“Come, then, and receive the light, so that you may be able to see”

You have heard that story in the Gospel where we are told that the Lord Jesus, as he was passing by, caught sight of a man who had been blind from birth. Since the Lord did not overlook him, neither ought we to overlook this story of a man whom the Lord considered worthy of his attention. In particular we should notice the fact that he had been blind from birth. This is an important point.

There is, indeed, a kind of blindness, usually brought on by serious illness, which obscures one’s vision, but which can be cured, given time; and there is another sort of blindness, caused by cataract, that can be remedied by a surgeon: he can remove the cause and so the blindness is dispelled. Draw your own conclusion: this man, who was actually born blind, was not cured by surgical skill, but by the power of God.

When nature is defective the Creator, who is the author of nature, has the power to restore it. This is why Jesus also said. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” meaning: all who are blind are able to see, so long as I am the light they are looking for. Come, then, and receive the light, so that you may be able to see.

What is he trying to tell us, he who brought human beings back to life, who restored them to health by a word of command, who said to a corpse. “Come out!” and Lazarus came out from the tomb; who said to a paralytic. “Arise and pick up your stretcher,” and the sick man rose and picked up the very bed on which he used to be carried as a helpless cripple? Again, I ask you, what is he trying to convey to us by spitting on the ground, mixing his spittle with clay and putting it on the eyes of a blind man, saying: “Go and wash yourself in the pool of Siloam (a name that means ‘sent’)?” What is the meaning of the Lord’s action in this? Surely one of great significance, since the person whom Jesus touches receives more than just his sight.

In one instant we see both the power of his divinity and the strength of his holiness. As the divine light, he touched this man and enlightened him; as priest, by an action symbolizing baptism he wrought in him his work of redemption. The only reason for his mixing clay with the spittle and smearing it on the eyes of the blind man was to remind you that he who restored the man to health by anointing his eyes with clay is the very one who fashioned the first man out of clay, and that this clay that is our flesh can receive the light of eternal life through the sacrament of baptism.

You, too, should come to Siloam, that is, to him who was sent by the Father (as he says in the Gospel. “My teaching is not my own, it comes from him who sent me).” Let Christ wash you and you will then see. Come and be baptized, it is time; come quickly, and you too will be able to say, “I went and washed;” you will be able to say, “I was blind, and now I can see,” and as the blind man said when his eyes began to receive the light. “The night is almost over and the day is at hand.”

St Ambrose of Milan

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The Eschatological Dimensions of Christian Unity

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“If you are someone who feels your existence deeply, you’ll experience sorrow in an especially profound way”

Everyone has reasons to be sad, but if you are someone who feels your existence deeply, you’ll experience sorrow in an especially profound way. Compared to this, every other sadness seems a charade. To be aware you’re alive is genuinely painful, but if you’re fortunate enough to feel not merely who you are but that you are, you understand more than others do why sorrow is universal and inescapable. Without experiencing godly sorrow, a person can never know real grief. If you lack that, weep to get it.

Godly sorrow cleanses the soul. It purifies the spirit, both of sin and of sin’s shadow, which is suffering, and it readies the soul to receive the joy that snatches away your self-awareness. When your sorrow is genuine, it’s a deep holy longing, full of sacred desires, or you would not be able to bear its intensity. And if you didn’t have the joy of these desires feeding your soul during contemplation, you couldn’t bear the pain of knowing and feeling that you are. Every time you long for a pure knowing and feeling of God (as far as is possible here) and find these blocked immediately because they are occupied and filled up by that repulsive, rancid lump of yourself, which must always be hated, despised, and forsaken if you want to be God’s perfect disciple, as he taught on the mount of perfection, this frustration can nearly drive you out of your mind with sorrow, weeping, lamenting, struggling, cursing, and self-accusation. To sum up, this burden of self can become so great that you no longer care what happens to it, as long as God is pleased.

But nowhere in this sorrow should you ever wish to not-be. Thoughts of suicide are the devil’s madness. They’re a slap in God’s face. We’re meant to be grateful for the gift of life. God gave us this precious present. But it’s also OK to wish with every moment that you could lose your awareness and feeling of your own being.

