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.”)