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Praying the Rosary: attributed to St Seraphim?


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#1 Caleb Shoemaker

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 12:11 AM

I was browsing Android Apps today and realized how few Eastern Orthodox apps actually exist on the marketplace. I noticed there are several interactive Rosary apps to be downloaded, and was curious what the official stance on praying the Rosary was. I ran across this article:http://www.westernor...com/rosary.html but wasn't sure how widespread or even how accurate the information was. Thoughts? Would it be wrong to pray the Rosary? What about this rule ostensibly given by St. Seraphim?

#2 Niko T.

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 12:55 AM

"Do not try to be verbose when you pray, lest your mind be distracted in searching for words. One word of the publican propitiated God, and one cry of faith saved the thief. Loquacity in prayer often distracts the mind and leads to fantasy, whereas brevity makes for concentration." St. John of the Ladder

Thus, the Fathers have turned to the single-phrased prayer of Jesus ("Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me") as the surest tool in prayer.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 01:38 AM

This thread, among other things, also talks a bit about St. Seraphim and rosaries: Orthodox Christians praying the "Divine Mercy Chaplet"

#4 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 07:20 AM

Before I became Orthodox I sometimes used to pray the rosary, which was explained to me as an aid to concentration, in that one's fingers were doing one thing (telling the beads), one's mouth was doing another (saying the prayers), while one's mind was doing a third thing (meditating on one of the fifteen traditional mysteries (to which some had added a few more). Thus one's hand, one's mouth and one's mind were fully occupied, and one was less likely to be distracted.

When I became Orthodox, however, one of the things I was taught, rightly or wrongly, was that "visualising" was not a necessary, or even a good part of prayer. Even when praying before the holy ikons one shoudl not try to visualise beyond what the ikons showed. The Western form of prayer seemed to encourage visualisation, whereas the Orthodox form discouraged it.

Perhaps those who are more knowledgeable and experienced than I am could clarify this.

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 10:08 AM

I am not knowledgeable or experienced but I have read about this. St Theophan the Recluse says, 'hold no image between the mind and the Lord when practising the Jesus Prayer'. The imagination can be both a distraction and a deceiver. St Nil Sorsky says, 'In order not to fall into illusion do not permit any concepts, images or visions'. He says these are 'flights of fancy'. We try to concentrate only on the words of the Jesus prayer and so on the Lord Himself only.

#6 Alice

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:43 PM

This is somewhat confusing, since we have frescoes and iconography on church walls that depict scenes in our faith, and they aid us in prayer and contemplation of a particular feastday. When we pray, we look at icons.

I think what we are being told in Orthodoxy is to not 'conjure up' visions while praying, because that could be spiritually dangerous.

#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 04:16 PM

I think what we are being told in Orthodoxy is to not 'conjure up' visions while praying, because that could be spiritually dangerous.


This is what I understand. Images in the mind's eye are different - especially qualitatively - from icons and frescos. Images in the mind, even pious ones, are the product of the imagination: indeed, the two words 'image' and 'imagination' have the same etymology. Icons are aids to prayer precisely because canonical icons are one of the ways the Church articulates her theology for the faithful and are not the product of the imagination. (This is why icons must be canonical - otherwise they may lead the faithful into error. Thus, images of God the Father are wrong exactly because they are at variance with the Church's teaching about the Persons of the Holy Trinity.)

There are different forms of prayer, suitable for different occasions. Icons and frescos are suitable for corporate prayer and services in church; icons are also aids to private prayer. When speaking of the Jesus Prayer, the Holy Fathers (such as the two I quoted from above but note that Elder Sophrony of Essex deals a lot with this) describe how a person must collect his mind from its dispersion in the things of the world, and be gathered together to concentrate the mind on the prayer, so that, as God wills, the mind can unite with the heart which is the seat of love and where God is to be found. If the reasoning mind, even if well disposed to prayer, cannot encounter God in love, then so much more so cannot a mind whose attention is caught and distracted by images, even pious ones. The Jesus Prayer is a path to God Himself, not merely to a created image of Him, the means (for those so blessed) to an experiential encounter with God (perceived as light). It must follow that the reasons are clear why the Holy Fathers say what they say about images in the mind during the saying of the Jesus Prayer .

Edited by Olga, 23 February 2012 - 10:11 PM.
added paragraph space for ease of reading


#8 Mary Lanser

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:45 AM

This is somewhat confusing, since we have frescoes and iconography on church walls that depict scenes in our faith, and they aid us in prayer and contemplation of a particular feastday. When we pray, we look at icons.

I think what we are being told in Orthodoxy is to not 'conjure up' visions while praying, because that could be spiritually dangerous.


