The Jesus Prayer
Posted 16 July 2003 - 10:16 AM
thank you! What a brilliant post. It helped a lot, I'm not the least bit offended. And now I understand Fr A's words, so thank you Fr A too. Also, I intend to read 'The Orthodox Church' by Ware (and 'The Orthodox Way') as soon as I can. I'm trying to read about Orthodoxy but my degree takes up much time.
I have some questions still.
Danial: when you say 'dispassion', what do you mean?
In your comments about our deluded state, how much room do you leave for the original goodness of creation, our being made in God's image?
And one for Daniel and Fr A (I too appreciate your words Fr A): if I am not yet able to be Orthodox, is it better to have nothing to do with the Church at all (not my desire) or better to say the prayer? I see that you think salvation is only (predominantly? only certainly?) in the Orthodox church but if I don't say the prayer it's almost as if I'm giving myself up to being lost rather than participating fully in the Church. Does that make sense?
Posted 16 July 2003 - 02:27 PM
Those are good books to start with, I read these when I first found the Church and they are highly recommended by all. First off, I dont think anyone who is within the traditions of the Church would dare to say that Salvation is only found there. The Church speaks for itself and states only where the fullness of Grace and Truth is to be found for certain, that is, within Her, and does not generally try to state where it is not.
The question of dispassion is a very deep and profound one, and reflects the central teaching of the Church, that God became man in order for man to become like God.
Please understand that the following is a very brief explanation of some of the basic teachings of the Church and a very pale reflection of the teachings found in the writings of the Holy Fathers who transmit it as a fruit of experience and not like me, by just repeating what I have read. Reading the Fathers own words is a spiritual practice in itself and their illuminated state is apparent (I believe) in that experience.
Orthodoxy is not moralistic or absract in its approach to theology, in the way that other denominations and "versions" of Christianity tend to be. This is because the Orthodox Church has preserved the Traditions of the apostles in full. It not only lays claim to unbroken Apostolic succesion, it also claims (and if the claim where not true the world would surely cease to exist) to have preserved the origional teachings and practices of the Apostles and first Christians that that are alluded to in the scripture, particularly in the Epistles of Saint Paul, that have been lost over time in the west as a result of the west roman empires dislocation from the eastern roman empire (which remained Orthodox) and the emergence of the Papacy, scholastic (rationalistic) theology and the inevitable rebellion of its unfortunate children. What I would say, is that Orthodoxy has preserved both the exoteric and the esoteric sides of the teaching found in scripture. Both the law and the spirit of the Gospels and thus the indivisible union between practice and knowledge remains and is unerringly taught by the spiritual masters of the Orthodox Church and this fullness of Life in the Holy Spirit is identical to that which the apostles were initiated into on the day of Pentecost.
But im thinking of how well I write and forgetting your question
My comments about our deluded state and your question about the origional goodness of creation are directly related to the state of dispassion attained by our Holy Saints and Fathers. It is the teaching of the Church that Adam was created as the link between God and his creation. Between the Un-created and the created. When Adam fell, his link to his Un-created Creator was broken. As a result, the natural functioning of his soul was distorted and dislocated. This was, and is, the first death). The image of God was lost. The Grace and Light of the Creator no longer shone within, and through Adam, onto the creation. Man being the link between God and creation, the creation also fell along with him. This is hard (and frightening) to try to talk about. Adam, now being subject to the passions, and having his spiritual intellect darkened, was no longer able to perceive reality in the way he did in the Garden, when he percieved it through his unfallen, fully spiritualised being. Since God is reality and Adam lost his communion with God, he also lost communion with the reality around him and became enslaved to the senses and the lower aspects of cognition as his sole means of perception. It seems to me that the Fathers teach that we are unable to see the goodness of the Creation because we are yet unworthy of this vision, remaining as we do in the fallen state. The pure in heart shall see God. To be pure in heart means also to be dispassionate, or to have returned to the state of Adam before he fell, to be transformed by the Energies of the Holy Spirit, to restore the image of God in man, and so become worthy once more of beholding creation and man in their true, origional goodness. Life within the Orthodox Church, in its fullness, is a lifelong struggle of repentance and prayer to aquire a pure heart.
