EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Sunday, 31 July 2011

FR LEV GILLET (Orth): EVERY MOMENT A PASCH

thanks to: http://megfunk.com/entry.php?id=501

Jesus A Dialogue with the Saviour
Chapter XXXIII: Reading the Signs

“With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you.” It is not a question only of the pasch which preceded the first Good Friday nor of the pasch which we celebrate each year. Every moment can become a pasch. 

A pasch is an intimate meal with Jesus in which we are united to the divine life which is given for the salvation of the world, a union with the broken body and the shed blood. This special union distinguishes the pasch from union with Christ in a general sense. 

The whole paschal mystery, the cross and the resurrection is in the Lord’s Supper. The mystery of the Last Supper is not limited to the visible participation in the Eucharistic gifts, in the assembly of the faithful. An internal, invisible, purely spiritual Last Supper can take place in my soul at every moment and everywhere.

“If any man or woman opens the door to Me, I will come in to him/her and will sup with him/her.” The invisible Last Supper is no less real than the visible one but it is of another order and to distinguish between these two orders we must have a very deep respect.

“With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you.” To which pasch does he refer? The last one which Jesus will celebrate before His death. The one in which He will reveal to His disciples the mystery of the true paschal lamb. The paschal meals which He longs to eat with me will enable me to discover the lamb.

Jesus puts this question to the master of the house: Where is My refectory where I may eat the pasch . . .?” 

This question takes on a much richer meaning if we refer to the Greek text of St. Mark: katalyma mou, My dwelling, My reception room.

In this question there is a blending of humility and command. Jesus asks where “His” room is. He demands this with assurance, with the authority of ownership. This room is His, He has engaged it. 

But He was obliged to borrow it from a man. Jesus begs for my soul in order that He may celebrate His paschal meal there. For my soul belongs to Him. He is willing to come as a guest, He demands my hospitality.

“The Master saith, My time is near at hand, with thee I make the pasch with My disciples.” “With My disciples . . .” because the Master’s pasch is always social. It is never only individual.

Even if it is a question of that invisible Last Supper which Jesus can celebrate at any moment in the upper room of my soul, this room must remain open to all of Christ’s disciples. If I am with Jesus, I have to be with Peter, Andrew, James, John, Paul and all the apostles, and all those who either in past centuries or today, have been or are the Saviour’s disciples.

Jesus speaks of His disciples in these terms: “Go, tell My brethren . . .” I cannot isolate myself from the Saviour’s brethren without separating myself from Him. I must commune with them in the same faith, with the same affection. 

The phrase which shows us Jesus getting up to wash His disciples’ feet begins in this way: “Knowing that the Father had given Him all things into His hands . . .” The full awareness of divine authority which is invested in Him becomes for Jesus the very basis for an act of humility.

Simon Peter’s attitude at the time of the washing of feet clearly indicates the temptations which can assail a sincere disciple. 

The impulsive Peter exaggerates in two opposite senses. First of all he does not want Jesus to wash him, then he wants Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his head. 

We would often like to decide what the Master should do and how He should do it. What Jesus desires is that we let ourselves be directed. This is loving submission to His initiatives even though we do not understand them.

If, in imitating Jesus, you kneel to wash another’s feet, it is at this point that the towel with which you wiped them will become for you Veronica’s towel: on it the Saviour’s face will be impressed.

Jesus knows that Judas is betraying Him. During the Last Supper He gives him, before the others, “bread dipped.” 

The episode is disturbing. Is there in it a sign of condemnation or a last appeal of grace? “And after the morsel Satan entered into Judas . . .” Perhaps we are allowed to think that the external mark of predilection which Judas receives shows again mercy on the part of the Saviour. He is offered one last chance.

If we consider carefully the circumstances in which we fall into sin and especially the immediate prelude to our falls, we see that until the last minute the Master multiplies His veiled interventions, His discreet appeals, the descending movements of grace, the touches of secret affection, in order to sustain our weakening will. 

The history of each of our sins is also the history of a manifestation in extremes, as it were, of divine piety. If only we knew, we could read the signs!


Father Sophrony and St Silouan of Mount Athos (click)




Saturday, 30 July 2011

COME AND KNEEL BEFORE HIM NOW!! (Thankyou Fr Paul Johnson!)



THOUGHTS ON PRAYER AND THE MONASTIC LIFE by Fr Thomas Merton (Fr Louis)




THE FIRST LESSON ABOUT MAN. A poem by Thomas Merton


RENUNCIATION AND CONTEMPLATION


ST BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX


MORE ON ST BERNARD


CONTEMPLATION


HOW DO WE ENTER THE HEART: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware quotes "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"


WHAT THE CONTEMPLATIVE HAS TO OFFER


MERTON'S COMMENTARY OF WILLIAM FAULKNER'S "WILD PSALMS" 1/6


MERTON'S COMMENTARY


COMMENTARY OF THOMAS MERTON ON wILLIAM FAULKNER'S "WILD PSALMS" 3/6


COMMENTARY OF THOMAS MERTON ON FAULKNER'S "WILD PSALMS" 4/5



MERTON;S COMMENTARY ON WILLIAM FAULKNER,S "WILD PSALMS"


MERTON;S COMMENTARY ON WILLIAM FAULKNER;S "WILD PSALMS"
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Friday, 29 July 2011

THE PATRISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF POPE BENEDICT XVI



By Father David Vincent Meconi, S.J
In his (now famed) Christmas Address to the Roman Curia (December 22, 2005) Pope Benedict contrasted the two ways of understanding the Second Vatican Council. While some have insisted on seeing the Council as a clear break from what went before, others maintain that although some aspects of the Church were given new expression, the essence of the faith and those truths upon which human salvation hinges did not change. Pope Benedict named the first position the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” and the second the “hermeneutic of reform.” Aware that the Church must continuously develop and reform, the Holy Father’s address makes it quite clear that such growth is always organic, an unfolding of the fundamental truths Christ first taught his Apostles.
Such an insight is surely rooted in Benedict’s own love of the Church and in his study and command of Catholic doctrine, but also, more particularly, in his love of the early Church Fathers. For what is of note in this Christmas Address is how the entire message is rooted in the thought of St. Augustine, the opening line of the address coming from one of the Bishop of Hippo’s own Christmas sermons “Expergiscere, homo: quia pro te Deus factus est homo—Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man” (Sermon 185). As a student, Joseph Ratzinger wrote one of his doctoral dissertations on St. Augustine’s ecclesiology; as Pope Benedict he included St. Augustine’s famed seashell on his papal coat of arms, thereby pointing the world to both the power of the sacraments as well as the inexhaustibility of Christian doctrine. (The story goes that one day Augustine took a break from writing his treatise on the Trinity and while strolling along the shore, came across a young boy using a seashell to displace the waters of the Mediterranean into a hole he had dug. Augustine naturally told the boy that this was an impossible task, to which the Christ-child responded: “And you will never penetrate the mysteries of God.”)

Immersed in the Church Fathers, Benedict realizes the organic structure of the Church: Christian truth is “from the beginning” and the Church’s role is to appropriate the mysteries of Christ’s life by humbly receiving what her founder reveals. Such transmission is never determined by what is novel or “relevant” but by the prayerful succession of the ancient “rule of faith,” that treasury of thought and of action given by Jesus to his people for all time. In an underappreciated section of Principles of Catholic Theology (1987), “Anthropological Foundations of the Concept of Tradition,” then-Cardinal Ratzinger relies on Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and St. Augustine again to argue that the human person is by nature a creature of tradition. That is, like the human person who is inescapably coming from somewhere and simultaneously tending to somewhere else, tradition too moves in both directions: it continuously recovers the truths expressed for yesterday while concurrently guiding the human person rightly into the future. In this way, writes Ratzinger, Christ’s Church is both the “ground control” and the “heavenly terminal”: both the measure of authentic growth as well as the goal toward which every holy person strives.
It is telling that whereas John Paul II dedicated a majority of his early Wednesday Addresses to (what has become known as) the theology of the body, Pope Benedict took the Christian people through the lives and the contributions of the Church Fathers. C.S. Lewis once wrote that we cannot late in the evening intelligently join a conversation that began midday. Benedict’s embrace of the early Church has rooted him firmly in this appreciation for continuity, proving that he is not only a student of the past but also a prophet for the future



THE JOURNEY OF THE SOUL TO GOD by St John of the Cross (quotations)


                                           http://www.innerexplorations.com/chmystext/stquotes.htm

Ascent of Mt. Carmel

Bk. 1. Ch. 1. #5. No man of himself can succeed in voiding himself of all his desires in order to come to God.

Bk. 1. Ch. 4. #5. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. The soul has to proceed rather by unknowing rather than knowing.

Bk. 1. Ch. 5. #6. This perfection consists in voiding and stripping and purifying the soul of every desire. #7. God will give to the soul a new understanding of God in God, the old human understanding being cast aside – and a new love of God in God.

Bk. 1. Ch. 6. #6. The soul is wearied and fatigued by its desires… the (desires) disturb it, allowing it not to rest in any place or in any thing soever.… the desires and indulgence in them all cause it greater emptiness and hunger.

Bk. 1. Ch. 8. The soul that is clouded by the desires is darkened in the understanding and allows neither the sun of natural reason nor that of the supernatural Wisdom of God to shine upon it and illumine it clearly. #2. At the same time, when the soul is darkened in the understanding, it is benumbed also in the will, and the memory becomes dull and disordered in its dire operation. The intellect cannot get the illumination of God’s wisdom, the will cannot get the love of God, and the memory cannot get God’s image. #4. Darkness and coarseness will always be with a soul until its appetites are extinguished. The appetites are like a cataract on the eye or specks of dust in it; until removed they obstruct vision. #6. The affections and appetites deprive them of a treasure of divine light. #7. Any appetite, even one that is but slightly imperfect, stains and defiles the soul.

