Sustained fasting allows prayer to descend to the depth of the heart and burn out the roots of our passions. I stumbled across this quotation by St Paisius Velichkovsky while I was on Athos, recording the new series of our podcasts. Something about this quote made me think of the ‘thin places’ of the Celtic Isles, and how any human being – each and every one of us – can become a ‘thin place’, a transparent being breathing between this fallen world and the Kingdom of God.
Each of us can reach down to the depth of our soul, each of us can become a ‘thin person’, so the Light of Christ can burn all roots of evil and all the bad seeds we have been gathering since we were young, even in our mother’s womb. The fruit of all our mistakes, all our bad choices, all our bad behaviour – once we open to Christ, once we make ourselves transparent to Him, it can all be healed, it can all be turned into ground for good seeds, bringing good fruit into the world.
But this is a difficult process. It can be raw and painful, and often very confusing. It can feel almost like losing your identity in the process, because the deeper His Light reaches, the more it burns and cleanses the soul. Things that were embedded in us – feelings, behaviour, thoughts and instincts – elements that were part of ‘ourselves’ are burned and lost, and this is perceived as loss of self, loss of identity.
Unfortunately, we live at a time when we learn to define ourselves through our sins and passions. We learn to see our true self in the image of the bad seeds that were planted in us, with or without our knowledge. So it is natural that the process of burning these seeds and their fruit should be painful.
To most of us, this does not feel like finding ourselves, but losing ourselves; this does not feel like finding a new Life, but like losing our life; this does not feel like being saved, but like being suffocated.
But hold on to your faith, for these are Christ’s words being fulfilled in us. This is His word foretelling us that to die to this world is to find Life in the Kingdom. This is His word foretelling us that to lose oneself for His sake and the sake of the Kingdom is to find one’s true self, one’s true identity.
This entry into eternal Life by crucifying this fallen life is opened to us by Christ Himself and His death on the Cross for each and every one of us. But to see this true Life, to find this true Identity, we must become spiritually transparent, we must become ‘this persons’ through whom the realities of the Kingdom become visible even for eyes and bodies made of flesh. Eyes and bodies like yours, and like mine.
The full podcast ‘On thin places and thin persons’ is available here: