By: The Very Rev. Father-Abbot Gregori, SSJt +
'The more rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ's holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it.' -St. Hesychois the Priest, from the Philokalia.
Christ In Glory
Prayer is the basis of our Christian life. It is the source of our experience of Jesus as the Risen Lord. Yet very few Christians know how to pray with any depth! For most of us, prayer means little more than standing in the pews for an hour or so on Sunday morning or perhaps reciting, in a mechanical fashion, prayers once learned by rote during childhood. Our prayer life - and thus our life as Christians - remains, for the most part, at a superficial level, without real heart and soul.
St. Paul admonished us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:1). In his letter to the Romans, Paul instructs the Christian community there to "be constant in prayer" (Rom. 12:12).
Engaging in inner prayer is a task to which every Christian is called. Paul's command to pray without ceasing applies to each Christian today, as much as it did to those in the Church at Thessaloniki. We are called to intimate communion with the Creator of Life, such that there is no moment when our souls and bodies are not enlightened by Him. It was St Evagrios of Pontos who wrote that 'prayer is the communion of the intellect with God,' and it becomes our task to transform our prayer from mere words, mere petitions, to the direct communion of the depths of our hearts and beings with God Himself.
The dove is one of many symbols of the Holy Spirit. Here the fig leaf is a symbol of PEACE... a peace which is wrought through the Jesus Prayer
In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to answer St. Paul's challenge to pray unceasingly, the Orthodox Tradition offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart.
The Jesus Prayer is offered as a means of concentration, as a focal point for our inner life. Though there are both longer and shorter versions, the most frequently used form of the Jesus Prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." However, the form that I prefer to use in my meditations is a longer version, which is: “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the Living God and Creator, have mercy on me a sinner.” This prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures and the new life granted by the Holy Spirit. It is first and foremost a prayer of the Spirit because of the fact that the prayer addresses Jesus as Lord, Christ and Son of God; and as St. Paul tells us, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).
Father Seraphim Rose used the Jesus Prayer of the heart as a means to maintain stability of the soul
The history of the Jesus Prayer dates back to the early sixth century, with Diadochos, who taught that repetition of the prayer leads to inner stillness. Even earlier John Cassian recommended this type of prayer.
Abba Macarius of Egypt said there is no need to waste time with words. It is enough to hold out your hands and say, "Lord, according to your desire and your wisdom, have mercy." If pressed in the struggle, say, "Lord, save me!" or say, "Lord." He knows what is best for us, and will have mercy upon us.
There is power in a name. Biblically, knowing a person's name gave power over that person. Name was equated with being. In the Old Testament, God would not disclose His name. In the New Testament, Jesus explicitly gives us God's name, Father, and tells us to use the name in prayer. Jesus gives us access to the Godhead through the name.
Jesus told His Apostles that they hadn't really used His Name in prayer enough. "Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16:23).
As I remember him in Life,
St. John Maximovitch encouraged use
of the Jesus Prayer
There are those who think that the Jesus Prayer is just for those in religious life, but nothing can be further from the truth. Anyone from cab drivers, social workers, business persons, teachers, professional baseball players (not necessarily used to win a game), even psychiatrists, anyone and everyone can pray the Jesus prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ...
Son of God and Son of Man....
Have Mercy on Me...
A sinner that I am,,,
Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century Russian spiritual writer, tells us that there are three levels in the saying of the Prayer:
1. It begins as a prayer of the lips, an oral prayer. A "verbal expression and shape." This is only the first step, for "the essence or soul of prayer is within a man's mind and heart."
2. As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction. Theophan remarks that at this point, "the mind is focused upon the words" of the Prayer, "speaking them as if they were our own."
3. The third and final level is prayer of the heart. At this stage prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer, which is a gift of the Spirit, is to return to the Father as did the prodigal son (Luke 15:32). The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that cries 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal. 4:6).
The Russian hieromonk Dorotheus, a great instructor in spiritual asceticism, who was in this respect very much like St. Isaac the Syrian, counsels those who are learning the Jesus Prayer to recite it aloud at first. The vocal prayer, he says, will of itself turn into the mental.