Godly sorrow and the deep longing it stirs in your soul are requirements for spiritual growth. If you’ll open yourself up to God, he’ll teach you these, in ways tailor-made for you. God’s pedagogy is always personal. He wants only the best for you. If you are his student and he is your teacher, then you’re also his friend. He knows the contour of your abilities and can teach you about love. Pay attention, and his grace will bind your soul to him in the joyful union of loving on earth as best as you can.

The Cloud of Unknowing 

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Hymn of the Eldilla

The Great Dance does not wait to be perfect until the peoples of the Low Worlds are gathered into it. We speak not of when it will begin. It has begun from before always. There was no time when we did not rejoice before His face as now. The dance which we dance is at the centre and for the dance all things were made.

Blessed be He!

Never did He make two things the same; never did He utter one word twice. After earths, not better earths but beasts; after beasts, not better beasts but spirits. After a falling, not recovery but a new creation. Out of the new creation, not a third but the mode of change itself is changed for ever.

Blessed be He!

It is loaded with justice as a tree bows down with fruit. All is righteousness and there is no equality. Not as when stones lie side by side, but as when stones support and are supported in an arch, such is His order; rule and obedience, begetting and bearing, heat glancing down, life growing up.

Blessed be He!

They who add years to years in lumpish aggregation, or miles to miles and galaxies to galaxies, shall not come near His greatness. The day of the fields of Arbol will fade and the days of Deep Heaven itself are numbered. Not thus is He great. He dwells (all of Him dwells) within the seed of the smallest flower and is not cramped: Deep Heaven is inside Him who is inside the seed and does not distend Him.

Blessed be He!

The edge of each nature borders on that whereof it contains no shadow or similitude. Of many points one line; of many lines one shape; of many shapes one solid body; of many senses and thoughts one person; of three persons, Himself. As in the circle to the sphere, so are the ancient worlds that needed no redemption to that world wherein He was born and died. As is a point to a line, so is that world to the far-off fruits of its redeeming.

Blessed be He!

Yet the circle is not less round than the sphere, and the sphere is the home and fatherland of circles. Infinite multitudes of circles lie enclosed in every sphere, and if they spoke they would say. For us were spheres created. Let no mouth open to gainsay them.

Blessed be He!

The peoples of the ancient worlds who never sinned, for whom He never came down, are the peoples for whose sake the Low Worlds were made. For though the healing what was wounded and the straightening what was bent is a new dimension of glory, yet the straight was not made that it might be bent nor the whole that it might be wounded. The ancient peoples are at the centre.

Blessed be He!

All which is not itself the Great Dance was made in order that He might come down into it. In the Fallen World He prepared for Himself a body and was united with the Dust and made it glorious for ever. This is the end and final cause of all creating, and the sin whereby it came is called Fortunate and the world where this was enacted is the centre of worlds.

Blessed be He!

The Tree was planted in that world but the fruit has ripened in this. The fountain that sprang with mingled blood and life in the Dark World, flows here with life only. We have passed the first cataracts, and from here onward the stream flows deep and turns in the direction of the sea. This is the Morning Star which He promised to those who conquer; this is the centre of worlds. Till now, all has waited. But now the trumpet has sounded and the army is on the move.

Blessed be He!

Though men or angels rule them, the worlds are for themselves. The waters you have not floated on, the fruit you have not plucked, the caves into which you have not descended and the fire through which your bodies cannot pass, do not await your coming to put on perfection, though they will obey you when you come. Times without number I have circled Arbol while you were not alive, and those times were not desert. Their own voice was in them, not merely a dreaming of the day when you should awake. They also were at the centre. Be comforted, small immortals. You are not the voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come. No feet have walked, nor shall, on the ice of Glund; no eye looked up from beneath on the Ring of Lurga, and Iron-plain in Neruval is chaste and empty. Yet it is not for nothing that the gods walked ceaselessly around the fields of Arbol.

Blessed be He!

That Dust itself which is scattered so rare in Heaven, whereof all worlds, and the bodies that are not worlds, are made, is at the centre. It waits not till created eyes have seen it or hands handled it, to be in itself a strength and splendour of Maleldil. Only the least part has served, or ever shall, a beast, a man, or a god. But always, and beyond all distances, before they came and after they are gone and where they never come, it is what it is and utters the heart of the Holy One with its own voice. It is farthest from Him of all things, for it has no life, nor sense, nor reason; it is nearest to Him of all things for without intervening soul, as sparks fly out of fire. He utters in each grain of it the unmixed image of His energy. Each grain, if it spoke, would say, I am at the centre; for me all things were made. Let no mouth open to gainsay it.

