The grace of repentance
Father Stephen Freeman quotes Elder Sophrony (Sakharov), referring to the saying “Keep your mind in hell, and do not despair.”
From Archimandrite Sophrony’s On Prayer:
Two seemingly totally incompatible states met together in me… The Lord had granted me the grace of repentance. Yes, it was a grace. The moment despair slackened, prayer cooled off and death would invade my heart. Through repentance, my being expanded until in spirit I touch upon both hell and the Kingdom…
The heart is such a strange thing – well revealed by the great Elder’s writings. To be both in a place of despair and yet in a place of prayer. It is why “technique” has so little place in the spiritual life. There are things we can do, and yet all that we do is and must be in relation to God. God is not an object or any such thing. He cannot be found by technique.