"Mental prayer," he continues, "is the result of much vocal prayer, and mental prayer leads to the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer should not be said in a loud voice but quietly, just audibly enough that you can hear yourself.,' It is particularly beneficial to practice the Jesus Prayer aloud when assailed by distraction, grief, spiritual despondency and laziness. The vocal Jesus Prayer gradually awakens the soul from the deep moral slumber into which grief and spiritual despair are wont to thrust it. It is also particularly beneficial to practice the Jesus Prayer aloud when attacked by images, appetites of the flesh, and anger; when their influence causes the blood to boil. It should be practiced when peace and tranquility vanish from the heart, and the mind hesitates, becomes weak, and—so to speak—goes into upheaval because of the multitude of unnecessary thoughts and images. The malicious princes of the air, whose presence is hidden to physical sight but who are felt by the soul through their influences upon it, hearing as they mount their attack the name of the Lord Jesus—which they dread—will become undecided and confused, and will take flight and withdraw immediately from the soul.”
St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), the last of the great Church Fathers, became the exponent of the Hesychasts. He won, after a long drawn out battle, an irrefutable place for the Jesus Prayer and the Quietists within the Church. In the 18th century when tsardom hampered monasticism in Russia, and the Turks crushed Orthodoxy in Greece, the Neamtzu monastery in Moldavia (Rumania) became one of the great centers for the Jesus Prayer.
All roads that lead to God are filled with pitfalls because the enemy (Satan) ever lies in wait to trip us up. He naturally attacks most assiduously when we are bent on finding our way to salvation, for that is what he most strives to stop. In mystical prayer the temptations we encounter exceed all others in danger; because our thoughts are on a higher level, the allurements are proportionally subtler. Someone said that “mysticism started in mist and ended in schism”; this cynical remark, spoken by an unbeliever, has a certain truth in it. Mysticism is of real spiritual value only when it is practiced with absolute sobriety and sincerity of heart and soul.
We live in very hectic times. We are bombarded by sensory information coming from all sides. People rush around with cell phones either jammed against their ears or with head sets, “We must keep in touch”. If it isn’t cell phones, it is ‘Palm-Pilots’ or ‘lap-tops’. There are others who have to have their music going “twenty-four seven”. We are always in a hurry, rushing here, rushing there, no time to take it easy. We want this, we want that and we want it NOW. High-speed dialing, high-speed internet access, high-speed microwave food prep, high-speed cars and high-speed planes, no time to rest and there is no peace.
Peace for the soul in today's world is extremely important, and often one wonders how to obtain this inner peace for the soul? Everyone seeks after it and everyone wants it spiritually, or should desire it as we go about our daily lives while on this earth as true loving Orthodox Christians. The peace I am of course speaking about is the peace of our inner souls with God Himself being present within us.
Obtaining this peace of the soul is done through the Holy Mysteries of the Church, in frequently going to Holy Confession, and participating in Holy Communion (as well as reading these prayers before hand). Also we might go to the Divine Services that the Church provides for us not only on Sunday, but also attending Vespers, Matins, and the week day services. Another means for us to obtain this inner peace of the soul is by prayer. Constant and unceasing prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ...
Son of God and Son of Man....
Have Mercy on Me...
A sinner that I am,,,
Finally we can start by reading and learning about the Holy Scriptures of the Church, as well as the Patristic writings of the Holy Fathers, and the lives of the Saints, and holy Martyrs of the Church, which in itself gives us inner peace of the soul, which in turn leads to peace of mind.
Seek the peace for your soul! Learn more about the peace of our Lord God, and His Eternal Love for you.
For Question and Answers on the "Jesus Prayer" go to "Quotes from Father Thaddeus" page. Questions are posted on this very important subject for one's spiritual understanding on a weekly basis....
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There are unscrupulous people on the internet these days. Some of them are not who they claim to be and in order to disrupt honest spiritual pursuits, they are known to send out e-mail under someone else's name or the name of another church or jurisdiction with attachments. Anyone can do this, if they want. Some of them exist in Toledo, Ohio... Some in Texas... Others in Michigan, California and many other places... Some are "haters of truth" who follow (whether they are willing to admit it) those who have sway over less educated or ignorant... as their are also those who do not even know what they are doing because they seek glory to satisfy their own vanity and selfish pride to take over a church or jurisdiction of another, or to wreck havoc over those whom they hate without considering the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ.
