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.
THE JESUS PRAYER AND ITS APPLICATION
[Extract from the guidebook by the Elder (Geronda) Arsenios Katerelos consisting of his consecutive lectures to an audience.]
In his Second Homily on Prayer Saint John Chrysostom writes, "Prayer is the beginning of every good thing and the mediator of salvation and eternal life...The greatest thing we have to say about prayer is that every praying person converses with God, and this to the extent that, being human, one can speak with God...One cannot adequately express in words this honor. For this honor exceeds even the magnificence of the Angels themselves...At the time of prayer, we are forgetful of our human nature, considering ourselves to be in the midst of Angels and carrying out the same worship as they. For all the other things are very different and separated - I mean between us and the Angels - but the work of prayer is common to both Angels and humans."
The single-minded Prayer - "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" - is the simplest, but also the most powerful "weapon" the faithful - whether Monk or layperson. This brief prayer, which was delivered to us by our ancient Holy Fathers of the 6th century, is a condensed form of the entire confession of the Christological Faith of our Church, the complete dogma on the Incarnation of Christ and God, "in Whose Name every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and below the earth" (Phil. 2:10) and with Whose Name the powers of perdition are "flogged" (Ladder of Divine Ascent, 21:7).
The book titled The Jesus Prayer and Its Application, by the respected and beloved Elder (Geronda) Arsenios Katerelos - a very familiar Spiritual Father, Preacher and author in our Homeland - constitute an invaluable aid for a Christian's introduction to the art of the precious "Prayer". The Archimandrite Elder Arsenios has deposited the sacred experiences and the teachings of the Elders, Saint Paisios the Hagiorite and Isaac the Lebanese, near whom he had learnt the monk's way of life, enriched with the teaching of the Holy Fathers, but also with the discretion that has been based on his own hesychastic experience.
It is with joy that we are delivering this extremely useful guide in the English language, with our prayers that "the most sweet Jesus Christ" will grant the readers of this edition the supernatural delightfulness and benefit of the incessant Prayer.
The Abbot (Egoumenos) of the Sacred Monastery "Pantokrator" of Melissohori
+ Archimandrite Kyrillos
A FEW WORDS ABOUT ELDER ARSENIOS KATERELOS
Father Arsenios Katerelos had become acquainted with the Blessed Paisios the Hagiorite in the summer of 1979, at the age of 17. From then on he continued to have a close and frequent spiritual relationship with him, through to the repose of the Saint in 1994.
During his time at the Holy Mountain (at Kapsala, Panagouda, etc.), Father Arsenios was given the opportunity - first as a layperson, later as a novice monk (dokimos) and eventually as a Hieromonk(Ieromonachos) - to participate in may divine Services and Night-vigils with the Blessed Elder Paisios, along with certain other fathers.
Generally speaking, Father Arsenios was able to actually hear the teachings of the Blessed Paisios and was frequently given the opportunity (with the blessing and the exhortation of his Geronda (Elder), Isaac), to pose various questions to him, on a variety of spiritual topics, both personal and general.
The evangelical word of our Lord Jesus Christ which says "You must always pray and not despair" (St. Luke 18:1) - in other words, the fact that we must pray at all times and not give up and be discouraged - is the lifelong experience of our Church's Saints. Furthermore, Saint Gregory the Theologian, who summarizes the value of prayer but also man's stance in his communication with God, would proclaim it dynamically, with one phrase: "remembrance of God is better than breathing".
It was in the spirit of this instruction by the Lord, as well as the stance and guidance of the Holy Fathers, that we organized a series of evening homilies regarding prayer - the general theme being "The Jesus Prayer"...
"...As our beloved readers will discern, we are embarking on a purely practical level as regards the Jesus Prayer, by conveying experiences and opinions mainly of contemporary, blessed Gerondes (Elders)...We would like to stress that, albeit a theoretical topic, what is basically presented is the practical consideration of this noble and absolutely necessary labor of prayer - that is, especially of the Noetic Prayer of: "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, the sinner", which is usually recited with the use of a sacred prayer-rope (Komboschini). This "Prayer" - as the specific method of praying is called - is, among other things, a weapon against our three merciless enemies: The Devil, the world afar from God, and -first and foremost - our own, evil self.
However, this spiritual weapon is not exclusive use by Monastics, who must dutifully attend to it and apply it as a method and a way of life (as stressed by the Elder Ephraim of the Katounakia region of the Holy Mountain, that "a monk without the mental prayer (noetic) is not a monk"), but is also at the disposal of all the faithful, according to the teaching of Our Holy Church, which is summarized by the herald of Grace, Saint Gregory Palamas. And it is all the more applicable in our day and age - an age of fatigue, confusion from every aspect, and most of all, of spiritual ignorance.
The Jesus Prayer - both brief and extremely succinct - can be applied, not only "in every place of His dominion" (Psalm 102:22), but also at any hour of the day or night that the faithful himself desires. As for the results: they are extremely beneficial, as each person who desires to savor that "Christ is virtuous" (Psalm 33:9) will see for himself. As we all know, the work of praying cannot be taught; it is revealed to us and is recognized as being "from the Father of Lights" wherever there is the proper disposition for struggle, but more so wherever there is humility, the mother of prayer. However, being humans, it is the teaching and the methodology of the Holy Fathers on the matter which comprise the blessed path that allows the praying person to enter his room and there converse "face to face" with Jesus Himself...
"...We believe that by means of these homilies and these simplified texts we are giving every in-Christ brother and sister who studies them "as a thirsting doe" the opportunity to hasten even more to the "springs of the waters" (Psalm 41/42:2), both for a theoretical instruction through the study of Patristic (Writings of the Holy Fathers) writings on the topic, as well as for the primarily practical application of the most holy and important labor on earth; that is, the work of sacred prayer, and especially of the noetic prayer.
We are certain of this, not only because the Prayer cultivates and opens horizons within the realm of our mind, rendering our spiritual heart a temple of God, but also because it provides wiser, in accordance with the quote "give a wise man a reason, and he will become wiser" (Proverbs 9:9).
Progress, therefore, in wisdom and in communication with God is attained through prayer.
As for us here, it is understood that we involve the wishes and the prayers of all the readers, so that the Gospel words: "but whosoever does and teaches..." (St. Matthew 5:19) may apply to our unworthy person also. Amen.
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God