Bk. 1. Ch. 10. #3. The unmortified appetites result in killing a man in his relationship with God.

Bk. 1. Ch. 11. #5. An attachment (i.e. to converstaion and friendship) can empty you of both holy solitude and the spirit and joy of God.

Bk. 1. Ch. 13. #3. Desire to imitate Christ – and study His life. #6. Do the most difficult, the harshest, the less pleasant, the unconsoling, the lowest and most despised, want nothing, look for the worst.

Bk. 2. Ch. 1. #2. All that is required for a complete pacification of the spiritual house is the negation through pure faith of all the spiritual faculties and gratifications and appetites. This achieved, the soul will be joined with the Beloved in a union of simplicity and purity and love and likeness. #3. In the night of sense there is yet some light, because the intellect and reason remain and suffer no blindness. But his spiritual night of faith removes everything, both in the intellect and in the senses. The less a soul works with its own abilities, the more securely it proceeds, because its progress in faith is greater.

Bk. 2. Ch. 3. #4. Faith is a dark night for man, but in this very way it gives him light.

Bk. 2. Ch. 4. #2. Like a blind man he must lean on dark faith, accept it for his guide and light, and rest on nothing of what he understands, tastes, feels, or imagines. #5. To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.

Bk. 2. Ch. 5. #3. God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it be that of the greatest sinner in the world, and this union is natural. The supernatural union exists when God’s will and the soul’s will are in conformity. Therefore the soul rests transformed in God through love. #8. The illumination of the soul and its union with God corresponds to its purity.

Bk. 2. Ch. 7. #11. When he is brought to nothing, the highest degree of humility, the spiritual union between his soul and God will be effected. The journey does not consist on recreations, experiences and spiritual feelings, but in the living, sensory and spiritual, exterior and interior death of the cross.

Bk. 2. Ch. 8. #1. Faith is the proper and adequate means of union with God. #6. Contemplation, by which the intellect has a higher knowledge of God, is called mystical theology, meaning the secret wisdom of God. St. Dionysius calls contemplation a ray of darkness.

Bk. 2. Ch. 12. #6. The more spiritual a man is, the more he discontinues trying to make particular acts with his faculties, for he becomes more engrossed in one general, pure act, a calm and repose of interior quietude. #7. The soul would want to remain in that unintelligible peace as in its right place. Since people do not understand the mystery of that new experience, they imagine themselves to be idle and doing nothing. #8. They must learn to abide in that quietude with a loving attentiveness to God. At this stage the faculties are at rest and do not work actively but passively, by receiving what God is effecting in them.

Bk. 2. Ch. 13. #4. The third sign: a person likes to remain alone in loving awareness of God, without particular considerations, in interior peace and quiet and repose, and that he prefers to remain only in the general, loving awareness and knowledge without any particular knowledge or understanding. #7. The more habituated he becomes to this calm, the deeper his experience of the general, loving knowledge of God will grow. This knowledge is more enjoyable than all other things, because without the soul’s labor it affords peace, rest, savor, and delight.

Bk. 2. Ch. 14. #4. Nothing is understood particularly in that loving, substantial quietude – and so might believe they are wasting time. The less they understand the further they penetrate into the night of the spirit. They must pass through this night to a union with God beyond all knowing. #6. The third sign is the loving, general knowledge or awareness of God. #10. A person might remain in deep oblivion and afterwards will think no time has passed at all. #11. This oblivion is caused by the purity and simplicity of the knowledge. Effects: an elevation of mind to heavenly knowledge, and a withdrawal and abstraction from all objects, forms and figures as well as from the remembrance of them. The soul knows only God without knowing how it knows Him.

Bk. 2. Ch. 15. #2. The soul refrains from the desire to feel or see anything while it is in this loving awareness. The soul does nothing – only receives what is given. #4. As soon as natural things are driven out of the enamored soul, the divine are naturally and supernaturally infused, since there can be no void in nature.

Bk. 2 Ch. 16. #15. In this darkness faith alone – which is dark also – should be the light we use. (not visions)

Bk. 2. Ch. 22. #6. In the Son of God are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. (Col. 2:3) #16. Humble recipients of supernatural experiences obtain new satisfaction, strength, light and security after consulting about them with the proper person.

Bk. 2. Ch. 23. #4. Solitude and denudation concerning all things is a requisite for this union.

Bk. 2. Ch. 24. #4. This dark, loving knowledge, which is faith, serves as a means for the divine union in this life as does the light of glory for the clear vision of God in the next. #8. A person should not store up as treasures these visions, nor have the desire to cling to them. #9. Our journey toward God must proceed through the negation of all. One should remain in emptiness and darkness regarding all creatures. He should base his love and joy on what he neither sees nor feels – that is, upon God who is incomprehensible and transcendent.

Bk. 2. Ch. 26. #5. This divine knowledge of God never deals with particular things. This sublime knowledge can be received only by a person who has arrived at union with God, for it is itself that very union. It consists in a certain touch of the divinity produced in the soul, and thus it is God Himself who is experienced and tasted there… This knowledge savors of the divine essence and of eternal life. #8. They are so sensible that they sometimes cause not only the soul but also the body to tremble. Yet at other times with a sudden feeling of spiritual delight and refreshment, and without any trembling, they occur very tranquilly in the spirit. #9. Since this knowledge is imparted to thesoul suddenly, without exercise of free will, a person does not have to be concerned about desiring it or not. He should simply remain humble and resigned about it, for God will do His work at the time and in the manner he wishes. #10. God does not bestow these favors on a possessive soul, since He gives them out of a very special love for the recipient. For the individual receiving them is one who loves God with great detachment.

Bk. 2. Ch. 29. #5. If an experience fails to engender humility, charity, mortification, holy simplicity, and silence, etc., of what value is it? #7. In this faith God supernaturally and secretly teaches the soul and, in a way unknown to it, raises it up in virtues and gifts. #11. When together with the words and concepts the soul is loving God and simultaneously experiencing this love with humility and reverence, there is indication that the Holy Spirit is at work within it. Whenever He bestows favors, He clothes them with this love.

Bk. 3. Ch. 2. #2. All these sensory means and exercises of the faculties must be left behind and in silence so that God Himslef may effect the divine union of the soul. As a result one has to follow this method of disencumbering, emptying, and depriving the faculties of their natural rights and operations to make room for the inflow and illumination of the supernatural. If a person does not turn his eyes from his natural capacity, he will not attain to so lofty a communication; rather he will hinder it. #3. If it is true that the soul must journey by knowing God through what He is not, rather than through what He is, it must journey, insofar as possible, by way of the denial and rejection of natural and supernatural apprehensions. This is our task now with the memory. We must draw it away from its natural props and capacities and raise it above itself (above all distinct knowledge and apprehensible possession) to supreme hope in the incomprehensible God. #4. The annihilation of the memory in regard to all forms (including the five senses) is an absolute requirement for union with God. This union cannot be wrought without a complete separation of the memory from all forms that are not God. In great forgetfulness it is absorbed in a supreme good. #8. Once he has the habit of union he no longer experiences these lapses of memory in matters concerning his moral and natural life. All the operations of the memory and other faculties in this state are divine.

Bk. 3. Ch. 4. #1. If the memory is annihilated, the devil is powerless, and it liberates us from a lot of sorrow, affliction and sadness.

Bk. 3. Ch. 5. #1. Moral good consists in the control of the passions and the restruction of the inordinate appetites. The result for the soul is tranquility, peace, repose, and moral virtue. The soul cannot control the passion without forgetting and withdrawing from the sources of these emotions. Disturbances never arise in a soul unless through the apprehensions of the memory. #3. The soul must go to God by not comprehending rather than by comprehending and it must exchange the mutable and comprehensible for the Immutable and Incomprehensible.

Bk. 3. Ch. 6. #3. Distress and worry ordinarily makes things worse and even does harm to the soul itself. The endurance of all with equanimity not only reaps many blessings but also helps the soul to employ the proper remedy.

Bk. 3. Ch. 7. #2. The more importance given to any clear apprehensions (visions, locutions, sentiments), natural or supernatural, the less capacity the soul has for entering the abyss of faith, where all else is absorbed.

Bk. 3. Ch. 12. #1. It has not entered the heart of man what God is like. #4. A person should behave passively and negatively, because then God moves the soul to what transcends its power and knowledge. #6. In these apprehensions coming from above (like spiritual feelings), a person should only advert to the love of God they interiorly cause. #9. It is good for the soul to have no desire to comprehend anything save God alone in hope through faith.

Bk. 3. Ch. 14. #2. The communications of knowledge of the Creator are touches and spiritual feelings of union with God, the goal to which we are guiding the soul. The memory does not recall these through any form, umage or figure that may have been impressed on the soul, for those touches and feelings of union with the Creator do not have any; it remembers them through the effect of light, love, delight and spiritual renewal, etc., produced in it.

Bk. 3. Ch. 15. #1. The aim is union with God in the memory. #2. Images will always help a person toward union with God, provided he allows himself to soar – when God bestows the favor – from the painted image to the living God.

Bk. 3. Ch. 17. #1. In passive joy the will finds itself rejoicing without any clear and direct understanding of the object of its joy.

Bk. 3. Ch. 20. #3. Cares do not bother the detached man.

Bk. 3. Ch. 23. #1. In remaining unattached, a person is unencumbered and free to love all rationally and spiritually, which is the way God wants him to love.

Bk. 3. Ch. 24. #4. When the will, in becoming aware of the satisfaction afforded by the object of sight, hearing, or touch, immediately elevates itself to God, it is doing something very good.

