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.
THEOSIS, THE TRUE PURPOSE OF HUMAN LIFE (Part V)
By Archimandrite George, Abbot (Egoumenos) of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregorios - Mount Athos
The Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) and Prayer
Christ installs Himself in the heart of man through the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments): Holy Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Confession, and the Divine Eucharist. Those Orthodox Christians who are in communion with Christ have God and His Grace within them, in their hearts, because they have been baptized, chrismated, have confessed and have received Holy Communion.
The passions cover Divine Grace as ashes bury a spark. Through asceticism and prayer, the heart is cleansed of the passions, the spark of Divine Grace is rekindled, and the faithful Christian feels Christ in his heart, the center of his existence.
Every prayer of the Church helps to cleanse the heart, but the so-called prayer of a single phrase, also known as noetic prayer or prayer of the heart, is particularly helpful: "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner." This prayer, which has always been handed down on the Holy Mountain, has the following advantage because it is only one sentence it helps us to concentrate our nous more easily. Concentration our nous, we immerse it in our heart, and then pay attention to make sure it is not busy there with other things and ideas, good or bad; that it is busy only with God.
The practice in this prayer of the heart, which with God's Grace may in time become continuous, is a whole science, a holy art which the Saints of our Faith describe in detail in their holy writings, and also in a large collection of Patristic texts called the "Philokalia."
This prayer helps and gladdens man, and when the Christian progresses in this prayer and at the same time his life follows the Holy Commandments of Christ and His Church, then he is worthy to receive the experience of Divine Grace. He starts to taste the sweetness of communion with God, to know from experience "O taste and see the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). For us Orthodox Christians, God is not an idea, something that we think about, that we discuss or read about, but a Person with Whom we come into living and personal communion. It is something we live, and somebody from Whom we receive experience.
Then we see what a great, unspeakable, and inexpressible joy it is to have Christ within us and to be Orthodox Christians.
Within their different concerns and everyday occupations, it helps Christians who are in the world so much to find at least a few minutes of silence to exercise themselves in this prayer.
Certainly, when fulfilled with humility and love, all labors and obligations directed to God sanctify us, but prayer is also required.
In a quiet room (perhaps after some spiritual reading, or after lighting a small oil lamp in front of the holy icons and burning incense), as far as possible away from noise and activity, and after other considerations and thoughts have fallen quiet, they should sink their nous into the heart by saying the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." How much peace and strength the psyches (the souls) draw from the silence of God! How much this strengthens them without nervous tension and anxiety, but have all their forces united in harmony!
Some people in other places seek silence of the psyche (soul) by using artificial means that are deluded and demonic, as in the so-called Oriental religions. They try to find a certain silence by using external exercises, meditation etc., to achieve a certain balance of psyche (soul) and body. The fault in all these is the properly speaking, even when man tries to forget the various considerations of the material world he does not have a dialogue with God, but only a monologue with himself, so that once again he ends up in anthropocentrism, and in this way, he fails.
Essence (ουσία-ousia): God's essence and His energies are pre-eternal and Uncreated. God's essence, that is His essential nature, is inaccessible and unknowable to us, and therefore will always remain a mystery.
The distinction between God's essence and His energies guarantees God's ultimate unknowability whilst simultaneously giving us the possibility to achieve intimate and personal communion with Him through His energies, for these are accessible to us.
Heart (καρδία-kardia): The heart is a biblical word little understood these days, yet it has a truly profound dimension. The heart is where union with God may be consummated; as such it has a spiritual dimension. More than an emotional center or a physical organ, the heart is a receptacle for all good and evil. The heart is our psychosomatic (soul and body) center, the deepest and most profound part of our being; it is our "inner man," out of which the energies of the psyche (soul) issue forth.
Nous (νούς-nous): The nous is our highest faculty. It has been called: the "eye of the psyche" ("soul"), the "eye of the heart," and also the "energy of the psyche (soul)." When cleansed, the nous resides and operates from within the heart; it can perceive God the spiritual principals and underlie creation; it is cognitive, visionary, and intuitive. The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos said, "the nous is in the image of God. And in as much as God is Light, the nous too has light mirrored in it by the Grace of God."
After man's fall and the "fragmentation" of the psyche (soul); the nous will invariably identify itself with the mind, the imagination, the senses, or even the body -- losing sight of its pure unalloyed state.
Psyche (ψυχ-psyche): The most important and least understood of all Biblical words is the word psyche (soul). The Orthodox Christian understanding of psyche (soul) remains unified and unchanged. The psyche (soul) is a pure unalloyed essence which animates the body and gives it life; it is our immaterial nature, created yet eternal, comprising of our cognitive, conative, and affective aspects, including both the conscious and unconscious. It naturally follows that psychic health precedes salvation.
In order to encapsulate the full meaning of the word psyche (soul) as understood by traditional Christianity, we will have to combine the meanings of five English words: "soul," "life," "breath," "psyche," and "mind."
In the West, the soul has become a debased and ambiguous term; the psyche (soul), is an original biblical counterpart, has now constellated into two distinct conceptual fields. The words "soul," "life," and "breath" form one field. The words "psyche" (as in a modern psychology) and "mind" (as in the mind-body dichotomy) comprise the other field. As such, there is little or no connection between "psychic" health and the eternal animating principle known as "soul."
Repentance (μετάνοια-metanoia): Repentance means: a change of heart, a change of mind - its literal meaning is a change of nous (i.e., meta-nous). Repentance is more than regret or contrition, it requires a fundamental change of life.
Christ tells us that the path for approaching the Kingdom of God is repentance. A more accurate translation of Matthew 4:17, is "Keep repenting for the Kingdom is at hand;" in other words, not once but continually. We must continually re-direct ourselves until we achieve life's objective - union with God - as such repentance is a mystery.
Repentance is not legalistic; i.e., if a penance is given during confession by the spiritual confessor, this will be purely for therapeutic reasons, whose aim is to clear the nous and the heart from sin.
Sin (αμαρτία-hamartia): In Christianity, hamartia (sin) means "estrangement from God," or more accurately "failure to achieve one's destiny," correspondingly the verb harmatanein means "to fall short of one's destiny" - the original meaning was "to miss the mark." These words were later translated as "sin," "to sin."
The primary objective of human life is to unite with God; so any action or even thought that estranges us from God is a sin. As Saint Paul tells us, "The sting of death is sin" (I Corinthians 16:56); sin has no legalistic dimension, it is simply estrangement from life.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sinner agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God