Purity By Fr Antonios
Category : Social Issues
Published by Shenouda on 2007/10/12



My Lord, I know so little about purity (from the practical, day to day life point of view). Help me now, O Lord, to set down some thoughts, exercises and practices that You have taught me by various means, and I have tried, with variable success. I often forget and peter out in my practice of these as time trundles on, so a written record is a good reminder to me…

The Nature of Lust

Purity means regaining the territory God gave me, and the devil invaded and corrupted. The desire for physical intimacy is holy, intended for use within a whole-person loving, caring and giving relationship with one’s spouse. The devil invaded this territory and corrupted the use of that desire. It is my role to fight, with the grace of God, to win back that territory and restore it to its rightful uses.

And there is a probably a great deal more…

Yet these small facts have You allowed me to see in Your mercy, O Lord, that did not destroy me quickly, but gives me chance after chance. And now, my Lord, help me to put on paper some aids, exercises and methods You are trying to teach my stubborn and sinful soul. Before this, though, I must confess a great truth that should never forget, for I am a weakling and as nought before the well-practiced wiles of the wicked way-layer. That is:-


Purity comes not my own strength and struggle, but through your protection and aid. Certainly, You shall not bless me with this deliverance so long as I am lazy and loafing – in Your love, You never force Your virtues on us. Purity is a prison-cell door of solid iron that I can never move; and I am locked inside in the darkness. But You have slipped the key under the door for me. It is for me to pick it up and turn the latch – that much I am capable of. But it is for you to push the door open, for no-one else has that strength but You!

My efforts are that key. My tiny successes are the encouraging sound of the latch clicking open. Surely my Beloved will quickly set me free…


Prayer is integral to success in attaining the virtue of a pure heart and pure life. You force no-one to accept Your help and grace, but give it only when sincerely invited. But once You answer prayer – my Beloved Lord – it is often in an amazingly powerful way!!! Help me Lord, to set down some practical guidelines for my future memory:-

Our Main Weapons

Lust and Pride

There seems to be a definite relationship between these two major and very stubborn sins. They are related by sharing a common nature – both depending on feeding the ego. But there also seems to be a kind of synergy between them that is so frustrating to the struggling Christian. It works something like this:

When I overcome the sin of lust for a time, against which I have been struggling so hard, I find myself beginning to think of myself as a hero, a success, better than other people and now in a position to lecture them on this and many other areas of life (ie. pride). But pride, of course, separates me from the grace of God, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to humble” (James 4:7). In this graceless state, I become easy prey for the devil, who makes me fall again into lust, but this time with the added, heart-breaking disappointment of knowing from whence I fell. I am humbled, and thus in touch with the grace of God once more, and so I begin to overcome the sin of lust, and the cycle begins again.

Ideally then, my goal should be purity from the sin of lust simultaneously held with true humility. But how can this be achieved?

I suppose that I must find other sources to feed my humility. In truth, there is no lack of sins in my weak and faulty nature, yet none of them seems to carry the same ability to humble me as lust does. Perhaps I don’t take them seriously enough? Perhaps I dismiss them as ‘minor’ and believe that they do not matter all that much to God? But in reality, even the smallest sin is still by its very nature a betrayal of God, no matter how large or small it may be. There is indeed such a long way to go!

I also need to free myself of the false notion that freedom from lust is equal to holiness. In fact, the instinct, the basic animal desire will always be in me as a human being, always with the potential at any time to take over again and overcome me. My periods of grace are analogous to keeping a wild wolf tied up in the backyard, starved and ravenous. If I’m not careful, it could get loose, or I could go too close and be seriously injured, if not killed. I think it is only those who reach the very highest of spiritual levels whose nature itself is totally and permanently rid of any desire or lust. And, of course, those who are dead.

Humiliating experiences are invaluable in this context! They may be very uncomfortable at the time, and afterwards as well, but they can be a most powerful weapon in fighting the demon Pride and bringing me back down to reality. However, the flip side is that if things go too wrong for too long, one is susceptible to despair. One can lose hope in God’s grace and give up altogether. Or one can seek comfort and consolation by losing oneself in a familiar old sin, including lust. This consolation is, of course, only temporary, and leads to an even greater sorrow and despair, but try telling that to the crazed drug addict mesmerised by his need for his next ‘hit’!

Practical Strategies

The Greek word for “Repentance” is METANIOA

“Metania” < - Greek. {Go beyond; change } {Thought; mind}

= a change of heart / attitude / way of thinking

Some “attitudes” or “changes of outlook” that can help in the battle:-