The Jesus Prayer
Posted 16 July 2003 - 01:54 AM
I will try to help you understand what is meant by dangers in saying the Jesus prayer. God, in his mercy, allows us to exist in a state of illusion and self-deception, a state that can only be transformed and renewed through the deepest repentance and perfect hatred for the liar and his lies.
The number one lie that we have whispered in our ear every day is that our illusion is not so deep. That our sins are not so bad that we cannot know the difference between good and evil. It is extremely difficult for us to even begin to accept that we cannot trust ourselves in this state. A passionate heart, a heart addicted and enslaved to illusion about istelf and its Creator, is nothing but a factory of self-serving lies and conceits. For evil proceeds out of our hearts.
In Orthodoxy, the spiritual life is experienced in three main stages. The first is purification, the war against passions and sin. A struggle to lose our life. A war, 24/7, against every movement of the heart and mind that is against our nature as created by God. Success, by Gods grace in this war, leads to a state of dispassion. A fruit of dispassion, and of the struggle to be purified that aims for dispassion, is the discernment of spirits. The ability to distingish between Uncreated and created. To have discernment is to be gifted with knowing what thoughts come from the devil, and what thoughts come from God.
In our state of being dominated by passions, we are unable to discern the difference between these two types of movements. We are not only enslaved to passionate desires for things and against our fellow humans, we are also subject to the passions of our mind and heart that obscure and distort the truth about ourselves. That is why we find it so hard to be contradicted or to be obedient. We have a sickness of the mind that says we are always right, or that we can trust our thoughts and feelings to guide us in the spiritual life. The devil laughs at this, the easiest victory for him, effortless, we fight against ourselves with our own pride.
The Jesus Prayer is one of the Orthodox Churches spiritual traditions. It is a part of Orthodox practice that is bound up with this effort to free ourselves from delusion. When a person, by Gods grace, decides he wishes to be saved and resolves to stand against the devil and his armies of liars and murderers, those armies wage war against him full force, in a titanic battle over the soul of the person, the outcome of which will decide his eternal destiny.
Anyone who thinks himself smarter than the devil is already dead. Anyone who thinks he can discern spirits without a life of self-denial, the keeping of the commandments, and the most sincere and deep mourning for his sins leading to the Holy state of dispassion and friendship with God, is already dead.
The deceptions and lies of the enemy are so clever and subtle and so bound up with our pride and self-trust, that for a person to stay outside the Church, I mean, for them to not discern his Holy Church when they find it, and submit themselves to his Holy will by falling down in gratitude for this treasure opened before them and for his showing them the One true Church within which they may be saved, and yet to seek to take up the practises and Holy traditions of the Church without membership within its walls through the sacraments and its grace-filled teachings, is really going against the whole purpose of and spirit of these practices. That is, to destroy, or to have the Holy Spirit destroy, with our co-operation, our passions of pride and illusion and trust of our defiled hearts and to humbly submit in every possible way to the will of Him who is the head of the One and Holy Church.
I hope, Andrew, you are not offended by what I have said, although if you are, I cannot say I have this on my conciense because I believe I say nothing that is not in accord with the Traditions and teachings and Spirit of the whole celestial and light-bearing realm of Holy Fathers to whose prayer you wish to join your own.
I hope this has been helpful and I hope you find your way into the Orthodox Church. We can only say so much to you here on this site, so reading some books about Orthodoxy and talking to an Orthodox priest would be the best thing you can do for yourself right now, if you truly intend to seek the Truth above every earthly thing that begins and ends.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 03:01 AM
Thank you, but I do not need defending from the Monk Ivan, who seems to know my heart and my intentions better than I do. Over the last months I have tried my best to uphold that Orthodox Church which I consider to be very precious. If I have made a major mistake, it is that I overlooked the very important fact, that as Richards says, this is an open forum. Perhaps I have been in a "hothouse " situation to long, and if the Monk Ivan does not agree with my defending what I consider to be important facts concerning the Orthodox Church, I am sorry if that offends him, but the Church is the Church, and I will not compromise on what I believe.
