Is this a familiar idea in Orthodox spiritual life?

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RaphaCam
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Is this a familiar idea in Orthodox spiritual life?

Postby RaphaCam » Fri 16 September 2016 12:59 am

I was reading briefly about RC mysticism and I came across a curious concept, which I could relate to myself and maybe to few things I've read, the "dark night of the soul". It was first defined by John of the Cross, who basically described it as being tempted by spiritual dryness and doubt, to the point of feeling miserable, something some must experience on the path to sanctification. In the Gospel, it can be related to "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" and to the doubt of St. Thomas. The King David's words in Psalm 41 seem to point to a similar feeling.

I'm here to ask how the idea of God tempting his faithful with spiritual dryness and doubt appears in Orthodox spirituality. I would appreciate texts and references about it.

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Barbara
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Re: Is this a familiar idea in Orthodox spiritual life?

Postby Barbara » Fri 23 September 2016 1:41 am

I don't have a good answer, but the question is intriguing. Good question.
In my reading of Orthodox Saints Lives, I have not come across this problem mentioned the way I have in the Lives of Catholic Saints, where it is quite common to have spiritual dry spells lasting for years or decades before relief comes to the struggler. Sometimes the Orthodox Saint is ill for many years, but in the biographies, no connection is made between this physical debilitation and his spiritual state at the time. Examples of the ill would be Elder Amvrosy of Optina, who was bedridden nearly all of his life at Optina. Or Elder Gabriel of Pskov and Kazan. Both Elders attributed illness as a way to purify sins. No concomitant estrangement from God was brought out in their biographies, or other Saints whose lives I have read. Once in awhile, a mention will be made that the Saint was 'depressed'. This condition struck Elder Gabriel at least a few times in his monastic life. However, a feeling of abandonment by God was never advanced as a part of this state, at least by the author of the Life. Whether this "Dark Night of the Soul" condition prevailed, we can not tell from the paucity of the description given. It seems universally in Orthodox Saints' Lives, a veil was drawn over these times of emotional slump.

Good for you for having considered this comparison, RaphaCam.
I hope you are feeling better now if any shadow of this state was afflicting you at all.
Last edited by Barbara on Fri 23 September 2016 1:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Maria
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Re: Is this a familiar idea in Orthodox spiritual life?

Postby Maria » Fri 23 September 2016 1:50 am

I am reading The Way of the Pilgrim, which is an Orthodox Classic.

In that book, the pilgrim narrator mentions that he occasionally felt periods of dryness whenever he was not doing the Will of God, failing to pray, or engaging in prelest (pride). In other words, God does not force Himself on us, so whenever we depart from Him in our pridefulness, self-centeredness, or lack of soberness, we will feel the results.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.

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Re: Is this a familiar idea in Orthodox spiritual life?

Postby RaphaCam » Fri 23 September 2016 6:24 pm

It's good to know it seems to be overcomeable issue, known by many saints. The devil hates our commitment.

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Re: Is this a familiar idea in Orthodox spiritual life?

Postby Barbara » Sun 1 January 2017 2:44 am

Yes, absolutely !
In the "Abbess Thaisia of Leushino: the Autobiography of a Spiritual Daughter of St John of Kronstadt", the author writes the following as part of a longer passage revealing such a period of spiritual dryness. I was rereading this last night after 20 - 1/2 years when I saw this paragraph and immediately thought of your question, RaphaCam :

"Nor will I hide the fact that because of my great spiritual confusion I lost my zeal for prayer. When I stood at my icon-corner to pray, one of two things happened: either, having crossed myself, I fell down on the floor with great sobs (at which time the state of my soul was more stifled than prayerful), or a piercing question would keep drilling on my mind—“Where is the truth? Why does nobody defend the innocent? Why does nobody console their tears?” With that, trying not to give way to such despondent thoughts, I would hastily go to bed. But how could I possibly sleep?…in this way more than a whole month or more passed by."

-- p. 116

The author later as Abbess but still having the look of intense emotions

Image

****************

Fortunately for her - at the time novice Arcadia at the Tikhvin Convent of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple - this and every future time, the sincere young nun experienced elaborate visions / dreams which consoled her and brought her completely out of the negative state in which she had languished, as if the sun had come out from behind a cloud.

Based on this revealing account of one Orthodox nun's life, God graciously replies when a person cries out in a Dark Night of the Soul state to Him ; no one is ignored.


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