For as much then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. 1 Peter 4:1
To obtain a humble and contrite heart one must lean on the ascetic call of Orthodoxy. What this means is that doctrinal study and even in some sense, prayer, are not adequate measures, for these two matters are meant to lead to a greater plain within our lives: sacrifice and struggle. In order to be humble we must first be humbled. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos in Orthodox Psychotherapy (p. 180-189) quotes the Fathers :
Heartache is necessary because even the strictest ascetic life is bogus without it…Many people have worked and continue to work without pain, but because of its absence they are strangers to purity and out of communion with the Holy Spirit, because they have turned aside from the severity of suffering…’We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14, 220).’…Drench your cheeks with the weeping of your eyes…St. Neilos the Ascetic teaches us to pray first for the gift of tears. Likewise if we pray with tears all we ask will be heard…The Fathers teach that we are cleansed from the passions “either through voluntary sufferings of through involuntary misfortunes…When the voluntary ones come first, involuntary ones do not follow.”
Shall we reward ourselves with much luxury? Shall we even do it in the name of God (using His name in vain) by claiming that we have been “blessed” with this luxury – ultimately blessing ourselves? I pray that we would examine ourselves as to whether or not we are living our lives according to how St. Paul has instructed us: by presenting our bodies as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). Through the pain of fasting we can find ourselves within God, thus evolving this pain into joy (Psalm 126:6). Do you have no pain? If not, obtain it! Do you have pain? If so, rejoice in it! If we cannot find pain to purify us, God will certainly find some for us, and this is not likely to be pleasant. In fact, it will be gut-wrenching as we not only repent of our uncleanliness but also our unwillingness to become sacrificial.
As we become sacrificial in our lives, we ultimately become “unsacrificial” in our attitudes. In other words, what we formally called sacrifice we will now call pleasure. The sacrifice is no longer sacrifice to our souls and thus we grow deeper in our sacrificial relationship with God. We are now strengthened to go deeper in battle without being maimed; or as Jacob experienced: hip out of joint!