It may be happening to you right now. You’ve gone through your ”Epiphany” and conversion with God and you’re in your room right now surrounded by crosses of all sorts, icons and statues.
The great feast is happening and you’re indulging in every prayer and spiritual conversation.
Great, but watch out, because the devil is lurking around too, and your little Epiphany is about to get its rude interruption.
There are many tactics of the devil and I’ve often found the most obvious is spiritual burnout. This is where a newcomer to the Christian church is so excited about his newfound spiritual encounter with Christ, he stays up all night praying and will only engage with people when the conversation of of God and things about the weather or what was on tv last night don’t interest him.
Believe it or not this is the language of the angels that he is behaving like, he’s exeriencing and behaving like they do in Heaven. However, the devil often intervenes and sows the seed in the mans mind that he’s not doing enough and that he should do even MORE prayers and go to mass not once but TWICE a day and confession should be heard EVERY DAY etc etc.
Before you know it he becomes utterly exhausted and then will likely abandon the faith, that’s if he doesn’t survive the Epiphany and live through the burnout to see another day.
It’s a great time but it’s also a dangerous one if we are not careful.
Anyway one of these interruptions by the devil that is less obvious is theological study. When the beginner is let down from the breast of consolation he begins to miss these graces and he wants these more than he wants his relationship with God. He idolises them and unknown to himself he gradually begins to fall.
He’s constantly trying to regain them. One area he thinks he’ll get it is in theological study groups from small classrooms to the big university. He decides he’s going to be a theologian. Here is where the devil steps in and slowly and gradually the spirit of the pharisee begins to take hold and he becomes a self styled ”doctor” of the law and every canon in the church.
He then turns his attention to theological study so much that he forgets what it means to be a true theologian…to pray.
Then, because he finds himself not really able to regain the graces and consolations through all this education and is disliking all the dryness, he becomes like the servant Jesus speaks of in the Gospel who feels his master has gone away and is taking his time and so sets himself up as the spiritual police in the church going around hitting everybody and beating them with his harsh words of rebuke.
This idolisation of the intellect is a difficult one to grasp and the devil has lured many into its trap. We are not talking about just anyone but great spiritual writers who fell away from the church because of it. These include the great early fathers Tertullian and Origen as well as people like Evagrios who himself at one stage said ”He who prays truly is a theologian and he is a theologian who prays truly. ”
Even himself fell for the wiles of the devil and fell into the trap of becoming the self styled expert.
Today is no different, there are many of us out there on the internet and social media who think ”we know a thing or two” about the Christian faith we so dearly hold.
I strongly believe that the study of theology should have remained with the priesthood instead of being let loose as now every tom dick and harry is a theologian.
Why should it remain in the priesthood? because in the hands of worldly people not living a life close to God that is more likely to be lived out in the priesthood than in the laity, theology is dangerous. It’s like handing out medecine with no instructions or guide and we all need a guide. It’s like looking at the sun without protective glasses. We all need a spiritual guide.
But until then, a little reading here nor there and simply practicing the sacraments suffices for me. Still think you need to attend that theology class? take a look at St.Joseph of cupertino. Dumb as rocks he was, couldn’t read nor write ….but he could levitate in prayer and was a saint.
Education is important but you’re better off treading that minefield carefully as you don’t want to end up like Tertullian or Origen.