Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer 7

“This disposition is accompanied by interior tears, then by a sort of fullness, eager for silence.” ~ Diadochus of Photike, 5th century

 

We now turn back to John Cassian (ca. AD 400), who tells us how to pray like the Desert Fathers and Mothers:

“We have to take particular care to follow the Gospel precept that bids us go into our inner room and shut the door to pray to our Father.

This is how to do it.

We are praying in our inner room when we withdraw our heart completely from the clamor of our thoughts and preoccupations, and in a kind of secret dialogue, as between intimate friends, we lay bare our desires before the Lord.

We are praying with our door shut when, without opening our mouth, we call on the One who takes no account of words but considers the heart.

We are praying in secret when we speak to God with the heart alone and with concentration of the soul, and make known our state of mind to him alone, in such a way that even the enemy powers themselves cannot guess their nature.  Such is the reason for the deep silence that it behooves us to keep in prayer…” (Conferences, IX)

Diadochus of Photike from the 5th century (AD 400’s) is one of the principal spiritual authorities of the Orthodox East.  He was one of the first to mention the use of the famous “Jesus Prayer”, which remains one of the primary mystic tools of the Orthodox contemplative tradition of hesychasm (silence, quietude) to this day.  Diadochus describes the presence of the Holy Spirit in contemplative prayer and the need for silence:

“When the Holy Spirit acts in the soul he sings psalms and prays with complete relaxation and sweetness in the secret places of the heart.  This disposition is accompanied by interior tears, then by a sort of fullness, eager for silence.” Gnostic Chapters, 73

The tricky thing about contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer is that if you think you’re doing it right, you clearly aren’t!  By thinking you’re doing it right, by making that judgment, you have made prayer into a dualistic contest, a worthiness exercise.  That makes you guilty of “philautia” (φιλαυτία), self-centeredness, the root of all of the deadly sins and the greatest hindrance to pure prayer, at least according to Evagrius Ponticus!

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