Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tito Colliander on the Jesus Prayer - Part 2

If you hammer a nutshell too hard, you may crush the kernel as well. Lay on with caution. Do not pass over suddenly to the Jesus Prayer. Hold back to begin with, and even afterward, use your other prayer practices as well. Do not be overanxious. And do not suppose that you can pay proper attention to a single Lord, have mercy. Your prayer is bound to be divided and scattered: you are, indeed, human. Only in heaven the angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 18:10): you, on the contrary, have an earthly body with its own cravings. Do not shriek to high heaven in amazement if at the beginning you completely forget your prayer practice for many hours at a time, perhaps for a whole day or longer. Take it naturally and simply: you are an inexperienced sailor who has been so anxiously occupied with other things that he forgot to keep watch on the breezes. Thus, expect nothing of yourself. But do not demand anything of others, either.

Concentration is one thing, distraction another. Prayer will make your thought vital and clear: then it is right. The praying person sees everything around him, notices and observes everything, but the right doing of this comes through prayer, which sheds on all things its piercingly clear light.

The spirit works in the realm of purity within us. As long as we keep extending this realm of independence of heart, our spiritual humanity will continue to grow. ! Prayer will call forth an inner calm, a peaceful relaxation in grief, love, gratitude, humility. If you are, on the contrary, tense and stirred up, in high spirits or in deep despair, if you feel contrition or bitterness or an exaggerated will to action, if you are thrown into ecstatic experiences or a drunkenness of the senses, such as you enjoy when listening to music, if you feel a supreme enjoyment or satisfaction so that you are "content with yourself and the whole world," you are on the wrong road. You have built altogether too much on yourself Sound your retreat and go back to that self-reproach that must always be the starting-point for every true prayer.

The angel of light always brings peace, the peace that the demons of the dark wish at all costs to disturb. By this, say the holy Fathers, one can recognize the evil powers and separate them from the good.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me," to which the words "a sinner" are sometimes added, is a form of devotion of great antiquity in Eastern Christendom. The use of it is widespread among members of the Orthodox Church. More may be read about it in "La m6thode de l'oraison h6sychaste" by J. Hausherr in Orientalia Christiana 9 (2), 1927. What the Jesus Prayer meant to a simple Russian pilgrim in the nineteenth century may be seen in much more popular form in The Way of a Pilgrim, translated by R. M. French (London: S.P.C.K., new edition illustrated, 1954).

Source: The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander, St Vladimirʼs Seminary Press, pp 92-97

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