Blessed be He!

Each grain is at the centre.The Dust is at the centre. The Worlds are at the centre. The beasts are at the centre. The ancient peoples are there. The race that sinned is there. Tor and Tinidril are there. The gods are there also.

Blessed be He!

Where Maleldil is, there is the centre. He is in every place. Not some of Him in one place and some in another, but in each place the whole Maleldil, even in the smallness beyond thought. There is no way out of the centre save into the Bent Will which casts itself into the Nowhere.

Blessed be He!

Each thing was made for Him. He is the centre. Because we are with Him, each of us is at the centre. It is not as in a city of the Darkened World where they say that each must live for all. In His city all things are made for each. When He died in the Wounded World He died not for me, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, he would have done no less. Each thing, from the single grain of Dust to the strongest eldil, is the end and the final cause of all creation and the mirror in which the beam of His brightness comes to rest and so returns to Him.

Blessed be He!

In the plan of the Great Dance plans without number interlock, and each movement becomes in its season the breaking into flower of the whole design to which all else had been directed. Thus each is equally at the centre and none are there by being equals, but some by giving place and some by receiving it, the small things by their smallness and the great by their greatness, and all the patterns linked and looped together by the unions of a kneeling with a sceptred love.

Blessed be He!

He has immeasurable use for each thing that is made, that His love and splendour may flow forth like a strong river which has need of a great watercourse and fills alike the deep pools and the little crannies, that are filled equally and remain unequal; and when it has filled them brim full it flows over and makes new channels. We also have need beyond measure of all that He has made. Love me, my brothers, for I am infinitely necessary to you and for your delight I was made.

Blessed be He!

He has no need at all of anything that is made. An eldil is not more needful to Him than a grain of the Dust: a peopled world no more needful than a world that is empty: but all needless alike, and what all add to Him is nothing. We also have no need of anything that is made. Love me, my brothers, for I am infinitely superfluous, and your love shall be like His, born neither of your need nor of my deserving, but a plain bounty.

Blessed be He!

All things are by Him and for Him. He utters Himself also for His own delight and sees that He is good. He is His own begotten and what proceeds from Him is Himself.

Blessed be He!

All that is made seems planless to the darkened mind, because there are more plans than it looked for. In these seas there are islands where the hairs of the turf are so fine and so closely woven together that unless a man looked long at them he would see neither hairs not weaving at all, but only the same and the flat. So with the Great Dance. Set your eyes on one movement and it will lead you through all patterns and it will seem to you the master movement. But the seeming will be true. Let no mouth open to gainsay it. There seems no plan because it is all plan: there seems no centre because it is all centre.

Blessed be He!

Yet this seeming also is the end and final cause for which He spreads out Time so long and Heaven so deep; lest if we never met the dark, and the road that leads nowhither, and the question to which no answer is imaginable, we should have in our minds no likeness of the Abyss of the Father, into which if a creature drop down his thoughts for ever he shall hear no echo return to him.

Blessed, blessed, blessed be He!

C. S. Lewis

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Riding the Waves of Providence

Imagine a world in which you live not on a body of fixed land, whether continent or archipelago, but on a floating island that moves on the waves, driven by current, tide, and wind. One might describe the island as “land” but that would misdescribe, as its surface is a perpetual undulation. The greater the ocean swell the greater the island wave. The island is sufficiently solid to allow you to stand and walk, yet it takes a special kind of skill to negotiate the rolling ground. There is always the threat of losing one’s balance as the waves come upon you and move under you. You look around and see that many such islands exist, sometimes moving toward you and sometimes away—or is it your island moving toward and away? This is the planet upon which Elwin Ransom has been deposited by the mysterious energy beings known as the eldila. Its name is Perelandra.

