Orthodox America

  The Road Less Travelled

(continued from issue 50)

Concerning the Constant Inner Struggle to be in Union with God

      The Lord said: "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him" (John 6:44). This is the source of my joy: the Lord looked upon me and called me to Himself! How glorious it is to know this and, what's more, to be always with Him. In light of this even the carrying of one's cross becomes pleasant and not at all tiresome.

      I have felt an inclination towards God Since childhood. The grace of God has preserved me since my youth, and in spite of my lack of cooperation on account of my sins, it has made me worthy of His embrace; it has betrothed my love--heartfelt though not always attentive--to His boundless Paternal love. 

He who truly loves, even if befalls, soon returns to his beloved. (St. Nilus of Sinai) 

Even now the good Lord continues to support His little flame of light within me, and how I wish that it would burst into a great blaze.

    Through the writings of His saints and also through my own spiritual experience, I am being led into an acquaintance with the sweetness of this spiritual state. The Lord has captivated me with the desire to acquire His meekness, His Goodness, His Righteousness--to have all that is Christ, in order that Christ dwell in me and never leave me.

    O, nothing can surpass this desire for the Lord! How it gladdens and rejoices my spirit! ! am seized with enthusiasm, I come alive... But not for long. Inattentiveness and a host of other weaknesses prevent me from remaining and strengthening myself in this salutary state, and cause the Light of Christ to depart from my soul. Then I, left alone, often sorrow over my miserable state, and only the moving accounts of great sinners called by the Lord encourage me and give me wings. And like them, I too, so rich in God's mercies, strive with all my heart to answer this call, so endearing to the soul: "Abide in Me."

    It seems very bold, even presumptuous, to think of the possibility of a living communion between my wretched soul and the Lord. But' our Lord ,Jesus Christ Himself teaches precisely of this possibility--even necessity --and this constant striving to abide in Him must be our life.

    Through God's goodwill towards us, union with Him should be perfectly natural to us, and not only natural but altogether indispensable. "Abide in Me and I in you," says the Lord. 

I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)

     This word of loving communion which our Saviour spoke will judge our rash inattentiveness towards Him, for such is the will of God for us, and such is our responsibility towards our Redeemer!

He that rejecth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48)

 Fortunate and most blessed is the soul which keeps this new testament of God with man! According to the words of St. Macarius of. Egypt, such a soul already in this life "draws to itself holiness of spirit for its great faith and many prayers, becomes a partaker of the Divine essence and, filled with grace, can blamelessly and purely fulfill ail God's commandments." 

We have no other good apart from union with God. (Blessed Augustine)

 This stage of constant union with God is that very Kingdom of Heaven within us. The Lord said that this Kingdom is taken by force, by which we understand that without force it is not given to anyone. Never! Through this constant union the soul receives assurance of eternal blessedness, but if here on earth the soul does not partake of living communion with the Lord, it will be unable to enter into the blessedness of the saints in the world to come.

     To understand more clearly this inviolable truth it is enough to consider the following:

One cannot expect that in the next world the grace of Meekness will come to dwell in someone proud, or that Love and Kindness will take up their abode in those full of hatred and egotism; or that a licentious person be filled with Purity and Chastity. No one should expect such miracles there , for these grace-filled qualities of soul are of the purest essence and can in no wise enter a polluted soul; they are far removed even from those human qualities which normally characterize earthly life; they are altogether foreign to the sinner. Rather, they are the reflection of Divine perfection, and only those who eagerly fulfill the Gospel commandments out of love for the Lord and in obedience to His will, receive them here in this life as light and warmth from the Holy Spirit, which, illumining and sanctifying the souls of spiritual athletes, return together with those who have acquired them, back to their source--to God. 

(to be continued) 

(Translated from "The Path to the One Thing Needful: the experience of 'self-nourishment,'" in Nadezhda No. 12 Frankfurt 1985)