During the Nativity Fast, the Church calls upon us to refocus our attention and efforts on the development of our spiritual life. Naturally, this includes an effort to increase our personal prayer life, seeking an internal connection with God, which presupposes the calming of our hearts and the cultivation of inner stillness.
Yesterday, we published a homily, “The Path to the Stillness of the Inner Heart,” by Fr. Valery Zakharov, a priest of St. Elisabeth Convent in Minsk.
Today we offer another short, but inspiring homily on inner stillness from the convent’s founder and spiritual father.
The Kingdom of God is within us. We don’t have to fly to some faraway land to find a connection with God. We need to return home, to ourselves, to enter into our hearts, in this “cage,” and close it up, remaining alone there with God (cf. Mt. 6:6). Thus, it’s not customary for us to pray so emotionally as in other Christian confessions, where people put their emotions and feelings into prayer—they’re trusting their emotional side. It seems to be from the heart, but the Orthodox man prays otherwise; he builds his relationship with God differently. It is more hidden from the external gaze; it is internal, intimate. It’s very important to have a sober understanding of this, otherwise you could take your own feelings and emotions for a Divine state of grace.
We learn to be silent before God; we learn to control our thoughts and feelings; we learn to keep the words we read or hear in church from flying away, but to keep them within, in our hearts.
Sometimes someone may not be saying anything out loud, but within him there is prayer; that is, he lives the presence of God within himself, his soul is in a peaceful, tender state, and he sees God in everyone and everything. This is a gift of God, not human efforts and experiences. What must we do in such a state? Be quiet. Be alone with God; feel the presence of God within you. This is a Divine spark that will then warm us for more than a month, and perhaps even more than a whole year. This is the union of man with God that leads to the Kingdom of God.