If I have harmed anyone, I certainly ask their forgiveness; I have been firm and at times impatient, but I certainly cannot and will not seek anyone's forgiveness, especially Monk Ivan in regards to my upholding what I have been taught and believe. In many questions, I have tried to be careful in my answers, such as that of being received by Chrismation rather Baptism. I have very definite beliefs about this, but when I posted my reply, I simply said that it is up to each individual bishop.
I do not know who you are, Monk Ivan; what church you are in, who tonsured you, what monastic experience you have had and who your spiritual father is. If you feel I have harmed others, then you are welcome to your opinion, although I am being foolish enough to think that not too many will agree with you. While I do not adhere to the concept of "univesal love" to which many Orthodox churches have fallen into, thinking that all differences can be smoothed over and washed away by a false "love." No, Monk Ivan, I stand on the firm ground of my belief, and if I weaken and become harsh, you might see it as harmful because I am not "loving" enough. I have made every effort to be loving to all in my words and in my answers. Richard Leigh, Richard McBride, Owen, Photini, David,and others can tell you that I have contacted them personally and we have had more to say to each other than on this forum.
I am at peace with myself, Monk Ivan, and on this forum I have spoken openly about my monastic struggles in order for others to to know that I have my own problems and sins, and trials, and I have no problem sharing them. I do not know you, as I said, and I can only hope that indeed you will pray for me, and I ask that you start posting yourself and share that wisdom, knowledge and love you see to be lacking in me, which I will not refute, for I am a wretched sinner.
In a recent private letter to a person who felt he had been insulted by members of this forum, I tried to explain that it is a part of Orthodoxy, for good or bad, that Orthodox peoples have no problem with shouting and becoming quite passionate about differences in opinion -this is especially true among the Greeks and Arabs, who, if told by a Westerner observing their seeming agitation to be at "Peace," would look at the person if they were a bit mad. "Peace?" they would say,"We are not angry, we are only having a difference in opinion!" And so it goes. I get upset with Richard Leigh, but it is because I forget from time to timed that this community is made up of Orthodox and non-Orthodox. I also get upset with him ( and we have discussed this ) because I feel he could be such a good Orthodox Christian if only he would decide to commit himself to the Church, rather than to "study" it. I have felt that all along, and he knows it.
I am ashamed for defending myself, for it, goes against all I have been taught, but I just hope that the people who participate in this community and not those who merely observe, know that 95% of what I have had to say in my responses has always been said with the greatest love and concern. As for the other 5%, I will not even try to justify myself for losing patience, but I will say that when I have, I have turned around and asked for forgiveness, and I especially ask your forgiveness, Monk Ivan, if I have scandalized a fellow and much better monk than I, by my words. I attempted to send you a letter in private, but found that that is not possible, so I am forced to address you in public, which is not to my liking at all. I remember the very first time you posted, I wrote you a message, asking about you and your monastery in San Diego, and you never answered me.
Monk Ivan, I publicly ask you to contact me privately and to teach me, correct me, and tell me what to do, since you know my heart and intentions so well and have chosen publicly to judge me. I am guilty of the same, for I do get frustrated and impatient, because people will ask a question, get an answer, and then proceed to argue the point. I find myself thinking, "Well, if you thought you knew the answer in the first place, or know better, then why did you ask?" I will admit that I have fallen into the sin of judging others, but I have spoken to them about it, and did not conceal it in my heart.
I have gotten much good out of this forum, and I have learned a lot, sad to say, not to be patient, one of my many sins. So many people on this forum, Owen, Photini, Adonis, Effie, John Wilson, Jurretta, James Anthony, Brother Paul, and our good Moderator, Matthew Streenburg , have touched my heart and opened my eyes to so very much by their good words, pious insights and intelligence even when we might have had our clashes. Owen soundly chewed on me because I mentioned that our President has done away with State Dinners and instead invites heads of state to his Texas ranch. We went around and around, but even though Owen says many things that are like throwing a match into dry straw,but I still respect his integrity, and he is very dear to me. Owen says many, many things with which I disagree, but he has said so many wise and truly intelligent things which have been overlooked in the heat of the battle by his opponents.
