Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to Deal with Evil in the Way of Love

What do we do when we are bothered by a seductive thought or a temptation?

First of all, don’t be afraid. Second, do not attempt to expel it. The important thing is to turn your attention to Christ. 

The simplest way to do this is by making the sign of the Cross.

Elder Porphyrios says, 
The most important weapon to use against the devil is the Holy Cross, of which he is terrified. … communication with the Christ, when it takes place simply and naturally without force, makes the devil flee. 
Also as you make your Cross say the words “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’

The Elder says, 
This is our method. We will raise our ams to Christ and He will give us grace. 
This the same approach as given to us by Saint Neilos the Ascetic. 
Whenever a temptation comes to you, or a dispute excites you, either to express at once anger towards your adversary or to utter a senseless cry, remember prayer and the judgment concerning it, and at once the disorderly movement in you will subside. (The Philokalia vol 2, trans. Constantine Cavarnos, p65)
What we are doing is showing contempt for evil.

Reference: Wounded By Love, p 149 -151

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Way of Love Demands Constant Vigilance

Elder Porphyrios tells us that vigilance is passionate love, an intense yearning for Christ.

When we are vigilant we are careful about everything we do. We avoid laziness, we make efficient use of our efforts, and seek to do all things in ways that lead to more harmony. We pay attention to the details of things, even the way we may open the latch on a gate (This is an example the Elder uses).

This effort must be constant and careful. You need to pay attention to your soul. The more you seek God the more vigilant you become.

It is with constant vigilance that we enter the spiritual world.

He says, 

You will acquire remembrance of God though prayer “Lord Jesus Christ…” through the prayers of the church, through the hymns and though bringing to mind the acts of God and recalling passages from Holy scripture and from other spiritual books….

We experience Christ and we take off! We feel great joy and have wondrous spiritual experiences. Then we gradually become captives of good, captives of Christ. And when you become captive of good, you cannot speak evil, you cannot hate and you cannot tell lies… They cannot enter when your room is full of your aether-borne spiritual friends––I mean the angels, the saints, the martyrs and above all Christ.

Reference: Wounded By Love, p 141

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Way of Love Requires Simplicity and Meekness

We should do everything simply and meekly.

This means that our spiritual labor must be done in secret. Our effort should never be discerned by others or even ourselves. Jesus says, Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matt 6:3). As we grow spiritually, in the Way of Love, we leave behind our old self that questions everything and we surrender in love to Christ. We become a new person in Christ. We don’t want the old self to know and then distract us.  In this sense we keep our efforts a secret even to ourselves. We endlessly, privately, seek union with our lover, God.

He says,

The whole secret lies in simplicity and meekness. When simplicity is lacking and you say, “I'll do this, that and the other, and God will give me what I ask for," then nothing happens. Yes, indeed, I should do this, that and the other, but with such secrecy and such simplicity and such meekness that even I who ask for the thing am unconscious of it.
Simplicity means doing everything without any ulterior motivation.

He says,

Don’t say I’ll do this in order to have that result”, but do it naturally, without taking cognizance of it. That is pray simply and don’t think about what God will bestow on your soul…. Good heartedness and simplicity attract the grace of God, they are preconditions for God to come and make his abode in us.
A lesson from Scripture:
Love righteousness, you that judge the earth: be mindful of the Lord in goodness and seek Him in simplicity of heart; for He is found with those who do not tempt Him , and appears to those who are not unfaithful to Him; devious thoughts separate from God, and His power, when it is tested, reproves the unwise; for wisdom shall not enter into an evil-crafted soul, nor dwell in a body that is mortgaged to sin. (Wisdom 1:1-4)

Wounded By Love, pp 138-139

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don’t Struggle Directly With Temptations - Maintain Calmness and Simplicity

The Way of Love involves uniting ourselves with Christ. Our efforts should be continually focused on how we will be united with Him and keep Him continually in our heart. Our love for Christ is what must dominate both our mind and heart.

Elder Porphyrios says 

What is holy and beautiful and what gladdens the heart and frees the soul from every evil is the effort to unite yourself to Christ, to love Christ, to crave for Christ and to live in Christ, just as Saint Paul said, ”It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20)
He advises us to make our struggle with calmness and simplicity. We don’t gain by forcing ourselves to be good or forcing ourselves to pray. We need to do things naturally and calmly. We need to do them because of our love of Christ. With love there is no need for forcing.  When we love Christ we enthusiastically long for time in prayer and to participate in the Divine Liturgy and the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Confession.

