Orthodox Spiritual Life (Part VIII)

Saints Thecla, Marianne, Martha, Mary and Enmatha in Persia

Saints Thecla, Marianne, Martha, Mary and Enmatha in Persia

My beloved spiritual children 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.

TODAY'S SYNAXARION: (Saints Commemorated today)

Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria; Saints Thecla, Marianne, Martha, Mary, and Enmatha in Persia; St. Alexander, Bishop of Prusa; 3 virgin-Martyrs of the island of Chios, Greece; Righteous Cyrus; St. Cyril of Belozersk; St. Alexander, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Kushta of Vologda; St. John of Shavrel-Gaenati; St. Columba of Iona; St. Baithene of Tiree.

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"Whoever makes excuses finds no peace". +Saint Paisios of Mt. Athos

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUAL LIFE: JESUS PRAYER
By Saint Silouan the Athonite

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

One of the more effective weapons of the spiritual arsenal is the 'Jesus Prayer', i.e., the invocation of the Name of Jesus. Its use is imperative if one is to effectively battle the enemy (Satan). The Jesus Prayer is especially relevant today. Every believer, in any situation, can call upon the power of the Name of Jesus. Accessible to all, it requires no particular level of spiritual progress in order to proceed in its practice. By prayerfully repeating the words Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, the believer partakes in a time-honored tradition inherited from Apostolic times. Founded upon Holy Scripture, the Jesus Prayer is inspired by the prayer of the publican: "God, be merciful to me a sinner" (St. Luke 18:13 NKJ) and the cry of the blind man "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (St. Luke 1:38). In addition, the Holy Apostle Paul refers to the invocation of the Name of Jesus as an event of cosmic proportions: "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth..." (Phil. 2:9-10). (cf. Acts 4:12. Refer to Acts 3:6-16, where the Holy Apostle Peter heals the lame man through the invocation of the name of Jesus. Cf. also Acts 9:34.

Saint John Climacus attests to the power of the Name of Jesus and its unique role in spiritual warfare. He refers to it as the greatest of all 'weapons', "...flog your enemies (demons) with the Name of Jesus, since there is no stronger weapon in heaven or on earth" (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 21.) Saint Hesychios the Priest points out the effectiveness of the Jesus Prayer in combating 'logismoi', "Whenever we are filled with evil thoughts, we should throw the invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ into their midst. Then, as experience has taught us, we shall see them (demons) instantly dispersed like smoke in the air" (On Watchfulness and Holiness 98, The Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 179). Elder Sophrony stresses the importance of the Jesus Prayer along the lines of spiritual defense, "When the attention of the mind is fixed in the heart it is possible to control what happens in the heart, and the battle against the passions assumes a rational character. The enemy is recognized and can be driven off by the power of the name of Christ" (Achmandrite, Sophrony, On Prayer, Essex, England, 1996, p. 143). He also describes the prayer as a 'high fortress wall' with 'heavy iron gates'.

The believer must realize, however, the inherent difficulties--even the spiritual ordeals--that await those who earnestly endeavor to acquire the great gift of this prayer. The practice of the Jesus Prayer provokes indescribable conflict with 'cosmic powers'. Not to be taken lightly, as a form of common meditation or a simple technique of mental exercise, the Jesus Prayer must be approached with reverent fear of God. It requires a truly repentant spirit and the guidance of a spiritual father--especially the further one progresses in its practice. The believer must be fully aware of the fact that he or she is entering into spiritual conflict of cosmic proportions. Elder Sophrony observes, "In the atmosphere of the world today prayer requires super human courage. The whole ensemble of cosmic energies waits in opposition. To hold on to prayer without distraction signals victory on every level of natural existence...The Jesus Prayer then assumes cosmic and meta-cosmic dimensions". If prayerful invocation of the Name of Jesus provokes such great opposition in the battle against the forces of evil, one wonders as to the extent of the cosmic dimensions of receiving His Holy Body and Blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

It is of interest to note that Saint Silouan himself rarely refers to the Jesus Prayer in his writings, although he 'carried it constantly in his heart' (Elder Sophrony often attests to St. Silouan's special devotion to the Jesus Prayer. In one of the rare instances where St. Silouan does mention the Jesus Prayer by name, he writes in the shortest and simplest terms, "Let us humble ourselves and the Lord will give us to know the power of the Jesus Prayer." (St. Silouan the Athonite, p. 293). This is due to the fact that at a formative stage in his spiritual development, when he was struggling intensely against the passion of pride, there arose a theological debate concerning the Divine Name that occupied the minds of Russian theologians, monks and hierarchs for several years. Apparently not wanting to leave the impression that he was somehow involved in the dispute, perhaps for the sake of his own humility and peace of soul, Saint Silouan tended to refrain from referring to the Jesus Prayer in his writings. Elder Sophrony, on the other hand, has written at length on the Jesus Prayer, commenting on its theological aspects, its proper use and method, as well as its overall significance for one's spiritual life.

(Next: The danger of delusion)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"

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

+Father George