Spiritual Sunbathing

A few months ago I visited Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery in Saxonburg, PA, to venerate a myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God that was visiting there. When the crowds of clergy, monastics and pilgrims had thinned a bit, I was able to spend some time sitting in the back of the small monastery church, not consciously praying, just taking in the presence of this holy icon in this holy place. Afterward I described this to our priest, a bit whimsically, as “spiritual sunbathing.” The metaphor reminded me of this well-known passage from St Basil the Great’s On the Holy Spirit (ch. 9, 22–23):

Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give. As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit shines become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

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