Likewise when we love God we should not struggle with temptations. When we do we only acknowledge the strength of the temptation and it gains control in you. When temptations arise focus on your love of God instead of attacking.  When our mind is filled with Love of Christ there is no room to entertain temptations.

He says, 

Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God and adhesion to God. 
As we study the hymns and psalms, when we pray, devoting ourselves to love of Christ, we receive grace and are able to combat temptations with ease. The challenge is to keep our mind focused on our heart which contains our insatiable love of Christ.

Reference: Wounded By Love, p 137

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Way of Love is the Easiest Path

Elder Porphyrios emphasizes that there are two paths we can take. One is very hard and the other easy. The difficult path is to fight against evil and the easy way is the path of love. How do we nurture this love for God?

Edler Porphyrios says, 

The Soul is sanctified and purified through the study of the words of the Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of Scripture, through the singing of hymns and through the repetition of the Jesus Prayer. 
He suggests that we read the holy books of the Church with joy. The Book of the Eight Tones, the Psalter, the books with the offices for the feasts and the daily saint commemorations. The lives of the saints give us examples of people who gave their lives entirely to Christ and became true lovers with God. We can take delight in their achievements and imitate them. They began their lives just like us. We have the same opportunity to become sanctified like them.

We should undertake this study, as with all things in our life, with great attention. The Elder advises us to look up each word in the dictionary and read clearly understanding the meaning of every word.

This is the easy way he tells us. All one needs to do is to do these things and ignore other things.

He says that the kind of effort necessary is, 

To study and pray and have your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church. 
The object is not to sit and afflict and constrict yourself in order to improve. The object is to live, study, to pray and to advance in love––in love for Christ and for the Church. 

This is a very practical way in today's busy life.  Don't aggravate yourself with fighting the evil, but concentrate on your own study and prayer until this love for God is always at the forefront of your mind and heart. Simply set aside time for daily study and prayer with emphasis on the use of the Jesus Prayer.  Then when you face difficulties God will be the first thought you have and your love for Him will bring you divine grace.  Then you will act with the support of the Holy Spirit.
More on Jesus Prayer...

Wounded by Love, pp135-136

Monday, July 26, 2010

Focus on Love of Christ, Not on Rooting Out Evil

The way of Love taught by Eder Porphyrios avoids directly attacking evil. It is through an exclusive focus on our love for Christ that evil is defeated and not by our efforts. To do otherwise invites struggle and much effort. 

Elder Porphyrios says, 
If evil comes to assault you, turn all you inner strength to good, to Christ. Pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” 
This the meaning of what Jesus taught when He told His disciples to “turn the other cheek” when confronted with evil. 
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:27-31 
By giving your heart totally to God there is no room for anything else. There is no need to try and attain virtue or fight off evil. God will give you the needed virtues. Just fill your heart and mind with love for God.

The Elder says, 
Love Him simply and humbly, without any demand, and He Himself will free you. 

Wounded by Love, p 135

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We Become a Holy Person Through Love

It is through the Holy Spirit that we are taught about spiritual matters. Jesus told His disciples, 
“When the Holy spirit will come, it will teach you all things” (John 14:26). 
It is the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us. What we need to be seeking is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and when we are, we become incapable of sin. All our efforts will then be done with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. The virtues will come naturally. 

Saint Theophan the Recluse tells us,
When the spiritual needs are met, they teach a person to harmonize with those needs the satisfaction of the other needs, so that neither the needs of the intellect nor the needs of the body interfere with the spiritual life, but, instead, aid it. Then within a person is established complete harmony of all motions and revelations of his life. 
Elder Porphyrios shows us how this is gained through the love of God. He says, 
We must become filled, replete with the Holy Spirit. This is where the essence of spiritual life lies. This is an art––the art of arts. Let us open our arms and throw ourselves into Christ’s embrace. 
We need to approach Christ just like we willingly, with a joyful heart, join with a loved one who approaches us with open arms for an embrace. It is a self-giving, a surrender, a joy-filled submission to His love. Once we are willing to accept His love without any conditions, the Holy Spirit will visit us and embrace us in God’s love.

Elder Porphyrios says, 

There is one thing we must do, and that is turn to Him and love Him with our soul. Love for Christ: this is the best and sole remedy for the passions. 

