I could not deal with so much beauty

This is a difficult post for me to write – I don’t really know how to approach this, and I’m sure the topic will return many times from now on in my talks. I feel God has offered me a rare gift at the end of a very tough year, and I need to give myself time to allow it to sink in before I fully understand what I was given.

This only happened to me once before in my life, when I first went to the Hebrides. On Friday, before the very last stop of this fundraising trip, I was on a day-tour of the Grand Canyon. Those of you who have heard me speak know how much I talk about art and nature as two ways to make your prayer come to life, two ways leading you ‘into’ knowing God.

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The sense of unmanageable Beauty one has before the wilderness of the Grand Canyon is just that: a true revelation of God, a true revelation of the correct relationship we are to have with Him. When I was there, facing this extraordinary demonstration of what authentic creativity is, all I felt was silence: a thick blanket of silence that covered my heart, my brain, my body… Before God’s presence, one goes numb, afraid to even breathe, afraid to approach it or draw near in any way. My eye-sight is not worthy to touch such beauty, my voice is not real, authentic enough to even whisper a prayer; all of one’s senses go silent, paralysed before such overwhelming power.

And yet, my heart continued to pray in a different way. Deep down, my being seems to hide a different kind of worship, a different kind of relating to Christ. I don’t know when and how I learnt it; it just exists, the way instincts simply exist. Before such beauty, one discovers¬†how different we are from what we’ve learnt to think we are – we are so much deeper, so much more beautiful, so much more able to worship and truly pray. It’s as if we were created with a set of spiritual senses and abilities, which we later – for some painful reason – fail to recognise in ourselves and fail to develop. We waste so much of our own being, we are so removed, so distant from our real selves… We learn to adapt to this world, and we end up replacing our spiritual senses with material ones.

Then, in moments like these, we find ourselves face to face with His presence, and a sort of engine just starts working again in our hearts – all by itself, with no input, no doing of our own.

I was simply present; I was in awe at the presence of my true self as much as I rejoiced in God’s presence.¬†There was nothing but silence in me; yet, this silence was as alive, as ‘eloquent’ in its worship as the most grace-filled moments I’ve been blessed with the Holy Altar.

This was such a gift – glory be to God for His love, and thank you all for your prayers. This is your doing, this is the effect of all the love you’re pouring over me and this monastery. May we all be blessed.

4 Responses

  • Greetings Fr. Serafim,
    Thank you so much for your attentiveness to the beauty of our humanity. It is such a joy to read the words of someone who loves the beauty the human condition. In this world of darkness and shadow your words offer a beacon of light and way into the beauty of life in Christ. I have struggled during the fast to keep my whole being focused on the sublime and transformative love offered the world through the incarnation; my eyes and heart are so easily turned away. Thank you for speaking to my soul and directing my eyes back upon the beauty of all creation and the deep and unending love of God.
    Your servant in Christ,
    Symeon

    • Dear Symeon, one of the most useful things I’ve learnt reading Fr Sophrony from Essex is to always focus on the good and the beautiful, and never waste my energy on the bad in this world. Think of your energy as a source of power: give that power to what is beautiful in your life, don’t feed evilness with it. Always focus on the good, feed it and help it flourish.

      Please continue to pray for the monastery. You are in my prayer.

    • Please pray for us, dear Lazarus. Also, please share the posts on the monastery website with your friends and family – you never know how God moves their hearts towards supporting the monastery, especially now, as we approach Christmas. In Christ, fr seraphim

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