Sunday, 7 October 2012

Unseen Warfare-On warmth of heart and on cooling and dryness of heart

  Saint Nikodemos The Hagiorite
Just as the presence of spiritual warmth in the heart is sweet, so is its absence bitter, wearisome and frightening. It has been said already that it goes when attention and heart deviate from things of the spirit and turn towards things not of the spirit. By this is not meant something sinful - since a man who has had a taste of spiritual warmth is no longer attracted to sin - but all the soul-body realm, vain, earthly, created. As soon as attention inclines towards it, spiritual warmth immediately declines; but when the heart also cleaves to it, it withdraws altogether, leaving behind coldness towards all things divine and towards God Himself, accompanied by indifference to all spiritual works and occupations, practised for the purpose of preserving this warmth.
If a man recollects himself at once and hastens to re-establish his habitual warmth-producing order, this warmth returns quickly or not so quickly. But if he pays no attention to it, and through being dispersed, infatuated with something or self-reliant, deliberately allows himself to linger in this cooling atmosphere, and especially if he takes the risk of satisfying in actual deed his non-spiritual tastes resurrected by it, his very zeal for spiritual life becomes undermined, if not completely deadened. The latter is the forerunner of falling into former habitual sins, which will not fail to overcome the negligent. But if a man recollects himself, he has no difficulty in returning to his spiritual state, even from there.
This is how cooling always happens; it is always through our own fault, since it is produced by weakening of attention and of watchfulness over oneself. This weakening is caused either by the temptations of a man's worldly surroundings, and when forms of worldly prelest stupefy a man and abduct him from his own self; or by the wiles of the enemy, who contrives to induce a man to come out of his inner self, which the enemy sometimes succeeds in doing, merely by adding his own more attractive picture to the natural flow of images of fantasy, and sometimes by somehow affecting also the body. 
But, whatever the cause, the action of cooling begins with the attention coming out of the inner depths, and its further progress is established by the heart cleaving to something, at first vain and empty, and later passionate and sinful. And in every case it is a man's own fault. For neither the world nor the devil can violate man's freedom; they can only subject it to temptation.
Sometimes cooling is due to the action of grace. In its true aspect, spiritual warmth is the fruit of grace present in the heart. When grace comes, the heart is warm, when it goes - it is cold. Grace also leaves a man, when he comes out of himself attracted by wrong things. Then this cooling is and is called punitive. But sometimes grace withdraws of its own accord, for the purpose of assisting the spiritual progress of the servants of God. And in such cases this withdrawl is and is called instructive. But in this instance the consequences are still the same - cooling, a sensation of emptiness in the heart; for the guest and visitor has gone. 
The difference between these coolings is that the guilty cooling weakens the very zeal of spiritual life, whereas cooling due to an instructive withdrawl of grace makes it burn with even greater fervour, which is also one of the purposes of such withdrawl.
Divine grace withdraws of its own accord for purposes of instruction for the following reasons; to excite zeal, which sometimes slackens through a long period of calm; to make a man examine his situation with greater attention and reject the attachments and occupations not directly connected with a life acceptable to God and not leading to Him; - to increase and strengthen the consciousness and feeling that everything good in us is the fruit of God's grace; - to make us value more highly the gifts of God in the future, care more about preserving them, and be more deeply humble; - to make us surrender with greater sincerity into the hands of Divine providence, with complete self-denial and self-belittlement; to force us not to become attached to spiritual delights themselves, thus dividing our heart in two, since God wishes the whole of it to belong to Him alone; to prevent us from relaxing our efforts when Divine grace works in us, but to make us toil without sleeping on the path of God, straining all the powers with which he has endowed us precisely for this purpose.
Thus, even when cooling results from an instructive withdrawl of Divine grace, you yourself are the cause of it, since, although Divine grace withdraws of its own accord, it does so with its eye on you. So when you feel a cooling for spiritual things and occupations and generally for all divine things, enter deeply into yourself and examine carefully why it has happened; and, if it is your fault, hasten to eliminate and efface it, not so much because you are anxious for the return of spiritual delights, but rather because you want to destroy in yourself all that is unfitting and not pleasing to God. If you find nothing of this kind, submit to God's will, saying to yourself: 'God has decided: let Thy will be done on me, O Lord, weak and unworthy as I am.' Then be patient and wait, never allowing yourself to deviate from the habitual order of your spiritual life and spiritual works and exercises. 
Overcome the lack of taste for them, which has assailed you, by forcibly making yourself practice them, paying no attention to thoughts which try to distract you from your efforts by suggesting that this occupation is useless; drink willingly your cup of bitterness, saying to the Lord: 'See my humility and my efforts, O Lord, and deprive me not of thy mercy,' and let your efforts be inspired by the faith that this cup comes from God's love for you, because He desires you to attain a greater spiritual perfection. 
An Excerpt from "Unseen Warfare" Edited By St Nikodemos The Hagiorite,and revised by St Theophan The Recluse.

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