St. Isaac says that lower spiritual beings and realities cannot see higher ones: “Every thing that is above another is concealed from that which is beneath it.” This principal applies pretty consistently across all nonphysical reality.
Take mathematics for example. I know there is such a thing as calculus, but calculus is only squiggles on a page to me–I barely made it through second year algebra. The lower cannot see the higher. Or take a virtue like loyalty. Someone who has only known selfishness cannot see or even conceive that someone else might serve, care for or protect another for no selfish reason, for no reason other than loyalty.
In our spiritual life, humility is the central virtue not only because God Himself is the most humble, but also because we cannot see where we are going, or better, where we are growing. “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be,” the Apostle says. The lower things will always make more sense to us because we know them already. To ascend to the higher things, we must be led, be taught, be enlightened.
And patience is also necessary. Patience with ourselves, when we just don’t see it. And faith in those who do. In a sense growth in our relationship with God is a great deal like junior high school math class–at least my experience in junior high math. I had to have faith in my teacher, faith that the concept she was presenting did indeed make sense–if I could only just “get it.” I had to trust and keep looking at it and following the awkward external rubrics. The smart kids in class (like the saints) would get it first, giving me hope that indeed there was something to get–the teacher was not just tormenting us. I would continue working the rubrics, doing by rote what I was told to do. Again and again I would work the problems, trying not to be frustrated, paying attention, looking, working and waiting. And then a light. Usually not a bright one. I would see a little. It would make a little sense. Then as I paid attention working more problems, connections formed, the light got brighter. “Now I get it….”
And just about the time I got it, we were moving on to something new. So it is in our life with God. We are being led to a higher reality, a higher knowledge, a higher way of knowing. The rubrics, often awkward, are the prayers and rites and traditions. These help us, help us get it. Or really, help us get Him, Him who has been there all along, leading us out of the darkness of a merely mechanical, physical existence, into the Light of the knowledge of God.
Thank you Father Michael for your post. It seems that you were reading my mind as I drove to work this morning. Wondering if the little efforts I am making are pleasing to God? Where am I going spiritually? Am I on the correct path? Then I read your post and realized that my hope is in Christ and maybe, just maybe someday I will be given the grace of receiving a little light and be able to say: "ok, maybe I understand a little!" Thank you for your encouraging words. BK