Ransom awakens in an emerald-green ocean. His craft, perhaps more accurately described as a “celestial coffin,” has dissolved. The water is warm and comforting. He swims toward one of the nearby “patches of floating stuff,” topped with all sorts of alien plants, and pulls himself up onto its surface. It’s dry and resilient. He has the impression that the “whole floating island beneath the vegetation were a kind of mattress.” It takes Ransom a good while to learn how to walk on the undulating island. “It was much harder,” comments the narrator, “than getting your sea-legs on a ship, for whatever the sea is doing the deck of the ship remains a plane. But this was like learning to walk on water itself.” (I wonder if our Lord experienced any such problems that morning when he walked across the Sea of Galilee.) Ransom has been brought to Perelandra to witness and participate in the creation of a new race of rational beings. We are back in the Garden of Eden but now as a garden of ocean and vegetational rafts. We control neither the direction nor speed of the islands. We cannot steer them, we cannot maneuver them, we cannot make them go faster or slower. They drift as the sea determines. All we can do is enjoy, and hopefully survive, the voyage.

I dwell on the floating islands as they are critical to one of the morals C. S. Lewis wishes to teach his readers: the essence of sin is the refusal to trust the good providence of God.

Ransom soon meets the Lady, the queen and future mother of her race, and joins her on her floating island. She is tall, beautiful, intelligent, innocent, and if not genetically human at least humanoid. Her skin color is green. I do not remember if the narrator ever remarks on the color of her hair. “Never had Ransom seen a face so calm, and so unearthly, despite the full humanity of every feature.” Though both are naked, Ransom feels neither shame nor erotic attraction. She is too different, too mythical, too royal, too pure. “Beautiful, naked, shameless, young—she was obviously a goddess: but then the face, the face so calm that it escaped insipidity by the very concentration of its mildness, the face that was like the sudden coldness and stillness of a church when we enter it from a hot street—that made her a Madonna.”

Critics of Perelandra complain that nothing happens. Instead of action what we get are conversations. Fair enough. But the conversations are substantive and interesting. When the Lady learns, for example, that the mother of the human race on Earth is dead, she wonders if Ransom had been sent to Perelandra to teach her death. “You don’t understand,” he exclaims. “It is not like that. It is horrible. It has a foul smell. Maleldil wept when he saw it.” He struggles to explain to her the critical difference between Perelandra and Tellus. That difference lies in the way fallen humanity receives existence from the hands of Maleldil:

You could never understand, Lady. But in our world not all events are pleasing or welcome. There may be such a thing that you would cut off both your arms and your legs to prevent it happening—and yet it happens: with us.

The Lady finds this quite puzzling. “But how can one wish any of these waves not to reach us which Maleldil is rolling towards us?” she asks. Unlike the children of Adam, she lives every moment in thanksgiving, expectation, confidence, even fearlessness. She gratefully receives from God every good that he presents. Each wave brings a new adventure and new challenge.

It is Ransom’s turn to be puzzled. He attempts to explain to the Lady the human experience of disappointment, how it might be possible to prefer a previous good to a new and different good. She ponders upon this possibility:

What you have made me see is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before—that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished—if it were possible to wish—you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.

In that moment the Green Lady begins to understand her freedom, her  capacity to turn from the good enjoyed and deliberately welcome—or not welcome!—the new and different good that Maleldil offers:

I thought that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. I feel as if I were living in that roofless world of yours where men walk undefended beneath naked heaven. It is a delight with terror on it! One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths—but it seems there are not paths. The going itself is the path.

The possibility that Maleldil does not will her absolute good does not enter the mind of the Lady. Faith is the presupposition of her life in the world of floating islands. Later in the story she will be tempted to disobey the commandment of Maleldil not to sleep over night on the one fixed island. She eventually comes to understand that underlying the temptation is a desire for control: “How could I desire to live there except because it was Fixed? And why should I desire the Fixed except to make sure—to be able on one day to command where I should be the next and what should happen to me? It was to reject the wave—to draw my hands out of Maleldil’s to say to Him, ‘Not thus, but thus’—to put in our own power what times should roll towards us. … That would have been cold love and feeble trust.”

Ransom is simultaneously repelled by the Lady’s unquestioning trust and ashamed of his own doubt and fearfulness. How can she not experience disappointment? How can she not resent the unpredictability of Perelandrian existence and not fear for her well-being? Ironically and revealingly, he finds himself disappointed in her. How like a man, my wife might say. Perhaps more accurately, how like a human being from Thulcandra.

During his visit to Malacandra, Ransom had marvelled at the sexual continence of the hrossa. How was it that they could delight in sexual union and the begetting of children and yet not seek to repeat it over and over again? Hyoi explains to him that for the hrossa love takes an entire lifetime—of anticipation, consummation, and recollection. Ransom finds it strange that one might be content only in the memory of a pleasure. Hyoi elaborates:

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. … Undoubtedly, Maleldil made us so. How could there ever be enough to eat if everyone had twenty young? And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back—if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day.