Wounded With Love, p 134 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Love for Christ is Insatiable

Seeking Christ is the highest of goals in our Orthodox faith. There is nothing higher. Elder Porphyrios says, “He is the summit of desire.” What does this mean? Simply that there is no other desire that can compare to this. There is no greater joy than this loving relationship with Christ. It brings joy with no limits. He says the love for Christ is “without end, without satiety.”

When we think of love in our worldly relationships, we know that it peaks and ebbs. Many are afraid to give their love for fear that it may be taken away later. Many have experienced intense disappointment in their lives because of a broken relationship that started with passionate love. On a human scale love comes and goes. Who we love today may be different than who we love tomorrow. But divine love is different. It has no end. It “continually grows and deepens,” the Elder tells us. Worldly love, however, can end in despair. When we lose a lover it hurts and we suffer. But “divine eros raises us up to the sphere of God it bestows serenity, joy and fullness.”  This kind of pleasure and joy that comes from the divine is the kind we can never have enough of. It is something we never tire of.

With love of God, we eagerly engage in fasts, we desire to pray, and we make prostrations as expression of our love. Yet, we are never satisfied. The more we experience the love of Christ, the more we desire to be with Him.

Saint Augustine writes about this in his Soliloquies, 

“I love You, Lord my God, and I desire to love you ever more intensely. For You are truly sweeter than any honey, more wholesome than any milk and brighter than any light; for me You are infinitely more precious than gold or silver or precious stones… O love that is ever boiling over and never cooled! Consume me with your heat! I shall love You, Lord, because You first loved me. And where shall I find words sufficient to describe all the signs of Your greatest love for me?… You flooded me with the light of Your countenance and set Your glory as a sign above the door of my heart…(Chap 19) 
Elder Porphyrios says the Way of Love requires an Orthodox spirit which is a giving of your heart totally to God. 
The more you give yourself to the love of Christ, the more you want to give yourself. We must love Him with all our soul, heart, strength, power and mind. We must plug our heart into His love and be united with Him. 
As we pursue the Way of Love we come to a point where we are united with Christ. It is at this point that satiety ceases. This is called theosis. We find ourselves in union with God and bathed in His light. We know then that nothing will ever again separate us.

Reference: Wounded By Love, pp 160 - 162

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Christ Enters Our Heart Life Changes

The Way of Love is the simplest and most direct way to join in union with Christ. Through our love of Him we are sanctified.

Elder Porphyrios says, 

Whoever experiences Christ within himself, experiences ineffable things––holy and sacred things. He lives in exultation. 
With Christ as our lover there is no loneliness. We find peace and joy. The thought of Christ permeates everything. We find patience and have endurance of everything.

Elder Porphyrios says that with our love of Christ even our passions disappear. There is no longer possibility for hatred, dislikes, anxieties or depressions. Not even death concerns us. He says this longing we have for Christ makes even death seem like a bridge what we can cross in an instant to continue our life in Christ We find ourselves in Christ and Him in us.

With our Love of Him there is no longer pain or suffering. Our craving for God, our passionate love for Him, overcomes all pain.

He says 

Divine craving defeats every pain, and so every pain is transformed and becomes love of Christ. Love Christ and He will love you All pains will pass away, they will be defeated and transformed. 
Everything is transformed by this love. 
The love of God transforms everything; it sanctifies, amends and changes the nature of everything. 

Wounded by Love, pp 99-100

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Love of Christ is Love of the Church

Christ created the Church on earth as His body with Him as the head. To love Christ is to love His Church. Elder Porphyrios says the Church is “exactly the same as Paradise in heaven.” All souls are one in His Church.

Elder Porphyrios says 

Love, worship of and craving for God, the union with Christ and with the Church is Paradise on earth. 
The services of the Church are the way we can express our love for Him and He His love for us.

He says, 

The divine services of the Church are words in which we converse and speak to God with our worship and with our love. The hours spent closest to paradise are the hours spent in the church together with all our brethren when we celebrate the divine Liturgy, when we sin and when we receive Holy communion. 
How do we show our passion for Him? When we love Christ we enthusiastically observe the formal aspects of the church, the services, and are eager to participate in the sacraments especially the sacrament of Holy Communion. We enthusiastically come to church to express our love for our lover.

