Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
Frederica Mathewes-Green answers this question beautifully in her book on the Jesus Prayer. She points to the story of the Good Samaritan and his compassion for the man who was robbed, beaten and left for dead. We are that helpless man calling for healing of the wounds and damage that the infection of sin has caused us. In her words:
"We are not trying to get off the hook for a crime, but recognising how the infection of sin has damaged us. Revealing all the extent of our illness to the heavenly physician, we seek his compassionate healing." (The Jesus Prayer page 80)
Here, perhaps, is where evangelicals and Orthodox differ. An evangelical believes that "once saved always saved" as if to say that covers everything! That is, once I have believed Christ for my salvation, received his grace through faith, then I am saved and it will only be matter of time before I die and enter heaven. Meanwhile although I am to battle against sin through daily disciplines of prayer, bible study etc. I am already saved and healed. But it seems to me - and I am ready to be corrected - that although the Orthodox would accept the first part - what Christ has done for us - they would add that salvation still needs to be "worked out", (or worked through) using St. Paul's phrase. Sin is still a present reality both inside and outside our lives. So there is still some saving to do and for that we need the help and mercy of God on a daily basis. Which is perhaps what St. Paul is in about at the end of Romans 7. "Who will deliver (heal) me? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ." Through Jesus and according to his mercy.
Thursday, 24 July 2014
"When you pray, the Lord will give you according to your heart. If you pray with faith, sincerely, with all your heart, not hypocritically, the Lord will reward you accordingly. And on the other hand, the colder your heart, the more doubting and hypocritical, the more useless will be your prayer - and more: so much the more will it insult the Lord, who seeks to be worshipped 'in spirit and truth'" (John 4:23)
Monday, 21 July 2014
"O Giver of a priceless, incorruptible gift! How can we sinful mortals receive the gift? Neither our hands, nor our mind, nor our heart are capable of receiving it. Do Thou teach us to know, as far as we are able, the greatness of the gift, and its significance, and the ways of receiving it, and the ways of using it, that we may not approach the gift in a sinful manner, that we may not be punished for indiscretion and audacity, but that for the right understanding and use of the gift, we may receive from Thee other gifts, promised by Thee, known only to Thee."
"On the Prayer of Jesus" page 19
Saturday, 19 July 2014
There's the answer to the question I had a while back: how can you think about the words of the Prayer all the time, when there are so many other things you have to think about? In the same way you can have a meal, go on a trip, or visit a museum with a friend. You could do all those things alone, but of you take a friend with you, it won't hinder your enjoyment. You may even more out of it, because your friend's presence enhances your awareness, and you see things through his eyes as well. When you see everything alongside that best of friends, Jesus Christ, your encounters with the world and everyone and everything in it are transformed."
Frederica Mathewes-Green: The Jesus Prayer page 15
Pseudo-Chrysostom quoted in "Prayer of the heart": George Maloney
"Here is a spirituality open to the most ordinary person who would discipline himself to enter into his "heart" and there experience the inner light of the indwelling Jesus. The Pilgrim tells his readers:
"And that can be done by anyone. It costs nothing but the effort to sink down in silence into the depths of one's heart and call more and more upon the radiant Name of Jesus. Everyone who does that feels at once the inward light, everything becomes understandable to him, he even catches sight in this light of some of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And what depth and light there is in the mystery of a man coming to know he has this power to plumb the depths of his own being, to see himself from within, to find delight in self-knowledge, to take pity on himself and shed tears of gladness over his fall and his spoiled will."
"Prayer of the heart" page 32.
Thursday, 10 July 2014
While excluding thoughts and images from the practice of the Jesus Prayer, St Gregory of Sinai has much to say about the feelings which should accompany the invocation of the Name. There is a strongly ‘affective’ tone about all that he writes. In his eyes, the Jesus Prayer is not a magical incantation, a verbal equivalent of the Tibetan prayer wheel, but a supplication to be offered with full intensity of feeling, with vivid love and personal affection for the Saviour. The feelings of which Gregory speaks are at once joyful and penitential, confident yet hesitant: a conjunction that he sums up in the composite term χαρμολύπη, ‘joyful grief’ borrowed from Climacus.The saying of the Jesus Prayer leads, he writes, to ‘an exultation filled with trembling’, to ‘mingled joy and fear’: 'the soul rejoices because of the visitation and the mercy of God, but it fears and trembles at his coming, for it is guilty of many sins.’ Such is the double effect of the invocation.
