Many many thanks to all those who contributed to match a generous $3000 donation from an anonymous donor. The goal was attained this past weekend. It is because of people like you that the Mystagogy Resource Center can continue to offer unique material to all for free on a daily basis that I hope people find beneficial. For those who still wish to contribute, please do so, with much gratitude in return. God bless you all!

April 5, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles To Receiving God's Grace

We once asked an elder, "How can a person receive divine grace?"

"One cannot receive divine grace unless he endures all temptations as they come," he replied and then added: "The greatest obstacle that obstructs God's grace is self-love. When God finds one's heart emptied of all desires, He fills it with His grace, which is impossible to describe. It can only be experienced in one's heart. But even a moment's sinful thoughts can make this grace withdraw."


When the athlete of asceticism, the hermit Petros, who la­boured in the cave of St. Peter the Athonite, felt God's grace in his heart, he would exclaim, "The Lord hit me with a javelin of mercy!"


An elder said, "People of today do not have God's grace, and if they sometimes have a little bit of it, they cast it away then the demons stay with them. Bad thoughts ob­struct divine grace. No ascesis is as powerful as good thoughts. Good thoughts come only to those who see eve­rything through cleansed eyes."


A contemporary venerable hesychast would say to me: "Not many people are graced these days. Frequently we remain empty of God's grace. Then through a sorrow or difficulty it comes back to us again."


An elder said, "Many times our prayers are not answered because of us. Other times it is because of someone else and for a different reason. For example, someone asks me to pray for a person who is ill. I pray and let's say I have suffi­cient faith and am not egotistical. Still God does not answer my prayer, because the other person is not humble enough. He may believe that God will help, but his ego stands in the way. We must trust God. We should let Him do whatever He wills. If I pray correctly, I may feel the re­moval of the temptation, and everything will go well. Any time, however, that God allows us to go through a tempta­tion, it is for our own benefit, and we should probably not ask God to deliver us from that difficulty. If the difficulty is caused by the Devil, then God helps us right away. Many times God's will is unknown to us."


An ascetic once was asked: "How is it that many times we don't feel anything when we pray, either in church or pri­vately somewhere else?"

He answered: "There are many possible reasons. Some­times you may feel deep compunction, or you may sense that the Lord has given you a sweet consolation, though not as a result of your own labour. Then, because you did not understand these things, He takes them away until you understand. There is always a purpose to these things.

In any case, do not strive for the gift of tears while pray­ing, or for any other spiritual gift for that matter. The si­lent suffering within a person for some sin done in the past is the best gift. Forced tears in prayer can be dangerous be­cause they can create illusions about one's spiritual state.

Tears give rest. A deep sigh many times could be worth — I am not sure, this is only my thought, and I might be wrong — such a deep sigh might be worth more than a bas­ketful of tears.

We should not ask from God the gift of tears; rather we should ask Him for repentance, over and over again. We need repentance."

From An Athonite Gerontikon