The word of the day is “inner.” In the rough stretches of our spiritual journey, we need a reason for our hope. Otherwise, we will give up in despair. In today’s reading of 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, Paul explains why he does not lose heart.
Just before this passage, the apostle recounts how he is persevering through countless ordeals. Now the apostle writes that he is “hard-pressed on either side, yet not crushed; …perplexed but not in despair; …persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). But then he discloses the secret of his endurance. He writes, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (OSB vs. 16). Today, we will describe our dual nature and how our inner self is being “renewed,” that is, advanced in its nature from one stage to another (Strong’s #341).
Man is Dual: Exterior and Interior
St. Dimitri of Rostov explains the contrast between the outer and inner person. He writes, “Man is dual: exterior and interior, flesh and spirit. The outer man is visible, of the flesh, but the inner man is invisible, spiritual….” The outer man is composed of many members, but the inner man comes to perfection through his mind—by attention to himself, by fear of the Lord, and by the grace of God” (Igumen-Chariton 1964, 44).
Likewise, St. Simeon the New Theologian teaches, “Of all the visible and invisible creation, man alone is created dual. He has a body composed of four elements, the senses and breath; and he has a soul, invisible, incorporeal, joined to the body in an ineffable manner; they interpenetrate and yet are not compounded, combine and yet do not coalesce. This is what man is: an animal both mortal and immortal, both visible and invisible, both sensory and intellectual, capable of seeing the visible and knowning the invisible creation” (St.-Simeon-the-New-Theologian 1951, 152).
The Outer Man Is Puffed Up: The Inner Man Is Humble
Perhaps we can describe the two natures of the human person by their character. St. Dimitri says that the outer man is “puffed up” while the inner man is humble. The exterior man is curious and wants to know everything, while the interior man focuses only on himself and wants only to know God.
The outer man looks outward and busies itself with the world around it. The inner man looks inward and seeks rest and peace in the Lord. The outer man wears itself out with much labor and care. The inner man, however, is “being renewed day by day” (vs. 16).
The Inner Man Is Refreshed By the Fulfillment of What It Seeks
We know how the outward man grows tired and worn by the circumstances of life in this world. But how is the inward man made new daily? It is refreshed and renewed by the fulfillment of what it seeks. It looks to the “things which are not seen, the things that are eternal” (vs.18), and it finds them in the presence of the immortal God. “The inward man grows in grace and unity with the eternal God by continually turning to the Lord” (Igumen-Chariton 1964, 46-47). “And in God and His grace, there is no weariness nor exhaustion but only the refreshing and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit” (Igumen-Chariton 1964, 47)
The outer man seeks its satisfaction in an endless supply of worldly things. The inner man renounces earthly things and seeks his fulfillment in God alone.
Igumen-Chariton. 1964. The Art of Prayer: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
St.-Simeon-the-New-Theologian. 1951. “Practical and Theological Precepts.” In Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart London: Farber and Farer.