Bk. 3. Ch. 26. #4. The spiritual man is perceptive of the things of God, one who penetrates and judges all things, even the deep things of God.

Bk. 3. Ch. 32. #1. The heart and the joy of will is withdrawn from all that is not God and concentrated on Him alone. #2. In this elevation of joy in Him, God gives testimony of Who He is. "In a desert way, dry and pathless, I appeared before You to see Your power and glory." (Ps. 62:3). #4. The soul is exalted in purrest faith, which God then infuses and augments much more abundantly. As a result the soul enjoys divine and lofty nowledge by means of the dark and naked habit of faith.

Bk. 3. Ch. 40. #2. You should strive in your prayer for a pure conscience, a will that is wholly with God, and a mind truly set upon Him.

Bk. 3. Ch. 41. #2. Sensible satisfaction is inconstant and very quick to fail.

Bk. 3. Ch. 44. #2. "Because wisdom pleased you more than any other thing…" I give you everything. #4. Pray in our secret chamber, or in the solitary wilderness, and at the best and most quiet time of night.





Dark Night

Bk 1, Ch 9, #2.

As God sets the soul in this dark night… He allows it not to find attraction or sweetness in anything whatsoever. #4. God transfers to the spirit the good things and the strength of the senses… if it is not immediately conscious of spiritual sweetness and delight, but only of aridity and lack of sweetness, the reason for this is the strangeness of the exchange. #6. If those souls to whom this comes to pass knew how to be quiet at this time… then they would delicately experience this inward refreshment in that ease and freedom from care… it is like the air which, if one would close one’s hand upon it, escapes. #7. In this state of contemplation… it is God Who is now working in the soul. He binds its interior faculties, and allows it not to cling to the understanding, nor to have delight in the will, nor to reason with the memory. #8. God communicates… by pure spirit. From this time forward imagination and fancy can find no support in any meditation.

Ch. 10. Spiritual persons suffer great trials from the fear of being lost on the road and that God has abandoned them… Their soul was taking pleasure in being in that quietness and ease, instead of working with its faculties. #3. Let them trust in God... who will bring them into the clear and pure light of love. This last He will give them by means of that other dark night. #4. The way to conduct themselves is to allow the soul to remain in peace and quietness, although it may seem clear to them that they are doing nothing and are wasting their time… What they must do is merely to leave the soul free and disencumbered and at rest from all knowledge and thought… but contenting themselves with merely a peaceful and loving attentiveness toward God, and in being without anxiety, ability and desire to have experience of Him or to perceive Him. #5. When the soul desires to remain in inward ease and peace, any operation and affection or attention wherein it may then seek to indulge will distract it and disquiet it and make it conscious of aridity and emptiness of sense. #6. By not hindering the operation of infused contemplation that God is bestowing upon it, it can receive this with more powerful abundance, and cause its spirit to be enkindled to burn with the love which this dark and secret contemplation brings with it and sets firmly in the soul. For contemplation is naught else than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion from God which, if it be permitted, enkindles the soul with the spirit of love.

Ch. 11. From time to time the soul sees this flame and this enkindling grow so greatly within it that it desires God with yearning of love. #2. This love is not as a rule felt at first, but only the dryness and emptiness. The soul then experiences a haitual care and solcitude with respect to God. This Divine love begins to be enkindled in the spirit. #4. The soul enters the night of spirit in order to journey to God in pure faith, which is the means whereby the soul is united to God.

Ch. 12. #2. The first and principal benefit caused by the arid and dark night of contemplation: the knowledge of oneself and of one’s misery. #3. The soul learns to commune with God with more respect and more courtesy. #4. God will enlighten the soul, giving it knowledge, not only of its lowliness and wretchedness, but of the greatness and excellence of God. He cleanses and frees the understanding that it may understand the truth. #7. From the aridities and voids of this night of the desire, the soul draws spiritual humility. #8. The soul is aware only of its own wretchedness – and esteems neighbors.

Ch. 13. It might possibly now lose, through defective use, what before it lost through excess. #3. The soul loses the strength of its passions and concupiscence and it becomes sterile because it no longer consults its likings. #5. It practices patience and longsuffering. #6. Four benefits of the dark night: delight of peace, habitual remembrance and thought of God, cleanness and purity of soul, and the practice of the virtues. #10. Often God communicates to the soul, when it is least expecting it, the purest spiritual sweetness and love, together with a spiritual knowledge which is sometimes very delicate (and cannot be perceived by sense).

Bk. 2, Ch. 1. The soul goes about the things of God with much greater freedom and satisfaction of the soul than before it entered the dark night of sense. It now very readily finds in its spirit the most serene and loving contemplation and spiritual sweetness without the labor of meditation. #2. This sweetness overflows into their senses more than was usual… since the sense is now purer. But they also endure many frailties and sufferings and weaknesses of the stomach and are fatigued in spirit. After the second night of the spirit: no raptures and no torments of the body because their senses are now neither clouded nor transported.

Ch. 3. The night of sense should be called a kind of correction and restraint of the desire rather than purgation. #2. A period of tranquility comes after the first night.

Ch. 5. This dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul – called infused contemplation or mystical theology. God secretly teaches the soul and instructs it in perfection of love, without its doing anything. It is the loving wisdom of God, and He prepares it for the union of love with God. #2. This Divine wisdom is night and darkness for the soul, and affliction and torment. #5. When this pure light assails the soul, in order to expel its impurity, the soul feels itself to be so impure and misterable that it believes God to be against it, and things that it has set itself up against God.

Ch. 6. The Divine assails the human soul in order to renew it and thus to make it Divine… The soul feels itself to be perishing and melting away. #4. The sensual part is purified in aridity, the faculties are purified in the emptiness of their perceptions and the spirit is purified in thick darkness. #5. The soul itself should be destroyed since these passions and imperfections have become natural to it. #6. One hour of purgation here is more profitable than are many there.

Ch. 7. #3. Until the Lord shall have completely purged it after the manner that He wills, no means or remedy is of any service or profit for the relief of this affliction… The soul is powerless. #4. Spiritual things in the soul believes that, if trials come to it, that it will never escape from them. And if spiritual blessings come, the soul believes its troubles are now over.

Ch. 8. If the soul sometimes prays it does so with such lack of strength and sweetness that it thinks that God neither hears it nor pays heed to it. Indeed, this is no time for the soul to speak with God – it should rather put its mouth in the dust, and endure its purgation with patience… It has such distractions and times of such profound forgetfulness of the memory that frequent periods pass by without its knowing what it has been doing or thinking. #2. This unknowing and forgetfulness are caused by the interior recollection wherein this contemplation absorbs the soul.

Ch. 9. #2. The affection, feelings and apprehensions of the perfect spirit, being Divine, are of another kind and of a very different order from those that are natural. #5. It seems now to the soul that it is going forth from its very self with much affliction. At other times things seem strange and rare, though they are the same that it was accustomed to experience before. The soul is now becoming alien and remote from common sense and knowledge of things in order to be informed with the Divine.

Ch. 10. #4. As the soul becomes purged and purified by means of this fire of love, it becomes ever more enkindled in love. This enkindling of love is not always felt by the soul, but only at times when contemplation assails it less vehemently.

Ch. 11. The fire begins to take hold of the soul in this night of painful contemplation. The understanding is in darkness. #2. The spirit feels itself to be deeply and passionately in love. #5. The touch of this love and Divine fire dries up the spirit and enkindles its desires, so much so that it turns upon itself a thousand times and desires God in a thousand ways. #7. In the midst of thes dark and loving afflictions the soul feels within itself a certain companionship and strength, which bears it company and so greatly strengthens it that, if this burden of grevious darkness be taken away, it often feels itself to be alone, empty and weak.

Ch. 15. The soul went by a very secret ladder, which is living faith. In this purgative night the desires, affections and passions of the soul are put to sleep.

Ch. 17. #5. If the soul is hardly conscious of this contemplation, such a person is only able to say that he is satisfied, tranquil and contented and that he is conscious of the presence of God… Pure contemplation is indescribable and therefore secret. #6. This mystical knowledge has the property of hiding the soul within itself.

Ch. 18. #4. Ordinarily that which is of the greatest profit – namely, to be ever losing oneself and becoming as nothing – is considered the worst thing possible, and that which is of least worth, which is for the soul to find consolation and sweetness, is considered best. #5. Secret contemplation is the science of love. It is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator. For it is love alone that unites and joins the soul with God.





The Spiritual Canticle

Prologue. #2. Mystical wisdom, which comes through love, need not be understood distinctly… for it is given according to the mode of faith, through which we love God without understanding Him.

#26. In the inner wine cellar I drank of my Beloved, and, when I went abroad
Through all this valley I no longer knew anything, 
And lost the herd which I was following.

#28. I no longer tend the herd
Nor have I any other work
Now that my every act is love.

#35. In solitude He guides her, He alone,
Who also bears in solitude the wound of love.

Stanza 1. #3. You are a hidden God. Neither is the sublime communication nor the senstible awareness of His nearness a sure testimony of His gracious presence, nor is dryness and a lack of these a reflection of His absence. #6. A person who wants to find Him should leave all things through affection and will, enter within himself in deepest recollection, and regard things as though they were nonexistence. God is hidden in the soul. #7. You yourself are His dwelling and His secret chamber and hiding place. #8. God is never absent. #9. In order to find Him you should forget all your possessions and all creatures and hide in the interior, secret chamber of your spirit. And there, closing the door behind you, you should pray to your Father in secret. Remaining hidden with Him, you will experience Him in hiding, and love and enjoy Him in hiding. #10. God is the substance and concept of faith, and fiath is the secret and the mystery. #11. Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides. They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden. #12. Pay no attention to anything which your faculties can grasp. You should never desire satisfaction in what you understand about God, but in what you do not understand about Him Never stop with loving and delighting in your understanding and experience of God, but love and delight in what is neither understandable nor perceptible of Him. #19. Spiritual wounds of love are very delightful and desirable. The soul would desire to be ever dying a thousand deaths from the thrusts of the lance, for they make her go out of herself and enter into God. #20. The wounded soul, strengthened from the fire caused by the wound, went out after her Beloved Who wounded her, calling for Him, that He might heal her. One goes out from oneself through self-forgetfulness.

