Desire for God, unutterable love

san_giovanni_crisostomoYesterday morning at Matins, we had this magnificent text of the Golden–Mouthed Doctor:

From the Book on Prayer by St John Chrysostom, Bishop & Doctor
[De Precatione 6]

Prayer is the height of our blessings and communion with God; for it is both companionship and unity with God.  Just as the eyes of the body are enlightened when they look upon light, so a soul intent on God is illumined and enlightened by his inexpressible light.  It is not indeed formal prayer that I refer to, but prayer offered from the heart, and so not confined to suitable times and fixed intervals, but continuing in action without cease day and night.  For we do not only have to withdraw to pray, and suddenly turn our minds towards God.  No, even while we are busy among the needy, either with the care of the poor or with other concerns, or useful good works — into their very midst we should also bring our desire for and remembrance of God, so that seasoned, as it were, with the love of God they may provide a most acceptable offering for the Lord of all men.  If we devote most of our time to prayer, the delight we can gain from it will last us the whole of our lives.

Prayer is illumination of the soul and true knowledge of God.  It mediates between God and men; it heals suffering and counteracts disease.  It calms the soul and guides it to heaven, for prayer has no earthly life, but follows a path leading to the very heights of heaven.  It transcends the created world, and in the spirit cuts through and soars above the air; it passes beyond the circle of stars, opens the gates of heaven, and taking precedence over the angels enters the very presence of the unapproachable Trinity.  There it worships the Deity, and is held worthy to be the companion of the King of Heaven.  The soul, raised by it high into heaven, embraces the Lord in an ineffable embrace, and cries out tearfully like a child to its mother, begging for the heavenly milk.  It seeks its own desires, and receives gifts surpassing all that belongs to the world of nature.

Now in speaking of prayer, you must not imagine that I mean words.  I mean desire for God, unutterable love, which men cannot offer of themselves but by the inspiration of divine grace.  Of this the Apostle says: “We do not know how we ought to pray, but in our wordless sighs the Spirit himself intercedes for us.”  If the Lord grants to anyone prayer of this kind; it is wealth that will never be taken away, and heavenly food that satisfies the soul; he who tastes it is possessed with an eternal longing for the Lord, which sets his heart ablaze as with a mighty fire.

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