So Orthodoxy promises to those people who accept her teaching and wish to adhere to it, nothing less than the fullfillment of the promises of Christ in a real and true sense, not only in the next life but also, to varying degrees, in this one.
Perhaps this is a bit heavy. Im not even sure of where you are coming from, what tradition you are currently a part of. I assume you are a Christian, and since you asked, I felt I should give you a decent answer to your question. It can be a bit much for some people though. Western Christian tradition are so different from the Orthodox way they seem to some people very strange and even very un-Christian! I hope I have said nothing that is not Orthodox and if I have, please people, correct me.
I have just realised that I failed to explain what is meant by passions. Passions are unatural movements of the soul that result in sin. In the west we hear about the seven deadly sins. In Orthodoxy, passions are seen as wounds of the soul that result in, and are maintained by, the practice of sin, sin being the mis-use of created things. Passions are the specific motions of the unatural state of the soul and are a habitual tendancy to sin.
There is more to all this, obviously, and the books you mentioned will be much more helpful and accurate than what I have tried to say. Its late and Im tired, but Ive started something by interacting with you Andrew and I want you to know that anything I say that seems helpful or good is from God, and anything that you dont like or seems confusing or wrong is from me.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 03:01 PM
Thank you so much. Another brilliantly helpful answer. I very much like that image of sin, as wounding, and the Christian life as being healed and thus more and more transformed into the image of Christ.
Could you explain how Adam was the link between God and creation? When you say the image of God was lost, do you mean completely? Likewise, do you mean that Adam lost all communion with God? So the Christian life is one of being recreated more and more into the image of Christ - is that what you're gettin at? Is that what you would call deification?
As for my context, I was brought up in low church evangelical churches, sometimes charismatic, but started theological college 2 years ago. since then i've obviously been questioning as many of my beliefs as possible and the more i find out about orthodoxy the more i like it. so really just trying to find out more, but not lightly.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 08:08 PM
The Jesus Prayer is different from the Prayer of the Heart. The one may be repeated, to some benefit, as I still do while driving. The other requires great concentration and purpose, and needs also a staretz as well as a heart on its way to perfection. Mine never has fit that bill, so the other requirements are moot.
Still, the simple Jesus Prayer helped enough with my own well developed sense of anger to allow me to survive the 50 or so miles to-and-from my teaching post at the University of Texas in Arlington, for a few additional years. But 'road rage' was (perhaps literally) invented for me. [I had a priest-client at one time, for whom I was designing a church; he claimed to have coined the term, so, he may really have had me in mind, since we spent a lot of time together; I was too embarrassed to ask.]
While the roads to Arlington are better off now without me, nevertheless we see more and more public displays of anger today. And more and more we hear of smothering a rising anger with the cloak of the Jesus Prayer. But the Fathers also speak of a determined means for withdrawing the sin of anger from others, in a variety of ways, by amending one's own actions which have been a cause of irritation. This is, I think, a necessary step beyond conquering one's own anger.
I still find that the best of these tracts on anger is that of Saint John of the Ladder, found most succinctly in Step (or Rung) Number 8: "On Placidity and Meekness". Here is a shortened list of symptoms which explain anger so well:
Freedom from anger is an endless wish for dishonor, whereas among the vainglorious there is a limitless thirst for praise.
Freedom from anger... is the ability to be impervious to insults, and comes by hard work and the sweat of one's brow.
1. The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred;
2. The next, [is] to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset;
3. The last, [is] to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.
Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed.
Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.
Irascibility is an untimely flaring up of the heart.
Bitterness is a stirring of the soul's capacity for displeasure.
Anger is an easily changed movement of one's disposition, a disfigurement of the soul.
Just as darkness retreats before light, so all anger and bitterness disappears before the fragrance of humility.
When one has been as irascible as I am known to have been, take my word for it that "hard work and the sweat of one's brow" is only the beginning in a life-long effort to keep anger at bay. For example, there used to be a popular tale among the students, that at one time I got so mad that I threw a typewriter across the room. And while that was not true (in those days typewriters weighed about 50 lbs -- almost too heavy to lift, much less throw), it truthfully illustrates the fury for which I was known. (Lord, forgive my crimes of indulgence.)
