Devotion to Prayer (Part II)

Repose of St. Raphael the Bishop of Brooklyn

Repose of St. Raphael the Bishop of Brooklyn

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra (Holy Mountain)

Just think: within us is the Kingdom of God, His dwelling place, where we "confine that which has no body within a body", so that the "worship of heavenly things" takes place within our hearts". We acquire God, and God is inseparably bound up with all the Saints, for they, like us, have all been nourished on the same milk, having been fed at the breast of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Saints are our brothers and friends. They wait for us, love us, and secure our blessedness, as the Prophet Isaiah says: "Blessed is he who has relatives and friends in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 31:9). We acquire as our friends and relatives all the Saints of Christ, who live above, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Do you remember the words of Christ? "There are some standing here, who will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power" (St. Mark 9:1). This is applicable to us, too. We live, that is, we experience "in power", the Kingdom of God, when we say the Prayer of Jesus. And when we do, the Spirit makes us worthy to know God. And the Saints attain to Christ, about whom some think that no one sees, and no one knows. And yet!...Through prayer we understand that which is beyond understanding, namely, the "incomprehensible and transcendently radiant content of our God" (Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, "On the Divine Names"), because the grace of the Spirit wells up from every fount, initiating us into the unspeakable beauty of God.

And if we don't reach as far as that, the Prayer of the Heart will nevertheless bring us abundant blessings, consolation, pleasure, forgiveness, and salvation, to each as it is best for him. This is what God gives.

And if we have not enjoyed such fruits, it does not mean that others have not tasted of them. The Saints many times beheld the glimmerings of the Godhead, for God revealed self to them as Light! God is light, but to us He is invisible. No one sees him. This is why He is said to be within a "thick cloud, or shrouded in darkness" (Exodus 19:9). Even so, to the extent that God has revealed Himself, many Saints have seen God, Who filled them with His own, Holy Light.

This is clear from the Life of Saint Savvas ("Life of Saint Savvas"), whom we mentioned a moment ago. He was filled with Divine longing. And while he sat in silence, his heart seek God, suddenly God appeared to him, and said "I am here!" Look at Me, it is I! How grand and godlike! And how did God appear to him? In what manner? In what form? How? As "Light flowing from heaven in abundance." Light, we are told, enveloped everything. It entered into him, first dominating his mind, afterwards his senses, and then covered all the members of his body.

After that, the Saint was so radiant, so fragrant, that people flocked in the thousands to see him, to imbibe the fragrance, to partake of it, and they painted his image on planks--on "planks and boards", it says--while he was still alive. They treated him and honored him as a Saint, because they saw the sanctity portrayed on his face.

And the Life goes on: "Take care, because these are the mysteries of the Lord. The Godhead appears in all its beauty, in all its glory, in all its unspeakable delight, and its Light transforms the man upon whom it is poured forth." Such a man can see God, and all those things beyond the heavens which eye has not seen.

After this, the Saint, "wounded by the sweet arrow of the Lord," speaks to the Light: "Where do You dwell, and upon whom do you look? Show me Your glory, so that I many know you" (Exodus 33:13). "I want to see You as your are." And then he heard a voice: "But you have been completely divinized by partaking in true measure of the Godhead. There is no need for Me to tell you where I dwell--I Who Am God--for you yourself have become god, receiving My Light form Me." 

How many times, my dear friends, have the Saints seen the Light, even if we have never seen it ourselves? But it is enough that you say the Prayer, and abide with Christ. These are the fruits of the Prayer of the Holy Mountain.

Finally, let us see how prayer is lived and experienced on the Holy Mountain. There is an ascetic on the Holy Mountain--I won't give you his name; he is still living--who is given to saying: "Ach! Twenty-four hours a day aren't enough for me to pray!" Do you sense what sort of prayer this man practices? Do you realize how far above the earth he is? Can you imagine what sweetness he feels as he turns his eyes and his heart increasingly toward God?

Yes, they pray on the Holy Mountain, in the monasteries and outside the monasteries. Great figures have emerged in recent years, such as Daniel Katounakiotes (+ 1929); Kallinikos the Hesychast (+1930), and so many others. One of our own monks, blessed Old Arsenios, who fell asleep a few years ago, didn't even want to sleep, but rigged himself up by a rope, and leaned on a piece of wood, in order to pray without ceasing.

Many monks have done this. When he prayed and make prostrations, he would hang his head on the floor. He said: "I am a sinner and God won't hear my prayer, but at least let Him hear the hanging of my head. My sin is so great that prayer doesn't dare come out of my mouth!" And yet he had grace! He prayed constantly. You should have seen his face. And if you could have seen how he fell asleep, you would have said, "Truly the death of a righteous man is blessed."

More recently there was another ascetic. He often needed hours to celebrate the liturgy, because he was visited by the Saints, who celebrated with him. Sometimes he took so long that he sent his disciples away, so that he could be alone, and they wouldn't be startled. And when his ecstasy ended, he would open the door and say, "let's resume the Liturgy..." (Source: Orthodox Heritage)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


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

+Father George