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The Road to Paradise October 9, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.

“When you are on the road to paradise, this will be your sign: the temptations which multiply against you.” — St. Isaac the Syrian

Oh my God, help me! Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

So much has happened. I have neglected this blog that has been so helpful to me.

I remember the Feast of the Birth of Mary. I remember that the service was powerful, but I can’t remember why.

Today from the stem of Jesse and from the loins of David, the handmaid of God Mary is being born for us. Therefore all creation is renewed and rejoices. Heaven and earth rejoice together. Praise her, you families of nations, for Joachim rejoices, and Anna celebrates, crying out, “The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of Life!”

I remember desperately wanting love. That has been a recurring theme lately.

It eats me alive inside. It haunts my every thought, my every dream. It as if the sadness in my heart is so great that it is going to burst forth from my chest.

Quick as a humming bird is my love, Dipping into the hearts of flowers– He darts so eagerly, swiftly, sweetly Dipping into the flowers of my heart.

— James Oppenheim

And I remember the Feast of the Protection of Mary, the Mother of God.

I remember, for the first time in a long time, being happy that day. It was some time last week. I had felt happy all day long. I saw beauty in everything. Such happiness was sudden, uncharacteristic. I go to church for Wednesday Vespers to find out that that day was the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. And it all clicked. She had cast her veil over me in loving, warm protection that day. I remember kneeling, and I found it wonderful. We cried out, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” and then we would prostrate. It was amazing.

And the pilgrimage to Holy Cross Hermitage.

I had been miserable, my desires eating me alive, feasting upon my soul. I was tired, cold. My feet hurt. It was late; we were at a quite long vigil. Then, like a sudden gust of unexpected wind that bewilders you, the grace of God descended upon me. It lasted about an hour or so, I do not know. I was near to tears, so enraptured in the liturgy.

Earlier that day I had read a bit in the book The Sweet Far Thing. Gemma had encountered a beautiful, wondrous fairy in the woods. Her voice rang as mithril, and there was nothing more lovely in all the realms. The fairy tempted Gemma towards the gates to the Winterlands, a sweet seductress, luring Gemma in with wonderful things. Her friend, however, called for her from far away and interrupted Gemma’s allure. It was then that she noticed how horrid the fairy was, and that her voice was a shrill hiss as opposed to the voice akin to that of a goddess. Gemma looked past the fairy’s facade and found the truth beyond the superficial beauty.

During vigil, I connected this with the demons. So beautiful. Alluring. Wonderful. Until something interrupts their pull, if only briefly. Then you see their horror. Their lies. Dragging you to your damnation. Maybe not even dragging. Many times I have simply held their hand, all too happy to merrily skip on my way to Hell.

Everything I thought I wanted, needed, was a lie. The fog was lifted from my eyes. I loved God. I fervently prayed that He have mercy on me and not allow me to fall again into the dark, stagnant depths.

God, apparently, had different plans.

O Lord, I know not what to ask of You. You alone know my true needs. You love me more that I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You. Visit and help me, for Your great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to You. I put all my trust in You. I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen.

We left, and I was particularly assailed by demons. I was too weak to fight them for long. I tried, then I slowly gave way to apathy. I even wanted the thoughts I had, as unrealistic as I knew they were.

Nearly a week later, and I have sunk down. I have fallen into despair. I want to cling to my thoughts of dating, planning romantic dates, proposing, marriage, children, growing old and dying with the love of my life. I cling to those thoughts as though they were the very things sustaining me. I know I cannot have those things. I clutch my pillow at night and cry. Cry. I worship this idol of marriage. Of marriage I cannot have within the Church.

I am spitting on God’s face once again, yelling, “God! You died for me, and I don’t give a damn!”

I happily wallow in my despair. I cling to my darkness. I desperately grasp onto my fantasies. I want something else more than I want God. I want marriage more than I want my salvation.

As I think of this, I remember the quote above from St. Isaac the Syrian. At the monastery’s vigil, I was truly close to paradise. I know I was close because, indeed, the temptations have multiplied against me. I have fallen. If it is God’s will, so be it. “Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up.” I pray that I learn from all that I go through.

This blog is about my journey in Christ. I fall down, get up, fall down again, get up again. I do an awful lot of falling.

God, help me to get back up.

Whenever I feel empty, whenever I desire to be filled with something other than You, O my God, come to my aid. Whenever I want love, help me to remember that You are love.

“God is love.”

Help me, my God. Oh my God, help me! Oh my God, oh my God… help me.



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