The Jesus Prayer

Venerable Job the Abbot of Pochaev

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PRAYER TO OUR MASTER, LORD JESUS CHRIST

Master, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, You have been forbearing over our transgressions; and having led us to this present hour, when You were hanging upon the Life-Giving Cross, opening the entrance into Paradise for the repentant thief, and destroying death by death, be merciful to us sinners, Your unworthy servants, for we have sinned and transgressed, and are not worthy to lift up our eyes and to look upon the height of heaven. For we have indeed abandoned the way of Your righteousness, and have walked according to the will of our own hearts. But not we beseech Your unimaginable goodness. Spare us, O Lord, according to the multitude of Your mercy, and save us for the sake of Your Holy Name, for the days of our life have been spent in vanity, release us from the grasp of the adversary (Satan), and forgive us our transgressions; mortify our sinful inclination, so that we may put away the old self, put on the new man and live with You, our Lord and Master. And thus, by following Your Commandments, we shall attain to that eternal rest, which is the dwelling place of all those who delight in You. For You are indeed the True delight and gladness of those who love You, O Christ our God, and to You do we send up glory, together with Your Unoriginate Father, and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. [Saint Basil the Great]

 Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

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TODAY'S SYNAXARION:

On October 10th 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, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs Evlambius and Evlambia at Nicomedia and 200 Holy Martyrs with them; Saint Bassian of Constantinople; Saint Theotecnus of Antioch; Saint Theophilos the Confessor of Bulgaria; Saint Innocent, Bishop of Penza; Synaxis of the Seven Saints of Volhynia: Job of Pochaev, Macarius, Archimandrite of Kanev, Yaropolk-Peter, Prince of Vladimir, Theodore, Prince of Ostrog, Stephen and Amphilochius, Bishops of Vladimir, and Juliana Olshanskaya; Andrew of Totma, fool-for-Christ; Synaxis of the Saints of Optina: Leo, Macarius, Moses, Anthony, Hilarion, Ambrose, Anatolius, Isaacius, Joseph, Barsanuphios, Anatolius, Nectarius, Nicon, and Isaacius; Saint Paulinus, Archbishop of York.

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

SYNAXIS OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND GOD-BEARING FATHERS OF OPTINA. These fourteen monks lived in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Optina Hermitage in Russia. They struggled valiantly in the monastic life in prayer, humility, obedience, and love. Because of this God granted them the gifts of discernment, prophecy, clairvoyance, and eldership. They were given the grace to guide souls on the path to salvation.

The Holy Martyrs Evlambius and Evlambia were from Nicomedia, and contested for Christ during the pagan Roman emperor Maximian, in the year of Our Lord 296 A.D.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Martyrs. Fourth Tone

Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art Merciful.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Righteous Fathers. Plagal of the First Tone.

For your greatness in prayer and humility and love, for your ascetical firmness and Orthodoxy of faith, God has given His exceeding wondrous gifts to you as unto the Prophets of His Will, as to Angels on the earth, and stewards of men's salvation. Wherefore enlighten us also, O universal lights of Optina.

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 1:1-9
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 9:7-11

FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:

"It is remarkable that however much we trouble about our health, however much care we take of ourselves, whatever wholesome and pleasant food and drink we take, however, much we walk in the fresh air, still, notwithstanding all this, in the end we sicken and corrupt; while the Saints, who despise the flesh, and mortify it by continual abstinence and fasting, by lying on the bare earth, by watchfulness, labors, unceasing prayer, make both their souls and bodies immortal. Our well fed bodies decay and after death emit an offensive odor, while theirs remains fragrant and flourishing both in life and after death. It is a remarkable thing: we, by building up our body, destroy it, while they, by destroying theirs, built it up by caring only for the fragrance of their souls before God, they obtain fragrance of the body also" (Saint John of Kronstadt).

The JESUS PRAYER
by Archimandrite Sophrony (source: His Life Is Mine)

Among the many forms of prayer current in our day the Prayer of the Name of Jesus has attracted widespread interest, and much of what has been written on the subject is deserving of serious attention. The theory of the Jesus Prayer can be set out in a few pages but its practical application entails such difficulty that from earliest time the Fathers and Teachers of the Church have constantly warned seekers after this way of union with God to be cautious, to approach with awe and to look for a guide already experienced in this ascetic feat. It is not my aim here to examine all aspects of an exceptionally complex a matter but to pass on some of the teaching given to me on the Holy Mountain, first in the monastery, then in the 'desert'.

In the last hours of His life with us the Lord said: "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you" (St. John 16:24,23). These words of Christ are the bedrock of the prayer of His Name; and there can be no doubt that the Disciples observed this bidding--a fact which is all the more credible since they had already learned the power of His Name. "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name" (St. Luke 10:17). Thus the history of prayer in the Name of Jesus begins with the Apostles who obeyed Christ's injunctions. There are no records of the actual words that they used when they prayed in His Name but that they performed startling miracles-driving out evil spirits and healing sick people beyond the aid of physicians--is confirmed over and over again in the writings of the New Testament.

But what does God's Name mean? In order to pray 'in His Name' is it necessary to understand its significance, its attributes, its nature? Yes; not only necessary but essential, if our joy is to be full. To assimilate the inexhaustible depths of life in Christ requires our whole strength, the unremitting effort of a lifetime. The content or meaning of the Name of God is imparted to us only gradually. The fleeting invocation of His Name may rejoice the soul; and this is precious. But we must not halt half-way. Our earthly life is brief. We must use every hour of it to advance our knowledge of God. And when within us the bliss in our heart is combined with the light of intelligence, then, and only then, do we approach perfection.

