|Icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov, found here.|
- St. Theophil of the Kiev Caves
One of the greatest marks of my life as an anti-Christian was a distinct lack of peace. Here, I am not speaking of the "inner peace" espoused by the New Age, which is little more than a spiritual Band-Aid.. No, my lack of peace was my lack of peace with God Himself.
For years, I found myself walking up and down the streets of my home city, night after night, walking away from everything and towards nothing in particular other than some new life, some new day. My lack of knowing the peace of Christ was a painful and deadening affliction, one that brought me down to the lower levels of a Dantean Inferno within my own heart.
The peace of Christ as the only true interior peace, the one "which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7), is something worth striving for, worth cultivating, and infinitely worth knowing. St. Seraphim of Sarov tells us that "When one walks in a peaceful state, it is as if one ladles out spiritual gifts with a spoon,"1 and is famously remembered for his admonition to "Acquire inward peace, and thousands around you will find their salvation."2
"Look at the worldly and at the whole world that exalts itself above the people of God: are the image of God and his truth not distorted in it? They have science, and in science only that which is subject to the senses. But the spiritual world, the higher half of man's being, is altogether rejected, banished with a sort of triumph, even with hatred."3 (Fyodor Dostoevsky) Indeed, "their world is formless and tumultuous chaos, a chaos of the forces of nature and of the human soul; their life is illusion."4 (Karl Barth)
In such a world as this, peace can seem impossible to find. But if one cultivates the peace of Christ in one's heart, through interior prayer, then one need not look far. In fact, one need never look to the world outside of the heart, for within one's soul resides and stands before God in silent and continual prayer. Here, in the heart, there is peace. "The patient and diligent worker will not fail to be satisfied and consoled; he will rejoice at an infinite abundance of spiritual fruits such as he can form no conception of in his carnal and natural state."5 (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov)
Cultivating such interior peace is quite difficult, and I am no expert on the subject. I just know that when I pray the Jesus Prayer within, silently in my heart, I begin to experience a peace that I have never known in my life as a Christian. I have felt almost ecstatic when praying the Rosary, a certain sweetness - but when praying the Jesus Prayer, in humbling myself before Christ in this manner, I have felt and known a new kind of deeper peace. This interior peace that comes with praying the Jesus Prayer is something I want to know, experience, and grow in, as a plant grows in fertile soil.
1 - Spiritual Instructions, 24
2 - qtd. in Ware, The Orthodox Way, ch. 5
3 - The Brothers Karamazov, VI:3
4 - The Epistle to the Romans, I:16
5 - On the Prayer of Jesus, III