Feelings of Spiritual Drought & Exaltation

SONY DSC + Father Alexander Elchaninov

It is impossible to remain forever in a state of spiritual exaltation.  God allows certain intermissions in our fervor because He does not wish either to deprive us of the courage by which we climb higher, or to feed the pride which leads us to fall.  Let our heart advance on the path along which God leads us.True, these alternations are a painful trial; but it is good for us to know from our own experience that our moments of spiritual exaltation do not depend upon us, but are the gift of God which He takes away when He deems it necessary. If we always retained this gift of God, we should feel neither the weight of the cross, nor our own powerlessness.  Our trials would not be real trials; our good actions would be valueless. Let us therefore patiently bear the periods of depression and of aridity of the heart.  They teach us humility and the distrust of ourselves.  They make us feel how unstable and weak is our spiritual life; they make us turn more often to divine help.In this state of unfeeling dryness of the heart, in the absence of fervent prayer we must be careful not to give up our spiritual exercises, our daily prayers.  If we abandoned them we should do ourselves the greatest damage.

We are inclined to think that if we do not feel definite satisfaction in prayer, it is not worthwhile praying.  In order to realize how wrong we are in thinking this, it is enough to remember that prayer and the love of God are one and the same.  The essence of prayer does not just consist in those feelings of joy, which sometimes accompany it.  Loving prayer may sometimes exist without such feelings; and this is a more purified and disinterested form of prayer, since, being deprived of spiritual joy, its goal is God alone.

We may feel deprived of blessed consolations and yet preserve a firm will, submitting to all the difficulties which God sends us, and humbly accepting everything, even the sense of spiritual depression which we experience.   If we succeed in enduring our periods of dryness of the heart in such a way as this, we shall find that they are a salutary spiritual exercise.

(From the book:  ”Diary of a Russian Priest.”   We read from the cover: “Father Elchaninov (was) one of the most gifted priests in the Russian emigration (who) died from a tragic illness in 1934 at the age of fifty three…Deeply rooted in the spiritual and ascetic tradition of the Orthodox Church, Father Alexander was at the same time closely in touch with the intellectual movements of his own day…His writings offer an excellent introduction for Western Christians to Orthodox spirituality as a living tradition of practical value to them in their own spiritual life.”)

Prayer with intention or intentions with prayer?

Christ-Icon-with-LampadeWarning  mini rant, and question post.  Ok this post is not intended to be a rant, and I really hope no one takes it that way.

Well last Sunday we missed church.  I just got off working the night shift, and numerous members of my family were feeling sick.  We have had a week of sinus problems at our house.  I guess you can say that the absence will grow the heart fonder.

Ok now to the little rant.  Ok it is not a big deal.  Really it isn’t.  Possibly this just bothers me because of perspective or Roman Catholic programming.  This could just be a difference of understanding on what is in fact being done.

I am talking about some of the liturgies or services of the church.  Like sometimes I have seen the office of prayers before Divine Liturgy spouted off by a reader in a monotone plain chant.  At the Byzantine Catholic parish I was at the very opposite happens.  It is a very beautiful service all to itself.  With beautiful chant.  It is a lovely way to start things off. After Liturgy I have witnessed what I assume is the noonday office being read just before the final blessing in the Divine Liturgy.  It is quickly spouted off so fast that I am unable to make out every bit.

My understanding from a Benedictine perspective of the Liturgy of the Hours is they should not be rushed.  So that those who offer this office can reflect and meditate.  That this work is of great importance, and shows the nature of the heart of those who offer the prayers.

Are these offices hurried and rushed because they are being done out of obedience.  If that is the case it would be a practice of an obligation?  Maybe it does not matter if they are hurried or rushed. If we are all just standing listening.  Or actually participating in these prayers.  Maybe it is part of that continued prayer of the Church to God.  If that is the case I still do not understand the point of rushing through it.  To me I would almost rather see it shortened or omitted from public worship altogether.

As someone who tries to pray 4 to 6 of the hours daily.  It would be easy to rush through them.  Honestly I have, and the results show it.  To me it seems that we receive only when we invest.  If we take what God has given us, and make it a labor of love.  The benefits are to great to be numbered.  If we take these gifts, talents, and moments and squander them.  We get… well we don’t get the same graces.

Seriously can anyone offer input on this? I would greatly appreciate it.

The Art of Prayer

Recently I picked up a book called The Art of Prayer An Orthodox Anthology.  I am only about a quarter into this book, and I have to say I really am enjoying it.  The first “chapter” or paper is on the inner closet of the heart. The chapter discusses at great length the relation between natural and supernatural.  That we are both physical and spiritual.  Prayer in regards to prayers of the physical and are prayed, chanted, and read.  These can be in corporate or private prayer.  Prayers that are spiritual in nature come from within.  Birthed from the Holy Spirit they flow through us.  St. Dimitri of Rostov proposes the idea that God comes to us in our cell or prayer closet.  That our self can be a closet of sorts.  That within our heart God dwells.

This is an idea that I find great comfort in. From a Roman Catholic perspective often one gets caught up with Christ present in the blessed sacrament.  Failing to recognize God within ourselves and in the world around.  We don’t need to be in a chapel.  Or in front of our home altars.  Whatever we do.  Wherever we go God is with us, and within us.  What a beautiful idea. With that idea we are brought to a way of intentional living.  About praying without ceasing.