Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Pascha. Divine Light.
Only divine light, when it shines in us, allows us to see our sins. It is by prayer that our heart begins, little by little, to understand the influences of the spirits which fill the cosmos. Instead of making progress, we see with an ever greater acuteness the passions which possess us. Paradoxically, this feeling that there is no progress is itself progress. Even if we have not yet seen the uncreated light of God, it is by this light that we see our sins.
One can only attain pure prayer by repentance. By repenting, that is, by purifying ourselves of every sinful passion, we become capable, little by little, of entering into divine light.
The way towards knowledge of God goes above all via faith, the love of Christ, and repentance.
May God give you all the spirit of repentance. Weep over your faults; weep, that your heart may not dry up.
The most radical thing is to keep always the feeling of our own insufficiency in relation to God. Then we will enter a permanent state of tension between self-condemnation and the love of Christ, between repentance and hope in the mercy of God. On the one hand, we live in anguish at being so far from the God whom we love; on the other hand, this suffering and this love act like an inner fire, and push us with great force towards God. This tension has found its most acute expression in the word of Christ to Staretz Silouan: ‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not’. This word sometimes provokes awe, fear, and even panic; but it should not crush us. It constitutes the fundamental principle of our life in Christ.
How can we remain constantly in the ‘fire’ of hell and the passions, and receive at the same time from the Holy Spirit the feeling of our salvation? The inner state of Christ on Golgotha sheds light on this for us. First, He says to the thief: ‘Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise’. Later, He cries out: ‘Why hast Thou forsaken me?’ These two moments are really only one. In its various forms, this state of Christ on Golgotha is always present in man, transforming the very content of his life. ‘Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep’, says the Apostle Paul. For us, these words are incomprehensible.
We must not claim that we are repeating the experience of Saints Silouan, Isaac the Syrian, Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas or Seraphim of Sarov. In spiritual life there is no exact, identical repetition, but only an analogy on the spiritual plane, in the tension presupposed by the formula: ‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not’.
One should never compare oneself with anyone else. Each one of us, however small he be, is great before the Eternal; God establishes with each human being a unique and loving relationship.
~Adapted from Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), Words of Life, translated from the French by Sister Magdalen (Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Essex)