Theophan the Recluse: Everything is Illumined by this Grace-Filled Awakening Monday, Dec 16 2013 

Theophan the RecluseContinued from here…

Sin first enveloped man in blindness, insensitivity and indolence.

At the moment of grace’s influence, this three-layered, crystallized millstone falls from his fettered soul.

The person now sees well all his ugliness within, and not only sees it, but also feels it.

[...] Notice how necessary this action of grace is on the path of freeing the soul from the reign of sin.

The goal of awakening grace and its power extricates man from the jaws of sin and places him on the point of indifference between good and evil.

The scales of our will, on which the will leans toward one side or the other, should now be evenly weighted.

But this cannot happen if the sinner is not given at least a foretaste of the sweetness of goodness.

If this were not given, then the sweetness of sin, as we pointed out before, would attract him more strongly to itself than to goodness; and the choice would fall to the former, as happens with those who have contrived to change their lives without grace-filled awakening.

For this is a general law: what you do not know you will not desire.

But when grace-filled awakening allows him to taste the sweetness of goodness, it attracts him to itself, as we said, consciously and perceptively.

The scales are even. Now complete freedom to act is in the person’s hands. In this manner, as in a flash of lightning, everything within and around the person is illuminated by this grace-filled awakening.

For one instant it introduces the heart to that state from which sin has been cast out, and places man into that chain of creation from which he voluntarily exiled himself through sin.

That is why this act of grace is always signified by a sudden fright and jolt, like the way the abrupt sound of the word “stop!” jolts a person walking quickly but lost in thought.

If you look at this state from a psychological point of view, it is nothing other than an awakening of spirit.

It is natural for our spirit to acknowledge Divinity, and the higher world or order of things, to raise man above everything sensual, and carry him away to the purely spiritual realm.

But in the sinful state our spirit loses its strength and commingles with psychological emotionality, and through it with sensuality to the point of practically disappearing into it.

Now through grace it is extricated from this and placed as if on a candle stand within our inner temple, and it sheds light upon everything dwelling within and is visible from within.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); Excerpts from The Path to Salvation @ Kandylaki.

Theophan the Recluse: The Sleep of Sin and the Awakening of the Soul by Grace Thursday, Dec 5 2013 

Theophan the RecluseWhat is grace-filled awakening? Into what state does it put the sinner? And how does this state differ from other similar states?

It is necessary to know the characteristic traits of awakening in order not to let it go by fruitlessly, and so that you might not accept some natural state in its place.

The state of the soul awakened by grace can be discerned by comparing it to the opposite state of a soul lost in the sleep of sin.

Sin separates man from God. A person who has left God for sin does not perceive his dependence on God, lives as he pleases, as though he is not God’s and God is not his. He is like a self-willed slave who is running from his master.

Now his barrier is broken. The feeling of dependence on God returns. The person clearly realizes his total subservience to God and his absolute responsibility to Him.

Before, heaven for him was just a heavy, copper lid stretched over his head; but now some rays of light pass through this dark veil, showing him God the Master and Judge.

Within him is powerfully awakened the perception of the Divinity in all His perfection, and the Divinity irresistibly inhabits the soul, filling it entirely.

This is the foundation and potentiality for the future spiritual life. Sin first enveloped man in blindness, insensitivity and indolence.

At the moment of grace’s influence, this three-layered, crystallized millstone falls from his fettered soul. The person now sees well all his ugliness within, and not only sees it, but also feels it.

He also realizes the danger of his condition, begins to be ashamed of himself and takes care for his fate. Not only does shame fall into the soul, but with the feeling of responsibility for himself before God, fear, agony, and disappointment begin to powerfully attack his heart.

His conscience gnaws at him. Now he feels a certain sweetness in godly life. Sensing all the futility of a sinful life and nursing a revulsion for it as for a sea of evil, he also has a presentiment that joy and consolation are hidden in the realm of goodness, which is now being revealed to his spiritual eye.

It comes into his view like the promised land, as a most blessed haven from all disquiet. This presentiment in a sinful soul is ultimately a manifestation that man himself cannot produce. It is God’s blessing and is subject to His authority.

Thinking about it is not the same as feeling it. God Himself leads man’s spirit into His treasure-house and allows man to taste its blessings.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); Excerpts from The Path to Salvation @ Kandylaki.

Theophan the Recluse: The Spiritual Exaltation of the Cross in the Heart Friday, Sep 28 2012 

The Exaltation of the Lord’s Cross has arrived.

Then the Cross was erected on a high place, so that the people could see it and render honor to it.

Now, the cross is raised in the churches and monasteries.

But this is all external.

There is a spiritual exaltation of the cross in the heart.

