Thursday, 14 February 2013

St.Nikodemos the Hagiorite-How to kindle the love of God in oneself by entering deeply into the sacrament of the Eucharist

Unseen Warfare

In order to kindle a great love of God in yourself by entering deeply into the heavenly sacrament of the blood and flesh of Christ,
turn your thought to the contemplation of the love, which God has shown you personally in this sacrament. For this great and
almighty God was not content with creating you in His likeness and image, and when you sinned and offended Him and so fell from
your high rank, He was not satisfied with sending His Only-begotten Son to live thirty-three years on earth to deliver you, and, by
terrible torment and painful death on the cross, to redeem and snatch you out of the hands of the devil, to whom you became
enslaved through sin, and again to restore you to your former rank; no, He also deigned to establish the sacrament of His flesh and
blood as food for you, so that the whole power of His incarnated dispensation might imbue your nature most essentially. Make this
last token of God’s strong love for you the object of your constant contemplation and deep pondering, so that, seeing its manifold
fullness and richness, you should thereby feed and inflame your heart with undivided love and longing for God.
(1) Think of the time when God began to love you, and you will see that His love for you has no beginning. For since He himself is
eternal in His divine nature, eternal also is His love for you, whereby before all ages He took counsel with Himself and resolved to
give you His Son in a miraculous and ineffable manner. Realising this, rejoice in ecstasy of spirit and cry: ‘So even in the abyss of
eternity my nothingness was watched over and loved by the infinite God; even then did He make provision for my good, and His
love, which is beyond all words, resolved to give me for food His Only-begotten Son. After this, can I permit myself for a single
moment not to cleave to Him with all my thought, all my desire and all my heart?”
(2) Think also that all mutual affections between creatures, however great they may be, have their measure and their limit, beyond
which they cannot go. Only the love of God for us is limitless. So, when it became necessary to satisfy it in a certain special way, He
sacrificed to it His Son, Who is His equal in greatness and infinitude, for His nature is one and the same. Thus His love is as great as
His gift, and conversely His gift as great as His love. Both the one and the other are so great, that no created mind can conceive
anything greater. So requite this boundless love at least with all the love of which you are capable.
(3) Reflect further that God conceived this love for us not through any necessity, but solely through His natural loving-kindness. He
loved us from Himself spontaneously, with love as much beyond measure as beyond understanding.
(4) Reflect also that on our side we could never have forestalled this love by any deed so worthy of praise or reward, that the infinite
God would requite our utter poverty with the wealth of His love; that He loved us only because in His loving-kindness He wished it;
and not only loved us, but gave Himself to us, His unworthy creatures.
(5) Look at the purity of this love and see that, unlike the love of creatures, it is unmixed with any expectation of future gain from
us. For God has no need of gain from outside, being Himself all-sufficing and all-blessed in Himself. Thus, if He wished to pour
His ineffable love and loving-kindness upon us. He did so not for the sake of any profit for Himself from us, but for our own good.