I again ask forgiveness from all of you if unknowingly and unwillingly I hurt you, for it would never have been the case of desiring so. Father Ivan, thank you for pointing out my folly, and may you win many crowns for your words. If you wish to contact me privately and point out my many sins, please do, and I will listen to you.
Richard, I always hope the best for you and you have known that all along, for we have talked about it privately as well as on this forum. As you know, I am not the only one who has asked you why you have not come to the Orthodox Church - people see that there is something about you - and yet, you choose to remain a "student," and forgive me, but I do not see that you are truly committed to being a Lutheran. It might be a comfortable spot for you, but I have asked myself "Why is Richard Leigh so interested in matters Orthodox, and why does he not sign on to a Lutheran message board?" It is all a mystery, and I do not know your heart in this matter, but I remember you and all the members of this community every day in my prayers.
Sorry that I had such an outburst today, but having said how I felt I can look at things better. Richard, I did not understnd one line of your post - something about "mistake our relationship." Could you please explain?
Posted 16 July 2003 - 03:21 AM
Thank you for such a beautiful, calm, and insightful answer to Andrew. I think that I mentioned that only a few times have I myself experienced even a taste of the depth of the prayer.
My Western mentality shows when I attempt to be too judicial in my answers, especially when I am fearful for the souls of others.
Dear Andrew, I hope that the firestorm that you simple enquiry set off will at least allow you to see how adamant we Orthodox are about preserving the integrity of our Church. I have been hoping all along that when I have cautioned people concerning the Jesus Prayer, it has not because I see it as something only for the spiritual elite. I will go so far as to say that I do not particularly feel as does St. Ignatius, that only monks can say the Prayer of the Heart, even though I fully understand why he limits it as he does.
As Jurretta says, it can be said at time when otherwise a person could find himself impatient and upset: caught in traffic, waiting in the long line at the bank, waiting to have a root-canal, and so on.
Yet, as David so wonderfully explains, it is a prayer that, strictly speaking, is within the provenance of the Orthodox Church. When you told us that Bishop Kallistos Ware had mentioned saying the Jesus Prayer if you had no Spiritual Father, I find myself wondering why he did not suggest spiritual reading instead. I do not question his wisdom, but I just feel that it is good to know the teachings of a Church before one desires to participate in Her life in any way.
I think that I will find that most converts will agree with me when I tell you that we "read" ourselves into becoming Orthodox. David's words to you are very wise; find some books on Orthodoxy, like "The Orthodox Church," by Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, but an edition at least ten years old, and some of the books I have already mentioned. God help you , we will be praying for you.
Love in Christ,
Posted 16 July 2003 - 03:42 AM
Shouldn’t you share with this community in what monastery, and under what Bishop and hierarchical jurisdiction, you serve?
In some ways you remind me of my own father, someone never so much interested in being popular with me or making me feel comfortable, but always out of an abundance of love challenging me to live in a God-pleasing way.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 04:19 AM
But don't let it go to your head.
I am particularly fond of these few sentences:
"That is why we find it so hard to be contradicted or to be obedient. We have a sickness of the mind that says we are always right, or that we can trust our thoughts and feelings to guide us in the spiritual life. The devil laughs at this, the easiest victory for him, effortless, we fight against ourselves with our own pride."
Again, don't listen to these words of praise, Daniel, for they will turn you into something at which the devil laughs. You, especially, are taking great chances in inciting the enemy this way; but we are appreciative your love for us.
We must all pray for Daniel first, then for rest of us sinners.