Today, however, we see a more complex form of social anger. It is no longer simply the ancient problem of a bilious nature turned loose, but there are two extremes at work: There is on the one hand a far greater (and growing) number of incidents of violent release of anger with seemingly less inclination to control it (such as these infamous examples of road rage); and yet on the other hand, there is also the new age superficial niceness which is a leap to the other extreme: It refuses to accept anything as sin. It reduces 'turning the cheek' to an absurdity. The great irony is that both conditions are anathema, and there is little point in trying to guess which is worse.
Yet, perhaps the greater point of this confession is to spell out for myself how daily life 'in the world' is not to be thought of as an exception to the rules of ascetic life. While the release from life offered by the monastery helps immeasurably in the struggle, nevertheless, the same rules for perfection of the heart apply to all. That, it is more difficult to achieve the perfect heart in the world in no way should imply that such a struggle for perfection is not necessary, nor should it be presumed that we will not be held accountable for the degree of our struggle, in either case.
"Euloyetos ei, Kurie, didakson me ta dikaiomata sou."
[From the Evlogetaria of Orthros, chanted in Fifth Tone.]
Posted 16 July 2003 - 08:56 PM
Thank you for your wonderful post. I am going to print it and put it up over my computer. Now and again all of us need to be reminded when we get out of hand and our pride has overwhelmed us. I thank you and others for your patience and long-suffering with me, and I especially thank "Monk Ivan" for given me a good shaking, which I most certainly needed. While my intentions are always the best, being weak and sinful, I get in my own way and several sobering things have happened to me lately, and I thank God for it.
Thank all of you again, and please pray for me.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 09:13 PM
I am YOUR student. You are carrying the Cross, and doing a fine job of allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through you.
Your struggle for Life allows the Lord to spread His Gospel abroad through you. But it is a dangerous responsibility.
I delight in the great love He has shown you -- and keeps showing through you. So, I know you do not mean that you "are contemplating your own good words", but rather, that you are in fascination at the Word being conducted through you.
This is a wonderful Grace, but always great trials are attached to its bestowal. After all, you must keep growing and learning to please God.
O Lord! Thou knowest my own foolishness and my sins are not hidden from Thee. Forgive me all my foolish words, Lord.
Posted 17 July 2003 - 05:00 AM
"My question to you is this: is it better to study, observe, and have an intellectual understanding of undeluded right worship, or to experience, partake, taste, and gain the “knowledge by experience” spoken of in an earlier post?"
I'm sorry Michael but I think I answered that in the post you were referring to. I mean, I said I was doing them not "studying doing them."
"And another question: is there any assurance of escaping delusion and achieving right worship outside of living our life as a member of Christ’s body?"
Posted 17 July 2003 - 01:52 PM
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Posted 17 July 2003 - 02:38 PM
Yes, but...We are also careful in Orthodoxy to preserve the unknowability of God as a basic principle. The gnosis that the Christian acquires is not so much about God but about himself -- through obedience to the commandments. That is primarily why we pray, and not to achieve knowledge of God.
Posted 17 July 2003 - 03:33 PM
Posted 15 July 2003 - 10:43 AM
Unfortunately recently I have come to realise that this forum may not be ideal for the average person who has real life inquiries. Things are taken the wrong way, because it is impossible to read someone's tone of "voice" in a written form. After my last post, I felt seriously like I had been spurned with sarcasm and told to go away. I was not seeking a highly spiritual answer, but more just checking if anyone had felt this similar way. There are not many valid candidates on this forum that I would seek spiritual counsel from anyway.
Truly, if it had been possible to "simply go back to the priest" that would surely be what I would do. But sometimes things aren't so simple.
Sorry for letting my stupid emotions hang out again. But I don't want to be thinking about it anymore. Daniel I think you're on to something about Christians not talking in internet forums. Everyone that I've seen, there's always people who end up leaving because of stupid misunderstandings. It's just too easy.
Again I'm sorry for asking so many dumb questions that aren't on the same plane as everyone else's, and sorry for misunderstanding the answers to them. After all, I'm just a sinner...Not the bright shining warrior that I should be.