As this last quotation from Gregory makes plain, from one point of view the Jesus Prayer is a cry for forgiveness, an expression of mourning (penthos) and compunction (katanyxis): ‘Lord Jesus Christ . . . have mercy on me’. This penitential aspect of the invocation of the Name is heavily underlined in the Life of Gregory by Patriarch Kallistos:
Gathering all his perceptions inwardly within himself, exerting to the utmost his mind together with his spirit, fixing and binding it fast and in a word nailing it to the Cross of Christ, with frequent repetition he said in prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’, with his soul full of anguish, with groanings and a broken heart; and he made the ground wet with the warm tears that flowed in abundance from his eyes.
The particular form in which the Prayer is here given, ‘. . . a sinner’, naturally gives special emphasis to this penitential aspect. The Prayer is linked directly with Christ crucified - ‘. . . nailing his mind to the Cross of Christ . . .’– and it is closely associated with the gift of tears.
See the article here: http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2588738.html
"So far as the inward (rather than the physical) technique of the Jesus Prayer is concerned, St Gregory of Sinai insists on two things: first, that the invocation shall be so far as possible continuous; secondly, that it shall be free from images. The first point is so much taken for granted by Gregory that it is nowhere discussed at length. When referring to the invocation of the Lord Jesus, as a matter of course he adds the adjective ‘continual’. This ceaseless invocation, so he teaches, sometimes takes the form of an oral prayer, framed outwardly by the lips; at other times it is recited by the mind alone.
Great emphasis is placed upon the second point. ‘Always keep your mind free from colours, images and forms’, he urges. Our aim in prayer should be simply and solely to obtain ‘activity of the heart . . . altogether free from images and forms’; we must not imagine any ‘shape or impression, even of supposedly holy things’. He issues a severe warning against the human imagination or phantasia: he who prays must beware lest he become a phantastes instead of a hesychastes! Taking up a phrase of St John Climacus, Gregory observes, ‘Hesychia is the laying aside of thoughts’.
All this was standard teaching in the Christian East long before St Gregory of Sinai. According to St Diadochus of Photice (5th century), the invocation of the Name of Jesus or ‘memory of God’ – for Diadochus as for Gregory of Sinai, the two phrases mean the same thing – has as its object to close the ‘outlets’ of the mind and to cut off the phantasiai, thus recalling the mind to the true vision of itself. Hesychius of Vatos (?9th-10th century) is particularly emphatic about the need for the Jesus Prayer to be free from thoughts and imaginations: above all else, it is a way of keeping guard over the mind.
The Jesus Prayer, in other words, is not a form of meditation on specific incidents in the life of our Lord. Rather, it is a method for controlling thoughts, for concentrating the attention and guarding the mind; more precisely, it is a way of containing the mind within the heart. Under normal conditions, a man’s attention is scattered and dispersed over a multiplicity of external objects. In order that he may acquire true prayer of the heart, his mind must be unified. It must be brought from fragmentation to singleness, from plurality to simplicity and nakedness; and so it will be enabled to enter and dwell within the heart. Such is the aim of the Jesus Prayer: ‘By the memory of Jesus Christ’, as Philotheus of Sinai (?9th-10th century) puts it, ‘gather together your mind that is scattered abroad.’ That is why the Jesus Prayer must be at once uninterrupted and imageless; only so can it fulfil effectively this task of unification.
Gregory of Sinai develops this line of thought with particular reference to the Fall. The memory of man was originally single and unitary, but as a result of Adam’s sin it has suffered division and disintegration. Through the ‘memory of God’ and the invocation of the Name, our memory is enabled to return once more to its primal wholeness.
Gregory’s understanding of the Jesus Prayer as an invocation free from images is well expressed by a Russian spiritual writer of the 19th century, Bishop Theophan the Recluse:
Standing with consciousness and attention in the heart, cry out unceasingly, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me’, without having in your mind any visual concept or image, believing that the Lord sees you and listens to you. . . . The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever before your consciousness that God is in you, as he is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that he sees all that is within you, knowing you better than you know yourself. This awareness of the eye of God looking at your inner being must not be accompanied by any visual concept, but must be confined to a simple conviction or feeling.
See the article here: http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2588738.html
Kallistos Ware: The Power of the Name: The Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1987), p.25.