Stanza 3. #2. Unless they go in search for God, they will not find Him, no matter how much they cry for Him.

Stanza 4. #1. How to being this journey: don’t pursue delights, and overcome temptations and difficulties; which equal the practice of self-knowledge.

Stanza 6. #2. The will is content with nothing less than His presence and the sight of Him.

Stanza 7. #1. This immensity is indescribable and because of it the soul is dying of love.

Stanza 11. #1. The sickness of love is not cured except by Yourvery presence and image. #10. The soul that loves God lives more in the next life than in this.

Stanza 13. #1. The soul is drawing nearer to Him, and so she has greater experience within herself of the void of God, of very heavy darkness, and of spiritual fire which dries up and purges her, so that thus purified she may be united with Him.





Living Flame of Love

Stanza 1. #6. This soul is so near to God that it is transformed in the flames of love, wherein Father, Son and Holy Spirit communicate Themselves to it. The effect of the living flames is to make the soul live spiritually in God, and experience the life of God. #8. Love is ever throwing out sparks; the effect of lfoe is to wound, that it may enkindle with love and cause delight. #19. God wars against all the imperfect habits of the soul and, purifying thesoul with the heat of His flame, He uproots these habits from it and prepares it so that at last He may enter it and be united with it by His sweet, peaceful and glorious love, as is the fire when it has entered the wood. #24. At death the rivers of love of the soul are about to enter the sea. Burning with sweetness. Consuming not but enlightening.

Stanza 2. #9. The soul feels its love to be increasing and growing in strength and refinement to such a degree that it seems to have within it seas of fire which reach to the farthest heights and depths of the spheres, filling it wholly with love. #29. Death is the ‘old man,’ namely, the employment of the faculties – memory, understanding and will – and the use and occupation of them in things of the world, and the occupation of the desires in the pleasure afforded by created things. All this and the exercise of the old life, which is the death of the new, or spiritual life… In this new life, when the soul has reached the perfection of union with God, all the desires and faculties of the soul… are changed into Divine operations. #30. Understanding is not the understanding of God. The will has now been changed into the life of Divine love. The memory has in its mind the eternal years. The desire now tastes and enjoys Divine food, being now moved by the delight of God.

Stanza 3. #31. If formerly it sought sweetness and fervor, and found it, now it much neither seek it nor desire it, for not only will it be unable to find it through its own diligence, but it will rather find aridity, for it turns from the quiet and peaceful blessings which were secretly given it its spirit, to the work that it desires to do with sense; and thus it will lose one and not obtain the other, since no blessings are now given to it by means of sense as they were formerly… God secretly and quietly infuses into the soul loving knowledge and wisdom without any intervention of specific acts. And the soul has then to walk with loving advertence to God, without making specific actrs, but conducting itself passively, and making no efforts of its own, but preserving this simple, pure and loving advertence. #32. The soul must be attached to nothing – not even to any kind of meditation or sweetness. The spirit needs to be so free and so completely annihilated that any thought or meditation which the soul in this state might desire, or any pleasure to which it may conceive an attachment, would impede and disturb it and would introduce noise into the deep silence which it is meet that the soul should observe so that it may hear the deep and delicate voice of God which speaks to the heart in this secret place. #33. Contemplation is receiving… and the spirit has to be silent and detached from sweetness and knowledge. #34. The sooner the soul reaches this restful tranquility, the more abundantly does it become infused with the spirit of Divine wisdom. At times the soul will feel itself to be tenderly and serenely ravished and wounded, not knowing how, since the Spirit communicates Himself without any act on the part of the soul. #35. The soul feels withdrawn from all things, together with a sweet aspiration of love and life in the spirit, and with an inclination to solitude and a sense of weariness with regard to creatures and the world. #39. God is secretly speaking to the solitary soul while the soul keeps silence. #41. The greater the progress it makes, the farther it must withdraw from itself walking in faith, believing and not understanding; and thus it approaches God more nearly by not understanding than by understanding. #42. God is communicating to the soul loving knowledge. #46. God greatly esteems having brought them to this solitude and emptiness of their faculties and operations, that He may speak to their heart, which is what He ever desires. #56. If you only wait upon God with loving and pure attentiveness (detach the soul from everything and set it free). God will feed your soul for you with heavenly food, since you are not hindering Him. #57. When God brings the soul into that emptiness and solitude where it can neither use its faculties nor make any acts, it sees that it is doing nothing and strives to do something. Therefore it becomes distracted and full of aridity and displeasure. #58. Although it is doing nothing, it is nevertheless accomplishing much more than if it were working, since God is working within it. #70. The deep caverns of sense, with strange brightness, give heat and light together to their Beloved. ‘Together’ because the communication of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in the soul are made together, and are the light and fire of love.

Second Redaction.

Stanza 1. #3. These acts of love of the soul are most precious, and even one of them is of greater merit and worth than all that the soul has done in its life apart from this transformation. #8. These wounds, which are the fires of God, are the sparks of these tender touches of flame which touch the soul intermittently and proceed from the fire of love, which is not idle, but whose flames strike and wound my soul in its deepest center. #22. The virtues and properties of God, which are perfect in the extreme, war against the habits and properties of the soul, which are imperfect in the extreme, so that the soul has to suffer the existence of two contraries within it. This flame of love makes the soul feel its hardness and aridity. #28. The soul says to God, ‘Perfect me now if it be Thy will.’

Stanza III. #34. Any kind of thought or meditation or pleasure would impede and disturb the soul and would introduce noise into the deep silence which the soul should observe in order to hear the deep and delicate voice in which God speaks to the heart in this secret place. #35. When the soul is led into silence, it must forget even the practice of loving advertence… it must practice that advertence only when it is not conscious of being brought into solitude or interior rest or forgetfulness. #36. Pure contemplation consists in receiving. #48. The soul approaches God more nearly by not understanding than by understanding. Faith is darkness to the understanding. #54. God brought them to this solitude and emptiness of their faculties and operations that He may speak to their hearts. #65. God is leading you through the state of solitude and recollection and withdrawing you from your labors of sense. Return not to sense again. Lay aside your operations for they will now be a great obstacle and hindrance to you, since God is granting you the grace of Himself working within you. #67. God is bearing the soul in His arms… and thus, although it is making progress at the rate willed by God Himself, it is not conscious of such movement. #82. Three kinds of love: 1. the soul now loves God, not through itself but through Himself. 2. the soul is absorbed in the love of God and God surrenders Himself to the soul with great vehemence. 3. the soul love Him for Who He is.

Stanza IV. #2. God is awakened in the soul. God breathes in the soul. #6. Wisdom is more active than all active things. #15. Oh, how happy is this soul that is ever conscious of God resting and reposing within its breast!
CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER IN THE CARMELITE TRADITION

THE LITTLE WAY OF ST THERESE

GOD'S MERCY IS GREATER (Purgatory in the teaching of St Therese)





Thursday, 28 July 2011

PRAYER AND MONASTICISM IN THE ORTHODOX TRADITION by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev




PRAYER AND SILENCE

‘...When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask them’.[1] These words of Christ may provoke the following question: what is the sense of praying if God knows beforehand what we actually need?

In answering this question, one should remember that prayer is not just a request for something; it is first of all an encounter with Someone, a dialogue with the living God. ‘Prayer is communion of the intellect with God’, according to a classic definition by Evagrius the Solitary.[2] In prayer we encounter the personal God Who hears us and responds to us, Who is always ready to come to our assistance, Who never betrays us, even if we betray Him many times. In prayer we communicate with the sublime Reality which is the only true Life: compared to It, every other reality is partial and imperfect. Life without communion with God, without prayer, is but a long pathway towards death, a gradual dying. We live insofar as we participate in God, and we participate in God through prayer.

Why does Christ command us to avoid verbosity in prayer? Precisely because it is not out of words that prayer is born: prayer is not merely the sum of our requests addressed to God. Before being pronounced, prayer must be heard within one’s heart. All true masterpieces of music and poetry were not simply composed out of disconnected letters or sounds: they were first born in the depths of their authors’ heart, and were then incarnate in words or musical tones. Prayer is also creative work, born not from verbosity, but out of a deep stillness, out of concentrated and devoted silence. Before embarking upon the path of prayer, one must inwardly fall silent and renounce human words and thoughts.

The human person’s heart, mind, mouth, and senses fall silent, when he is plunged into the waves of prayer. Words, sounds and worldly impressions disappear from his heart; his face is bowed to the ground, when he encounters God in the deepest stillness of his heart. ‘Intelligent silence is the mother of prayer’, says St John Climacus. ‘The friend of silence draws near to God and, by secretly conversing with Him, is enlightened by God’.[3] Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia says:



To achieve silence: this is of all things the hardest and the most decisive in the art of prayer. Silence is not merely negative - a pause between words, a temporary cessation of speech - but, properly understood, it is highly positive: and attitude of attentive alertness, of vigilance, and above all of listening. The hesychast, the person who has attained hesychia, inner stillness or silence, is par excellence the one who listens. He listens to the voice of prayer in his own heart, and he understands that this voice is not his own but that of Another speaking within him.[4]

Like every conversation, prayer is a dialogue, and its aim is not only to express oneself but also to hear Another.