It happens when one firmly resolves to crucify himself, or to mortify his passions—something so essential in Christians that, according to the Apostle, they only are Christ’s who have crucified their flesh with its passions and lusts (cf. Gal. 5:24).

Having raised this cross in themselves, Christians hold it exalted all their lives.

Let every Christian soul ask himself if this is how it is, and let him hearken to the answer that his conscience gives him in his heart.

Oh, may we not hear, “You only please your flesh in the passions; your cross is not exalted—it is thrown into the pit of the passions, and is rotting there in negligence and contempt!”

When the Lord was taken down from the Cross, the Cross remained on Golgotha, and then it was thrown into the pit that was in that place, where this instrument of execution was usually thrown, together with other refuse.

Soon Jerusalem was razed and all of its edifices were leveled to the ground. The pit containing the Cross of Christ was also filled over.

When the pagans rebuilt the city (the Jews were forbidden to come near the place where it was), it happened that on the place where the Cross of Christ was hidden, they placed an idol of Venus, the pagan Goddess of fornication and all manner of lusts.

This is what the enemy suggested to them. This is how it is with our inner cross.

When the enemy destroys the spiritual order in the soul, this is our mental Jerusalem, and then the spiritual cross is thrown down from the Golgotha of the heart and is covered over with the garbage of the affections and lusts.

Lustful self-pleasure then rises like a tower over all our inner peace, and everything in us bows down to it and fulfills its commands until grace shines upon us, inspiring us to cast down the idol and lift up the cross of self-crucifixion.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); Letters on the Spiritual Life, translated from the Russian by by Pravoslavie.ru/OrthoChristian.com.

Theophan the Recluse: We Will Frequently Ascend To God In Our Hearts Wednesday, Feb 24 2010 

One must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.

In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day.

Beginning anything, for example, say “Bless, O Lord!”

When you finish something, say, “Glory to Thee, O Lord”, and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart.

If passions arise, say, “Save me, O Lord, I am perishing”.

If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: “Lead my soul out of prison”.

If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, “Set me, O Lord, in the way”, or “do not give up my feet to stumbling”.

If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”.

Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, “Lord, have mercy”, “Most Holy Theotokos save us”, “Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me”, or other such words.

Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them come from your heart, as if squeezed out of it.

When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers.

Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); On Prayer, Homily 2, translated from the Russian by Rev. Fr. Michael van Opstall at monachos.net.

Theophan the Recluse: We Must Attempt to Ascend to Him Sunday, Dec 13 2009 

Yesterday I showed you one method of establishing a prayerful spirit in yourselves, namely, how to pray in a way which corresponds to the meaning of the prayers.

But this is only the beginning of the art (science) of prayer and it is necessary to go further.

Consider the study of language, for example. First one studies words and phrases from books. But this is not sufficient, one must go further, and truly reach the point where he can correctly form phrases in the given language without the aid of the textbook.

It is the same in the work of prayer. We get used to praying with prayer books, praying using prepared prayers given to us by the Lord and the Holy Fathers who were successful in prayer.

But we should not stop at that, we need to continue on, and having accustomed ourselves to making petition to God for help with our minds and hearts, we must attempt to ascend to Him.

We must strive to reach the point where our soul by itself begins speaking, so to speak, in a prayerful conversation with God and by itself ascends to Him and opens itself to Him and confesses what is in it and what it desires.

The soul must be taught how to ascend to God and open itself to Him…. The skill of praying with piety, attention, and feeling according to a prayer book itself leads to this higher level.

In the same way that water flows out of a bowl that is overfilled, so the soul which is filled with holy feelings by prayer begins by itself to spill out its prayer to God.

[…] Why is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book, and still not have prayer in his heart?

[…] In this case, it happens that even if the Lord grants a person spiritual feelings at the time of the morning prayer, the bustle and business of the day drowns them out.

[…] In such an atmosphere, prayer develops and ripens poorly. This problem (is it not ubiquitous?) needs to be corrected, that is, one must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox);On Prayer, Homily 2, translated from the Russian by Rev. Fr. Michael van Opstall at monachos.net.

Theophan the Recluse: When Your Mind Wanders During Prayer Saturday, Oct 24 2009 

In order to facilitate the development of true prayer, take these steps:

1) keep a prayer rule according to the blessing of your spiritual father – not more than you can read unhurriedly on a normal day;

2) before you pray, in your free time become familiar with the prayer in your rule, fully take in each word and feel it, so that you would know in advance what should be in your soul as you read.

It will be even better if you learn the prayers by heart. When you do this, then all of your prayers will be easy for you to remember and feel. There is only one final difficulty: your thoughts will always stray to other subjects, therefore:

3) you must struggle to keep your attention focused on the words of your prayer, knowing in advance that your mind will wander.

When your mind does wander during prayer, bring it back. When it wanders again, bring it back again.

