outer part, we are satisfied with it, not even bothering to check whether the substance is present in what we are doing. And because substance is harder to come by, it is perfectly natural to get stuck on externals and forget about the substance.
What is the solution? We ought to control ourselves, always keeping in mind the inner substance, always striving towards it through the external layers and, while properly regarding the externals, measure the success of our spiritual work by how deeply the external is united with the internal. There is no other way out. Attention to oneself, staying sober and watchful are the only leverage for lifting up our weak and earth-bound human nature.
It is also worth noticing that those who have attained to the inner substance in their spiritual life would never disdain the external appearance – although they would not ascribe it an excessive value.