I met with such ideas as these on the Holy Mountain. And naturally I wanted to learn from the fathers how they understood this aspect of the ascetic life. I arrived on Mount Athos in 1925. Not long before, stormy disputes had erupted concerning the Nature of the Name of God, similar to the controversy in the 14th century respecting the Nature of the Light that the three Disciples beheld on the high mountain of Tabor.

Our individual lives are intimately bound up with our conceptions of the world and of God. And our prayer, especially in its ultimate degrees, demands the closest possible knowledge of the true nature of Being. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, [but] it doth not yet appear what we shall be. We know that, when He shall appear [in full] we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). And likewise we also know that our mind per se cannot go beyond a postulate, cannot achieve the knowledge sought after. God must manifest Himself to man. Just as in the lives of each of us God presents Himself little by little, so in the history of mankind, as portrayed in the Bible, God gradually reveals Himself in various ways.

From the Bible story it is plain that every new revelation was accepted as a manifestation of God, as His immediate action. Consequently, the very Names signified the presence of God. The Name functioned in a twofold manner, affording both awareness of the Living God and knowledge of Him. Hence the dread of 'taking the name of the Lord in vain' (Exodus 20:7). As revelation of the Divine attributes richened so did knowledge of God in general become more profound and abundant. But despite the Israelites' persuasion that they were the chosen people, that the Most High God revealed Himself to them, until the coming of Christ the Prophets never ceased to groan and their continual prayer was that God would appear on earth and bring the truly complete knowledge of Himself for which mankind naturally longs.

God manifested Himself as Providence, Savior and much more besides but still remained veiled, as it were, in people's minds. Jacob, in the tragic moment of his life when he was leaving Laban to return to the land of his fathers, where his brother Esau still lived and whom he feared, at night, left alone outside the camp, wrestled with God (cf. Genesis 32:24). The years with Laban had not been easy; Jacob was afraid and distressed at the thought of meeting Esau. He besought God's blessing; though ready, perhaps, to argue with God, to accuse Him.

The same struggles occur in the lives of the Prophets Elijah and Jonah. Elijah prayed: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers...I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken they covenant, thrown down thine altars and slain thy Prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (I Kings 19:4-10). And Jonah cried, Lord, Thou did command me with such insistency to preach to the Ninevites and proclaim the destruction of their city because of their wickedness, though I knew that Thou would not do this thing for "Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentetest thee of the evil  Therefore now"--now that my prophecy has not come true and I am dishonored--'take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live' (Jonah 4:2-3).

Our destiny has something in common with all of these Prophets. Israel fought with God, and which of us does not fight? Right up to the present day the entire world is in conflict with Him. All of mankind blames God for our sufferings. Life is not a simple matter. Yet to live without such knowledge is woefully tedious. Man hungers for direct dialogue with Him Who summoned us from the quiet of non-being into this meaningless tragi-comedy.

The main concern for each of us is to find out where the wrong lies--is it in ourselves or in Him, the Creator? It seems to us that we came into this world, not through our own will, and possibly without our consent. Do any of us remember being asked whether we wanted to be born into this life, it having been revealed to us beforehand what life would be like? Was it open to us to refuse the gift of life? Are we right to charge God with foolishness? (cf. Job 1:22).

If there is no such thing as Eternal life, then why the urge implanted in us to seek it? What is the meaning of our appearance in the world? Is it only to forget everything eventually? When will this loathsome spectacle come to an end? Are we being mocked?

The process of revelation concerning God as set forth in the Holy Scriptures to a considerable extent parallels our personal progress. We grow in knowledge as did our forefathers and fathers. We start with a conception of a Higher Being. Step by step, more and more of His attributes become known to the human spirit, until the revelation reaches the dread power of the I am of Mount Sinai, and man's understanding, though still imperfect, goes deeper than that of Moses (cf. Gen. 22:14). The wide stream flows through the centuries, bearing new knowledge.

He Who is beyond all Name in His Essence reveals Himself to the reasonable beings created by Him under a plurality of Names: Light, Life, Wisdom, Beauty, Goodness, Truth; Holy, Eternal, Omniscient, Almighty, Righteous, Hallowed; Savior, Redeemer; and many others. In and through each of them God, the One and Indivisible, comes close to us. At the same time none of His Names allows us to know Him "as He is". But he continues to reveal Himself through Names.

The new Name, Jesus, Savior (God-the-Savior) to begin with discloses for us the meaning or purpose of God's coming in the flesh: "for our salvation". The taking by God of our mode of being shows that it is possible to become sons of God. Our status as sons indicates that the divine form of being may be communicated to us. "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the God-head bodily" (Col. 2:9). After the Resurrection He sat "on the right hand of the Father", as Son of man now.

There is nothing automatic or 'magic' about the Jesus Prayer. Unless we labor to keep His Commandments, we call upon His name in vain. He Himself declared: "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity" (St. Matthew 7:22023).

Our Fathers were naturally conscious of the ontological connection between the Name and the Named--between the Name and the Person of Christ. It is not enough to pronounce the sound of the human word, which alters with the language used, it is essential to love Him whom we invoke.

For greater perfection it is likewise necessary to understand the content of the life of the beloved God. When we love someone we like uttering the name of the beloved and never tire of repeating it. It is infinitely more so with the Name of God. When we love in human fashion our love grows because we perceive more and more grace in the face of our loved ones. His likeness becomes ever more precious, and happiness makes us notice new traits all the time. Thus is it with the Name of Christ Jesus. Gradually, our interest captured, we uncover fresh aspects of Him through His Name; and are ourselves impregnated with the reality, the knowledge contained in His Name. And this knowledge is essential to Eternal life, as He said: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent" (St. John 17:3).

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George