He says, 

The divine services are a very great affair. The precondition is for everything to be done with eros, with interest and with a sincere disposition to worship Christ--not as a chore and not perfunctorily, but with eros and divine enthusiasm. 
Worship must spring from the whole soul and whole heart. What does this mean? Your only thought must be God… It is not something that is done under duress. You feel a spiritual delight and pleasure. It’s not like the homework a child does for school. It is like the passionate love between people, but higher and spiritual.

Above all, the sacrament of Holy Communion is an act of Divine Love. This is an act of joining in ecstatic union with Him.

Elder Ephriam of Arizona writes about the splendor of the Divine Liturgy. 

The Divine Liturgy, what a splendor indeed! Man has been honored by God in such a way that He Himself comes down to earth with His Angelic Orders every time there is a Liturgy, in order to nurture man with His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood! For He has given us everything. Is there anything physical or spiritual, perishable or everlasting, that has not been offered to us? None! Is there anything superior to His Most Holy Body and Blood, which is given to us on a daily basis? There is certainly not. God has enabled man, who is full of soil and dirt, to serve the Divine Liturgy. So priceless is the Divine Love that just a tiny drop exceeds any earthly, physical and secular love. 
The Orthodox faith is all about Love.

Elder Porphyrios says, 

Our religion is love, it is eros, it is enthusiasm, it is madness, it is longing for the divine. All these things are within us. Our soul demands that we attain them. 
More on the Divine Liturgy

Reference: Wounded by Love, pp 90, 92, 165, 166

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Way of Love: Christ is Our Love, Our Desire

One of the ways Christians seek unity with God is by what I term the Way of Love. This is where the emphasis is paced on the love of Christ. It is the way of the heart. It is a spiritual path following the first commandment: 
“You hall love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind” (Matt 22:37-8)
One who lived and taught this approach was Elder Porphyrios. His teaching has been recored for us in the wonderful book put together from his talks titled, Wounded by Love.

Elder Porphyrios continually emphasizes that our first thought should always be love of God. He says,

Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relation to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that cannot be taken away. This is where joy flows from. 
The Way of Love is the unending focus on love of Christ. Elder Porphyrios' method, is nothing more than loving Christ––Loving Him so much that nothing else takes precedence. In this way we overcome our ego, passions and evil. It is an all consuming love. Our mind has no room left for anything else but Christ.

He says, 

Imagine that the person you love is Christ, Christ is in your mind, Christ is in your heart, Christ is in your whole being, Christ is everywhere. 
He chooses to use the term “eros” for love. The term eros is commonly used to refer to a passionate, intense desire for someone. For Plato eros is a common desire we have for a transcendental beauty-–the beauty that exists in the world of Forms or Ideas. Platonic love is a love of the form of beauty-–not of a particular individual, but the element they posses of true (Ideal) beauty. For Plato, eros is initially the love felt for a person, but with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself.

In the case of Elder Porphryios we can think of both of these ideas. He is passionate in his love for Christ. He loves God with intensity, both as a person and also as an ideal for human kind. By his use of the word "eros" he puts the emphasis on the all consuming passion we must have for Christ.

In Greek Mythology Eros is the young son of Aphrodite depicted as a winged boy, considered to be both the most beautiful of the gods. When Eros falls in love with Psyche his radiance is such that for her own safety, he insists that she must never look upon his face, and he only visits her at night. Elder Porphyrios also sees Christ as the most beautiful of persons with a radiance that permeates all with his love and he received a radiance and gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are books filled with their testimonies to his holiness.

He says, 

When you find Christ, you are satisfied, you desire nothing else, you find peace. You become a different person… Christ is in all your thoughts, in all your actions. You have grace and you can endure everything for Christ.
Saint Theophan the Recluse used the term "zeal" to express a similar thought to "eros". He wrote,
The testimony of this life that is visible or can be felt within us is the ardor of active zeal to lease God alone in a Christian manner, with total self-sacrifice... 
The Way of Love is an insatiable desire to be with our lover who is Christ alone.

Reference: Wounded By Love pp 96 -97


One of the most important aspects of Orthodox spirituality is participation in thedivine energies. Briefly stated, this is an Orthodox doctrine of fundamental importance and very often ignored. In Orthodox theology, a distinction is made between the "essence" and "energies" of God. Those who attain perfection do so by uniting with the divine uncreated energies, and not with the divineessence. The Greek Orthodox Fathers, whenever they speak of God, emphasize the unknowability of God's essence and stress the vision of thedivine energies, especially the divine uncreated Light. Orthodox spiritual tradition emphasizes the divine Logos indwelling in the world and our ability to attain a spiritual life and mystical union with the Holy Spirit in this world.

