Archive for January, 2015
Saint Diadochos of Photiki (c. AD 400 – c. 486). “On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination. One Hundred Texts”, No. 31. From Philokalia, Vol. 1. One of the earliest written references to the “Jesus Prayer”; “the remembrance of the glorious and holy name of the Lord Jesus…“
“When our intellect begins to perceive the grace of the Holy Spirit, then Satan, too, importunes the soul with a sense of deceptive sweetness in the quiet times of the night, when we fall into a light kind of sleep. If the intellect at that time cleaves fervently to the remembrance of the glorious and holy name of the Lord Jesus and uses it as a weapon against Satan’s deception, he gives up this trick and for the future will attack the soul directly and personally. As a result the intellect clearly discerns the deception of the evil one and advances even further in the art of discrimination.”
Christos Yannaras (1935 – ) was Professor of Philosophy at Pantion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens. His books include Freedom of Morality and Person and Eros. His essay first appeared in French in Contacts, No. 179 (1997), pp. 202-206.
“I dream of an ecumenism which will begin with a confession of sins on the part of each Church. If we begin with this confession of our historic sins, perhaps we can manage to give ourselves to each other in the end. We are full of faults, full of weaknesses which distort our human nature. But Saint Paul says that from our weakness can be born a life which will triumph over death. I dream of an ecumenism that begins with the voluntary acceptance of that weakness.” ~ Christos Yannaras
“There is a story told from 18th century France of an old man who used to go for a long time each day into Church. His friends asked him: “What are you doing all the time in Church?” “I’m praying”, he said. And they answered: “You must have a great many things to ask God, if you take such a long time praying?” With indignation he responded: “I’m not asking God for anything!” “Well”, they said, “what are you doing all that time in Church?”
And he replied: “I just sit and look at God and God sits and looks at me”.
That is one of the best definitions that I know of prayer. And it sums up the Jesus Prayer in particular; it is a way of sitting and looking at God!
Let us now consider a little the inner meaning of the Jesus Prayer. In the Sermon of the Mount Christ says: “When you pray do not use vain repetitions”. Don’t heap up empty phrases as the heathen do thinking that they will be heard because of their many words. Does then the Jesus Prayer come under Christ’s rebuke? Certainly it is a repetition, but it is not a vain repetition if it is said with faith and with love. Within the Jesus Prayer every word has weight, every word has meaning. It is not verbosity, but the Jesus Prayer is on the contrary, a precise and eloquent confession of faith.
Let us explore then a little of the meaning of the Jesus Prayer. In that very attractive 19th century Russian text; attractive, but also in some ways misleading: The Tales of a Pilgrim. It is said, that the Jesus Prayer contains the whole of the Gospel; all embracing. In what way? First, the Jesus Prayer contains the two poles, the two moments of Christian experience. And these two moments are: adoration and penitence, or glory and forgiveness. There is in the Jesus Prayer a circular movement, a double movement of assent and return. First we ascend to God in adoration “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” and then we return to ourselves in penitence “have Mercy on me the sinner”.
Now, the gulf, the abyss between the divine glory and our human brokenness is bridged in the Jesus Prayer by two words “Jesus” and “Mercy”. In this connection we need to recall the literal meaning of the name Jesus. It means: Salvation! As the angel says before the birth of Christ (Matt 1:21): “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sin”.
First of all then, the gulf between glory and sin is bridged by Jesus, who is salvation. Then the other bridge building word in the Jesus Prayer is the word “Mercy”, Eleos in Greek. What does the word “Mercy” mean to you? For me it means love in action, love poured out to heal, to reconcile, to renew. Sometime people say to me that the Jesus Prayer is a rather gloomy prayer. I don’t experience it in that way. I see it as a prayer full of light and hope, because it speaks of Salvation and of Mercy.” ~ From a lecture delivered in 1997