Guest_Jurretta J. Heckscher
Posted 16 July 2003 - 04:51 AM
This might perhaps be a good time for me to say what I have often thought: that even when I dissent from something Father Averky has said (whether in my own mind or in a message), I learn from him, because to disagree with someone whose goodness commands one's respect requires either that one change one's views to accord with his (or hers) or that one probe one's own viewpoint more deeply to make sure that its integrity is equal to the integrity of the respected opponent's views.
Far more importantly, Father Averky's postings are unfailingly motivated by a genuinely loving concern for all who participate in these discussions, and I can never learn enough from that.
Yours in Christ,
Posted 14 July 2003 - 11:42 AM
Thanks to anyone who can help.
Posted 14 July 2003 - 03:20 PM
I am not Orthodox either and I have been praying the Jesus Prayer for over 25 years.
I learned of it from The Way of a Pilgrim I bought from an Episcopalian Church (USA) that was "in neo-pentecostal (or charismatic)renewal."
The need for a spiritual father is to guard against prelest and following one's fanasies.
Be assured that there is no truth to the proposition that anyone has ever "become" schizophrenic as a result of praying it. This perception comes from the association made between the religious pre-occupation schizophrenics have wich is a symptom of their disease. I say this from as many years in the psychatric field (I'm not a psychiatrist, but have been psychiatric technician on locked-wards, and did my bacalaureat work in psychology).
Follow the advice of the RC St. John of the Cross and pay no attention to whatever spiritual experiences you have with the exercise of the prayer. ITMT, pray for a spiritual elder.
Posted 14 July 2003 - 03:51 PM
Guest_Jurretta J. Heckscher
Posted 14 July 2003 - 03:57 PM
One important qualification to Bishop Kallistos's statement: when he speaks of saying the Jesus Prayer for no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, he is referring to what he elsewhere calls the "fixed" or "formal" use of the Prayer: that is, to its use as the sole focus of the mind. When one is using the Prayer informally--as, for example, while waiting in line, washing the dishes, and so on and so forth--there is no such restriction on the amount of time that may be devoted to it without courting mental danger.
Yours in Christ,
--Jurretta J. Heckscher
Posted 14 July 2003 - 04:36 PM
What you should do is without delay go to the ark of salvation the Great Orthodox Church of Christ and stay there no matter what. Go regardless of the circumstances of you life. Follow everything the Orthodox Church teaches and listen to what your Father confessor tells you.
Posted 14 July 2003 - 04:56 PM
To add some words to the discussion at hand, in a previous thread, adding to Matthew's warning, Father Averky had warned us that not only do we need a father confessor, but we need to ask his blessing into even carry out the prayer. He also told us that many monastics would not sell prayer ropes and Orthodox paraaphanalia to the 'non-Orthodox.'
I hope that I actually got his words right.
They weren't only his words, but from the likes of St. Ignatii Brianchaninov and a host of other saints.
Posted 14 July 2003 - 06:27 PM
Yes, you got Father Averkey's words right. He also said he did not intend an attempt to direct those not officially Orthodox.
Thank you for that clarification of Kalistos Ware's words,
I practice what Jurretta described, but I don't count minutes.
John of the Cross wrote about the Dark night of the Soul. I cannot recall the name of the book. He was St. Teresa of Avila's spiritual father. This was during the Counter Reformation and they were Spanish. John's advice was to ignore simply any locutions or visions one had while in prayer on the principle that anything from Satan would therefor not hurt and anything from God would give its grace without the sensible part of the experience being dwelt on, sort of like it comes in the sacraments.
Dear Matthew and Daniel (and Andrew, they have our best interests at heart),
On Andrew's behalf I thank you for your kind words and hope that Andrew will forgive my interference, not only for that but for further assuring that we are indeed ridding ourselves of our delusions and righting our worship (or better, seeking that of the Lord). There would be no other reason to be on this list and participate in its descussions unless it were just to disturb you, which is decidedly not our intention!
Had I any to give I'd wish grace and peace,
from where I am I will only request your prayers,
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