Thinking of all this, can you help crying out in yourself: ‘O the wonder of it! The Almighty God has laid His heart upon me, the
least of His creatures! What dost Thou wish of me, 0 King of glory? What dost Thou expect of me, who am nothing but dust and
ashes? I see clearly, 0 Lord my God, in the light of Thy infinite love, that Thou hast but one desire, which most reveals the radiance
of Thy love for me, namely that Thou desirest to give me the whole of Thyself as food and drink for no other purpose but to
transmute the whole of me into Thyself, not because Thou hast any need of me, but because I have extreme need of Thee; for in
this way Thou dwellest in me and I in Thee; and through this union of love I become as Thou art. In human words: through the
union of my earthly heart with Thy heavenly heart a single divine heart is created in me.”
Such thought cannot but fill you with wonder and joy, when you see yourself so highly valued by God and so beloved by Him, and
understand that in His infinite love for you He seeks and desires nothing from you, save only to attract your love to Him self and
thus to give you bliss, by delivering you from every passionate attachment to creatures and to yourself. For then you will be able to
bring the whole of yourself as a burnt offering to Him, your God, and from then onwards, for all the rest of your life, only love of
Him and an ardent desire to please Him will possess your mind, your will, your memory and all your senses. Every favour coming
from God’s love for you can produce this effect in your soul: but this effect is most natural if you look with understanding on the
most blessed sacrament of the divine Eucharist. While you look at it with your mind, open your heart to it, and pour out the
following devout prayers and loving sighs: ‘Oh, heavenly Food! When shall the hour come when I am totally immolated for Thee
and consumed, not by some other fire, but by the fire of Thy love? 0 uncreated Love, 0 Bread of Life! When shall I live by Thee
alone, for Thee alone and in Thee alone? When, 0 my life, beautiful, sweet and eternal, when, 0 Manna from heaven, shall I turn
away from all other earthly food, when shall I desire only Thee and be fed by Thee alone? When will it be, 0 my all-satisfying
sweetness, 0 my highest good! 0 my Lord, most desired and most good! Tear this poor heart of mine from every wrong attachment
and tendency, adorn it with Thy holy virtues and fill it with that good disposition which would make me, in all sincerity, do all things
solely to please Thee! Then, at last, I shall attain to opening to Thee my heart, no longer unworthy of Thee, and, invoking Thee with
love, shall make Thee enter it. And then, my Lord, having entered it, Thou wilt not meet with resistance and wilt perform therein all
the actions Thou art wont to perform in souls devoted to Thee.”
In such loving thoughts and feelings you may spend the evening and morning, preparing for communion. Then, when the sacred
hour of communion draws near, imagine most vividly, with humility and warmth of heart, Whom you are about to receive into
yourself, and who are you, who are about to receive Him.
He is the Son of God, clothed in inconceivable greatness, before Whom tremble the heavens and all the powers: He is the Holy of
holies, brighter than the sun, purity beyond all comprehension, compared with which all created purity is filth. In His love for you
He took the form of a slave, chose to be despised, scorned and crucified by the malice of the lawless world, and at the same time
remained God, holding in His hand the life and death of the whole world. And who are you? You are—nothing, who in your
corruption, evil and malice have become less than nothing, worse than the least and most unclean of all creatures, the laughing stock
of the demons of hell. Carried away by your fantasies and lusts, you have scorned your great Lord and Benefactor and, instead of
giving thanks to the bountiful God for so many and such great favours, you have trodden under foot His priceless blood, spilt for
your sake. Yet, in spite of it all, He is calling you to His divine supper in His unceasing and unchanging love for you. At times He
even forces you to approach it by fearful admonitions, reminding you of His words said to all: ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of
man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John vi. 53); and just as He does not shut to you the door of His mercy, so He
does not turn His face away from you, even though, in your sins, you are a leper, weak, blind and poor, a slave to all passions and
The only things He demands of you are:
(1) That you should grieve in your heart at having offended Him;
(2) that you should abhor sin above all things, any sin, great or small;
(3) that you should give yourself up to Him entirely and care for one thing only, with all the love and longing of your heart —to
conform to His will always and in everything you do, and be for ever fully obedient to Him alone;
(4) that you should have a firm faith in Him and an unshakeable trust that He will have mercy upon you, will cleanse you of all your
sins and will protect you from all your enemies, both visible and invisible.
Fortified by this ineffable love of God for you, approach the Holy Communion with holy fear and love, saying: ‘ I am unworthy,0
Lord, to receive Thee; for many and many a time have I angered Thee by my sins, and have not yet mourned all my wicked deeds.
I am unworthy, 0 Lord, to receive Thee; for I have not yet cleansed myself of the dispositions and attachments to what is not
pleasing to Thee. I am unworthy, 0 Lord, to receive Thee, for I have not yet surrendered in all sincerity to Thy love, Thy will and
obedience to Thee. 0 my God, all-powerful and infinitely good! In Thy merciful loving-kindness, do Thou Thyself make me worthy
of receiving Thee, for I run to Thee with faith.”

