Anthony Bloom was born in 1914 in Lausanne, Switzerland, and spent his early childhood in Russia and Persia. Bloom’s family settled in Paris, where he received his doctorate in medicine. In 1939 he secretly professed monastic vows in the Russian Orthodox Church before leaving to serve as a surgeon in the French army. After his ordination into the priesthood in 1948, he gradually rose to a high rank in the Church. Considered by many to be a saint, Bloom died in 2003 at the age of eighty-nine. The following is excerpted from Courage to Pray by Anthony Bloom. Copyright © 1997 by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Reproduced with permission of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
We must let our heart go its own way, toward its own deepest desire, which it knows is different from all others. This desire is different from all others not necessarily because it is more strongly felt, but because it comes from farther off, from what is deepest in us. It is not simply an act of our free will, but something which is in our deepest being and which involves all that we are. It is something quite simple but inseparable fundamentally from our self-awareness and open to a limitless beyond. God reveals himself to us in this awareness that we are essentially a cry for him.
Our inner atmosphere is not made up only of what we are clearly conscious of and can be precisely expressed. It is also composed of all that is living in our inmost depths. This is what makes us realize what we fundamentally are. It is always there.
Throughout the day we are a succession of social personalities, sometimes unrecognizable to others or even to ourselves. And when the time comes to pray and we want to present ourselves to God, we often feel lost because we do not know which of these social personalities is the true human person, and have no sense of our own true identity. The several successive persons that we present to God are not ourselves. There is something of us in each of them, but the whole person is missing. And that is why a prayer which could rise powerfully from the heart of the true person cannot find its way between the successive men of straw we offer to God. . . .
It is extremely important that we find our unity, our fundamental identity. Otherwise we cannot encounter the Lord in truth. We should be on the watch all the time to see that none of our words and actions are incompatible with the fundamental integrity we are seeking. We must try to discover the real person we are, the secret person, the core of the person to come, and the only eternal reality which is already in us.
This discovery is difficult because we have to cast aside all the men of straw. From time to time something authentic shows through. . . . Our deep reality may take over in moments when we are so carried away by joy that we forget who might be looking at us, . . . or when we are unselfconscious in moments of extreme pain, moments when we have a deep sense of sadness or of wonder. At these moments we see something of the true person that we are. But no sooner have we seen, than we often turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face. We are afraid of him; he puts us off. Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us.