‘Silence is a mystery of the age to come, but words are instruments of this world’, says St Isaac the Syrian.[5] In order to attain silence and stillness, monks deprived themselves of encounters and conversations with people, departed to deep deserts, hid themselves in mountains and woods.

There were three brothers, one ancient story tells us.[6] One of them decided that his mission would be to bring people to reconciliation, the second decided he would visit the sick, while the third went to the desert to live in silence. The first, finding himself constantly between conflicting sides, did not succeed in bringing about peace and therefore was himself in distress. He came to the second and found him also in deep despondency. Together they went to the third brother and asked him whether he had achieved anything in his desert. Instead of an answer, the hermit poured some water into a chalice and invited his brothers to look at it: the water was so turbid that nothing could be seen in it. After a short time the hermit invited his guests to look again: the water settled and became transparent enough for them to see their faces reflected on its surface. The hermit then said: ‘Someone who lives among the passions and cares of the world will always be perturbed by thoughts, while a hermit contemplates God in stillness’.

An experience of stillness is essential for every person who wants to learn the art of prayer. To achieve this experience, one should not necessarily withdraw to the desert. But one has to put aside some minutes every day, go into one’s room, ‘shut the door and pray to God Who is in secret’. Our usual temptation, or deception, is that we are always very busy and forever rush to do something extremely important: we believe that if we spend too much time in prayer, we will not have the opportunity to do these important things. The experience of many people shows that half an hour spent in prayer seldom affects our ‘business’ negatively, in spite of our initial concerns. On the contrary, prayer teaches one to concentrate more to make one’s mind more disciplined: as a result, time is won rather than lost.

The lack of taste for solitude and silence is one of the most common illnesses of the modern person. Many are even scared of remaining in stillness, being alone or having free time: they feel more comfortable being constantly occupied; they need words, impressions; they always hasten in order to have the illusion of an abundant and saturated life. But life in God begins when words and thoughts fall silent, when worldly cares are forgotten, and when a place within the human soul is freed to be filled by Him.

The church Fathers, following Jesus Christ Himself, emphasize that prayer should be simple and unsophisticated. The state of the one who prays is compared by St John Climacus with that of children speaking to their parents:



Let your prayer be completely simple... Do not be over-sophisticated in the words you use when praying, because the simple and unadorned lisping of children has often won the heart of their heavenly Father. Do not try to be verbose when you pray, lest your mind be distracted in searching for words. One word of the publican propitiated God, and one cry of faith saved the thief.[7]



Childlike faith must be combined with deep humility of heart, as St Isaac the Syrian emphasizes:



Walk before God in simplicity and not with knowledge... When you fall down before God in prayer, become in your thought like an ant, like a creeping thing of the earth, like a leech, and like a tiny lisping child. Do not say anything before Him with knowledge, but with a child’s manner of thought draw near to God and walk before Him, that you may be counted worthy of that paternal providence that fathers have for their small children.[8]



Prayer, stillness, silence and humility are deeply connected with repentance: ‘A man who loves conversation with Christ, loves to be alone. But he who loves to linger with many is a friend of this world... If you love repentance, love stillness also’.[9] Thus, without inner stillness and silence, neither repentance nor prayer are possible.



WATCHFULNESS

Being left alone in a room with the doors shut does not yet constitute stillness. Neither does the avoidance of talking constitute silence. Both are inward states which presuppose peace of mind and tranquillity of thoughts. Very often people who are alone and about to pray, find turmoil and chaos in their mind. Although they read prayers with their mouth, their mind wanders afar.

The early Fathers call distraction of mind during prayer meteorismos, light-mindedness. The reason for this distraction, they say, is that the human person is unable to control his thoughts, or the different images and fantasies that appear in the mind. To control his thoughts, the person must learn the art of nepsis (watchfulness, vigilance, alertness, sobriety). This is based on the understanding that every thought captures the human mind gradually. Thought in the mind passes through several stages of development. The first stage is called ‘assault’, which is a simple conception, or a sudden apparition of something in the mind, an image or idea that comes from outside. The second stage is ‘converse’, or ‘conversation’: the mind enters into a dialogue with the thought. This dialogue may become a ‘struggle’, when the mind opposes the attacking thought and either rejects or accepts it. The acceptance of the thought by the mind is called ‘captivity’: it is ‘a forcible and involuntary rape of the heart, or a permanent association with what has been encountered’. The last stage of the development of thought is ‘passion’: it is ‘that which for a long time nestles with persistence in the soul, forming therein a habit, as it were, by the soul’s long-standing association with it, since the soul of its own free and proper choice clings to it’.[10]

Every passion begins with a sinful thought: ‘No cloud is formed without a breath of wind; and no passion is born without a thought’.[11] The fall of Eve is interpreted by St Philaret of Moscow in terms of the acceptance of a thought and its gradual transformation into passion. ‘...When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate’.[12] ‘Saw’ is an assault of a thought; ‘was good’ and ‘was a delight’ are a converse and struggle with the thought; ‘was to be desired’ is an acceptance of the thought, Eve’s being captivated by it; ‘took and ate’ is passion, when the thought is actualized and put into practice. ‘A sinful disposition of the soul’, St Philaret says, ‘begins with the powers of the intellect being oriented in a wrong direction... The multiplicity of one’s own desires, which are not centred around the will of God, is connected with one’s deviation from the oneness of the divine truth into a multiplicity of one’s own thoughts’.[13] In other words, distraction is deviation from primordial simplicity and the state of unification into multiplicity and complexity. Distraction is a consequence of the Fall. The mind’s acceptance of the sinful thoughts is an illness and a sin of the mind, a ‘mental adultery’ of the intellect.[14]

The art of nepsis is the ability of the human person to refuse the sinful thought at the very moment of its first appearance in the mind, before it develops into a passion. ‘The beginning of prayer’, says St John Climacus, ‘consists in banishing by a single thought[15] the thoughts that assault us at the very moment that they appear’.[16] According to St Hesychios the Priest,



The science of sciences and the art of arts is the mastery of evil thoughts. The best way to master them is to see with spiritual vision the fantasy in which the demonic provocation is concealed and to protect the mind from it. It is just the same as the way in which we protect our bodily eyes, looking sharply about us and doing all we can to prevent anything, however small, from striking them.[17]



Evil thoughts must be ‘opposed’, they must be ‘struggled with’. Therefore prayer is not only a peaceful dialogue with God but also a heavy labour, a fight for the purity of the mind. The one who prays must always be watchful of his intellect, memory and fantasy:



Try to make your intellect deaf and dumb during prayer; you will then be able to pray... When you pray, keep close watch on your memory, so that it does not distract you... For by nature the intellect is apt to be carried away by memories during prayer. While you are praying, the memory brings before you fantasies either of past things, or of recent concerns, or of the face of someone who has irritated you. The demon is very envious of us when we pray, and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose. Therefore he is always using our memory to stir up thoughts of various things and our flesh to arouse the passions, in order to obstruct our way of ascent to God... Stand on guard and protect your intellect from thoughts while you pray.[18]



‘INWARD MEDITATION’

The Eastern Orthodox Tradition has developed a special form of prayer, designated by the technical term krypte melete, ‘secret occupation’, ‘inward meditation’. This type of prayer, known from as early as the fifth century, is still very widespread in the Orthodox world and consists of the constant repetition of a short formula of prayer, such as the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner’. There are also shorter formulae: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me’, or ‘Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me’, or even ‘Christ, have mercy’ and ‘Lord, have mercy’. The entire theory of ‘inward meditation’ is expressed in the following sixth/seventh-century monastic story:



A brother named John came from the coast to Father Philimon and, clasping his feet, said to him: ‘What shall I do to be saved? For my intellect vacillates to and fro and strays after all the wrong things’. After a pause, the father replied: ‘This is one of the outer passions and it stays with you because you still have not acquired a perfect longing for God. The warmth of this longing and of the knowledge of God has not yet come to you’. The brother said to him: ‘What shall I do, father?’ Abba Philimon replied: ‘Meditate inwardly for a while; for this can cleanse your intellect from these things’. The brother, not understanding what was said, asked the Elder: ‘What is inward meditation, father?’ The Elder replied: ‘Keep watch in your heart; and with watchfulness say in your mind with awe and trembling: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me”...’ The brother departed; and with the help of God and the Elder’s prayers he found stillness and for a while was filled with sweetness by this meditation. But then it suddenly left him and he could not practise it or pray watchfully. So he went again to the Elder and told him what had happened. And the Elder said to him: ‘You have had a brief taste of stillness and inner work, and have experienced the sweetness that comes from them. This what you should always be doing in your heart: whether eating or drinking, in company or outside your cell, or on a journey, repeat that prayer with a watchful mind and undeflected intellect... Even when carrying out needful tasks, do not let your intellect to be idle but keep it meditating inwardly and praying. For in this way you can... give unceasing work to the intellect, thus fulfilling the apostolic command: Pray without ceasing.[19] Pay strict attention to your heart and watch over it, so that it does not give admittance to thoughts that are evil or in any way vain and useless. Without interruption, whether asleep or awake, eating, drinking, or in company, let your heart inwardly and mentally at all times be meditating on the psalms, at other times be repeating the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me”’.[20]

The Jesus prayer has a special power because the holy name of Jesus is contained in it. It was He Himself Who commanded His disciples to pray in His name: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in My name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive...’[21] He speaks of the wonderworking power of His own name: ‘...In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover’.[22] When the Apostles Peter and John healed the lame man, they were asked by rulers, elders and scribes: ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ The Apostles replied: ‘...By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth... this man is standing before you well... For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’.[23]

