How do you get to know yourself or have self-knowledge? When the young brother [in the parable of the prodigal son] went away, he basically lost everything, he humbled himself and got to know himself because he started praying for help, he started to ask for help, so he came to himself and got self-knowledge. But the other brother didn’t squander anything. He just sat back and was waiting for whatever. He didn’t come to himself or have self-knowledge. So without being reckless how do we obtain self-knowledge?
I will not tell you what I think, but I will tell you what my Elder said in a talk on prayer. (From the book: “The Church at prayer, Sebastian Press, 2012). He says that we will first see God and then we will find the strength to see ourselves. This is how disgusting we are and we need God’s Grace to be able to accept what we will see in ourselves. And even then, if we don’t have love inside us, we will just deny God’s Will altogether, like Adam and Eve did in Paradise. When they saw that God realised what they did, instead of running back like the prodigal son, they blamed God like the first son.
Neither of them took responsibility because they didn’t want to accept the knowledge of themselves or wanted to admit that they disobeyed their Creator. To clarify, first of all, we have to experience God in our lives. Then God will give us the strength to see
who we really are. Otherwise we can’t really understand who we are. But, our love is what will guide our free will so we won’t refuse or blame God and move away from Him like Adam and Eve but we will find the strength like the prodigal son. We need the love to return back to God regardless of what we may expect our punishment to be, for who we are. Then we will not be punished, we will be rewarded.
What you are telling us is that we can’t see ourselves without the Grace of God because we wouldn’t be able to handle it. So basically we need Grace. My understanding is that the Jesus Prayer is one way to attracting God’s Grace.
Yes we need God’s Grace, to be able to understand God and to understand ourselves afterwards, but God’s Grace is a given if we love Him. So we need to love Him to be forgiven, to start with, and to love Him to attract more Grace. But how do you love? Are you born with love? Of course.
So how do so many people go wrong? What happens? You say to love your enemies, to love, love, love but why isn’t it natural, what are people doing wrong and can’t love?
It is natural. It’s just that we have to find our true nature. Otherwise it doesn’t work. This is associated with my next question. And the more we ask from God, the more we will receive. If you see that you have a weakness in something, pray for it and then you will receive strength in a certain area and in case you receive something different, it’s because this is what you need first to support what you need after. If, for example, we pray to be able to understand others more and we get tested with an illness, we will never think that this is exactly the gift, the tool and the answer to our prayer. This is indeed the way to understand others more.
What does love feel like? So when you are digging deep inside and you’re finding yourself and as you say it is disgusting, how can you find love there? I understand that God will enlighten you, but does your heart help you?
You have to follow your heart, which will tell you that you have to go back to God and you can’t follow your mind that will be full of whatever thoughts that will distance you away from God. There is no time for calculations here. Whatever you sowed you will reap. And when the harvest comes you might not even have a second to think. The acceptance or refusal of your disgusting reality will overflow from within in an automatic and reflexive way. Think of the following scenario to understand it more. While praying you get the sense that you are like filth in God’s hands. At the same time you realise to the deepest of your existence that God not only accepts you, but He also sanctifies you. He transfigures you. Then you automatically think that the more disgusting you are the more God is glorified, because greater will be the proof of His love, His wisdom, His forgiveness, His power etc., and you get filled up with inexpressible joy and love for God. Your reaction to your sickening reality is automatic joy and love for your Creator. No fig leaves, like Adam and Eve.
Not to focus on your misery in an egocentrical and fatal way, but on your God, with all your soul, all your heart and all your intellect. Then onwards you know what you are and what you owe God. This automatic loving reaction though, would could never happen without spiritual sweat.