Very shamefully yours,
Posted 15 July 2003 - 10:59 AM
there are no dumb questions and I'm not sure you can separate 'real life' questions from more academic ones. I think I read what you're talking about and, though I don't know the full context, it seemed pretty harsh to me. I hope you get answers from somewhere even if you feel you can't get them from here. Don't be ashamed: we're all sinners, that's precisely who Christ came to save.
Guest_Beryl Wells Hamilton
Posted 15 July 2003 - 01:00 PM
"Grace and peace are given by the Holy Spirit, who imparts them wherever and to whomever the Father wills. As far as former delusions, I still fight them, as we are all on a journey."
The second part shows why the first part isn't right thinking.
If I had said this correctly, I wouldn't have to post again. I did exactly same thing about a month ago on this forum, and then posted a correction, which Fr. Averky affirmed.
Let's try again, this time with a more Orthodox mindset:
Grace and peace - indeed, all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit - are not meted out, but are available always, freely and unlimited, to all who would allow the Lord to make us worthy to receive them, to heal our broken heart, that it might become an open and useful vessel, for these gifts are already there in the heart, waiting to be discovered.And the Lord also waits for his children to find them, to grow into them as He enlarges our heart.
This from Isaiah 30:18
18 Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
And where will you abandon your glory?
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
Posted 15 July 2003 - 04:48 PM
There should be no confusion at all, except perhaps for the fact that this is an open forum, and the advice I, a non-Orthodox give to a fellow non-Orthodox in answer to a question he posed to all might be mistaken by the Orthodox as for them. A potential confusion we're all open to and can learn from so long as we remain true to who (and what) we are.
I must add, however that I had said all that about St. John, and that besides, he was part of the Counter-Reformation which has some touch with Orthodoxy if one has the time and inclination to read its history. Unseen Warfare as edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Theophan the Reclusestarted as The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of the equally Roman Catholic cleric of the Counter Reformation, Lorenzo Scupoli. Notice that it was edited by Nicodemus, who was of the Holy Mountain, and I think Greeek (though I'll take correction on this if I'm wrong), and needed further revision by the Russian St. Nicodemus. None-the-less a good deal of what the Italian Scupoli had taught remains (because perceived true). The point being that spiritual direction from the otherwise non-Orthodox is not necessarily anti- or counter-Orthodox, and not everything presented as Orthodox is necessarily complete.
We are all here for each other, which is the meaning of Love.
May God grant Harmonious Peace
and increase of Light,
Posted 15 July 2003 - 08:35 PM
Posted 15 July 2003 - 09:06 PM
You were apparently dammaged by what I said to Andrew who asked what any of us could tell him, and by what I said to you to explain what I took to be misunderstood words to him by you.
I repent of causing you to sin, please forgive me but please don't mistake our relationship lest I find myself straying again.
Posted 15 July 2003 - 09:45 PM
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
I was quite elated, filled with joy and happiness that comes only from the Lord when I read your last Posting!
I have been reading your posts for the last 6 months and have been sadened each time with the way, the manner of your response to those of us who are here to learn.
I have never in my life found in the Divine Masters words of teaching such pride and self concite. However now it seems with the help of RICHARD you have come to realize that you ARE DOING MORE HARM than good in being here.
You have hurt, misguided and caused confusion in many persons.
As in your advice, go and present yourself to YOUR priest and ask for giveness and direction in YOUR life. Go and ask He who knows you so that you might be convicted in the Holy place and make peace with yourself and prostrate on the last stone of the Holy Temple and as the sinner spoke so humbly, "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!"
Know you will be in our prayers that your pride may be purified in the burning pot as is gold that after glitters and shines and gives honor and glory to God for it beauty.
Peace be to you! May you find peace!
Posted 15 July 2003 - 11:15 PM
What possible good was done by posting something publically that could have been sent privately (if you indeed believe what you wrote)? Do you really believe all that you said? and if so, please tell me that you tried to contact him sooner and didn't wait until he had apparently left to come out of the woodwork and tell him what a prideful, self-conceited fellow he is?
I have found Fr. A's words convicting and edifying, and when they were slightly harsh... they were just as much--if not more--edifying. I know of others who feel the same way. There's a story in the Desert Fathers that goes something like this: "If a visitor comes, we talk, and then he leaves, and I find that I have not been edified, I examine myself so that I can figure out why, what I have done wrong". Have you ever heard of this story?
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