Sunday, May 3, 2009

52. Visions, second installment

Unlike the previous example in posting 51, this next example is of a vision, by a holy person, while he was awake, walking, instead of being asleep. It is taken from a book (1) which is considered a classic in spiritual literature.

The writer of this book was an anonymous Russian peasant of the nineteenth century, who was a homeless wanderer. I quote his introduction of himself:

“By the grace of God I am a Christian man, by my actions a great sinner, and by calling a homeless wanderer of the humblest birth who roams from place to place. My worldly goods are a knapsack and some dried bread in it, and a Bible in my breast pocket. And that is all”

He recited, in his heart, Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”) incessantly. During his wandering he met a blind beggar who had also been saying Jesus Prayer, constantly, for a long time. But unlike him, his tongue would move, so that an onlooker could suspect that he was reciting something in his heart. He taught the blind beggar how to say the Prayer while picturing his heart, and synchronizing it with breathing. In about five days the blind beggar learnt it.

“…..He began to feel in his heart delightful warmth as well as a joy beyond words and a longing for incessant prayer which stirred up in him the love for Jesus Christ. At certain time he saw light, though he could not discern objects. At other times, it seemed to him, when he entered the region of the heart, as though the flame of a burning candle flared up brightly in his bosom and rushing outwards through his throat, filled him with light. And in this light he could see distant events, as it happened on one occasion when we were going through the forest. He was silent, wholly absorbed in the Prayer. “What a pity” he cried all of a sudden. “The church is on fire and the tower just collapsed.”

“Stop imagining things” I said to him “this is a temptation to you__nothing but idle fancies which must be put aside. How can anybody see what is happening in the city? It is still twelve versts away.”
“When we came to the city I saw few burnt houses and the fallen belfry……….. As I figured it out, the catastrophe had occurred at exactly the time when the blind man had told me about it”

Please note the interpretation of the event by this semi-literate pilgrim, and his warning to his friend:

“…..guard yourself from believing that your visions are a direct revelation of grace. They may occur frequently in a perfect natural order of things………….I have learnt from my departed elder that even people who are not given to prayer, but who are endowed with that kind of power or acquire it in sickness, can see in the darkest room the light flowing from every object and can perceive things in that light. They can even see their own doubles and enter into the thoughts of other people. However, in contrast, all that comes directly from the grace of God ……is filled with such sweetness and delight that no tongue can describe it, nor can it be compared with anything in the material world. For anything sensual is inferior when compared with the sweet realization of the grace in the heart.”

To be continued

(1) The way of a pilgrim. Translated by Nina A. Toumanova