There are many references to the name of Jesus in early Christian literature. We read in The Shepherd of Hermas (second century): ‘The name of the Son of God is great and boundless, and upholds the entire universe... He supports those who wholeheartedly bear His name. He Himself is their foundation and carries them with love because they are not ashamed of bearing His name’.[24]

The practice of prayer in the name of Jesus has lived within the Orthodox tradition both in early centuries and in recent times. St John Climacus in the seventh century, St Gregory of Sinai in the thirteenth century, St Gregory Palamas and other Byzantine Hesychasts in the fourteenth century, St Nicodemos of Holy Mountain in the eighteenth century, St Seraphim of Sarov, St Theophan the Recluse, St John of Kronstadt in the nineteenth century, St Silouan of Mount Athos in the twentieth century - all these authors, to mention but a few, spoke of the Jesus prayer.[25]

According to the centuries-old Orthodox tradition, the power and energy of God is present in the holy name of Jesus. In the beginning of the twentieth century Monk Hilarion, a Caucasian hermit, wrote in his remarkable book On the Mountains of the Caucasus: ‘The Son of God... in the fullness of His divine nature is present both in the Holy Eucharist and in Christian churches. He is also fully and entirely present in His name, with all His perfection and with the entirety of His divinity’.[26] Monk Hilarion quoted the following words of St John of Kronstadt: ‘Let the name of the Lord... be for you instead of the Lord Himself... The name of the Lord is the Lord Himself...’[27] Heated arguments arose on Mount Athos in the 1910s around these words and around the teaching of ‘the adorers of the Name’ (imyaslavtsi). The latter were accused of dogmatic inaccuracy, namely in confusing the name of God with His essence. However, as far as Hilarion’s book is concerned, it is very much in tune with the Hesychast tradition of the veneration of the name of Jesus. Regrettably, with the outbreak of arguments around the name of Jesus, this book was regarded as a manifesto of the ‘adorers of the Name’. Banned from distribution by the Russian ecclesiastical censors, it has remained virtually unknown.

Of considerably more fame is another Russian book on the Jesus prayer, which was written in the second half of the nineteenth century and is known in the English-speaking world as The Way of a Pilgrim.[28] The hero and author of this book was a simple Russian peasant, who heard in church the words of St Paul, ‘Pray without ceasing’,[29] and was kindled with the desire to learn this unceasing prayer. For a long time he could not find a spiritual director. Eventually a starets (elder) told him of the practice of the Jesus prayer and commanded him to repeat three thousand prayers per day. The quantity then increased to six and twelve thousand per day, after which the peasant, who was a strannik (pilgrim) wandering from place to place, learned how to pray ‘without counting prayers’, that is, unceasingly.



And that is how I go about now, and ceaselessly repeat the prayer of Jesus, which is more precious and sweet to me than anything in the world. At times I do as much as 43 or 44 miles a day, and do not feel that I am walking at all. I am aware only of the fact that I am saying my Prayer... I thank God that I now understand the meaning of those words I heard in the Epistle: Pray without ceasing.[30]

The basic rule which applies to the Jesus prayer, as well as to other kinds of prayer, is that one should ‘enclose one’s thoughts within the words of one’s prayer’.[31] It has been noticed, however, that when the mind is located in the head, it is very much subject to distraction and cannot concentrate. In order to acquire concentration, it is necessary to relocate the mind and place it in the heart. This ancient method of the descent of the mind into the heart, which was developed in early monasticism, is summed up by St Theophan the Recluse in one of his letters:



You should descend to your heart from your head... As far as I remember, you wrote to me that you had a headache from attentive prayer. This happens when one acts only with one’s head. But when prayer descends into the heart, there will be no difficulty in prayer, for the head will become empty from the thoughts. All the thoughts are in the head, they follow one another, and it is impossible to control them. If you discover your heart and are able to stand within it, then, as soon as thoughts appear, you can descend therein, and the thoughts will disappear... The life is in the heart, so you should live in there. Do not think that this applies only to the perfect. No, it applies to everyone who begins to seek out the Lord.[32]

In the monastic tradition, even a special physical technique was adopted for exercising the Jesus prayer.[33] An unknown author of the famous Method of Sacred Prayer and Attentiveness[34] says that in order to acquire attention during prayer a person must sit in a dark corner on a low chair, close his eyes, bow his head and hold breathing; his mind should find the heart’s higher part and, being enclosed in there, pray with the prayer of Jesus.[35] This method, however, is only an additional and secondary means of achieving attentive prayer, which might also be achieved without special exercises. The spiritual directors of the nineteenth century were very reserved about this method. St Theophan the Recluse, when translating the Method of Sacred Prayer into Russian, deliberately omitted everything connected with the physical techniques. ‘These external means’, he wrote in a special note, ‘may scandalize some, may divert others from prayer and may distort the very practice of prayer... The essence of them is to get accustomed to holding one’s mind within one’s heart... How to reach this? Seek, and you will find.[36] The easiest way to find this is to walk before God and to labour in prayer...’[37]

‘Walking before God’, or ‘walking with God’, is a biblical expression: in the Old Testament it is applied to the righteous people who were faithful to God and observed His commandments.[38] In the Christian context, this expression points to the agreement between the life of the human person and the commandments of Christ. To walk before God means to measure every action and thought by the Gospel’s standards, to remember God always, to feel His presence, not to sin against His truth. Prayer is helpful only when it is combined with a true Christian life according to the Gospel. The Christian ideal is that the whole life of a person should be transformed into an unceasing prayer, so that his every word and deed should be penetrated by prayer.



PRAYER AND THEOLOGY

‘If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian’.[39] These words of Evagrius stress the interrelationship between prayer and theology: one cannot exist without the other. For the church Fathers, theology was not an abstract theory about ‘an unknown God’: it was rather a search for a personal encounter with Him. Genuine theology is not ‘about’ God but is ‘in’ God; it does not consider God as an object, but converses with Him as a personal Being. Christian theology is derived from prayer and mystical experience. It is opposed to an ‘objective’ scholarship that is detached from God. Purification and stillness of the mind which are necessary for prayer are also required for theology:



Discussion of theology is not for everyone... It is not for all men, but only for those who... have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul. For one who is not pure to lay hold on pure things is dangerous, just as it is for weak eyes to look at the sun’s brightness. What is the right time (for theology)? Whenever we are free from the mire and noise without, and our commanding faculty[40] is not confused by illusory, wandering images... We need actually to be still in order to know God...[41]

Prayer, in turn, derives from theology and is based on it. There can be no true prayer outside true dogma: this is an essential belief of the Orthodox Church. Distortion of dogma leads to distortion of the practice of prayer, and vice versa: wrong forms of prayer give birth to erroneous dogmatic teachings. A true prayer is the one practised within the context of the church community, even if the question is about private prayer. ‘Nobody is Christian by himself, but only as a member of the body’, wrote Fr Georges Florovsky. ‘Even in solitude, “in the chamber”, a Christian prays as a member of the redeemed community, of the Church’.[42] The personal prayer of every Christian is not disconnected from his prayer in the church: it is nothing else than a continuation of divine worship. The entire life of a Christian is the Liturgy which he celebrates in his heart and addresses to God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The practice of prayer might be strikingly similar in different religious traditions, but its content is altogether dissimilar depending on the theological and dogmatic basis of prayer in every tradition. There are, for example, obvious similarities between the physical techniques of the Jesus prayer which exist in the Orthodox tradition and those employed in Yoga or Sufism. But neither in Yoga nor in Sufism do we find dogmas of the Trinity, or of Jesus Christ as God and Saviour, which lie at the very heart of the Christian prayer. As Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia emphasizes,



The essential point in the Jesus prayer is not the act of repetition in itself, not how we sit or breathe, but to whom we speak... The Jesus prayer is not just a device to help us concentrate or relax. It is not simply a piece of ‘Christian Yoga’, a type of ‘Transcndental Meditation’, or a ‘Christian mantra’... It is, on the contrary, an invocation specifically addressed to another person - to God made man, Jesus Christ, our personal Saviour and Redeemer... The context of the Jesus prayer is first of all one of faith. The invocation of the Name presupposes that the one who says the prayer believes in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Saviour... Secondly, the context of the Jesus prayer is one of community. We do not invoke the Name as separate individuals.., but as members of the community of the Church.[43]

St Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit praying within the Christian’s heart.[44] The Christian prayer is listening to the voice of God’s Spirit in the human heart. It is not the human person who prays: it is God Himself Who prays within the human person. ‘Why say more?’ exclaims St Gregory of Sinai. ‘Prayer is God, Who accomplishes everything in everyone,[45] for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Christ Jesus’.[46] If prayer is God the Trinity acting through Christ, there is not much in common between this prayer and that outside the Christian tradition. And if the one who prays truly is a theologian, then there is no true prayer outside the ultimate Truth - the incarnate Christ.

*



MONASCTICISM

In the Orthodox Church the rite of monastic tonsure has a sacramental character. It is called a ‘sacrament’ (‘mystery’) by Dionysius the Areopagite and other early Christian authors.[47] It is also called a ‘sacrament’ in the rite itself. Like Baptism, it is death to fleshly life and a birth into a new, spiritual mode of existence. Like Chrismation, it is the seal and sign of being elected by God. Like Marriage, it is the betrothal with the Heavenly Bridegroom, Christ. Like Priesthood, it is a consecration for ministry to God. Like the Eucharist, it is union with Christ. As in Baptism, so in monastic tonsure the person receives a new name and has his sins forgiven. He rejects the sinful life and gives vows of faithfulness to Christ; he takes off a secular robe and puts on a new garment. Being born again, the person assumes infancy anew in order to attain ‘to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’.[48]

The main goal of monasticism is the imitation of Christ whose way of life as described in the Gospel was altogether monastic. He was not married, was free from earthly bonds, had no roof over His head, travelled from place to place, lived in poverty, fasted, and spent nights in prayer. Monasticism is an attempt to come as close as possible to this ideal. It is the quest for sanctity, a search for God as the ultimate goal, the rejection of everything that binds one to earth and prevents one from ascending to heaven.

