Fr Dumitru Staniloae: Are You Cleansing Passions So You Can Pray?

Feast of Hilarion the New

Staniloae_Square.jpgUNION WITH GOD can only be reached by pure prayer. “The virtue of prayer brings about the mystery of our union with God,” says St. Gregory Palamas, “because prayer is the tie of rational creatures with the Creator.” Before attaining the state of pure prayer, man must be cleansed of the passions. But cleansing from the passions is one with the growth of the love of God. Thus the love of God trickles into the soul with anticipation and strengthens it in the quiet of dispassion and in pure prayer. Now by this, more love also comes to him. Better said, now only divine love, or the Holy Spirit, works in him. As Diadochos says, “Just as the troubled sea becomes calm when oil is poured on it, because of the attributes of the oil, so too our souls are filled with a blessed calm, when the sweetness of the Holy Spirit is poured into it.”

Thus there is a close tie between love and dispassion. Love presupposes dispassion and in turn it strengthens it too, because it is the opposite of the passions, which represent egotism. Where the passions are, love can’t be. So love comes into the soul fully amplified after we have reached dispassion, after we have been freed from the passions. Certainly only then do we gain culminating prayer too, which is higher than prayer by concepts and words. Because the one who isn’t peaceful can’t pray as he should, and he can’t turn exclusively to God, as long as he is preoccupied in an egotistic way with himself. In this sense, love sums up all the other virtues, if by every virtue a passion is slain. But it is the immediate fruit of prayer. “All the virtues work with the mind to attain the love of God, but, more than all, pure prayer. For by this flying toward God it goes beyond everything that is,” says St. Maximus the Confessor. If the passions mean in a word the love of self, the love of God is just the opposite.  

—Fr Dumitru Staniloae, "Love and Dispassion"

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