As alien as unfallen experience of the Good is to Ransom, he begins to experience something like this on his first day in Perelandra. He is searching for food and comes across yellow gourds hanging from a tree. He eats one and is overwhelmed by utter deliciousness: “It was so different from every other taste that it seemed mere pedantry to call it taste at all. It was like the discovery of a totally new genus of pleasures, something unheard of among men, out of all reckoning, beyond all covenant. For one draught of this on earth wars would be fought and nations betrayed.” Upon consuming the gourd Ransom realizes that his appetite is satisfied, yet the temptation to enjoy another presents itself to him. If one fruit is good, surely two is better. But something holds him back. It seemed to him that “the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity—like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.” A bit later he reflects on this experience:

He had always disliked the people who encored a favourite air in the opera—“That just spoils it” had been his comment. But this now appeared to him as a principle of far wider application and deeper moment. This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards … was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself—perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film.

Here, perhaps, lies the importance of fasting in the Church—to make it possible for us to enjoy, to really and properly enjoy, the good gifts of creation. How much more delightful is our Easter dinner when it has been preceded by the long weeks of the Lenten fast. On Perelandra, though, even the smallest bowl of lentils is welcomed with joy and thanksgiving. Such is the goodness of Maleldil.

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A Dream of the Great Assize

For fifteen years Kayla was an important part of the life of our family. She was a Husky/German Shepherd mix, had a sweet disposition, loved and protected the kids, and adored my wife and me. She also had a wonderful, deep-throated howl. When Kayla sang, one heard echoes of ancient wolves joyously running through the mountains. I loved her dearly and was occasionally accused, not least by our kids, of spoiling her. Nolo contendere. After a full life she fell asleep five-and-a-half years ago.

My dream of the Last Judgment:

The incarnate Lord returns in glory and gathers the quick and the dead around his Throne. His voice thunders out:

“Can anyone provide one good reason why I should permit this man, Alvin, son of Alvin, to enter into my Kingdom?”

Silence.

“Is there not one who will speak on his behalf?”

Silence.

I look over at my wife and children. They hang their heads.

“Has he done no good works?”

Again, silence.

“He was a priest of Holy Church for several decades. Did he not preach at least one good sermon?”

The terrible silence deepens.

My heart sinks. I try to remember the teaching of Martin Luther on justification by faith, but all my theology has all become hazy and blurred.

Terror grips my soul.

The King appears to be prepared to render his verdict … but then a glorious sound erupts from the multitude.

Arrroooo!

And Christ smiles.

I miss the howls of my Kayla.

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The Jesus Prayer: Method

By Elder Sophrony

I propose to devote this chapter to setting out as briefly as possible the more important aspects of the Jesus Prayer and the commonsense views regarding this great culture of the heart that I met with on the Holy Mountain. Year after year monks repeat the prayer with their lips, without trying by any artificial means to join mind and heart. Their attention is concentrated on harmonizing their life with the commandments of Christ. According to ancient tradition mind unites with heart through Divine action when the monk continues in the ascetic feat of obedience and abstinence; when the mind, the heart and the very body of the ‘old man’ to a sufficient degree are freed from the dominion over them of sin; when the body becomes worthy to be ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost’ (cf. Rom. 6. 11-14). However, both early and present-day teachers occasionally permit recourse to a technical method of bringing the mind down into the heart. To do this, the monk, having suitably settled his body, pronounces the prayer with his head inclined on his chest, breathing in at the words ‘Lord Jesus Christ, (Son of God)’ and breathing out to the words ‘have mercy upon me (a sinner)’. During inhalation the attention at first follows the movement of the air breathed in as far as the upper part of the heart. In this manner concentration can soon be preserved without wandering, and the mind stands side by side with the heart, or even enters within it. This method eventually enables the mind to see, not the physical heart but that which is happening within it—the feelings that creep in and the mental images that approach from without. With this experience, the monk acquires the ability to feel his heart, and to continue with his attention centered in the heart without further recourse to any psychosomatic technique.