In the glossary in the Philokalia, one of the volumes at least, there is a distinction made between holy images and fantasy. What the holy fathers seem to be warning against is fantasy.

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 09:32 AM

The entry 'Fantasy' is in the glossary of all volumes of the Philokalia. It is there suggested that the only beneficial kind of image may be one which occurs to a person advanced in the spiritual life who sees an image of a 'celestial archetype' which may be used in iconography. The entry goes on to say how the Holy Fathers otherwise warn against the imagination and fantasy. The entry refers to 'imagination in the proper sense'. This must be a reference to the writings of the Monks Callistus and Ignatius. These Holy Fathers tell us that 'infants and beginners' may use a 'well-ordered imagination' to overcome the 'chaotic imagination'. But in general, the imagination is considered to be 'a bridge for the demons'. The enemy can only attack us through something sensory, and the sensory hinders the approach of God's illumination. St Basil the Great says that God does not dwell where there are fantasies and imaginings. Accordingly, the disctinction between fantasy and imagination is limited to the struggles of the beginner to overcome chaotic thoughts with good thoughts but otherwise the imagination is to be guarded against equally with fantasy.

#10 Mary Lanser

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 05:55 PM

My small point was that there is no wholesale proscription against images in eastern prayer any more that there is in the west. I thank you for this expansion of my brief initiating comments. Even the true Ignatian exercises are not ever to be done without a spiritual director immediately at hand. St. Teresa of Avila, for example, in her Way of Perfection notes that beginners in prayer my use an image of the face of Jesus to bring them more deeply into his presence. There are other examples, but the truth remains that the west is also very much aware of the danger of the imagination and fantasy...not only in prayer but in every facet of a person's life.

#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 08:09 PM

My small point was that there is no wholesale proscription against images in eastern prayer


'Proscription' in the sense of 'forbidden' is not the sort of term Orthodox would readily use since the Orthodox way is therapeutic, to prescribe rather than proscribe (save in the case of obvious sins), but it must be said that this statement is not true. There is a continuous thread of counsel by the Holy Fathers from very early times to our own that the use of images in prayer is dangerous and to be avoided. This is clear from the writings of St John Climacus, St Nilus of Sinai, St Gregory of Sinai, St. Ignatii Brianchaninov, Starets Nikon Vorobyev, and Elder Sophrony. Met. Hierotheos Vlachos mentions the matter in his writings. That there is a limited tolerance of the use of images by St Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and even, to a small degree, by St Theophan the Recluse, does not lessen the impact of the exhortations of the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Fathers against images in prayer. There is undoubtedly a very significant difference in this between the Orthodox tradition and Roman Catholic saints such as Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola.

#12 Mary Lanser

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 08:28 PM

'Proscription' in the sense of 'forbidden' is not the sort of term Orthodox would readily use since the Orthodox way is therapeutic, to prescribe rather than proscribe (save in the case of obvious sins), but it must be said that this statement is not true. There is a continuous thread of counsel by the Holy Fathers from very early times to our own that the use of images in prayer is dangerous and to be avoided. This is clear from the writings of St John Climacus, St Nilus of Sinai, St Gregory of Sinai, St. Ignatii Brianchaninov, Starets Nikon Vorobyev, and Elder Sophrony. Met. Hierotheos Vlachos mentions the matter in his writings. That there is a limited tolerance of the use of images by St Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and even, to a small degree, by St Theophan the Recluse, does not lessen the impact of the exhortations of the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Fathers against images in prayer. There is undoubtedly a very significant difference in this between the Orthodox tradition and Roman Catholic saints such as Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola.


I am not here to argue with you. I think if you actually read the saints I mentioned and the counsels of other saints and doctors of the west you would see that there are strong cautions against images as the means for demonic intervention. That you are not aware of this part of the western tradition is not surprising. I only became aware of it myself when I began to explore the oft heard assertion that the west encourages the use of the imagination in prayer. That is not true. In fact the counsels are heavily laid against such use because of the dangers therein.

#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:16 PM

You are right that I have not immersed myself in the Roman Catholic mystical tradition, but you did mention Ignatius Loyola and Teresa of Avila. The first's work, 'Spiritual Exercises', is still used to train novices and it advises using the imagination not only to picture, for example, the scene of the Nativity (in the Second to Fifth Contemplations of the Second Week), but even 'to handle and kiss the garments, places, footsteps' (Fifth Contemplation). Teresa of Avila is well-known for her ecstatic visions, notably of a seraph driving a golden spear into her heart and entrails.

But the point of my previous post was to show that the Orthodox tradition is, contrary to the quote from your post, indeed very much against the use of images in prayer.

