Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer 6

“Let your tongue pronounce no word when you betake yourself to prayer.”  ~ Evagrius Ponticus, 4th century

Contemplative, or Primitive Christian Prayer, sounds wonderful but requires a quieted, still soul; and this state can literally take years to achieve and master.  So, how do we “do” contemplative prayer?  To start us off, I will again use our friend Evagrius Ponticus who tells us that an intellect (read: nous) that is filled with agape love in seeking God, tears itself away from the physical world, its images, its passions, its reasoning, so that all that is left is the perception of gratitude and joy.  This, for Evagrius, is the necessary condition of a person in whom prayer can begin:

“When your intellect [nous], in an ardent love for God, sets itself gradually to transcend, so to speak, created things and rejects all thinking… at the same time filling itself with gratitude and joy, then you may consider yourself approaching the borders of prayer.”  (On Prayer, 62)

The mere fact that it can take years to reach the level of dispassion described by Evagrius should not discourage us from our pursuit of prayer!  So, now that we are duly humbled and in a proper frame of mind, how do we do it?  Pseudo-Macarius, an anonymous ascetic writer from about AD 400, tells us:

“To pray there is no need of gestures, nor cries, nor silence, nor kneeling.  Our prayer that is at once tranquil and fervent ought to be waiting upon God, for God to come and permeate all its approaches, all its ways, all its senses.  Enough of groanings and sobs.  Let us seek in our prayer only the coming of God…  In the same way the soul that seeks God – rather I mean the soul that is sought by God – is no longer anything but gazing.”  (33rd homily)

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