Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman). "The good part." Obstructions in the spiritual life and the desire for grace.
Here are two examples: one from my personal experience, the other - from the experience of my friend. When I first read the conversation of St. Seraphim of Sarov, it shook me and made me significantly change my life. It was a very long time ago, I had not yet prayed the Jesus prayer and I did not communicate with father Andrew (Mashkov). After reading this work, I realized that the true Christian life is not just to go to church, pray, make the sign of the Cross, and not to commit serious sins. The Christian life must be grace-filled. But at that time, I realized it in a primitive way. Later, reading other holy fathers, I began to treat everything more reasonably. And then I began to pray that the grace descends upon me. I did not know how we should pray correctly, I did not hear about the Jesus prayer, so I endlessly repeated "Our Father" and some other prayers.
Soon, extraordinary things began to occur to me. When I went to bed and fell asleep a little, then I started to hear some buzzing, like buzzer, and something descended over me. I felt pleasant sensations, and saw some dreams in reality, in a subtle dream, as they say. You know how it happens: like you're already asleep, but still did not lose consciousness. I dreamed of one thing after another, it seemed that the Savior icon in the corner of the room sparkles ... And I thought that the grace had descended upon me. And I wept in the church, just like a girl: eyes rained tears. I was weeping and thinking: "Everyone is looking at me and friends are looking and thinking how pious I am". But what was that weeping, if I had no idea about the Jesus Prayer? Some moment of service amazes me, say, the intonement: "Let us lift up our hearts" - and I start weeping. I weep, and can not hear the service any more, because I keep in mind the words that have caused the tears. And my soul feels good. Roughly speaking, I was happy with everything. Even the passions did not particularly torment me. Of course, what passions could be, when a person is content with himself? I was disabused of this state by some sane notions of orthodoxy that I had. For example, I knew how canonical icons, iconostasis look like, and that non-canonical icons should not be in the church. Then one day, I had a vision, as if I am at the gates of paradise with the mind. And they are like the royal doors, but made in the Baroque style: carved, cross-cutting, gilt. I look at them and think: "But they are not canonical!" Just as I thought, these heavenly or royal doors turned into some kind of a long fence. The demon immediately transformed them, say, you do not want them - please, get the others. But I have realized that there is something wrong. But no one could explain it to me. I spoke to one good, zealous priest, but he had no idea of these things, and he could not understand whether it is grace or not. Once I had these suspicions, immediately all sorts of temptations began. In the end, I had to pray to get rid of the buzzer. That's how I fell into the delusion because I wanted grace. There was a similar case with my friend (now an abbot or hieromonk, do not know exactly, I have not seen him for a long time). We read the same books, and he also read the conversation of Seraphim of Sarov with Motovilov. That was already when I came to myself and realized that I was in delusion. But everyone believes himself more than others. My friend also prayed for the grace to descend upon him. I do not know what he felt, but in the end it was so bad that he had to call an ambulance. The good thing is that there were no serious consequences.
So, we should not seek to obtain grace, understood in a primitive way: the shining face and sweetness in the heart, just like Motovilov had it. It is one thing that Motovilov obtained something through the prayers of such great ascetic as St. Seraphim of Sarov, and it is a different matter what we are capable of. God can give us only what is good for us, what we can encompass. As the Gospel says, no one puts new wine into old wineskins, because that will break the wineskin, and the wine will spill. As you know, wineskin is a vessel made of sheep skin. When it was old, the new, still fermenting wine tore it. For this reason, the Lord does not give us grace like this new, bubbling vine: we lose it, and we harm our own soul. And we think that if there is no grace, such as we imagine it, then all is lost, everything is useless, the spiritual life is over, we will perish, and so on. Once again I say: grace for a beginner, if we talk only about the subjective feelings, is attention in prayer. If you lose attention, all your "grace-filled" feelings are, at least, suspicious. The action of grace is expressed in the behavior of a man, in the inner state: in humility, humbling ourselves before others, love of neighbor, and so on. As the Apostle Paul says, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5: 22-23).