Monasticism is an angelic order and state achieved in an earthly and soiled body. A monk is one who holds only to the commands of God in every time and place and matter. A monk is one who constantly constrains his nature and unceasingly watches over his senses. A monk is he who keeps his body in chastity, his mouth pure and his mind illumined... Angels are a light for monks, and the monastic life is a light for all men.[49]

Monasticism is an unusual and exceptional way of life: not many are called to it. It is a life entirely and integrally given to God. The monastic renunciation of the world is not a hatred of the world’s beauty or of the delights of life; it is rather renunciation of sins and passions, of fleshly desires and lusts, in short, of everything that entered human life after the Fall. The aim of monasticism is a return to that primordial chastity and sinlessness which Adam and Eve possessed in Paradise. The church Fathers called monasticism ‘a life according to the Gospel’ and ‘a true philosophy’. As philosophers sought perfection along the paths of intellectual knowledge, so monks pursue perfection along the paths of ascetical struggle in imitation of Christ.

The entire philosophy of monasticism is expressed in the following words of Christ: ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’;[50] ‘If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever will save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’;[51] ‘He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me’.[52] Monasticism is for those who want to be perfect, to follow Christ and to give their life for Him, to sell everything in order to have heavenly treasure. Like a merchant who goes and sells all his possessions in order to buy a pearl, a monk is ready to deny everything in the world in order to acquire Christ. And the sacrifice is worth making, for the reward is great:



Then Peter said in reply, ‘Lo, we have left everything and followed You. What then shall we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you... Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life’.[53]



Monasticism was a part of the Church’s life from very early times, but it came to the force in the fourth century, when persecutions ceased. While during the first three centuries all adherents to Christianity were potential martyrs, in the fourth century the new faith virtually became the state religion of the Roman Empire. Now the quest for martyrdom and sacrifice led people into deep deserts, where ascetics created their ‘state within the state’. The deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine, once fruitless and lifeless, were watered and populated by monks:



...Cells arose even in the mountains, and the desert was colonised by monks, who came forth from their own people, and enrolled themselves for the citizenship in the heavens... So their cells were in the mountains, filled with holy bands of men who sang psalms, loved reading, fasted, prayed, rejoiced in the hope of things to come, laboured in almsgiving, and preserved love and harmony one with another. And truly it was possible, as it were, to behold a land set by itself, filled with piety and justice. For then there was neither the evil-doer, nor the injured, nor the reproaches of the tax-gatherer: but instead a multitude of ascetics; and the one purpose of them all was to aim at virtue.[54]

There were three types of monasticism in the fourth and fifth centuries. In cenobitic monasteries monks lived together and gathered in the church several times a day for daily offices. In eremitic communities each monk lived in a separate cell as a hermit; they came to the church once a week in order to receive Holy Communion. In the communities of the type of skete, the monks lived in groups of two or three people. As St John Climacus says, ‘The whole monastic state consists of three specific kinds of establishment: either the retirement and solitude of a spiritual athlete, or living in stillness with one or two others, or settling patiently in a community’.[55]

These are three basic vows taken by the monastics: obedience, poverty and chastity.

Obedience is a deliberate denial of self-will before God, before the abbot (hegumen) and before every member of the community. The Greek word hypakoe (‘obedience’) literally means ‘hearing’, ‘listening’. Monastic obedience is hearing what God wants to tell a monk, listening to His will. Humans suffer greatly from their inability to follow God’s will and to accept the world around them as it is. People always tend to think of the circumstances of their lives as less than desirable, and of those close to them as less than perfect. They want to change the world around them but, unable to do so, they find no rest, no peace. A monk, on the contrary, teaches himself to accept everything as it is and to receive from the hand of God with the same joy and thanksgiving both consolation and sufferings, health and illness, fortune and misfortune. With this attitude the monk obtains an inner, undisturbed peace that no external circumstances can spoil. ‘Glory be to God for everything’: these were the words of St John Chrysostom when he died in exile, in sufferings and pains, deprived of his bishopric, driven out of his diocese. Like Christ, Who ‘humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross’,[56] a monk tries to be obedient to God unto the cross, unto death.

Poverty is a deliberate rejection of every earthly possession. This does not necessarily mean that a monk is totally deprived of all material things: it means that he must not be attached to anything earthly. Having inwardly rejected material wealth, he attains that spiritual freedom which is higher than any earthly possession.

The word ‘chastity’ is used in English to render the Greek sophrosyne, which literally means ‘wisdom’, ‘integrity’. Chastity is not synonymous with celibacy: in monasticism the latter is only an element of the former. Chastity as wisdom and integrity, as life according to the Gospel and abstinence from passions and lusts, is also necessary in marriage. To live in chastity means to have one’s entire life oriented to God, to check every thought, word and deed against the Gospel’s standards.

As far as celibacy is concerned, in the context of monastic life it is a supra-natural form of existence. Loneliness is incompleteness, a deficiency: in marriage it is overcome through a common life with one’s spouse. Monastics are espoused to God Himself. Monasticism is therefore not the opposite of marriage. Rather, it is also a kind of marital union, but not between two human beings: it is a union of the human person with God. ‘When love is divided between the world and Christ, it is weak; but it is strong when directed at the One’, says St Gregory the Theologian.[57] Love is found at the very heart of both marriage and monasticism, but the object of love is different. A person cannot become a monk unless his love for God is so deep and ardent that he does not want to direct it to anyone but Him.

St Symeon the New Theologian in one of his Hymns speaks of monastic life as being with Christ rather than living alone:



But indeed he who possesses Christ dwelling in him,

How can he be said to be alone, tell me?

For the Father and the Spirit are united with my Christ.

How therefore can we speak of being a solitary

When the monk is united with the Three-in-one?

He is the one who is united with God even if he lives alone,

Even if he lives in a desert, even in a cave...

He who makes a heaven of his cell through virtue,

Contemplates and looks upon the Creator of heaven and earth,

Installed in his cell.

And he adores Him and is united always with the Light which never sets,

The Light without the darkness of evening, the unapproachable Light,

Which never leaves him, never completely wanders from him,

Day or night, whether he eats or drinks,

Not even in his sleep or on the road or in moving from place to place...

So those who by repentance are united with God,

Purify their souls in this world here

And they are considered as solitaries as they are separated from the others...

They communicate with the Father omnipotent...

Their cell is heaven, they indeed are a sun

And the light is on them, the unsetting and divine light...

Only such are monks and solitaries,

Those who alone live with God alone...[58]



There is a widespread view of monasticism as a mode of existence which is deprived of joy, which is tough and sombre. According to the following personal testimony of Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky), this view is totally misleading:



Monks have a quiet and pure joy, happiness of a pious soul. All that chaos, all that inebriation with life which is commonly called ‘delights of life’ is something gloomy, something which results in saturation and painful intoxication... We monks weep out of joy, out of compunction, and we thank God... Every monk knows what tears of compunction are, and all earthly delights seem to him poor and deficient compared to these tears... I myself received monastic tonsure and I do not think that I will ever experience again the joy that I experienced then... I was full of joy for two months. My soul was so exalted, so gladdened... It is not by mere chance that in monastic tonsure, when the abbot clothes a newly tonsured monk in his new robe, the following words are said: ‘Our brother... is clothed in the robe of joy and spiritual gladness, in order that all his sorrows and perplexity should disappear and be vanquished’... The farther one is from passions, the more joy has one in his heart. The purity of heart is deeply connected with gladness.[59]

Monastic tonsure takes place in the church: it is normally conducted by a bishop or an abbot. The one to be tonsured takes off all his civil clothes, puts on a long white robe and stands before the abbot. Upon making his monastic vows he listens to the abbot’s exhortations, after which he receives a new name, is tonsured, and clothed in black monastic vestments. When the rite has finished, each member of the community comes to him, asking: ‘What is your name, brother?’ The newly-tonsured monk, according to tradition, spends several nights in the church reading the Psalter or the Gospel.

Monasticism is an inner and hidden life. It is absolute and the most radical expression of Christianity as a ‘narrow way’ leading to the Kingdom of heaven. Monastic detachment and concentration into oneself, however, does not imply egoism or the absence of love for one’s neighbour. Being outside of worldly vanity, a monk does not forget his fellow humans, but in the silence of his cell prays for them. St Silouan of Mount Athos says:



There are people who say that monks ought to be of some use in the world, and not eat bread they have not toiled for; but we have to understand the nature of a monk’s service and the way in which he has to help the world. A monk is someone who prays for the whole world, who weeps for the whole world; and in this lies his main work... Thanks to monks, prayer continues unceasing on earth, and the whole world profits... St Sergius by fasting and prayer helped the Russian people to free themselves from the Tatar yoke. St Seraphim prayed silently, and the Holy Spirit descended on Motovilov.[60] And this is the task of the monk... Perhaps you will say that nowadays there are no monks like that, who would pray for the whole world; but I tell you that when there are no men of prayer on the earth, the world will come to an end... The world is supported by the prayers of the saints’.[61]

The church Fathers understood that the transfiguration of the world and people’s happiness depend not so much on external circumstances but on people’s inner condition. True renovation of the world is only possible in the realm of spiritual life. Thus, neither Christ, nor the apostles nor the church Fathers demanded social changes; rather, all of them called for the inner spiritual transformation of each particular human being. Monks do not attempt to make the world better. They try to make themselves better in order that the world might be transformed from within. ‘Save yourself, and thousands around you will be saved’, says St Seraphim of Sarov. These words reflect the ultimate goal of monasticism and of Christianity in general. Needless to say, monasticism is not the only way of ‘saving oneself’, not even the best or the most convenient way. It is one of the ways, like marriage or priesthood, which may lead one to salvation and deification, if one continues along this path to the end.

