Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
– Geronda, is “divine eros” the love we feel for God?
– Divine eros is something far superior to one’s love for God. It is a kind of madness. “Love – eros – madness” – is along the same lines as “envy – hatred –murder”. A precise love of God – complete with sacrifices – simmers slowly inside the heart; then, just like steam, divine eros (which cannot be held back) bursts forth and unites with God. Divine eros can soften even the toughest bones so much, that a person can no longer stand upright; he actually falls down! He then resembles a wax candle in a warm environment, which cannot stand firmly upright. It falls to one side, then it falls to the other side… you straighten it, but again it bends, again it falls, because of the heat of its environment, which is too hot for it to bear.. When a person finds himself in such a state and he needs to go somewhere or do something, he cannot… He struggles; he has to actually struggle to get out of that state….
– Geronda, when someone is in a state of divine eros, and if he is in pain, can he feel that pain?
– If the pain is very intense, it is subdued and becomes tolerable. If the pain is minimal, it disappears altogether… Haven’t you seen how people who are in love with each other are entirely oblivious? They can hardly sleep… A monk once told me: “Geron, a brother of mine has fallen in love with a gypsy girl and has lost his sleep over her. He keeps repeating her name, over and over again… Is he perhaps bewitched? I have been a monk for so many years, and even I don’t feel that much love for the Holy Mother as he feels for that gypsy! I don’t feel my heart leaping like that!”
Unfortunately, there are spiritual people who are scandalized by the term “divine eros”. They haven’t perceived what “divine eros” means, and they are attempting to remove this term from the Menaia and the Paracletic texts, because they claim that it scandalizes. Where have things come to! On the contrary, if you speak to secular people (who have experienced “secular eros”) about divine eros, they immediately say: “That must be something a far superior thing.” There have been so many youngsters who have experienced “secular eros”, whom I immediately “aligned” when I mentioned divine eros to them! I ask them: “Have you ever lost your footing on account of the love that you felt for someone? Have you ever felt that you cannot move and you cannot do absolutely anything?” They then immediately comprehend how this must be a really superior state, and we understand each other perfectly thereafter. They usually respond with: “If we feel that way with something secular, imagine what that celestial feeling must be like!”
– How can one become dotty, Geron, by their love for God?
– Well, by keeping company with …other dotty ones, who will infect you with their spiritual dottiness! I will pray to one day see you… a complete madman! Amen…
I too have a small experience of spiritual madness, which comes from divine eros. In that state, a person reaches the stage of divine absentmindedness and wants to think of nothing else except God, the divine, the spiritual, the celestial… While divinely in love, he is deliciously ablaze internally, and he explodes externally in a mad manner – within the divine confines of modesty – and glorifies his God and Maker like an angel, day and night….
– Is that what we call “ecstasy”, Geron?
– Yes. That is when a person “takes leave of himself” – in the good sense, of course. That is also what we mean by ….”stand aside and shudder, o heavens” (έκστηθι φρίττων ουρανέ) [from the Eirmos of the 8th Ode of the Canon of Easter Saturday].
Divine madness takes a person beyond the earth’s pull; it lifts him up to the Throne of God, and makes him feel like a puppy at his master’s feet; a puppy licking His Feet joyfully and with reverence…