Christian contemplation is not "ecstatic," that is, outside ourselves, but it takes place within the Christian person who is the "temple of the Holy Spirit." Thedivine energies are "within everything and outside everything." All creation is the manifestation of God's energies. Vladimir Lossky says in the Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church: "These divine rays penetrate the whole created universe and are the cause of its existence." The uncreated Light and the knowledge of God in Orthodox tradition "illuminates every man that cometh into this world." It is the same light that the apostles saw on Mount Tabor that penetrates all of creation and transforms it, creating it anew. A modern ascetic says in the Undistorted Image: "Uncreated Light is divine energy. Contemplation of Uncreated Light begets, first and foremost, an all absorbing feeling of the living God - an immaterial feeling of the immaterial, an intuitive, not a rational perception - which transports man with irrestible force into another world, but so warily that he neither realizes when it happens nor knows whether he is in or out of the body." This is not a sentimental or emotional feeling or romantic fantasy. It is experience of the divine uncreated Light described by the neptic Fathers. Again, in the words of the same ascetic: "This supramental sensation of the Living God (which is experienced in contemplation) is accompanied by a vision of light, of light essentially different from physical light. Man himself abides in light because, assimilated to the Light which he contemplates, and spiritualized by it, he then neither sees nor feels his own material being or the materiality of the world."

God's act is pure light, and when the Lord appears to us, he always appears asLight. In Holy Scripture we read: "In Your Light we shall see light." Only in the state of illumination does divine grace makes possible the contemplation of thedivine light. The hidden truths of Holy Scripture are not revealed to everyone, since illumination comes through the special divine gift of revelation. For this reason in the early Church, the holy Bible was read only in the Church and only by a charismatic person. In the Orthodox Church, we have never experienced "bibliolatry" or "worship of the Book," as in some sects. The Church holds fast to the unadulterated spirit of the Bible as it was delivered to the Saints, and through them, to us.

George C. Papademetriou

Monday, July 19, 2010

Orthodox Spirituality by Fr. Dimitru Staniloae - A Commentary

This is an index for my commentary on the presentation of Orthodox Spirituality by Fr. Dimitru Staniloae. For me this has been an incredible learning experience. I can only pray that you also gained insights about your own spiritual journey. I have also included a link to a pdf which contains all of the posts in this series.

Orthodox Spirituality - A Commentary on the work of Fr. Dimitru Staniloae (pdf)

An index to the individual blog entries:

ii.   The Aim

Part One: Purification
1.   Faith: The Starting Point to Perfection

Part Two: Illumination
Part Three: Perfection

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Perfection: Deification

Can we really be deified?  What does this mean?  This is a central doctrine in the Orthodox faith and is called Theosis.

Fr. Dimitru Staniloae defines deification as "God's perfect and full penetration of man."  It is something that never stops but continues to the infinite.  It is an experience that only mankind is capable.  It is the result of a growth of our receptive powers to receive and use the divine energies.  It is through deification that we reach towards our potential to become like God, made in His image as we learn from the book of Genesis.

Fr. Dimitru says,
Man becomes more and more like God without identifying with Him.  Man will continue to become like God forever, in an ever fuller union with Him, but never will he reach full identification with Him; he will be able to reflect God more and more, but he will not become what God is.
The Holy Fathers emphasize that deification is by grace and not by man's own effort or nature.  When deified man's nature remains the same.  He does not become a source of divine energy, like God.  He receives God's energies though grace.  Man only reflects God's energies.  He never assumes the role of the source.

We never receive the totality of God's energies.  Through our efforts in preparation we make an ascent and as we grow spiritually God's energies descend on us granting us increased powers.

