Lent Reflection Day 10
Many years ago I was the priest of a mission parish. They were renting space when I was assigned there, and I urged them to purchase a permanent location. Everyone was all for my idea until we found a suitable building and decided to buy it. At that point a group emerged as being against the plan because we would need to carry a mortgage. They were not many in number but were very vocal in their opinions. During this entire episode, I had an unusual experience in my prayer life. When I would listen to the objectors, I would agree with them that buying a building would be a risky move. We barely had enough income to pay the mortgage. I would doubt myself, doubt the resolve of the parishioners, and doubt God. But when I prayed about the question, I felt an overwhelming sensation that we were doing the right thing and that we should purchase the building.
Now I’ve always been reluctant to place too much emphasis on the feelings I have when I pray, that something is right or wrong, good or bad, or whatever. I was always taught to mistrust feelings. But this was different. I would go to pray before my icons with a divided heart, but as soon as I started praying my whole attitude would change. I would physically feel as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. We bought the building, and it was the best thing for that mission.
Today’s chapter in Unseen Warfare speaks about this very thing: We may have real feeling of God moving us to an action either through divine enlightenment or mental illumination, in which God’s will is revealed to pure hearts in contemplation, or through an inner divine inspiration, by some inner word, or through some other actions of divine grace, acting in a pure heart, such as life-giving warmth, unspeakable joy, leaping of the spirit, being moved to tenderness, heartfelt tears, love for God and other blessed and God-loving feelings, produced not according to our will but coming from God, not by our own action but in our passivity. All such feelings serve as assurances that what we seek to do accords with God’s will. But before all things we must address to God the warmest and purest prayer, begging Him with all diligence, once, twice and many times, to illumine our darkness and to teach us. Pray three times, say the great fathers Barsanuphius and John, and then do as your heart inclines. Moreover you must not forget that all the decisions, formed in you as a result of the inner spiritual movements we have mentioned, must be verified by the advice and judgment of the experienced.
This pertains to everything we do. Everything must be blessed by God, every plan and habit, every relationship and use of our time. We bring them before God in prayer, and He speaks to us, He reminds us of our heart and the commitment we made at our baptism. This is both very simple and rather difficult. As our guide says: When you start to do anything you must, as far as you can, strip yourself of all wishes of your own and neither desire to do that thing nor turn away from it, until you perceive that the only thing which moves and draws you towards it is the consciousness of God’s will.
Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you today with divine enlightenment and mental illumination. God desires that we would serve Him – but how? The answer is that when we pray, He will show us.
We’ve come now to the tenth day of the Lenten fast, brothers and sisters. Let us lean upon our God for guidance as we place each footstep upon the way set before us.