Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Enter into Paradise a Bit Sooner

Saint Theophan gives us an incredible opportunity.  He asks, “Would you like to enter into this Paradise a little sooner?"  This  paradise is the warm feeling that one feels towards God when He begins to operate inside of us. This results once you are able to keep the awareness of God in your heart at all times. Here's what he says about how we can enter into this paradise a little bit sooner.
When you pray, do not stop praying until you have aroused some sort of feeling towards God in your heart. This can be reverence, or devotion, or thanksgiving, or praise, or humility and contrition, or trust and hope. Do this also when you begin reading during your devotions; do not stop reading until you have felt the truth that you have read. And if you pay attention to yourself, these two feelings, by warming you up, are capable of keeping you under their influence all day...
 When something is out under the sun's rays for a long time, it gets very warm; the same thing will happen for you. By keeping yourself under the rays of remembrance of God and your feelings towards him, you will be warmed more and more with the unearthly warmth, and then you will become completely fiery, not just fiery, but ablaze.
This is a glorious challenge to all of us. With faith, love, dedication, and our best efforts, we all can focus our attention continually upon our God. When we put our whole effort into this, we can feel the warmth of Him in our heart. It is this warmth that gives us the intensity and the desire to remain focused on God no matter what is happening around us. It is uplifting, hopeful, and comforting.


Pray, read the Scriptures, study the church fathers, attend church services regularly, and do all of these things with great sincerity and with your full attention. Then, you, as Saint Theophan  advises, will feel the loving warmth of Christ our God in your heart.


Reference, The Spiritual Life, p 222-224

8 comments:

  1. My 16 year old daughter asked if I ever miss morning prayer and if the prayers made a difference in my life or in my day. I said that it might not change my day but it does affect my reaction to it. This morning I got stuck in my drievway because of the snow. By the time I got free, I was a half hour late. Without prayer, the day might be ruined. With prayer, I remained calm and understood the Lord was in control. I was a little frustrated about being stuck, but prayer does stay with a person. When I wanted to become angry, I could still feel that calming presence.

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  2. Dennis, a very mice story. May You continue to receive His blessings.

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  3. ...this post made me think back to my pentecostal days when everyday was about 'working up the spirit' in order to attain the high for the day..we equated Gods presence with a 'feeling' and it had to feel 'right'...Over the years i've grown and discovered that God doesnt reside in the section of the brain that regulates my emotions and in fact my 'feelings' will often decieve me..or even worse..be used to decieve me by manipulative individuals..all in the name of God...I covet the immediate feeling of presence of God but at the same time its not essential to my faith in Him..

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  4. Your cautions are most important. We have to be sure not to rely on emotions. There is an important discernment to make here. Seek advice of spiritual father.
    With an open heart there is a inner sense of hHis presence but this is not an emotion. Saint Theophan calls it a feeling.

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  5. How does one get a spiritual father when there is no Orthodox Church near by?

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  6. Many will travel great distances to see their spiritual father. Others will rely on texts written by one. Once you contact one, often they will arrange for phone or email contact.

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  7. Since the distinction between "emotion" and "feeling" is an essential one as noted by "anonymous" viz a vie the charismatic movement, what would be the characteristics of the "feeling" about which St. Theophan speaks? How do we distinguish one from the other?

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  8. In the "Art of Prayer" the following are listed as the feelings Theophan mentions in prayer:
    1. The sense of "soreness" in the heart -- a feeling of compunction, of being "pricked" to the heart
    2. Sentiment of "warm tenderness" The feeling of compunction, of human unworthiness, is still present, but is over shadowed by a sense of loving and responsive joy.
    3.The most significant is the sense of spiritual warmth -- the "burning of the spirit" within us, the "flame of grace" kindled in the heart.

    He also cautions about distinguishing between spiritual feelings and natural feelings. He says we should be most careful not to accept any tinge of sensual pleasure as part of spiritual feelings. This can lead to delusion.

    A spiritual feeling is connected with compunction, a desire to be with God, an inner feeling of joy or "sweetness" that is not connected with anything physical.

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