Below is a quote from a talk by Fr. Seraphim (Aldea). It is from this video. The entire talk is about what he learned from Elder Sophrony.
This entire talk, although brief, is powerful. It hits me right in the nous.
I wanted to capture this bit for fuller reflection and consideration. And sharing.
I have edited it slightly, mostly making it more fit to reading.
You must live your life in full awareness that you own nothing. By ownership I do not mean the typical monastic meaning: I don't own a house or I don't have a family.
You don't own yourself.
You don't own your own experience.
You don't own your own knowledge of god.
Tomorrow, you are going to be someone else. Tomorrow, God for you will be something and someone else. Your experience tomorrow will be something else.
Don't ever hold on to anything.
Always move forward and remain open.
Ultimately what we do in our spiritual life is live a mystery. I am a mystery to myself. I am not properly myself yet. We become who we really are, we become who we are called to become only, as a gift, after we depart this life. So really I am a mystery to myself. God is a mystery to me and will remain a mystery until I will be face to face with him.
The minute you hold on to something--let's say I hold onto an understanding of God--that is the moment you have actually died in your growth. Because that is the moment you have replaced the mystery of the Living God with a created concept your mind can deal with. The minute you can point and say "this is God" that is the moment you can be entirely sure you've missed the point and you are in fact worshiping an idol. You are actually now serving idolatry not Christianity.
This is very important, this idea of owning absolutely nothing -- not your self, not your experience, not your knowledge, not your God -- and to remain open to a mystery. I know nothing even when I feel I know everything. That doesn't mean that knowledge is restricted from me or unattainable, I simply didn’t get there yet.
I tell you from my own personal experience it is extremely difficult not to fall into this kind of idolatry...I don't think I've met anybody who truly lives that way. One way or another, we end up deforming the real God -- the true God -- in order to fit the idol we have decided we are going to worship. Because that idol somehow corresponds to my values. Rather than letting the mystery of the living god inform my values, inform my life and allow that mysterious God to shape the mystery that I am, most people--all the people I know, but I assume there are others who don't do this--work the other way around. It is this life and the values of this life and the things they hold dear in this life that inform their knowledge of God and they end up building a god according a their values rather than developing their values according to God.
It may sound theoretical, but it’s not. It is painfully true and a real disease, an extremely common disease.