Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dialog with an angel

Having briefly described the Orthodox position on the use of mental imagery in prayer, I highlighted the rejection and non-acceptance of visions and imagination by the Fathers of the Church. However, there are some notable exceptions and inconsistencies.

On one hand, patristic and Orthodox authors are certainly aware that some (perhaps, many) saints do have visions which do come from God. Orthodox hagiographic accounts abound in visions and revelation, including some in what appears to be the state of spiritual ecstasy.

Of the authors, whose works were examined above, John Climacus, for example, recounts an apparition he had during prayer, in which he even had a dialogue with the angel…

An angel enlightened me when I thirsted for more revelations. And again, being in the same state [of seeing], I asked him: “What was the Lord like before He accepted the visible image of human nature?” But the Prince of Heavenly Hosts could not teach me this, and he was not allowed. Then I asked him to reveal to me in what state He is now. “In one that is specific to Him,” he said, “but not in these.” I asked again: “What is His state of sitting on the right of the Father?” He answered: “It is impossible to accept the understanding of this mystery through hearing.” I begged him to lead me to that, which I desired. But he said: “This time has not yet come, because you still have too little of the fire of incorruption in you.” However, I do not know and cannot say whether I was in the body or out of the body when this was happening to me.

It is interesting in this passage that John Climacus kept asking the angels about the matters which are difficult to place within a personal soteriological context. Indeed, it may be questionable whether knowing in what state Christ sits on the right of the Father would bring anyone closer to salvation. It is telling that the angel refused to answer and elaborate on these matters. Nonetheless, it appears that he not only had a vision, but accepted it, conversed with it, and desired more visions or revelations.

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