After this, when you have received the Holy Communion, shut yourself in the secret depths of your heart and, forgetting all created
things, address to God these or similar words: ‘ Almighty King of heaven and earth! Who made Thee enter my unworthy heart,
when I am accursed, and poor, and blind, and naked? No one, of course, but Thy immeasurable love for me. 0 uncreated love! 0
love most sweet! What dost Thou want of me, beggar that I am? Nothing, as I see and understand, except my love for Thee;
nothing, except that no other fire should burn on the altar of my heart but the fire of my love for Thee, which would consume all
love and all desire other than that of bringing myself to Thee as a burnt offering and fragrant incense. Naught else didst Thou ever
desire or seek from me, and naught else dost Thou desire or seek from me new. So hear now, 0 Lord, the vows of my heart! See, I
combine my desire with Thy desire; and as Thou hast given the whole of Thyself to me, so I give the whole of myself to Thee, to be
wholly in Thee. I know, 0 Lord, that this cannot be, unless I renounce myself wholly; it cannot be if any trace of self-love remains in
me, if I harbour some sympathy or disposition towards a will of my own, thoughts of my own, or some self-pandering habits of my
own. Therefore I desire and I strive from now onwards to oppose myself in all that is not acceptable to Thee, but which my soul
may desire, and to compel myself to do all things pleasing to Thee, even if everything in me and outside me should rebel against it.
By myself, I have not strength enough to succeed in this. But since from now on Thou art with me, I daringly trust that Thou
Thyself wilt accomplish in me all that is needed. I seek and strive that my heart may be as one with Thy heart; and I trust that Thy
grace wilt grant me this. I seek and strive to see nothing and to hear nothing, to think of nothing and have sympathy with nothing,
except that which Thy will, determined by Thy commandments, leads me to and shows, and I trust that it will be granted me by Thy
power working in me. I strive and I seek not to let attention stray from the heart, where Thou dwellest, there to gaze at Thee
unceasingly and be warmed by the rays of light issuing from Thee; and I trust that this will be given me by the touch and embrace of
Thy hands. I strive and seek for Thee alone to be henceforth my light, strength and joy; and I trust to be given this by Thy saving
action on my inner man. It is of this that I pray and shall always continue to pray. 0 merciful Lord, grant me this, grant me this.’
Then strive to increase from day to day your faith in this most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and never cease to wonder at the
miraculous mystery of it, reflecting on how God manifests Himself to you in the guise of bread and wine, and becomes essentially
present in you, to make you more holy, righteous and blessed. For blessed are they who do not see, yet believe; according to the
words of the Saviour: ‘ Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John xx. 29). And do not wish that God should
manifest Himself to you in this life under any guise other than this sacrament. Try to set alight in yourself a warm desire for this
sacrament and to make progress every day both in your fervent readiness to do only God’s will, and in spiritual wisdom, making it
the queen and ruler over all your actions of the spirit, the soul and the body. Every time you take communion, while partaking of
this bloodless sacrifice, offer yourself as a sacrifice to God, that is, profess your complete readiness to endure every affliction, every
sorrow and every wrong you may meet in the course of your life, for the sake of the love of God, Who sacrificed Himself for us.
St. Basil the Great describes more fully the duty imposed on the communicant by the Holy Communion, basing it on the words of
St. Paul that those who eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood show the Lord’s death (I Cor. xi. 26). This death was suffered
by the Lord for the sake of all men, and so also for the communicants. For what purpose? ‘ That they which live should not
henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again’ (II Cor. v. 15). So those who approach the Holy
Communion with faith, love and such readiness to be faithful to God’s commandments and to every clear manifestation of His will,
that they are prepared to lay down their lives for it, undertake the task no longer to live either for themselves, the world or sin, but
for the Lord God they receive into themselves in the Holy Communion, Who died and rose again for them.
Finally, having received through the Holy Communion the Lord, Who sacrificed Himself for you, and having partaken of the force
of this sacrifice, after glorifying the Lord and rendering thanks to Him, send in the name of this sacrifice prayers and supplications
to your heavenly Father about your own needs, of the spirit, the soul and the body, then about the holy Church of God, your family,
your benefactors and the souls of those who died in faith.
Being connected with the sacrifice through which the Son of God has obtained mercy for us all from God the Father, this prayer
will be heard and will not be left without fruit.

Taken from "Unseen Warfare",Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite.
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