Saturday, November 23, 2019

Awakening our Heart to God (2)



To be awakened spiritually and to have the desire to pursue a God-pleasing life requires two things. First, there must develop the awareness that a significant change in way of life is needed. This happens when there is an awareness of the state one is in is one, where they are separated from a God and are at the mercy of wave after wave of worldly cares. Second, develops the awareness of what a spiritual life involves. This process requires the work of divine grace. It is not simply an awareness that comes by a mechanical process based on rational analysis. It is necessary to be touched by God in a mystical manner,

Divine intervention is necessary because one’s current life style is very powerful and is supported by numerous relationships and strong attachments. As Saint Theophan put it, the way we live involves,
 “a realm where there are principles, ideas, opinions, rules, customs, pleasures and ways that are completely incompatible with the true spiritual life for which man is intended.” 
The current life is one that is totally immersed in a way of life incompatible with spiritual growth. This means that it’s hard to imagine a better way of living and most likely a spiritual life seems impossible. Because of this, the awakening, the nudging of grace, may not be accepted at first. To be awakened this grace must accepted in the heart, feeling the love of God calling to come closer to Him. 
Saint Theophan says,
The door to conversion may be opened only under the condition that the spiritual way of life be revealed to the sinner’s consciousness in its full light, and not merely revealed, but that it touch the heart...
The spiritual life may be pre-conditioned by reading the Scripture, the lives of the saints or the influence of a pious parishioner or spiritual father. With regular church attendance the soul is nurtured in a way where a hard heart begins to yawn, to open its eyes, and bring to light new possibilities. As it begins to open, grace will increase bringing a new force to bear for an awakening and decision to change.

Saint a Theophan says,
The true Christian life is one of grace. The self-made life, no matter how beautiful it is in appearance or how close it is to the form of Christian life, will never be Christian. The origin of the Christian life is in arousal by grace.
When this process begins it can cause a major upheaval in one’s thinking, causing a totally different life style to emerge. For one who has been asleep, living without the awareness of sin,  their entire will be discarded and replaced with a new life that is truly a God-pleasing one. 

Saint Theophan describes this spiritual vision that cause such major change as follows:
“God, in the Holy Trinity that is worshiped, Who has created the world that is worshiped, Who has created the world and takes trouble over it, saves us, the fallen, in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, under the direction and guidance of the Holy Church, and through one’s life here of trials and bearing the cross, which leads to eternal, unending bliss in the future life.”
This new way of thinking, a new world view, develops in us via divine grace. The contrast it brings with the previous way of seeing things will be sharp, and the sinfulness of the past will be revealed. This provides further motivation for one to change their way of life, to repent, and results in an intense desire to seek God for mercy. 

Saint Theophan says,
“Under such action the heart is loosed from its former bonds and becomes free, and that is why it freely selects the new way of life. This is how arousal by grace operates. It destroys everything thin the consciousness and emotion that is old and bad, and vividly presents only the new and good. It leaves the person in this situation overwhelmed, fee to choose the new life or to turn back to the previous one.”
This new way of life can generate fear as it is such a drastic turn towards God. Saint Theophan tells us this consciousness of this new way of life comes about in two ways:
“1. Sometimes it is introduced visibly and through the senses. 2. Sometime the spirit of the  person is led into it and perceives it internally.”

In the next post we will explore both of these ways.

Reference: The Path to Salvation by Saint Theophan the Recluse, pp102-107.

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