According to St Nikitas Stithatos, the three stages of our love for God is as follows:
- In the first stage we experience “contempt for visible and human things,” as part of our beginning love for God;
- In the second, intermediate stage we experience the purification and illumination of both our hearts and the heart of our souls, the nous, resulting in the opening of the eyes of our souls and consequent awareness of the Kingdom of God residing within us;
- In the third, final stage we experience “an irrepressible longing for the supernatural gifts of God and a natural desire for union with God and rest in Him” (In Met. Hierotheos. 2010. The science of spiritual medicine).