My beloved spiritual children 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.
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN (Part III)
(Source: The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to it by Saint Theophan the Recluse)
The Covering of the Soul
The covering of the soul becomes bright or dark corresponding to the inner condition of the soul. Examples. The demons see a darkened soul.
During the life of Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ, there was a hieromonk who was a faster, a solitary and a man of prayer. Everyone honored him; that is, they held him in reverence. But when Saint Andrew met him, he saw that he was arrayed in some sort of dark fog, and that around his neck was curled a snake with the inscription "snake of avarice." Such was the soul that he had! (Saint Andrew spoke with this priest in private, brought him to repentance, and the priest corrected himself.) However, no one could see it. The enlightened spiritual eyes of Saint Andrew saw. But the eyes of the heavenly inhabitants are even more enlightened. Thus, while we think that no one sees what we are, we are seen by a countless number of eyes. See how many stars there are in the sky! The number of eyes which look upon us is greater still.
Indeed, we ourselves are able, if not to see, then to determine what we are. Our conscience, the incorruptible judge, tells us. It may become suppressed with time, but it always manages to free itself from this yoke, and raises its voice even in those who are shameless. In those who are innocent, its voice is always pure and like a bell. The conscience is also known as the divine voice in the human spirit. In it is also reflected whatever opinion or view the inhabitants of heaven have of us. Thus, when the conscience says we are pure in everything before God and man, then this testimony reproaches us, however, telling us that we are impure, then we appear dark. But the Guardian Angels are closer to us than anyone, and they know who is dark and who is bright, and are able to judge by the inner attitude whether it is a permanent or temporary condition.
Besides the Angels and Saints, there are dark powers that are invisible to us that also see. However, when the soul is bright, they are unable to look at it, like bats who fear the light. They look at it only when it begins to darken. They run in packs everywhere, and as soon as they notice a darkened soul, they immediately fall upon it, and begin to twist it to and fro with thoughts, passionate desires and disturbances of feelings. The turbulent realm that I described, saying that it lawlessly establishes itself between the soul and body, is the place where demons sit next the soul and begin to stir it up, just like dust by wind. They even attempt to creep up to bright souls, but are parried and struck down by rays of light, as if by an arrow. In Antioch there lived a magician named Cyprian. A youth asked him to use his magic to win for him the favor of Justina, an exemplary Christian, whom he wanted to make his wife, but she would not even look at him. Cyprian sent demons who were in his service to her several times. These demons were supposed to use their particular means to kindle within her love for the youth, but whenever they approached her residence, they were unable to enter it. Turning back, they claimed that they were repulsed and scorched by a light from within; for this Justina was arrayed with light, as if enveloped by some sort of cloud, and they were unable to see her. (What happened further does not concern us here. Both the youth and the magician turned to Christ.)
What better example is there of soul so bright, than when it is Christian, pure in conscience and devoted to the Lord? When the conscience is pure, the fear of God fills the soul and keeps it inviolable. Then the Lord Himself, Who is everywhere and fills all things, visits that soul, and it becomes a light and shines like a small star.
It is has maintained such purity and brightness, then the soul, upon its departure from the body, crosses over to that light, by means of that very same brightness. Once Saint Anthony was conversing with his disciples, and spied a band of light that rose up to the heavens. After looking into it and discerning what it was, he said, "It is Saint Ammon ascending into heaven with the Angels escorting him."
So be zealous about this. Do not go by your outer appearance, for it is possible that there is something else visible in us, and that is what we are in reality. Of course, it could be better than what we appear to be. I recall the words of Saint Basil the Great, who says, "The body is ours; besides this body, what we have, beginning with our clothing, is that which surrounds us. But what are we? We are a soul (with a spirit)." So after disengaging oneself from all that is outside of oneself and from the body itself, one must gather oneself and enter within, and examine everything briefly and decide: Just what are you, matushka (little mother), my dearest?
This brings us back to the point from which we deviated just a little, that is, to the decision: Just how is one to be in order to live in the spirit and inspirit the soul and body and all that is exterior to one? We will talk about this another time.
How the Saints Hear our Prayers
[How the Saints hear our prayers. An additional note concerning prayer.]
You have probably heard the question as to how the Saints hear our prayers, and maybe your yourself have asked the same thing. In answer to this, there are explanations, and there are explanations--but the question still remains a question. In my own opinion, by supposing the existence of an element such as I described, how can the Saints not hear our prayers? Do you know how the electric telegraph works? In Saint Petersburg, for example, they start up a particular piece of equipment; in this same instant, that action in St. Petersburg is reflected in a similar piece of equipment in Moscow, and the very same motion occurs. Why does it happen like this? Because the equipment is of the same type, and because the wire connecting them is fitted to them. The action of the telegraph is like our prayer. We, along with the Saints, are like two pieces of the same kind of equipment, and the medium in which the Saints dwell and with which our souls are surrounded--that is the wire. When true prayer--that is, sincere prayer--moves in the soul, then that prayer, by means of the action of the element upon it, flies as if on a beam of light to the Saints, and tells them what we want and what we are praying about. There is no gap between the time we make our prayers and when it is heard; the only necessity is that it comes from the heart. It is our telegraphic line to Heaven. The very same prayers, which are not from the heart, but which come only from our head and tongue, do not produce a ray which rises to heaven, and they are not audible there. Those are not prayers, but only prayer-like modes.
Maybe you have experienced proof of what has been said without even noticing it. You write how you prayed fervently, and that you calmed down immediately after receiving the inner assurance that you would be delivered from what was troubling you, and then in fact this came about. It turns out, then, that my comparison with the telegraph of heart-felt prayer rising up invisibly to heaven through the element is accurate. From your heart came a bolt or ray to Heaven; along that same path, or along a similar one, there came a ray from Heaven in answer to what you needed. That is what always happens with all prayers that come from the heart. The ability to pray in such a manner does not always come about immediately, but the hearing of it does.
Do not be smug about what happened. May the Lord grant that it happens for you more often. Remember how you prayed at that moment, and try always to pray like that, from the heart, not just uttering something with the tongue and thinking something with the mind.
If you will do it this way, then you will have a working solution to the question of how one is to be in order to live in the spirit. For such prayer is the life of the spirit. Here the spirit dwells in God and unites with Him, and in this is the entire force of its life. Know then, that the soul lives only when it prays in such a way as you prayed at that time. When there is no such prayer, it means that the soul has stopped, if it has not become completely deadened.
I will not hide from you the fact that even though you were able to pray that way once, you will hardly be able to pray like that all the time. God grants such kind of prayer, or the Guardian Angel stimulates it. It comes and goes. It does not follow from this, however, that we are permitted to abandon our labor of prayer. Prayer comes to someone who labors at it, but it will not come to anyone who does not work at it. We see the Holy Fathers labored a great deal at prayer, and by these very labors kindled within themselves a prayerful spirit. That is how they reached this prayerful spirit, the image of which they have left us in their writings. Everything said by them on this subject comprises a science of prayer, which is the science of sciences. The time is coming when we will go over it, but for now I have touched upon it only in passing. I would also add that there is nothing more important than prayer. Therefore, it is necessary to labor in it most diligently and more than anything else. May the Lord grant you diligence in such labor.
Your humble thoughts and feelings about yourself are angelic feelings. How perfect and light are the Angels! But they are all humble, more humble than any person. A humble soul is always bright. The darkening of the soul begins when it begins to think about itself a lot, for such a things is of the dark forces. May God grant that you never lose such feelings, so that you may always be in the Light.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God