True Prayer Comes Through Faith and Repentance


This procedure can assist the beginner to understand where his inner attention should be stayed during prayer and, as a rule, at all other times, too. Nevertheless, true prayer is not to be achieved thus. True prayer comes exclusively through faith and repentance accepted as the only foundation. The danger of psychotechnics is that not a few attribute too great significance to method qua method. In order to avoid such deformation the beginner should follow another practice which, though considerably slower, is incomparably better and more wholesome to fix the attention on the Name of Christ and on the words of the prayer. When contrition for sin reaches a certain level the mind naturally heeds the heart.

The Complete Formula


The complete formula of the Jesus Prayer runs like this: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner; and it is this set form that is recommended. In the first half of the prayer we profess Christ—God made flesh for our salvation. In the second we affirm our fallen state, our sinfulness, our redemption. The conjunction of dogmatic confession with repentance makes the content of the prayer more comprehensive.

Stages of Development


It is possible to establish a certain sequence in the development of this prayer.

  • First, it is a verbal matter: we say the prayer with our lips while trying to concentrate our attention on the Name and the words.
  • Next, we no longer move our lips but pronounce the Name of Jesus Christ, and what follows after, in our minds, mentally.
  • In the third stage mind and heart combine to act together: the attention of the mind is centered in the heart and the prayer said there.
  • Fourthly, the prayer becomes self-propelling. This happens when the prayer is confirmed in the heart and, with no especial effort on our part, continues there, where the mind is concentrated.
  • Finally, the prayer, so full of blessing, starts to act like a gentle flame within us, as inspiration from on High, rejoicing the heart with a sensation of divine love and delighting the mind in spiritual contemplation. This last state is sometimes accompanied by a vision of Light.

Go step by step


A gradual ascent into prayer is the most trustworthy. The beginner who would embark on the struggle is usually recommended to start with the first step, verbal prayer, until body, tongue, brain and heart assimilate it. The time that this takes varies. The more earnest the repentance, the shorter the road. The practice of mental prayer may for a while be associated with the hesychastic method—in other words, it may take the form of rhythmic or a-rhythmic articulation of the prayer as described above, by breathing in during the first half and breathing out during the second part. This can be genuinely helpful if one does not lose sight of the fact that every invocation of the Name of Christ must be inseparably coupled with a consciousness of Christ Himself. The Name must not be detached from the Person of God, lest prayer be reduced to a technical exercise and so contravene the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain’ (EX. 20.7; Deut. 5.11).

Attention of Mind Gained


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. With this ascetic feat the heart becomes so highly sensitive, so discerning, that eventually when praying for anyone the heart can tell almost at once the state of the person prayed for. Thus the transition takes place from mental prayer to prayer of the mind and heart, which may be followed by the gift of prayer that proceeds of itself.

Do Not Hurry


We try to stand before God with the whole of our being. Invocation of the Name of God the Saviour, uttered in the fear of God, together with a constant effort to live in accordance with the commandments, little by little leads to a blessed fusion of all our powers. We must never seek to hurry in our ascetic striving. It is essential to discard any idea of achieving the maximum in the shortest possible time. God does not force us but neither can we compel Him to anything whatsoever. Results obtained by artificial means do not last long and, more importantly, do not unite our spirit with the Spirit of the Living God.

It’s a Long Path


In the atmosphere of the world today prayer requires super human courage. The whole ensemble of natural energies is in opposition. To hold on to prayer without distraction signals victory on every level of existence. The way is long and thorny but there comes a moment when a heavenly ray pierces the dark obscurity, to make an opening through which can be glimpsed the source of the eternal Divine Light. The Jesus Prayer assumes a meta-cosmic dimension. St John the Divine asserts that in the world to come our deification will achieve plenitude since ‘we shall see Him as He is’. ‘And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure … Whoso­ever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him’ (cf. 1 John 3.2, 3, 6). In order in Christ’s Name to receive forgiveness of sins and the promise of the Father we must strive to dwell on His Name ‘until we be endued with power from on high’ (cf. Luke 24-49). In advising against being carried away by artificial practices such as transcendental meditation I am but repeating the age-old message of the Church, as expressed by St Paul: ‘Exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men’ (1 Tim. 4.7-10)

