Prayer as an Important Aspect of our Spiritual Life (Part 4)

St. Cyril

Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Our Only True Savior Jesus Christ,


A new creation has the Creator revealed, manifesting Himself unto us His creatures. From a Virgin's womb He came, preserving it inviolate as it was before: that, beholding the miracle, we might sing her praise, crying: Hail, flower of incorruption: Hail, crown of chastity. Hail, bright foreshadowing of the Resurrection Glory: Hail, mirror of the Angels' life. Hail, tree of glorious fruit on which the faithful feed: Hail, wood of shady leaves where many shelter. Hail, for thou hast conceived a Guide for the wanderers: Hail, for thou hast born a Deliverer for the captives. Hail, intercessor with the Righteous Judge: Hail, forgiveness for many who have stumbled. Hail, robe for the naked and bereft of hope. Hail, love surpassing all desire. Hail, Bride without bridegroom!


On May 11th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saints Cyril and Methodius, Equal-to-the Apostles and Missionaries to the Slavs; Saint Mosius of Amphipolis; Saint Nicodemus, Archbishop of Pec; Holy Martyr Dioscoros; Dedication of the City of Constantinople; Saint Sophronius, recluse of the Kiev Caves; Saint Joseph, Metropolitan of Astrakhan; New holy Martyr Argyros of Thessaloniki; Saint Olympia of Karyes; Blessed Kristesia (Christopher) of Georgia.

SAINT CYRIL AND METHODIUS, EQUAL-TO-THE APOSTLES AND MISSIONARIES TO THE SLAVS. Saint Cyril lived in the 9th century; he was the youngest son of a rich and noted nobleman of the Greek city of Thessaloniki. His father's name was Leo, and his mother's Mary. The family was a large one; and it was brought up in all seriousness, according to the Faith. The Greek emperor installed Saint Methodius, the elder brother, as governor of the Slavic tribes, which, at that time, lived in the neighborhood of Thanssaloniki. But, after a few years, Saint Methodius desired to leave the world. He left the Slavic principality, after which he settled on Mount Olympus, where he was tonsured a monk, and devoted his days in prayer and the study of the Holy Scripture. In the meantime, Saint Cyril was occupied with his studies in the home of his parents. While yet a little boy, he saw in his dreams that the ruler of the city had once gathered many maidens, and told him to select for himself a bride; at that, he selected the most beautiful one; her name was Sophia. Now the meaning of this name is wisdom. Saint Cyril truly did obtain wisdom, for he was clever and diligent in his studies. One of the eminent tutors of the young Emperor Michael, in Constantinople, had heard of the bright young man Cyril, for he knew the family. On securing the parents' consent, he at once sent for the boy to study with the young emperor in the palace. Under the guidance of the most learned men of the empire, but especially the celebrated Photius the Great, who later became Patriarch of Constantinople, the young man made rapid progress in his studies, which gained for him the name of Philosopher. But Saint Cyril was not taken with pride, nor did he make a display of his learning and title. When he was of age St. Cyril went to live with his brother Saint Methodius, on Mount Olympus. Away from the vanities of the world, they constantly strengthened themselves in wisdom and in the Faith, going deeper into the study of Christ's law. Not a very long time went by, when the holy brothers were called forth to live and work among the people. They were sent as missionaries by the Church of Constantinople to convert the people living along the Northern coast of the Black Sea, and who were called Chozars. It took considerable time for them to master the language. The missionaries worked untiringly.

The prince of the Chozars believed and was baptized, and a large number of people immediately followed their example. When Saints Methodius and Cyril were about to return to Constantinople, the prince offered them rich gifts; but they refused to accept anything in return for the Grace of God in the Gospel, which they had brought to the people, and in place of the gifts, they requested that some Greek captives be given their freedom. On their way, the brothers visited another tribe living by the Sea of Azov. They were successful to convert the people of this tribe as well. The missionaries were triumphantly greeted in Constantinople as apostles. These true servants of the Savior would accept no honors or dignity. Saint Cyril took up his living by the church of the Holy Apostles, and Saint Methodius became the Abbot (Egoumenos) of the famous Greek Monastery of Polychron.

Firm in the hope of obtaining God's blessing for his labors, Saint Cyril set himself to the task of constructing an alphabet for the Slavonic people, that they may retain the Word of God written down for them, as teaching by word merely could soon become forgotten. Saint Cyril commenced the work of inventing letters. In this way the Slavonic alphabet had its origin. The language now being adapted to writing, Saint Cyril translated the Gospel of Saint John for the first book. The first words written in the Slavonic language were these: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".

When this great work had been accomplished in the year 862 A.D., the whole religious council, at a grand public praise, gave thanks to the Lord. The philosopher Cyril was now consecrated a bishop, and, in company with his brother Saint Methodius and several disciples, went to the Slavic countries. This new apostle, untiring in labor for the benefit of his neighbors, translated the Book of Psalms, a part of the Holy Bible, and all the Church services into the Slavonic language. Now Divine worship was offered in the Slavic countries in a language which was understood by all.

