Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A FOURTH PRAYER BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that You are Truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. I also believe that this is indeed Your Immaculate Body and that this is indeed Your Precious Blood. Therefore, I pray to You: Have mercy on me, and forgive me my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, in word and in deed, in knowledge and in ignorance; and make me worthy without condemnation to partake of Your Immaculate Mysteries, unto remission of sins and unto life Eternal. Amen.
THE SPECIAL ACTIONS OF DIVINE GRACE IN AROUSING SINNERS FROM THE
SLUMBER OF SIN
by Saint Theophan the Recluse [source: The Path to Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual Transformation]
For those living a grace-filled life, it is encouraging to know these actions so that when they see the many troubles and cares that God takes over sinners, they glorify the unspeakable Divine Grace and are inspired by the trustworthy help from above in every good deed. For those seeking Divine love and mercy, it is especially necessary to know them, because the characteristics of arousal by grace are more clearly expressed here than elsewhere. We must be well aware of and familiar with these characteristics so we may determine whether the arousal we are experiencing comes from grace. If someone is already in the process, we may determine whether he is acting through the arousal by or through self-made enthusiasm.
The true Christian life is one of grace. The self-made life, no matter how beautiful it is in appearance or how close it is to the form of Christian life, will never be Christian. The origin of the Christian life is an arousal by grace. A person who has heeded this arousal is not deprived of guidance by grace and communion with it at all times, as it persists through proper attention to it. That is why it is necessary to determine correctly for oneself whether an arousal by grace is taking place or has taken place. In satisfying this requirement, the following may be said: judge yourself by the characteristics of arousal by grace which are revealed in special situations. While these characteristics are the same in both special and ordinary situations, they are revealed more clearly, definitively, during this arousal of grace, only in the former.
As already indicated, during this arousal of grace, the destruction of the entire established order of self-pleasing sinful life is carried out instantaneously in the presence of the consciousness. In its place is revealed another superior Divine way, the only true and satisfying one. One may briefly depict this way as follows: God, in the Holy Trinity that is worshiped, Who has created the world and takes trouble over it, saves us, the fallen, in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, under the direction and guidance of the Holy Church, and through one's life here of trials and bearing the cross, which leads to Eternal, unending bliss in the future life. He combines persons, events, places, and the causes themselves through which everything is set in motion.
This Divine way in its entirety is vividly impressed on the spirit of the sinner through the action of grace. By presenting the striking contrast of the sinner's own attitudes and everything that he previously lived and enjoyed to this Divine way, he is then obliged to be in complete agreement and concordance with it. This overwhelms him. Each aspect of the Divine way issues an accusation and reproach to the sinner concerning his previously folly and carelessness, which makes an even greater impression, because at the same time the spirit sees the miserable insignificance of its former sinful way of life. Under such action, the heart is loosed from its former bonds and becomes free and that is why it freely selects the new way of life. This is how arousal by grace operates. It destroys everything in the consciousness, emotion that is old and bad, and vividly presents only the new and good. It leaves the person in this situation overwhelmed, free to choose the new life or to turn back to the previous one.
It is worth noting that the arousal by grace is always accompanied by this feeling of being overwhelmed and a sort of fear. This may be because it is sudden, as if by surprise. It seizes the sinner at the crossroads of life like a criminal and presents him before the inescapable Divine Judgment. Or it may be because it is a new way of life, revealed to the consciousness in a completely new way that is a striking contrast to the old one. It is not just new, but also perfect in all parts, bringing happiness; whereas in the previous, miserable way of life, there was only heaviness of heart and going around in circles for the spirit.
All the same, the starting point of all the good actions of arousal by grace is a clear consciousness of a new divine way. Proceeding from this understanding, we bring to mind all past experiences of this action of grace. The consciousness of the new way of being and life comes about in two ways: (a) sometimes this very way, in its entirety or in part, is introduced visibly and through the senses through the act of itself to the sinner it is being bestowed upon; (b) at other times, the spirit of the person is led into it and perceives it internally.
Introduction of the Divine Way Through Visible Means and Through the senses
The Merciful Lord reveals to the consciousness of one who has turned to Him the Divine world in which the spirit is meant to live by various means. Frequently, He Himself is revealed visibly, taking on some sort of form and appearing to a human being who is awake or asleep. Thus did He appear to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, to Saint Constantine the Great, to the Great Martyr Efstathius Placidas (September 20) to Neanias who was on his way to torture Christians (this is the Great Martyr Procopius, July 8th), to Patermuthius in his sleep (July 9th), and to many others.
Sometimes He has the kindness to send various persons from the other world, also in wakefulness or in a dream, in their own form or some other form. Thus, the Mother of God has appeared many times, either alone or with the Pre-Eternal Child, or with an entourage of Saints consisting of one, two or many. The Great Martyr Catherine, for example, was converted by the appearance to her in her sleep of the Mother of God with the Pre-Eternal Child, Who gave her a betrothal ring (November 24th). Angels have appeared many times, either singly or in assembly. For example, an army of Holy Angels appeared to Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ, in opposition to a horde of dark forces (October 2nd). Saints have appeared many times; for example, Bishop Mitrophan appeared to a Lutheran doctor, a sick girl, and others.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God