Fr. Dimitru concludes his book with the following thoughts:
The divine energies are nothing but the rays of the divine essence, shining from the three divine Persons.  And from the time that the Word of Good too flesh, these rays have been shining through His human face.
It can also be said that the things of the world are images of the logoi of the divine Logos, which are at the same time energies.  By creation God put a part of His infinite possibility of thought and of energy into existence, in the form specifically at the level of the understanding of human creatures.  He did this to permit a dialog with God and towards union with Him.
The incarnation of the Word confirmed the value of man and of these images of reason and of energy measured by him.  But it also gave man the possibility to see in the face of the man of the Logos, concentrated anew, all the logoi and divine energies.  Thus final deification will consist of a contemplation and a living of all the divine values and energies conceived in and radiated from the face of Christ according to the supreme measure of man.  But by this, in the face of each man, by the logoi and the energies gathered in him, the logoi and the energies of the Logos will be reflected luminously.  Eternal bliss will be the contemplation of the face of Christ.
So all will be in God and we will see all things in Him, or God will be in all things and we will see Him in all things; and the unitary presence of God in all things will be real to the extent that all creatures gathered in Him remain real and unmingled in God
This is the eternal perspective of deification.

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 362 - 374 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Perfection: The Divine LIght

The one who has purified himself of the passions and has reached a burning love for God on the steps of the virtues can attain the vision of the divine light...
The attainment fo the divine light indicates that one's nature has been spiritualized, perfected, so that it is a clear receptacle of the warmth and a light of the love of God. There are no traces of ego-centeredness left.  The Holy Spirit shines from within, enlightening one's presence.

Father Dimitru tells us that St. Simeon the New Theologian... and Gregory Palamas have described these three elements;
a) The light is a manifestation of love
b) This love is the work of the Holy Spirit
c) He that raises himself to this state of light or of culminating love forgets bodily sensation, produced by the world through the body, and even himself.
He says,
The intesity of this love, the blinding level of light with which it overflows, makes the body of the one who expereinces it totally transparent for others...
The bodily sense are overwhelmed.  Fr. Dimitru writes,
The body and the world are not done away with but they become the medium by which the interior light is made known.  A paradoxical thing happens.  First, the exterior things are overwhelmed; secondly, a great love is poured out through them, to everybody.  Light radiates from everything.
Saint Gregory Palamas says,
This is union: that all these things be one, that the person who sees no longer be able to distinguish between himself and that through which he is seeing, but he only knows this much: That it is light and he sees a light, distinct from all creatures.
Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 358 - 361

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Perfection: Divine Light - Knowledge Beyond Knowledge

The Divine Light is of a spiritual nature, fills the mind, and reveals the mystical realities of God.

The Light which is seen in pure prayer is beyond all that can be known through our senses and reason.  In effect it surpasses knowledge.  It is a higher knowledge (supra-knowledge) based on a relationship with God.

Saint Gregory Palamas says,
Because union surpasses the power of the mind it is higher than all mental functions and it isn't knowledge, and because it is a relationship of the mind and God, it is something incomparably higher than the power which ties the mind with things created, that is than knowledge.  Such union with God is thus beyond all knowledge.... This union is a unique reality.  For whatever name one gives to it––union, vision, a sense perception, knowledge, intellection, illumination––would not properly speaking apply to it, or else would properly apply to it alone.
The divine light is often referred to as a vision (not based on the imagination which include apparitions and so forth) reached by a leap through the descent of Spirit.

Fr Dimitru Staniloae says,
The vision of the divine light is a vision and a knowledge [caused by] a divine energy, and received by man by means of a divine energy.  It is a vision and a knowledge according to the divine way. Man sees and knows qualitatively as God, or "spiritually and divinely"...
Saint Gregory Palamas gives us an analogy.
The light of knowledge may be compared to a lamp that shines in an obscure place, whereas the light of mystical contemplation is compared to the morning star which shines in full daylight.
Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 341-343 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Perfection: The Divine Light is Spiritual

The light that is seen at the peak of pure prayer is not a physical light but a spiritual one.  It radiates from the presence of Jesus Christ and enlightens our souls with His truth.

This light is like the experience of Moses on Mount Sinai or the Apostles at the Transfiguration of Christ.

Saint Gregory Palamas writes describing the experience of Moses,
Because he was able to see, after he had surpassed himself and arrived in the darkness, he didn't see either by the senses or by the mind; so that light is self-visible and fills minds become blind in the sense of surpassing.... But when the mind is raised above all mental activity and is found without eyes in the sense of being surpassed, it is filled with a brilliance higher than all beauty; it is found in God by grace and has that self-visible light mystically and sees by the union above mind.
Saint Gregory Palamas says,
Those who see it are able to penetrate by the power of Spirit in them beyond the  pane of physical realities. They find themselves raised to an order of the Spirit.  Their eyes are open and they seek a target somewhere outside.  But this means only that the light from the order of spiritual realities has overwhelmed the surrounding realities; their senses have become full of the power of the Spirit. We might use a colorless comparison: For those who love each other, all nature is filled with the light which seems to radiate from the other.
Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 337 - 340 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Perfection: The Mind and the Divine Light

What is the Divine Light?