It’s Not Like Transcendental Meditation


The way of the fathers requires firm faith and long patience”, whereas our contemporaries want to seize every spiritual gift, including even direct contemplation of the Absolute God, by force and speedily, and will often draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or transcendental meditation and the like. I must stress the danger of such errors—the danger of looking upon prayer as one of the simplest and easiest ‘technical’ means leading to immediate unity with God. It is imperative to draw a very definite line between the Jesus Prayer and every other ascetic theory. He is deluded who endeavors to divest himself mentally of all that is transitory and relative in order to cross some invisible threshold, to realize his eternal origin, his identity with the Source of all that exists; in order to return and merge with Him, the Nameless transpersonal Absolute. Such exercises have enabled many to rise to supra-rational contemplation of being; to experience a certain mystical trepidation; to know the state of silence of the mind, when mind goes beyond the boundaries of time and space. In such-like states man may feel the peacefulness of being withdrawn from the continually changing phenomena of the visible world; may even have a certain experience of eternity. But the God of Truth, the Living God, is not in all this. It is man’s own beauty, created in the image of God, that is contemplated and seen as Divinity, whereas he himself still continues within the confines of his creatureliness. This is a vastly important concern. The tragedy of the matter lies in the fact that man sees a mirage which, in his longing for eternal life, he mistakes for a genuine oasis. This impersonal form of ascetics leads finally to an assertion of divine principle in the very nature of man. Man is then drawn to the idea of self-deification—the cause of the original fall. The man who is blinded by the imaginary majesty of what he contemplates has in fact set his foot on the path to self-destruction. He has discarded the revelation of a Personal God. He finds the principle of the Person-Hypostasis a limiting one, unworthy of the Absolute. He tries to strip himself of like limitations and return to the state which he imagines has belonged to him since before his coming into this world. This movement into the depths of his own being is nothing else but attraction towards the non-being from which we were called by the will of the Creator.

Knowledge of Personal God


The true Creator disclosed Himself to us as a Personal Absolute. The whole of our Christian life is based on knowledge of God, the First and the Last, Whose Name is I AM. Our prayer must always be personal, face to Face. He created us to be joined in His Divine Being, without destroying our personal character. It is this form of immortality that was promised to us by Christ. Like St Paul we would not ‘be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life’. For this did God create us and ‘hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit’ (2 Cor. 5.4,5).

Personal immortality is achieved through victory over the world—a mighty task. The Lord said, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 10. 3 3), and we know that the victory was not an easy one. ‘Beware of false prophets … Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’ (Matt. 7.13-115).

Wherein lies destruction? In that people depart from the Living God.

To believe in Christ one must have either the simplicity of little children—‘Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 18.3)—or else, like St Paul, be fools for Christ’s sake. ‘We are fools for Christ’s sake … we are weak … we are despised … we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day’ (1 Cor. 4.10, 13). However, ‘other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 3.11). ʻWherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me’ (1 Cor. 4.16). In the Christian experience cosmic consciousness comes from prayer like Christ’s Gethsemane prayer, not as the result of abstract philosophical cogitations. When the Very God reveals Himself in a vision of Uncreated Light, man naturally loses every desire to merge into a transpersonal Absolute. Knowledge which is imbued with life (as opposed to abstract knowledge) can in no wise be confined to the intellect: there must be a real union with the act of Being. This is achieved through love: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart … and with all thy mind’ (Matt. 22.37). The commandment bids us love. Therefore love is not something given to us: it must be acquired by an effort made of our own free will. The injunction is addressed first to the heart as the spiritual centre of the individual. Mind is only one of the energies of the human. Love begins in the heart, and the mind is confronted with a new interior event and contemplates Being in the Light of Divine love.

A Difficult Task


There is no ascetic feat more difficult, more painful, than the effort to draw close to God, Who is Love (cf. 1 John 4.8, 16). Our inner climate varies almost from day to day: now we are troubled because we do not understand what is happening about us; now inspired by a new flash of knowledge. The Name Jesus speaks to us of the extreme manifestation of the Father’s love for us (cf. John 3.16). In proportion as the image of Christ becomes ever more sacred to us, and His word is perceived as creative energy, so a marvelous peace floods the soul while a luminous aura envelops heart and head. Our attention may hold steady. Sometimes we continue thus, as if it were a perfectly normal state to be in, not recognizing that it is a gift from on High. For the most part we only realize this union of mind with heart when it is interrupted.