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They HATE some of the news, quotes, and such as to inform the general public. Some of them pose as clergy, while a few are actually clergy from various "other" offshoot AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH jurisdiction(s) of the same name of which we are, in some instances, their former MOTHER CHURCH (as is the same named Toledo, Ohio based an offshoot); having joined in and with "Independent" churches who have nothing to do with us or even true Orthodoxy, but seek to go out of their way to character assassinate and disparage religious web sites who do not meet their own brand of standardization which is evidence of their being not truly "Orthodox" "Christian" or even "Catholic" no matter what their nomenclatured corporate name may be. The Toldeo, Ohio based same name group under their so-called leader has been deposed, defrocked and excommunicated four different times by various bishops. He, and several others, have become just as bad as the modern day Ecumenists of the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, the World Council of Bishops and more. Their ultimate aim and goal is destruction to those from whom they had either originated from or gone through to obtain the same named "church" they claim to hold to by civil law alone.
Remember, anything that is a HALF TRUTH is not truth but a lie! Many there are that you may know who fit those descriptions... pray for them. Pray that God will send his Spirit of Truth upon them and lead them to Salvation through tears of Repentance, conversion of their cold and calculating hearts toward seeking forgiveness from God and those whom they attempt to harm.
Those who receive e-mail from us, know who we are and from where we send mail. There are also many who know that they can send e-mail under another group or person's e-mail address, which has been happening. If you receive e-mail that purports itself to be from us, verify first by hitting your "reply" button and ask, "I received this e-mail but would like verification it is from you."
If you are of another jurisdiction, you too could find that your parishioners, clergy and faithful might become subject to the same as we have recently found.
Let this be a warning to visitors so as to be safeguarded against unscrupulous e-mails which contain viruses, worms and unsavory material from person(s) organizations or institutions that are more self-serving than uplifting and informatively news worthy.
For ourselves, we have, as in the past, so once again, acquired the assistance of those who are able and capable of tracing e-mails back to their source and taking appropriate action in North America.
We have learned that the organization we subscribe to, whose members come from various legal and law enforcement backgrounds amongst other areas of society, are committed to the faith even though they may hold different theologies. Yet, in their monitoring of electronic communications of various persons or people, they do not always make haste to bring perpetrators to justice until after enough evidence has been gained in order to build a solid case. We do not always know what information they have gained, but we do know the organization, whom we've been asked not to name, has had a 97% success rate in bringing to justice and obtaining a conviction against individuals, people, and sometimes even religious organizations of a persona that gives the appearance of both secular and religious bearing but who abuse and misuse technology. The organization views those who abuse and misuse the internet and other technologies as nothing more than a form of "domestic terrorism" - - - - and, it would seem to appear that the courts are in agreement!
Those kinds of people, organizations, etc. who misuse and abuse communication technologies are no different than those who attempt to use coercive measures, and in some instance, even blackmail for the same idea is involved... to cause havoc and wreckage, to destroy the spirit and activity of those who struggle in the faith out of pain of heart for the Orthodox Church which is TRUTH. The degree that some have been known to go to, as seen by other jurisdictions, is to take advantage of questionably mentally challenged or those who have a lack of education and understanding to get them to make statements, even outright lies, in writing, in order to destroy. Such persons or groups are spiritual terrorists for unholy and un-Orthodox causes, aims and goals.
Yes, our Metropolitan Archbishop, +Joseph Thaddeus, SSJt., Ph.D. strongly defends the Seals of the Confessional for such leads to true Repentance in thought, word and deed whereby the penitent is required to make amends, where possible, to seek forgiveness of those harmed by his actions whether real or imagined, and to give his forgiveness to those who have harmed him before taking the Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist. The reality of this understanding is bound up in and with the findings for which cause he, himself, had been character assassinated by his detractors who claim the courts prevented him from breaking the Seals of the Confessional which is not the truth at all.... Click here to see what another bishop's findings are...
The workings of Holy Spirit will not be daunted by those who attempt to cause disruption! It is for these and other reasons that you are urged to read what true repentance and forgiveness means for real "Christians".
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