Fr. Dimitru Staniloae says,
It is, from one point of view, simply the happy radiation of divine love, experienced in a more intensive form in moments of ecstatic focus on God.
The experience which characterizes this state could be expressed by three terms: love, a knowledge by experience, higher than conceptual; and the light which is the expression of joy.
To attain this state is a journey.  The mind finds itself through prayer.  When the passions have been overcome and the mind is still, there is a descent of divine love which is often experienced as uncreated light.  There is an ascent through purification and illumination and then the divine descent for our purification.

Saint Gregory Palamas describes it as follows:
The one who desires union with God... frees his soul as much as possible from every impure tie, and dedicates his mind to unceasing prayer to God, and by this becomes wholly himself; he finds a new and secret ascent to the heavens, an unapproachable ascent to the silence of the initiate, as someone might say. With an unspeakable pleasure, he submerges his mind in this deep night full of pure, full, and sweet quietness, of a true tranquility and silence and he is lifted up above all creatures.  In this way, he completely goes out of himself and becomes wholly of God; he sees a divine light inaccessible to the senses as such, but precious and holy to pure souls and minds; without this vision the mind couldn't see by being united with things above it, only by its mental sense, just as the body's eye can't see without perceptible light.
In the divine light the mind is enabled to see God directly and to find itself in union with Him.  This is not a light which is beyond itself or higher,

Gregory Palamas again,
But seeing itself, it sees more than itself: it does not simply contemplate some other object, or simply its own image, but rather the glory impressed on its own image by the grace of God.  This radiance reinforces the mind's power to transcend itself, and to accomplish that union with those better things which is beyond  understanding.  By this union, the mind sees God in the Spirit in a manner transcending human powers.

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 327 - 336 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Perfection: Divine Love Brings Union of All

How by our union with God or others is the union of the entire human nature and its union with God realized?

Fr Dimitru Staniloae wrties,
St. Maximus the Confessor says that first of all love unifies the individual man.  It replaces anger, falsenss, gluttony, and all the tings in which man has taken part by bodily love himself.  When these things no longer exist, no trace of wickedness can persist; in their place various kinds of virtues are introduced, which integrate the power of love.  However, by this unification of the individual man, the unification of individuals between themselvs is also realized.
 While we are here on earth we only can experience love in short ecstatic moments, in relationship with another person or with God.  Even when we are in an ecstatic relationship with God we forget all people.  So how do we experience a union with all people?

Fr. Dimitru says,
It follows that only in peaceful everyday love, manifested in fact and in thought, in Christian love in a broad sense, can we experience more or less love for all men. My interests, my passions, contradictory opinions, as voluntary manifestations, no longer break the unity of nature between me and my neighbor.  Every moment I judge things from the point of view of my neighbor with who I am connected; I replace my ego with his and give up mine.  By doing this right along with various neighbors with whom I come in contact, the sentiment of my union, actual or virtual with anyone, is strengthened.  On my part there is no longer a rift between me and them; I no longer see any such thing.  If they do, I don't.
This steady behavior strengthens the sentiment of my unity with them and with God... The energy of my love for another, also nurtured by the effort of my will, but especially by these moments of ecstatic contemplation, is easily directed later toward other people.  And everywhere I gain a steady disposition of love for anyone, a joy for all, a conviction that in each one I can discover the mystery of enchanting depths.  I feel united virtually with everyone and with every concrete opportunity...
Love for others grows from the habit of love for God and especially fro living it as ecstasy on the culminating step of prayer...
We have the feeling that in the love of God as ecstasy, God has opened His heart to us and received us in it, just as we have opened our heart so that He can enter it.  On the other hand, the coming back to God, to His heart, means to enter His home.  God's "home", however, wants to include all people, because in His heart there is room for everybody, and when I enter it I must feel that by being there I am united with eveyone there.  Coming back to God, we truly come back home where we belong to the supreme parental home, together with all the heavenly Father's children...

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 323 - 326