In the Man Christ Jesus ‘dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ (Col. 2.9). In Him there is not only God but the whole human race. When we pronounce the Name Jesus Christ we place ourselves before the plenitude both of Divine Being and created being. We long to make His life our life; to have Him take His abode in us. In this lies the meaning of deification. But Adam’s natural longing for deification at the very outset took a wrong turning which led to a terrible deviation. His spiritual vision was insufficiently established in Truth. Our life can become holy in all respects only when true knowledge of its metaphysical basis is coupled with perfect love towards God and our fellow men. When we firmly believe that we are the creation of God the Primordial Being, it will be obvious that there is no possible deification for us outside the Trinity. If we recognize that in its ontology all human nature is one, then for the sake of the unity of this nature we shall strive to make love for our neighbor part of our being.

Our most dire enemy is pride. Its power is immense. Pride saps our every aspiration, vitiates our every endeavor. Most of us fall prey to its insinuations. The proud man wants to dominate, to impose his own will on others; and so conflict arises between brethren. The pyramid of inequality is contrary to revelation concerning the Holy Trinity in Whom there is no greater, no lesser; where each Person possesses absolute plenitude of Divine Being. The Kingdom of Christ is founded on the principle that who soever would be first should be the servant of all (cf. Mark 9.3 5). The man who humbles himself shall be raised up, and vice versa: he who exalts himself shall be brought low. In our struggle for prayer we shall cleanse our minds and hearts from any urge to prevail over our brother. Lust for power is death to the soul. People are lured by the grandeur of power but they forget that ‘that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God’ (Matt. 16.15). Pride incites us to criticize, even scorn our weaker brethren; but the Lord warned us to ‘take heed that we despise not one of these little ones’ (cf. Matt. 18.10). If we give in to pride all our practice of the Jesus Prayer will be but profanation of His Name. ‘He that saith lie abideth ii-i Him ought himself also to walk, even as He walked’ (1 John 2.6). He who verily loves Christ will devote his whole strength to obeying His word. I stress this because it is our actual method for learning to pray. This, and not any psychosomatic technics, is the right way.

Not a Christian Yoga


I have lingered on the dogmatic justification for the Jesus Prayer largely because in the last decade or so the practice of this prayer has been distorted into a so-called ‘Christian yoga’ and mistaken for ‘transcendental meditation’. Every culture, not only every religious culture, is concerned with ascetic exercises. If a certain similarity either in their practice or their outward manifestations, or even their mystical formulation, can be discerned, that does not at all imply that they are alike fundamentally. Outwardly similar situations can be vastly different in inner content.

When we contemplate Divine wisdom in the beauty of the created world, we are at the same time attracted still more strongly by the imperishable beauty of Divine Being as revealed to us by Christ. The Gospel for us is Divine Self-Revelation. In our yearning to make the Gospel word the substance of our whole being we free ourselves by the power of God from the domination of passions. Jesus is the one and only Savior in the true sense of the word. Christian prayer is effected by the constant invocation of His Name: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon us and upon Thy world.

Though prayer in the Name of Jesus in its ultimate realization unites man with Christ fully, the human hypostasis is not obliterated, is not lost in Divine Being like a drop of water in the ocean. ‘I am the light of the world … I am the truth and the life’ (John 8.12; 14.6). For the Christian—Being, Truth,’Life are not ‘what’ but ‘who’. Where there is no personal form of being, there is no living form either. Where in general there is no life, neither is there good or evil; light or darkness. ‘Without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life’ (John 1:3).

When contemplation of Uncreated Light is allied to invocation of the Name of Christ, the significance of this Name as ‘the kingdom of God come with power’ (Mark 9.1) is made particularly clear, and the spirit of man hears the voice of the Father: ‘This is my beloved Son’ (Mark 9.7). Christ in Himself showed us the Father: ‘he that hath seen me hath seen the Father’ (John 14:9). Now we know the Father in the same measure as we have known the Son. ‘I and my Father are one’ (John 10.30). And the Father bears witness to His Son. We therefore pray, 90 Son of God, save us and Thy world.’

To acquire prayer is to acquire eternity.

When the body lies dying, the cry ‘Jesus Christ’ becomes the garment of the soul; when the brain no longer functions and other prayers are difficult to remember, in the light of the divine knowledge that proceeds from the Name our spirit will rise into life incorruptible.

His Life is Mine

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