A desert hermit, dear to God and often in prayer, was joined by two angels as he walked, one on each side. He tried to pay them no attention. He did not want to be distracted from his conversation with Christ.
From the Desert Fathers
This is one of the great religious tragedies of our age – we do not want God so much as the proof of His existence – all of which is – in my thought – part of living in the world of a two-storey universe. We hope that there’s a God up there and we’ll grasp at any hint that it all might be true.
I’m trying to place the story of this hermit in today’s American setting and can only imagine that this would quickly become an “angel story” and not a story about God. Just as Church becomes a grocery story, or “look what she’s wearing” story or “what did he mean by that story” or “anything but God story.” And the goodness of God is that His is always, “I love you so much I gave you my only-begotten son” story. And even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:12).
The very heart of Orthodox spiritual practice is Hesychia (stillness). It is not necessarily a matter of sitting or standing still (though sometimes it helps) as it is become still within our inmost selves. It is, indeed, the opposite of being distracted.
The stange thing about distractions is that they do not go away by paying them attention – but by not paying them attention. And this only happens because we are mindful of something or Someone else. Thus the remembrance of God is not only the vanquishing of a two-storey universe, it is also the quiet coming to the heart of our selves where indeed we encounter Christ.
Of course, it is hard to have such attention in our busy modern lives – but that is only an excuse we use. When I lose my keys (I do this on a fairly regular basis), I think nothing of taking the time to search for them, invoking help by prayer. I can’t go anywhere without them. If my keys are so important how much more so is God. How far will I go without that Key, and if I have not found the true heart of myself, then who is it that is running around so much anyway?