Posts Tagged patristics
Praying the Jesus Prayer
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Hesychasm - Jesus Prayer, Patristic Pearls on October 21, 2017
The Jesus Prayer (Greek: Η Προσευχή του Ιησού, i prosefchí tou iisoú); or “The Prayer” (Greek: Η Ευχή, i efchí̱ – literally “The Wish”) is a short formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated especially within the Eastern Orthodox Church. The prayer has been widely taught and discussed beginning in the 4th and 5th centuries. The classic Jesus Prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner”, but there are many individual variations. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use being an integral part of the eremitic tradition of prayer known as Hesychasm (Greek: ἡσυχάζω, isycházo, “to keep stillness”). The prayer is particularly esteemed by the spiritual fathers of this tradition (see Philokalia) as a method of opening up the heart (kardia) and bringing about the Prayer of the Heart (Καρδιακή Προσευχή). The Prayer of The Heart is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament (1 Thess. 5:17).
Methods and Steps
Practical Steps for the Jesus Prayer
1. Sit or stand in a dimly lit and quiet place.
2. Re-collect yourself.
3. With the help of your imagination find the place of the heart and stay there with attention.
4. Lead the mind from the head into the heart and say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner.’
5. Quietly with the lips or mentally, whichever is more convenient; say the prayer slowly and reverently.
6. As much as possible guard the attention of your mind and do not allow any thoughts to enter in.
7. Be patient and peaceful.
8. Be moderate in food, drink, and sleep.
9. Learn to love silence.
10. Read the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers about prayer.
11. As much as possible avoid distracting occupations.
(From the “Life of Abba Philemon” (6th Century book about Paul’s disciple))
Spiritual Levels of Prayer
It begins as oral prayer or prayer of the lips, a simple recitation defined as a verbal expression. Although very important, this level of prayer is still external to us and thus only the first step, for the essence or soul of prayer is within a man’s heart and mind.
As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction. At this point, the mind is focused upon the words of the prayer, speaking them as if they were ones own.
The third level, is prayer of the heart. At this stage prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer, which is a gift of the Spirit, is to return to the Father as did the prodigal son. The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Galatians 4:6)
(From the “Reflections of St. Theophan the Recluse” (d. 1894))
Stages of Growth in the Prayer of the Heart
1. Try to…enclose your thought in the words of the [Jesus] prayer. If on account of its [the mind’s] infancy it wearies and wanders lead it in again. The mind is naturally unstable. But He Who orders all things can control it.
2. The beginning of prayer consists in banishing the thoughts that come to us at their very appearance…
3. Quantity is the cause of quality. The Lord gives pure prayer [prayer of the mind in the heart] to him who, eschewing laziness, prays much and regularly in his own manner, even if it is marred by inattention.
4. …the middle [of prayer] is when the mind stays solely in the words pronounced vocally or mentally…If, therefore, you tirelessly train your mind never to stray from the words of the prayer, it will be there even at mealtime.
5. The spiritual land of a man pure in soul is within him…Try to enter the cell within you and you will see the heavenly cell. They are one and the same…The ladder to the Heavenly Kingdom is within you. [Luke 17:21]
(St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (d. 1867) relating the teachings of St. John Climacus (d. 606) in “On the Prayer of Jesus”)
Using a Prayer Rope (Komboskini or Chotki) with the Jesus Prayer
…those who excelled in prayer, in order to avoid being subject to this self-deception, invented the prayer rope, which they proposed for the use of those who seek to pray not with written prayers, but on their own. They used it as follows:
1. They said, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner’, and moved one knot with their fingers;
2. Then, they said this again and moved another, and so on;
3. Between each short prayer they made a bow from the waist or a full prostration* as desired, or…**
4. Between small knots they made a bow from the waist and at the larger knots or beads a complete prostration.*
(From the “Letters of St. Theophan the Recluse” (d. 1894))
* A prostration consists of dropping to both knees and leaning forward on the hands until the head touches the ground.
** Saint Hieromartyr Cosmas Aetolos (d. 1779) suggested the Sign of the Cross: …hold it [prayer rope] in your left hand and cross yourselves with your right hand and say: ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me’. I personally do the sign each time I reach a bead on the prayer rope, and a prostration at the end of a prayer session.