Saints Cyril and Methodius, as other Christian evangelists, suffered much form calamities and persecutions. German and Latin bishops, who also preached to the Slavs, envied the work of the Orthodox brothers, and they arose against the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the Slavonic language. They said that the Gospel should be read only in the three languages, which writings were nailed to the Cross of Jesus Christ, that is: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

The two brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius went to Rome at the invitation of Pope, Adrian II. When the Pope heard that the brothers were nearing Rome, and that they were bringing the holy relics of Saint Clement, he went out of the city, with all the clergy and a multitude of people, to meet them. The long journey and many hardships in a laborious life took its toll on the health of Saint Cyril. While in Rome his health completely failed him. He understood that his time now had come to its close; therefore, he made preparations, and he wished to take the final vows of the Great Schema. He died on the 14th of February 869 A.D. Then Saint Methodius returned to Moravia and labored at the confirming of the Faith among the Slavs until his death. After his death -- he entered into rest in the Lord on August 6th 865 A.D. His disciples, the Five Followers, with Saint Clement as bishop at the beginning, crossed the Danube and moved towards the South, to Macedonia, where, from Ochrid, they continued the work among the Slavs that Sts. Cyril and Methodisus had begun in the North.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Apostles, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 10:44-48
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 8:21-30


"Good people do not keep evil in their heart, but neither do they keep their kindness to themselves. For this reason, they do not possess elegant things and are not moved by the world's beauties. In this, their fervent faith in God as well as their great love is made manifest". [Geronda Paisios of Mt. Athos]

by Monk Moses

Part IV.

The present author is insufficiently prepared for an adequate discussion of the next stage in this topic the unceasing, spiritual prayer of the heart, marked by a single unwavering thought otherwise known as the Jesus Prayer. The topic of spiritual sobriety and vigilance, spiritual contemplation and action is very advanced and extremely difficult. I shall limit my efforts to the mentioning of a few applicable comments found in the inexhaustible treasury of the holy Fathers.

Saint John of the Ladder instructs that if the mind wants to pray united with the heart and is unable to achieve this, then the prayer should be said with the mouth, while the mind holds and attends to the words of the prayer. In time the Lord will bless us with the prayer of the heart when we will be able to pray without constraints and distracting imaginations. This charisma (gift) is given, as are all charismata (gifts), to the simple and humble soul, in accordance with the austere and precise spiritual order. To the one who is simple, humble and temperate in all things, Christ Himself will bestow the prayer of the heart.

The so-called Jesus Prayer is simply the repetition of the phrase: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me a sinner." There are some minor variations in the wording. The power of this prayer is unlimited. The very Name of the Jesus banishes the demons, as Saint Anthony the Great tells us. This prayer and the Name of Jesus is repeated by many Saints. Saint John Chrysostom says that the acquisition of the prayer of the heart is not a matter of one or two days, but involves much time and effort, until the enemy is banished and Christ comes to dwell in our heart. According to Saint Neilos the Ascetic, the best defense against the enemies is the Name of Jesus. And who are the enemies? Burning desires, sinful delights, diabolical schemes and the like. As to how to say the Jesus Prayer properly we have instructions in the book called Philokalia.

The unceasing prayer comes from great love. It is lost of course when one becomes inattentive, idle and critical. Our love for God cannot be impeded by the work we do. The Person of God, no matter what he or she is doing, can have a constant remembrance of God, A constant doxology, a constant thanksgiving. God loves us all, but He loves even more those who love Him. The infinite love of God for man has provided for prayer, so that, at any moment one so desires and all the days of his life, one can have conversation with God. All the saints kept their life of prayer unceasing.

Abba (Father) Poimen, the great father of discernment, says that there are three most useful principles. Fear of God, unceasing prayer, and love for our neighbor. The disciple of Abba Bessarion, Abba Doulas, mentions in the gerontikon that he found his elder praying continuously with his arms raised for fourteen days. Only after he lowered his arms did the disciple disturb his elder. Saint Basil the Great says that unceasing prayer means to unite yourself with God, through the manner of your whole life, that your very life becomes an unceasing prayer. Abba Isaac says that unless the grace of the Holy Spirit abides in our heart, perfection in this prayer cannot be attained. When the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart, prayer is not interrupted even when we sleep. And Niketas Stethatos calls this unceasing prayer  a spiritual reflection, a remembrance of God with persistent contrition.

One of the elders of Mt. Athos related to us that he had received a letter from a simple woman in which, among other things, she wrote:

"Father, I am a widow with two children and I am working to raise them, etc. Please pray for me because I do not have enough time and I pray only eight hours".

Yes, you read correctly, eight hours, and she did not consider it enough! Apparently she was practicing the spiritual prayer. The person who is dedicated to God does not measure, does not calculate, does not give in order to receive. He or she offered completely to God and God gives Himself completely in return.


Dear friends, let our prayer be regular, but not out of custom and duty; let it be with a program, but not for the sake of the program. In this way our prayer can be expected to have sweet warmth and inspirational variations and graces. In a mystical yet certain way, God will inform us if our prayer is true and pleasing to Him through the joy and peace which will fill our soul. For many, temptations, difficulties, misfortunes, dangers, deaths, losses have been stimuli which led them to the art of prayer. These difficulties have helped them to more fervent and stronger prayers which earlier had not been achieved, even with persistent effort, because they were not whole-hearted or lacked sincerity.

The true art of prayer is taught to the person who prays by God Himself. Customary prayer, without a spirit of contrition, of compunction is not pleasing to God. A soul who loves God cannot live without prayer. God draws the soul to himself through prayer. Only to the humble person will God give the taste of the sheer sweetness of prayer. Only the prayer of the humble person can be pure.

In the final analysis, my dear brothers and sisters, whether you are strong or weak, warm or cold, young or old, educated or uneducated, wealthy or poor, clergymen or laymen, know that not even a single word of our prayers is in vain. They are all heard, all of them. For this reason do not forget, during those sacred hours, to mention my unworthy person, since God also loves prayers for others, particularly for those who have so much need.

[Source: taken from the book, Athonite Flowers]

With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George