Our Spirit Yearns After the Father

St. Simeon Stylites, the Elder

St. Simeon Stylites, the Elder

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)

Our spirit yearns after the Father's love. Our psychosomatic (soul and body) formation enters into this prayer but can only go so far. When the heart is consumed with thirst for God, prayer purifies us from all that is extraneous and concentrates our longing for the Lord Whom we seek. When this happens we may lose all awareness of our body and the material world around us. I cannot say how this occurs but I do know that it has not been given to every man to cross this threshold. Many, having reached the border, take fright and draw back. Others, engrossed in their prayer, do not notice anything, and in a way which they remain ignorant of are caught up into another sphere of being, and forget the earth. The Divine hand performs this with such caution that man does not detect the moment itself, just as one does not catch the moment of falling asleep. It is only after his return to his normal awareness of the world that he realizes that his spirit had departed from its usual state and been united with God. After such an event all the things of the earth are seen as transient and brittle. The soul recognizes that point of her existence is to be with God, in Him, in His eternity.

I once read a newspaper account of an engineer testing the jet engine of a 'plane who carelessly stepped into the air stream, which caught and lifted him high off the ground. Seeing what happened, his assistant quickly switched off the engine. The mechanic fell to the ground, dead. Something similar happens to the man of prayer: after being caught up into another sphere he returns to earth 'dead' to fleshly interests and worldly gains. He will not seek any career. He will not be too upset if he is rejected, nor will he be elated by praise. He forgets the future. A new life full of Light has opened before him and in him. The infantile distractions that occupy the vast majority of people cease to interest him. And if we judge the quality of life, not by the quantity of pleasurable, psycho-physical (soul and body) sensations, but by the extent of our awareness of cosmic realities and, most important of all, of the First and Last Truth, we shall understand what is hidden behind the words of Christ, "My peace I give unto you"--said to the Apostles only a few hours is perfect before His death upon the Cross. The essence of Christ's peace is perfect knowledge of the Father. So it is with us--if we know the Eternal Truth lying at the root of all being, the all our anxieties affect merely the periphery of our existence, while within us reigns the Light of life 'coming down from the Father of lights" (cf. St. James 1:17). No temporary ease can afford us genuine peace if we continue in ignorance of the Principle of all principles.

Not many souls have the courage to step off the path trodden by the vast majority in this fallen world, to live according to Christ's Commandments. Unquestioning belief in the Divinity of Jesus naturally generates spiritual courage. In their eagerness to follow the Lord some believers have suddenly found themselves on the edge of an abyss, too late to draw back. However, we have all got to cross the abyss in order to attain to Divine eternity. But what is it exactly that I have in mind? I am thinking of the deep pit of ignorance, the hopeless anguish of those condemned to death, the power over us of the blackness of this world (cf. 1 Timothy 1:13; Genesis 2:17; St. Luke 22:53). To get across this black pit we need the energy of blessed despair. The action of grace in us takes the form of determination. The Light is seen in the distance. Drawn to it with unsuspected strength, we decide to hurl ourselves into the unknown, having called upon the Sacred Name of Jesus Christ, God Our Savior. And what happens? Instead of having our head smashed against the storms and vicissitudes that beset the soul at such times. Formed of the dust of the ground, we make up a tiny fraction of the massive body of mankind from which it is not at all easy to escape, especially in our day when practically the whole universe is under the control of officialdom in general. One cannot appeal to the princes of this world for help: a small good turn from them and we risk losing our liberty (cf. St. John 14:30). Our best 'gamble' is a childlike trust in God's providence in the pursuit of a life where first place is given to Christ.

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill...But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment...Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery (Deut. 5:18): "But I say unto you. That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart...But I say unto you, Swear not at all..But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil...Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. "But I say unto you," Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Whosoever...shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven... "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven" (cf. St. Matthew chapter 5)...

Uniting in Himself both God and man, the Lord calls us to follow after Him. On this exalted path our spirit, having overcome the passions that drag us down, contemplates the hitherto unknown, unimaginable realities of the Divine sphere of Being. Just as a heavy body projected beyond the gravity of the earth finds itself subject to 'celestial mechanics' and moves with a speed impossible on earth, so our spirit enters into the infinity of 'mental' space pierced by Light bearing witness to the unoriginated Truth and our immortality.

The touch of Divine Love on the heart signals the first step on the shore of the heavenly side of the abyss, and new birth from n High into eternity. This love is apprehended as Truth, as Light, as the Kingdom. All thought of death, of enemies, of what pertains to this earth disappears from our consciousness, and, thus liberated, the spirit lives another form of being.

Our return to her customary condition the soul feels sad at her loss: she would have preferred not to come back, though the sensation of Divine Love is not quite gone. (Source: We Shall See Him As He Is)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George