Each and every time that you read a prayer while your thoughts are wandering (and consequently you read it without attention and feeling) then do not fail to read it again.

Even if your mind wanders several times in the same place, read it again and again until you read it all the way through with understanding and feeling.

In this way, you will overcome this difficulty so that the next time, perhaps, it will not come up again, or if it does return, it will be weaker. This is how one must act when the mind wanders.

On the other hand it may happen that a particular word or phrase might act so strongly on the soul, that the soul no longer wants to continue with the prayer, and even though the lips continue praying, the mind keeps wandering back to that place which first acted on it.

In this case: 4) stop, do not read further, but stand with attention and feeling in that place, and use the prayer in that place and the feelings engendered by it to feed your soul.

Do not hurry to get yourself out of this state. If time cannot wait, it is better to leave your rule unfinished than to disturb this prayerful state.

Maybe this feeling will stay with you all day like your guardian Angel! This sort of grace-filled action on the soul during prayer means that the spirit of prayer is becoming internalized, and consequently, maintaining this state is the most hopeful means of raising up and strengthening a spirit of prayer in your heart.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); On Prayer, Homily1


Theophan the Recluse: Inner Peace Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

People concern themselves with Christian upbringing, but leave it incomplete. They neglect the most essential and most difficult side of the Christian life and dwell on what is easiest – the visible and external.

This imperfect and misdirected upbringing produces people who observe with the utmost correctness all the formal outward rules for devout conduct, but who pay little or no attention to the inward movements of the heart, and to true improvement of the inner spiritual life. They are strangers to mortal sin, but they do not heed the play of thoughts in the heart.

Accordingly, they sometimes pass judgments, give way to boastfulness or pride, sometimes get angry (as if this feeling were justified by the rightness of the cause), and are sometimes distracted by beauty and pleasure, sometimes even offending others in fits of irritation. Sometimes they are too lazy to pray, or lose themselves in useless thoughts while at prayer…

…Let us now take the case of one who has been falling somewhat short in the work of salvation. He or she becomes aware of this incompleteness and sees the incorrectness of their way of life, and the instability of his or her efforts. And so they turn from outward to inward piety.

They’re led either by reading books about spiritual life or by talking with those who know what the essence of Christian life is, by dissatisfaction of their own efforts, by a certain intuition that something is lacking and that all is not going as it should be.

Despite all of his correctness, he has no inner peace. He lacks what was promised true Christians – peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…. He comes to understand that the essence of the Christian life consists in establishing himself with the mind in the heart before God in the Lord Jesus Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In this way, he is enabled to control all inward movements and all outward actions so as to transform everything in himself whether great or small into the service of God and the Trinity, consciously and freely offering himself wholly to God.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); from the website of the All Saints of North America Russian Orthodox Church

Theophan the Recluse: Struggles in Prayer Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

You write that you prayed fervently and at once you were calmed, receiving an inner assurance that you would be released from oppression; and then, indeed, it was so….

Recall how you prayed and always strive to pray this way, so that prayer comes from the heart and is not just thought by the mind and chattered by the tongue.

I won’t conceal the fact that, though once you prayed from the heart, it is hardly possible to pray that way constantly. Such prayer is given by God or is inspired by your Guardian Angel.

It comes and goes. It does not follow, though, that we should give up the labor of prayer. Prayer of the heart comes when one makes an effort; to those who do not strive, it will not come.

We see that the Holy Fathers made extraordinary efforts in prayer, and by their struggles they kindled the warm spirit of prayer. How they came to this prayerful state is illustrated in the writings they have left us.

Everything they say about striving in prayer makes up the science of prayer, which is the science of sciences. The time will come when we will study this art.

But now, since it came up in our correspondence, I touch on it only in passing. Let me add: There is nothing more important than prayer; therefore, our greatest attention and most diligent attention must attend it. Grant us, O Lord, zeal for such an effort!

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox): Letter 15, extract at the Orthodox Christian Information Center


Theophan the Recluse: Mosquitoes in the Summer’s Heat Wednesday, Oct 14 2009 

You’ve got to get out of your head and into your heart. Right now your thoughts are in your head, and God seems to be outside you. Your prayer and all your spiritual exercises also remain exterior.

As long as you are in your head, you will never master your thoughts, which continue to whirl around your head like snow in a winter’s storm or like mosquitoes in the summer’s heat. If you descend into your heart, you will have no more difficulty.

Your mind will empty out and your thoughts will dissipate. Thoughts are always in your mind chasing one another about, and you will never manage to get them under control.

But if you enter into your heart and can remain there, then every time your thoughts invade, you will only have to descend into your heart and your thoughts will vanish into thin air. This will be your safe haven. Don’t be lazy. Descend. You will find life in your heart. There you must live.

St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); H/T Mind in the Heart

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