prayer as discovery…

metropolitan anthony bloom

Prayer is the search for God, encounter with God, and going beyond this encounter in communion. Thus it is an activity, a state, and also a situation; a situation both with respect to God and to the created world. It arises from the awareness that the world in which we live is not simply two dimensional, imprisoned in the categories of space and time, a flat world in which we meet only the surface of things, an opaque surface covering emptiness.

Prayer is born of the discovery that the world has depths; that we are also immersed in and penetrated by invisible things. And this invisible world is both the presence of God, the supreme, sublime reality, and our own deepest truth. Visible and invisible are not in opposition neither can they be juxtaposed like in an addition sum. They are present simultaneously, as fire is present in red hot iron. They complete each other in a mysterious way which the English writer charles Williams describes as “co-inherence”: the presence of eternity in time and the future in the present, and also the presence of each temporal moment in eternity, past present and future all-at-once eschatologically, the one in the other as the tree is in the seed. Living only in the visible world is living on the surface; it ignores or sets aside not only the existence of God but the depths of created being. It is condemning ourselves to perceiving only the world’s surface. But if we look deeper we discover at the heart of things a point of balance which is their finality. There is no inwardness to geometric volume. Its finiteness is complete. The world of such forms is capable of being extended but cannot be deepened. But the heart of man is deep. When we have reached the fountainhead of life in Him we discover that this itself springs from beyond.

The heart of man is open to the invisible. Not the invisible of depth psychology but the invisible infinite, God’s creative word, God himself. Returning to ourselves is thus not a synonym for introversion but for emerging beyond the limits of our limited selves. Saint john chrysostom said, “when you discover the door of your heart you discover the gate of heaven.” This discovery of our depths goes together with the recognition of the depths in others. Each has his own immensity. I use the word “immensity” on purpose. It means that the depth cannot be measured, not because it is too great for our measurements to reach it, but because its quality is not subject to measurement at all. The immensity of our vocation is to share the divine nature, and in discovering our own depths we discover God, whom we could call out invisible neighbor, the Spirit, Christ, the Father. We also discover God’s immensity and eternity in the world about us. And this is the beginning of prayer, the recognition of a three-dimensional world of time, space, and a stable but ever changing depth.

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