The Jesus Prayer and Its Application (Part III)

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

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


[Extract from the guidebook by the Elder (Geronda) Arsenios Katerelos]

"Without the Lord's assistance, we are unable to do anything good. Therefore, we need much humility to find repose for our souls. The Evil One will never cease shooting at us with his flaming arrows and trying to overcome and dominate us. But we also have many deadly weapons. In particular, The Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me literally burns him." (Geronda (Elder) Ephraim of Arizona)

The Elder (Geronda) would say that in spite of its difficulties, a God-pleasing prayer relaxes and creates an ineffable peace inside us. It's shameful - he used to say - when Christ Himself offers us the potential to communicate with Him, for us not to be willing to - or, not to have the analogous awareness during such a communication. On the one hand, we envy and regard as blessed those who lived during Christ's time on earth and were able to speak to Him, instead of stopping to think that we are in a far more advantageous situation - inasmuch as we are able to be in continuous contact with Him spiritually...In Christ's time, people weren't able to secure His personal attention very easily (vying as to who could be first in line to preoccupy Him) etc...

The Geronda not only stressed the quality of prayer, but also the quantity. When the latter is observed in the proper manner, the former is improved as well. He himself would naturally pray for hours on end, for endless nights and days. But what am I saying? The Elder obviously possessed the cardiac, effortless, self-acting noetic prayer, during his sleep but also while awake, whether talking or whatever else he was preoccupied with. This, of course, was the fitting, God-sent fruit and gift that gave the Geronda his many, personal spiritual parameters, struggles, and "promotive" temptations.

He was so dedicated to praying that - for example - when living as an ascetic at Sinai, away from the Monastery, all alone, young at the time and relatively unknown and obscure, he would go to the Monastery every now and then - that is, every fifteen days - for the sole purpose of receiving Holy Communion, and no other reason. One time - and only that one time - he underwent inconceivable tortures by the cunning one (Satan). He used to say "I felt as though I was nailed to the Cross". Of course, one cannot comprehend this statement, not when simply hearing it, but only when it is actually experienced, and to the degree, it was experienced.

Among other things, we humbly believe is it permissible for us to mention that the devil was the one prompting him to go to the Monastery - imagine, the devil prompting one to go to the monastery!! and attend services, etc. with the other fathers - in other words, in order to abandon his solitude. It was a move that the devil had preferred for a reason. At the time, Father Paisios had also braved various human pressures, even by spiritual persons...but let's not say anything more on this. (After all, it wasn't the sole instance at the time and only on that topic; there had been other instances and for other reasons, both earlier and later...). Anyway, the Elder had bravely resisted that will of the devil. But when he received Holy Communion at the Monastery after fifteen days, he savored the Holy Light. Thus, with renewed spiritual powers and heavenly experiences, he would provoke (not the people of course - the Elder would never provoke people - only the devil) for the following fifteen days during his solitary ascesis, and would himself prod the devil saying: "If you want, come, let's fight again!" Naturally, he was boasting in the Lord. And he was, of course, implying - among other things - that he wouldn't allow anything to disturb his solitude, whatever that entailed. We need to make a necessary clarification here: What he did was possible, only thanks to the Geronda's spiritual measures. After all, he had also frequently stressed the value of common prayer. He used to say: "The temple (church) is God's house. Praying alone is one's preparation for the common prayer." To be sure, common prayer does have distractions etc., therefore at times it may be somewhat inferior; it is, however, more powerful - both because of the unity (very important, but we won't analyze it here), as well as of the number of those praying...

"...It is needless to mention that the Geronda (Elder) placed the utmost significance in one's participation in sacramental ecclesiastic life - its highlight of course being the proper reception of Holy Communion.

One time, when receiving Holy Communion in one of the cells (κελλίον ή κελλί) on the Holy Mountain where the Geronda (Elder) felt cold on account of the lack of heating, his age, and the various ailments he suffered from, he quite suddenly and entirely supernaturally felt warmed after Holy Communion, both spiritually and bodily - so much so, that on his return to his Cell (Kelli), even the path he walked on had warmed up! Such a "squandering" of thermo-Divine energy...

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"


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

+Father George