Saint Seraphim tells us that we must first know God before we can contemplate Him. It is this direct knowledge that is necessary if we are to truly love Him.
Saint Seraphim writes,
If you do not know God, it is impossible for love of Him to be awakened in you; and you cannot love God if you do not see Him. The vision of God comes from knowledge of Him; for contemplation of Him does not precede knowledge of Him.
How are we to gain this knowledge? This is the question we should all ask ourselves and have great anguish if we cannot experience God in this non intellectual way but through a direct experience of Him and His love.
Saint Seraphim tells us,
"A man becomes perfect in His sight to the extent that he follows in His footsteps; in the true age God will reveal His face to Him."This knowledge we seek is one that is expressed in a way that "warms" our inner being.
Saint Seraphim expresses it as follows:
God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. And so, if we feel in our hearts coldness, which is of the devil--for the devil is cold--then let us call upon the Lord, and He will come and warm our hearts with perfect love not only for Him, but for our neighbors as well. And from the presence of warmth the coldness of the hater of good will be driven away.Christ has given us the means through our participation it it's liturgies, sacraments and prescribed practices for all of us, no matter what our spiritual condition, to come to this direct knowledge of Him. This includes the beauty if His Church which uses all means to lift us to heavenly levels. The sacrament of Holy Communion is a direct encounter with Him that works through all parts of our body to transform our fallen nature into one of His likeness. Through Holy Confession we are aided in not just relieving us from our guilt but committing ourselves with His help to change our mind and way of life. We nurture our growth through our regular practice of fasting and daily prayer. This is the Orthodox ways of life and the path to Theosis where we gain a direct knowledge of Him.
Reference: Little Russian Philokalia, Volume 1, p 23
Our aim is to know God in a direct way, not intellectually or through reason. This is often referred to as receiving the light of Christ. When we receive this light we experience a sense of joy. When it a light sent by the devil we feel a bit of agitation or obscureness.
Saint Seraphim says,
The Christian heart, when it has received something divine, does not demand anything else in order to convince it that this is precisely from the Lord...
Saint Seraphim also gives many pointers about how to prepare to receive this gift of lights.
To receive and behold in the heart the light of Christ, one must, as far as possible, divert one's attention away from the visible objects. Having purified the soul beforehand by repentance and good deeds, and with faith in the Crucified, having closed the bodily eyes, immerse the mind within the heart, in which place cry out with the invocation of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and then, to the measure of one's zeal and warmth of spirit toward the Beloved, a man finds in the invoked name a delight which awakens the desire to seek higher illumination.
What is important to remember that this gift comes after we have purified our heart and soul of the attachment to the passions of the body and committed to a life of ongoing repentance and good deeds, including participation in the sacraments of the Church.
Saint Seraphim goes on to describe this gift.
When a man beholds the eternal light interiorly, his mind is pure and has no sensory representations, but, being totally immersed in contemplation of uncreated goodness, he forgets envy thing sensory and wishes not even to see himself; he Desiree's rather to hide himself in the heart of the earth if only he not be deprived of this true good--God.This is the gift that is available to all up who are willing to cooperate with God and undertake the necessary preparation.
Reference: Little Russian Philokalia, Vol 1, pp 46-47