Keeping the Pascha Light Burning
Fr. Alexander Goussetis
St. Theophan the Recluse was a 19th century author and spiritual giant. The gift of his teachings was the ability to reinterpret the wisdom of the ancient patristic writers in order to reach the modern Christian. Now that we have received the light of Christ's resurrection, where do we go from here? How do we keep the Pascha light burning? St. Theophan offers us this advice: "Christian life is zeal and the strength to remain in communion with God by means of an active fulfillment of His holy will, according to our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the grace of God."
So how do we achieve the spiritual fruits of our efforts together with God's grace? St. Theophan offers this practical list in his own words:
- It is necessary to establish a pattern of going to Church as often as possible. Our Church is heaven on earth.
- You must observe all Church solemnities, rituals, and sacraments and cover yourself with them in all their forms.
- With the help of your spiritual father, establish a rule of prayer (personal prayer time offered each day in a format that is clear and consistent and not dependent on moods or feelings).
- Pray always with awe, diligence, and all attention.
- Once you have chosen a rule you should always fulfill it. But this does not prevent you from adding something according to the heart's desire.
- Reading and singing out loud, in a whisper, or silently is all the same, for the Lord is near. Sometimes it is better to pray one way, other times another.
- You should firmly keep in mind the limits of your prayers. It is a good prayer that ends with your falling down before God with the feeling that You who know my heart, save me.
- There are stages of prayer. The first stage is bodily prayer, with reading, standing, and prostrations; this is active prayer. The second stage is attentive prayer: the mind gets used to collecting itself at the hour of prayer, and says all with awareness. The third stage is prayer of the feelings – the attention or focus warms the heart, and what was thought in attention becomes feeling in the heart. Whoever has captured feelings prays without words, for God is a God of the heart.
- The easiest means for ascending to ceaseless prayer is the habit of doing the Jesus Prayer and rooting it in yourself.
- By laboring in asceticism we seek purification of the heart and renewal of the spirit. The name of the Lord Jesus is the treasury of blessings, strength and life in the spirit.
Christ is risen! By following the wisdom of St. Theophan we can cultivate a deeper experience of Christ’s resurrection throughout the year.