Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer 9

“It should therefore be given the Jesus Prayer…” ~ Diadochus of Photike, 5th century 

The tradition of invoking the name of Jesus in contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer was so common that by the 5th century that it was assuming a standard form, the “Jesus Prayer”.  Diadochus of Photike tells us that:

“The spirit, when we close all its outlets by our concentration on God, demands of us expressly some task that may satisfy its need for activity.  It should therefore be given the Jesus Prayer as the only occupation that answers fully to its purpose.  It is, in fact, written that ‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’…  Those who meditate on this holy and glorious Name continually in the depths of their heart can see also the light of their own spirit.  For if it is entertained with great care by the mind, the Name with intense emotion destroys all the impurities that cover the surface of the soul.”

The “Jesus Prayer” remains a principal spiritual tool of the Eastern Orthodox contemplative tradition of “hesychasm” to this day.  In its full form, it is, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a (the) sinner”.  It is used also in various shortened forms, sometimes shortened down to “Lord have mercy”, or “Kyrie eleison” in Greek.   In its psycho-somatic form, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” is prayed (“breathed”) into the body on the inhale; and “have mercy on me, a sinner” is exhaled (just like our sin is expelled through His grace and mercy).  It’s easier to do in Greek than it is in English!

I would be unfaithful to the Eastern contemplative tradition if I did not add a stern warning, born of centuries of experience.  Contemplation, or theoria, should not be undertaken except under the guidance of an experienced spiritual Father, or guide.  Even then, visions, dreams, and emotions are looked on with great suspicion in the Eastern tradition.  Without a keen and well developed discernment of spirits, Satan and his minions can easily wreak havoc in a novice and do great physical and spiritual harm.

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