The Soul of A Christian

25 November 2022

The soul of a Christian should be delicate, sensitive and emotional. It should take wings, live dreams, fly into infinity, into the stars, into God’s majesty, into silence.

If it wants to be Christian, it must become a creator. That’s it. It has to feel pain. To love and to feel pain. To feel pain for the person it loves. Love makes an effort for the beloved. All night it runs, it keeps a look out, it bloodies its feet in an effort to meet its beloved. It makes sacrifices, brooks no opposition, is unconcerned by threats or difficulties, because of love. Love for Christ is another matter, infinitely more sublime.

So when we say love, it’s not the virtues that we’ll acquire, but a heart that’s loving towards Christ and other people. That’s where we should pay the whole of our attention. We see a mother holding her child in her arms, kissing it with longing in her soul. We see her face lit up when she’s holding her little angel. When people of God see this, it makes an impression and they say yearningly: ‘If only I had this desire for God, for Christ, for our Lady, for our Saints’. Yes, this is how we should love Christ, God. You long for it, you want it and you gain it by God’s grace.

But are we aflame for Christ? When we’re exhausted, do we run to the Beloved, in prayer, to find rest, or do we make it a chore and say: ‘Oh dear. Now I have to say my prayers…’. What’s missing that we should feel like that? Ardent love for God is what’s missing. There’s no value at all in prayer like that. In fact, it might actually be a bad thing.

If our soul wanders off and becomes unworthy of Christ’s love, he severs our connection with him, because he doesn’t want ‘coarse’ souls near him. The soul has to come round again, to become worthy of Christ, to repent ‘unto seventy times seven’. True repentance will bring sanctification. It’s no good saying ‘The years have gone by and I’m not worthy’ and suchlike; but you can say ‘I remember the dog days, when I wasn’t living close to God’. I’ve had empty days like that in my own life. I was twelve years old when I set off for the Holy Mountain. Were they not years, as well? I may have been only a child but I lived far from God all that time.

Listen to what Ignatij Brianchaninov says: ‘A bodily and spiritual task that is not painful or laborious never benefits those who perform it, because the kingdom of heaven is ravaged and “the violent seize it”. Saying this, he [Christ] meant strenuous bodily ascetic effort’.

When you love Christ, you make an effort, but it’s a blessed effort. You suffer, but all’s well. You do prostrations, you pray because that’s desire, desire for God. Labor, desire, passion, longing, exultation, joy and love. Effort, in order to experience Christ. But this effort isn’t enforced; you’re not made to do it. Whatever you do as a chore is very bad for you, both as regards your inner self and what you’re actually doing. The pushing and shoving provokes a reaction. But labor for Christ, real desire, is love of Christ, it’s sacrifice, it’s resolution. It’s what David felt: ‘My soul yearns and faints for the courts of the Lord’. My soul longs and melts from love of God. What David says fits in with a verse from Veritis [G. Veritis, 1915-1948] that I like:

‘I long to experience the company of Christ, until the last moment comes for me to depart’.

It takes care and effort if we’re to understand what we read and to take it to heart. This is the labor we must undertake. Then we’ll find compunction, warmth and tears without having to make an effort. These follow; they’re gifts from God. Ardent love requires effort. When you understand the hymns, the canons and the scriptures, you’re drawn in, rejoicing; you enter the truth, rejoicing. As David says: ‘You have given gladness to my heart’. In this way you enter into  compunction spontaneously and without shedding blood over it, you see.

I just want to hear the words of the Fathers, the ascetics, the words of the Old and New Testaments. I want to revel in them. They develop divine love. It’s what I want and I try, but I can’t. I fell ill and the spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak. I can’t do prostrations. Nothing. I really want to be on the Holy Mountain, to do prostrations, to pray, to celebrate the Liturgy and be with another ascetic. Or two would be better. Christ himself said so: ‘Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them’.