Copyright 2016 Ancient Christian Foundation
Clément: “The Trinity as Taught by the Church Fathers”
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Hesychasm - Jesus Prayer, New Nuggets on October 1, 2016
Olivier-Maurice Clément (1921 – 2009) – was an Orthodox Christian theologian, who taught at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, France. There he became one of the most highly regarded witnesses to early Christianity, as well as one of the most prolific.
“We are made in the image of God. From all eternity there is present in God a unique mode of existence, which is at the same time Unity and the Person in communion; and we are all called to realize this unity in Christ, when we meet him, under the divided flames of the Spirit. Therefore we express the metaphysics of the person in the language of Trinitarian theology. What could be called the ‘Trinitarian person’ is not the isolated individual of Western society (whose implicit philosophy regards human beings as ‘similar’ but not ‘consubstantial’). Nor is it the absorbed and amalgamated human being of totalitarian society, or the systematized oriental mysticism, or of the sects. It is, and must be, a person in a relationship, in communion. The transition from divine communion to human communion is accomplished in Christ who is consubstantial with the Father and the Spirit in his divinity and consubstantial with us in his humanity. […]
In their expositions of the Trinity, St. Basil and St. Maximus the Confessor emphasize that the Three is not a number (St. Basil spoke in this respect of ‘meta-mathematics’). The divine Persons are not added to one another, they exist in one another: the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, the Spirit is united to the Father together with the Son and ‘completes the blessed Trinity’ as if he were ensuring the circulation of love within it. This circulation of love was called by the Fathers perichoresis, another key word of their spirituality, along with the word we have already met, kenosis. Perichoresis, the exchange of being by which each Person exists only in virtue of his relationship with the others, might be defined as a ‘joyful kenosis‘. The kenosis of the Son in history is the extension of the kenosis of the Trinity and allows us to share in it.” From: The Roots of Christian Mysticism, Texts from the Patristic Era with Commentary, pp. 65-67.
Jean-Claude Larchet: “On the Work of Christ”
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Hesychasm - Jesus Prayer, New Nuggets on September 17, 2016
Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet (1949-) – is a French Orthodox researcher who is one of the foremost Orthodox Patristics scholars writing today.
“By His Incarnation, Christ has overthrown the barrier which separated our nature from God and has opened that nature once more to the deifying energies of uncreated grace. By his redemptive work, He has freed us from the tyranny of the devil and destroyed the power of sin. By His death, He has triumphed over death and corruption. By His resurrection, He has granted us new and eternal life. And it is not only human nature, but also the creation as a whole which Christ heals and restores, by uniting it in Himself with God the Father, thereby abolishing the divisions and ending the disorders that reigned within it because of sin.” From The Theology of Illness, pp. 40, 41.
Ephraim the Syrian: “Here within are the riches of heaven, if you desire them.”
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Hesychasm - Jesus Prayer, Patristic Pearls on May 31, 2015
“Here within are the riches of heaven, if you desire them. Here O sinner, is the kingdom of God within you. Enter into yourself, seek more eagerly and you will find it without great travail. Outside you is death, and the door to death is sin. Enter within yourself and remain in your heart, for there is God.”
– St Ephraim the Syrian
Stăniloae: “The latter [apophatic knowledge] is superior to the former [cataphatic knowledge] because it completes it.”
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Hesychasm - Jesus Prayer, New Nuggets on December 7, 2014
Dumitru Stăniloae (1903 – 1993) was an Orthodox priest and renowned as an Orthodox theologian, academic, and professor. In addition to commentary on the works of the Church Fathers Maximus the Confessor, Gregory Palamas, and Athanasias, his 1978 masterpiece “The Dogmatic Orthodox Theology” established him as one of the foremost Christian theologians of the later half of the twentieth century.
“According to patristic tradition, there is a rational or cataphatic knowledge of God, and an apophatic or ineffable knowledge. The latter is superior to the former because it completes it. God is not known in his essence, however, through either of these. We know God through cataphatic knowledge only as creating and sustaining cause of the world, while through apophatic knowledge we gain a kind of direct experience of his mystical presence which surpasses the simple knowledge of him as cause who is invested with certain attributes similar to those of the world. This latter knowledge is termed apophatic because the mystical presence of God experienced through it transcends the possibility of being defined in words. This knowledge is more adequate to God than is cataphatic knowledge.” Dogmatic Orthodox Theology, I-95