Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer 13

“…for the Master of the house has come.”  ~ Isaac of Nineveh, 7th century

I pray that this series of postings introducing contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer has been instructive and worthwhile; especially to my fellow Protestants (of all flavours) who have none of this tradition in our own.  It is in our ancient Christian family tree, for sure, but not in our branch of the family.  I would ask that my fellow Protestants not reject the notion of contemplative prayer out of hand, just because Luther and Calvin didn’t do it.  Instead, I would ask that they be encouraged and take comfort in the fact that Jesus and Paul did.

I end this series of postings with the reflections of 7th century mystic and Bishop, Isaac of Nineveh, one of the greatest spiritual figures of the Christian East, as he describes for us the “telos”, the fulfilment, of contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer:

“The joy of prayer is one thing; the prayer of contemplation is another.  The latter is more precious than the former, as an adult is more advanced than a child.  The verses of a psalm may be very delightful on the tongue, and the singing of a single verse during prayer may prevent us from continuing and passing on to another verse, so inexhaustible is it.  But it may also happen that prayer gives rise to contemplation, which interrupts what the lips are saying.  Then the person is in ecstasy.  Contemplation makes him as it were a body without breath.  This is what we call the prayer of contemplation… but there is still a measure in this contemplation… it is always a prayer.  The meditation has not yet reached the point where there is no longer any prayer.  It has not yet arrived at the higher state.  In fact, the movements of the tongue and of the heart are keys.  And what comes next is entry into the treasure house.  Here every tongue and every mouth falls silent and the heart too, that gathers together the thoughts, and the spirit that governs the senses, and the work of meditation.  They are like a flutter of impudent birds.  Let their activity cease… for the Master of the house has come.”  Ascetic Treatises, 31

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