The name of Jesus

We say ‘Jesus’, and we rest in a plentitude and totality that can no longer be taken from us. The name of Jesus then becomes a bearer of the whole Christ. It brings us into His total presence. In this total presence are found all the realities towards which the name has served as a means of approach: salvation and pardon, the Incarnation and the Transfiguration, the Church and the Eucharist, the Father and the Spirit. All things then appear to us gathered together in Christ (Ephes.1:10)... If we cling to the name of Jesus, we shall receive the special blessing that the Scripture promises, Have mercy on me as is Thy custom toward them that love Thy name (Ps.119:132). And may the Lord be pleased to say of us what He said of Saul: He is a chosen vessel of Mine, to bear My name (Acts 9:15).

A Monk of the Eastern Church

A conversation with a hermit on the Jesus prayer

We turned our attention downwards and were surprised to see in the distance a man walking with a large knapsack on his shoulders: with slow and laborious strides and his head cast down he descended along the slope of the mountain into a deep scorched hollow... It was astounding and at the same time very moving to see a man in the expanses of this uninhabited country... When we looked closer we could see that it was a man belonging to our monastic rank and we were very overjoyed at the hope of being able to learn from him many useful things concerning his life in the wilderness. When he was not far from us we greeted him in the usual monastic fashion: ‘Give us your blessing, Father’. ‘May God bless you!’... He was an elder of advanced years... a tall man with a dry body... His beard reached his waist, the hair on his head was completely white like the snow in the mountains and fell over his shoulders... He bore the visible imprint of spiritual sanctification: the eyes of the elder radiated an inexplicable benevolence and sparkled with goodness, sincerity and a kind disposition of the heart... We began to drink tea and dry bread. A remarkable conversation was then struck up between us... ‘For the sake of the Lord, please tell us what you have acquired best of all in the wilderness?’ The elder’s face lit up and a spiritual light shone in his eyes... He answered: ‘I have acquired in my heart the Lord Jesus Christ and in Him, beyond any doubt, eternal life, resounding tangibly and with urgency in my heart’... In hearing these unexpected and astounding words, we were greatly amazed, for we had found what we were seeking... ‘In what way?’ I hurriedly asked. The elder answered: ‘Through unceasing prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ... For almost fifteen years I had been saying a verbal prayer only... Then, as a number of years flowed by, this prayer entered my intellect by itself, that is, when my mind became captive of the words of the prayer... And then by the grace of God, prayer of the heart was opened up, the essence of which is the closest union of our heart with the Lord Jesus Christ, felt tangibly in His Name. This exalted and supernatural state is the ultimate stage and limit of the aspirations of every reasonable being made in the image of God and which naturally strives for the highest Prototype. Here a union of the heart with God takes place whereby the Lord penetrates our spirit with His presence as a ray of the sun’s light penetrates the glass and through this we are given to taste of the inexpressible bliss of sacred communion with God... One enters the realm of infinite light and in acquiring freedom we abide in God and God in us’.



‘On the Mountains of the Caucasus’

Marriage and monasticism

The two complement each other... Both are sacraments of love... It is tempting to make a simple contrast: to say that asceticism and chastity are the characteristics of monasticism, and love the characteristic of marriage. Yet the two states cannot be thus opposed. Married people, as well as monks, are called to the ‘narrow way’ of ascetic life, to fasting and self-denial; if the monks are martyrs, then so also are the married, as the crowns and hymns and the Marriage service plainly indicate. Perfect love is always a crucified love; yet, for both monks and married Christians, if the cross is voluntarily accepted, it proves a door to resurrection and new life. In the same way, chastity - understood in its proper sense of integrity and integration - is a quality not only of the single but also of the married life. In a sense, marriage includes within itself the characteristic values of monasticism: the monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience - when understood, as they should be, in a positive manner as a way of enabling us to be free to love God and one another - are also applicable to the married life. And if asceticism and chastity are marks of the married life, then love... is a mark of a true monk... If the monk abstains from marriage, this is not because the married state is sinful, but because he personally is called to express his love for God and humankind on a different level... St Irenaeus of Lyons... speaks of the Son and the Holy Spirit as the ‘two hands’ of God the Father... Marriage and monasticism are likewise the ‘two hands’ of the Church, the two complementary expressions of one royal priesthood. Each needs the other, and in her mission the Church uses both her hands together.

Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia


[1] Matt.6:6-8.

[2] On Prayer 3 (Philokalia I, p.57).

[3] The Ladder of Divine Ascent 11 (transl. by L.Moore, p.92).

[4] The Power of the Name, The Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality (Oxford, 1991), p.1.

[5] Homily 65 (The Ascetical Homilies, p.321).

[6] This story is based on the Apophthegmata patrum (‘The Sayings of the Desert Fathers’). We give it here in the version which we heard from the late Starets Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov).

[7] St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 28 (transl. by L.Moore, p.213).

[8] St Isaac the Syrian, Homily 72 (The Ascetical Homilies, p.351).

[9] St Isaac the Syrian, Homily 64 (The Ascetical Homilies, p.316).

[10] St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 15 (transl. by L.Moore, pp.115-116). On the technical terms employed by the Fathers to describe the development of thought into passion see Philokalia I, pp.365-367.

[11] St Mark the Ascetic, On the Spiritual Law 180 (Philokalia I, p.122).

[12] Gen.3:6.

[13] Zapiski na knigu Bytiya [Notes on the Book of Genesis], pp.57-58.

[14] Evagrios, Texts on Discrimination in Respect of Passions and Thoughts 2 (Philokalia I, p.39).

[15] Or ‘by a single word of prayer’ (Greek monologistos).

[16] The Ladder of Divine Ascent 28 (transl. by L.Moore, p.214).

[17] On Watchfulness and Holiness 121 (Philokalia I, p.183).

[18] Evagrios, On Prayer 11, 45-47, 70 (Philokalia I, pp.58-63).

[19] 1 Thess.5:17.

[20] A Discourse of Abba Philimon (Philokalia II, pp.347-348).

[21] John 16:23-24.

[22] Mark 16:17-18.

[23] Acts 4:7-12.

[24] The Shepherd, Similitudes 9,14.

[25] For an outline of their teachings on the Jesus prayer, see A Monk of the Eastern Church [Archimandrite Lev Gillet], The Jesus Prayer (New York, 1995).

[26] Na gorakh Kavkaza [On the Mountains of the Caucasus] (Batalpashinsk, 1910), p.16.

[27] Cited in Na gorakh Kavkaza, p.16.

[28] Its original title is Otkrovennye rasskazy strannika dukhvnomu svoyemu otzu [Sincere tales of a pilgrim to his spiritual father] (Kazan, 1884).

[29] 1 Thess.5:17.

[30] The Way of a Pilgrim, translated by R.M.French (London, 1954), pp.17-18.

[31] St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 28 (transl. by L.Moore, p.214).

[32] Cited in O molitve Iisusovoy [On the Jesus prayer] (Sortavala, 1936), p.109.

[33] For a more detailed discussion of the theme see Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, The Power of the Name, pp.20-25.

[34] The treatise is ascribed to St Symeon the New Theologian, but most modern scholars are inclined to date it to the thirteenth century.

[35] The Greek text is in I.Hausherr, La Methode d’oraison hesychaste, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 36 (Rome, 1927), pp.150-172.

[36] Matt.7:7.

[37] A footnote in the Russian translation of the Writings by St Symeon the New Theologian, vol.2 (Moscow, 1990), p.188.

[38] Cf. Gen.5:24; 6:9; 17,1 et al.

[39] Evagrios, On Prayer 61 (Philokalia I, p.62).

[40] I.e. the intellect.

[41] St Gregory the Theologian, Oration 27,3.

[42] Cited in Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, The Orthodox Church, p.310.

[43] The Power of the Name, pp.23-24.

[44] Gal.4:6.

[45] Cf. 1 Cor.12:6.

[46] On Commandments and Doctrines... 113 (Philokalia IV, p.238).

[47] See Dionysius the Areopagite, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 6,2 (‘Mystery of the consecration of a monk’). Cf. J.Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, pp.191-192.

[48] Eph.4:13.

[49] St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 1 and 26 (transl. by L.Moore, pp.4 and 167).

[50] Matt.19:21.

[51] Matt.16:24-25.

[52] Matt.10:37.

[53] Matt.19:27-29.

[54] St Athanasius of Alexandria, The Life of St Anthony 15 and 44.

[55] The Ladder of Divine Ascent 1 (transl. by L.Moore, p.10).

[56] Phil.2:8.

[57] St Gregory Nazianzen, Ethical poetry 1 (PG 37,563).

[58] Hymn 27,18-74 (SC 174,280). Cf. the words of Plotinus quoted in Chapter I above: ‘a flight of alone to the Alone’ (Enn.6,9,11).

[59] Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky), Christianstva net bez Tserkvi, pp.181-187.

[60] See Bishop Kallistos (Ware), The Orthodox Church, pp.131-132.

[61] Cited in Archimandrite Sophrony, St Silouan, pp.407-4


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