How does one knock at the door of the Kingdom? Met. Anthony Bloom spends much of Chapter 2 of his classic, “Beginning to Pray” making a direct correlation between our desire to go deeper with God and how we view what we possess. Do we think we have earned what we have or do we see everything as a gift from God? (It should be noted that the first chapter in St. John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent is on the topic of renunciation.) Met. ANTHONY begins with a look at the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) In what way are we to be considered poor and how are we rich? He says we are poor because everything we have has been given to us. Our minds (even the great minds) can be extinguished in a minute by a minute blood vessel and our hearts alive one moment can stop the next. But we are rich because everything we have is a sign of the love of God for us. “All the food of this world is divine love made edible.” So, knocking at the door begins with a proper view of reality. We are dependent on God and have a debt of gratitude and need to offer a sacrifice of praise.
But where is this door we are to knock on? St. John Chrysostom said, “Find the door of your heart, you will discover the door of the Kingdom of God.” The Gospel tells us first of all that the kingdom of God is within us. Met. ANTHONY clarifies, “it is not a journey into my own inwardness but rather a journey through my own self. But we have difficulty doing this because are so very often inattentive in prayer, our heart is just not in it, and our prayer is not upheld by our life.”
Prayer needs to be offered with all our attention to God and if we can do that Met. ANTHONY says our awareness of the Lord will grow. Our work of prayer is to sit ourselves down in some regular way and try to give prayer a chance to succeed. It is the teaching that this awareness will indeed grow. St. Theophan the Recluse says, “The awareness of God shall be with you as clearly as a toothache.” Prayer, with practice, can be constantly there so that while listening to people, doing our work, reading, in sadness, in joy or any occupation there is an awareness of the presence of God. Let us start to learn prayerful attention at moments when our minds and hearts are not divided and then we can pray in any situation we find ourselves.
Today’s readings in the Orthodox Church: Acts 21:26-32, John 16:2-13