Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | September 6, 2010

Elder Porphyrios’s “Wounded by Love”

I’ve been reading a number of books lately through the course of a beautiful summer that seems to have gone by all too fast! I pray that yours has as well and led you to equal if not greater treasures in your quiet moments. My own reflections pale beside deeper waters, so I offer here simply a few of the useful things found lately from Elder Porphyrios’s “Wounded by Love” which I began reading after a quick review which unfortunately I can no longer find and credit (thought it was ‘Deb on the Run’ but can’t seem to substantiate that) – so my apologies and thanks to whomever!

“Christ himself is joy. He is a joy that transforms you into a different person. It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ. This spiritual wine inebriates you like pure unadulterated wine. As David says, You have anointed my head with oil and your cup intoxicates me most mightily. Spiritual wine is unmixed, unadulterated, exceedingly strong, and when you drink it, it makes you drunk. This divine intoxication is a gift of God that is given to the pure in heart.

Fast as much as you can, make as many prostrations as you can, attend as many vigils as you like, but be joyful. Have Christ’s joy. It is the joy that lasts forever, that brings eternal happiness. It is the joy of our Lord that gives assured serenity, serene delight and full happiness. All-joyful joy that lasts forever, that surpasses every joy. Christ desires and delights in scattering joy, in enriching his faithful with joy. I pray that your joy may be full.

This is what our religion is. This is the direction we must take. Christ is Paradise, my children. What is Paradise? It is Christ. Paradise begins here and now. It is exactly the same: those who experience Christ here on earth, experience Paradise. That’s the way it is, just as I tell you. This is right, it’s true, believe me! Our task is to attempt to find a way to enter into the light of Christ. The point is not to observe all the outward forms. The essence of the matter is for us to be with Christ; for our soul to wake up and love Christ and become holy. To abandon herself to divine eros.” p. 96

Elder Porphyrios’s “Wounded by Love” is a gift, a hymn of one life’s insight into the life in Christ. The depth of the Elder’s love offers almost as much of value on first reading as on return visits for those whose spirit is oriented to his words. For he seems to capture the intangible either by his proximity to our time and lives, or by his character.

“The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in flight and to live in dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence.

Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer – suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved. She makes sacrifices and disregards all impediments, threats and difficulties for the sake of the loved one. Love towards Christ is something even higher, infinitely higher.” p. 107

The Elder quotes both Matthew and Ignatius Brianchaninov’s “On the Prayer of Jesus” on what this suffering amounts to:

“Every physical and spiritual task which does not involve pain, toil and trouble never bears fruit for the person who engages in it, for the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence and the violent lay hold of it – ‘violence’ here meaning the laborious exercise of the body in everything.’ p 108

As he puts it, “When you love Christ, you exert yourself, but in blessed exertions. You suffer, but with joy.” No duress, no protest, no rebellion. “Exertion for Christ, true desire for Christ, is love, sacrifice and dissolution of self.”

The Elder’s thrust turns towards how this love might be expressed in prayer. I liked his admonitions on how to pray, summed up neatly in his chapter heading: “On Prayer: Pray to God with fervor and love in a calm state of mind, with meekness and gentleness, without forcing yourself.” And he renders the prayer of the priest recited secretly in the Divine Liturgy:

“Shine in our hearts, O loving master, the pure light of your divine knowledge and open the eyes of our mind to understand the proclamations of your Gospel. Instill within us fear of your blessed commandments, so that trampling down all fleshly desires we may lead a spiritual life, thinking and doing everything with a view to pleasing you. For you are the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and to you we ascribe glory, along with your Father who is without beginning and your all holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages.”

As someone in the Western Rite, I’ve known this prayer mostly through the wonderful podcasts of Dr. Jeannie Constantinou whose “Search the Scriptures” on Ancient Faith Radio are as good as they are long. And I add it here not because it is “new” to anyone, but simply to not lose track of it. A great prayer for beginning!

And yet the Elder’s emphasis on “posture” expressed through the tone of the voice (soothing as to a little child), through the purity and selflessness of attitude, and avoiding delusion is something I could read over and over again. He repeats over and over: “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” and places great emphasis on training the heart to turn to Christ. I think it is here that his monastic formation mixes most potently with his pastoral experience. And there seems to be much that may be gained by putting his words into action to rekindle the heart’s love for Christ. As he brings out the little episodes and responses where we can encounter Christ and turn to him in love over and over again. His whole manner seems to anticipate where our initial responses might take us, and so he offers instead “tools” to redirect our lives back toward the Kingdom at the outset. So though you may not find reading as joyful as St. Isaac, I wouldn’t wonder that his insight might lead you there all the same.

And though I’m not through with the Elder just yet and may post more later, I highly recommend his writing for study, reflection, and experience. It’s not easy to come by – I think it was a little on the pricey side, but it is beautifully written, wonderfully annotated with each scriptural quote italicized and referenced, and a great resource.

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