#14 Mary Lanser

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:35 PM

I used Ignatius as the singularly unique example of the use of imagination in western spirituality...not in prayer...but in spiritual exercises to aid in the examination of conscience.

These exercises, when truly Ignatian and truly experienced as the saint intended are done hand in hand with an experienced spiritual guide and confessor, preferably one who is capable of and known to be capable of the discernment of spirits. Neither the exercises nor the saint should be faulted when the exercises are taken out of context and used in a manner that is or is just shy of new age majickal-mystycalis. But even when exercised properly this is NOT a method of prayer.

I used St. Teresa as a well known example of a master of contemplative prayer who speaks as the holy fathers speak against the use of the imagination in prayer. The one object that she allows her novices is an iconic image of Jesus's face.

After years of searching the writings of saints and holy souls of both east and west, I simply do not see where there is much difference at all, between east and west, with respect to the cautions against using images in prayer.

#15 Mary Lanser

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 10:25 PM

One thing I am also interested in is the fact that I have been told by some Orthodox monastics that there is a practice in Orthodoxy that is kin to the lectio divina of the west. I suppose I am asking here if others are familiar with the practice. Perhaps it is better known among western rite Orthodox but that does not seem to be the case in my inquiring privately.

M.

#16 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 08:20 AM

The Way of a Pilgrim tells us what chapters of the Philokalia to read in order to know how to pray using our komboskini - knotted beads.

Our komboskoini are only an aid to concentration. 33 beads for the years of Jesus' life. I usually stop at the 4 beads separating the knots and say the Lord's prayer or Psalm 23. This is my own method.

St. Simeon the New Theologian : " Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe out gently and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Carry your mind, i.e, your thoughts, from your head to your heart. As you breathe out, say Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' Say it moving your lips gently, or simply say it in your mind. Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process very frequently."



"the Orthodox Tradition offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer is offered as a means of concentration, as a focal point for our inner life. Though there are both longer and shorter versions, the most frequently used form of the Jesus Prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." This prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures and the new life granted by the Holy Spirit. It is first and foremost a prayer of the Spirit because of the fact that the prayer addresses Jesus as Lord, Christ and Son of God; and as St. Paul tells us, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3)."

I love these words from The way of the pilgrim : "When I prayed in my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man's sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise."

More information can be found on the American Orthodox Church site.

#17 Kosta

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:26 AM

I was browsing Android Apps today and realized how few Eastern Orthodox apps actually exist on the marketplace. I noticed there are several interactive Rosary apps to be downloaded, and was curious what the official stance on praying the Rosary was. I ran across this article:http://www.westernor...com/rosary.html but wasn't sure how widespread or even how accurate the information was. Thoughts? Would it be wrong to pray the Rosary? What about this rule ostensibly given by St. Seraphim?


The Rosary is not part of the Orthodox tradition. While its not heretical it doesnt form part of our praxis. St. Seraphim lived at a time when latin influence still held sway within Russian theology. He may have confused the latin legends of the Rosary and concluded it must of been Orthodox if it was prayed in the 8th century. In the late 8th century the irish monasteries began reciting all 150 psalms daily. The people wanted to take part in this but didnt know all the psalms nor spoke latin. This started a devotion which took centuries to evolve in its current form. First prayer beads were created to keep track of the 150 psalms. Centuries later a short prayer for lay people to the Theotokos replaced the psalms because its something all peoples can learn and remember. A tradition developed that the Rosary was revealed by the Theotokos herself to Dominic. The dominican order is known for spreading the Rosary and they had a strong and influential presence in Russia.

#18 Mary Lanser

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:55 PM

Dear Kosta,

It is staggering the number of bead-prayers and variations on the rosary still active in the west, along side the most commonly known Dominical Rosary. These prayers include repetitive prayers of the holy name of Jesus. So it is entirely possible that St. Seraphim adapted a bead-prayer to the Theotokos, just as Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Theophan the Recluse adapted the Spiritual Combat of Lorenzo Scuppoli for Greek and Russian practice, now known as Unseen Warfare. Anyone who thinks that the adaptations to Greek and Russian practice was meant to weed out western heretical practice really needs to read the Introduction to the text by St. Theophan which is most readily available. I do not say this final comment to you Kosta but to those who think they know what happened to the text but may not in actual fact.

I don't know if St. Seraphim adapted the Dominical Rosary, though it is certainly plausible. If he did then he certainly made no effort to make anything but a Russian Rosary out of it. I still need the printed text before me to get through the whole thing. I love it but it requires time and concentration...for me. The Prayer of the Heart, of course, is less mentally rigorous in terms of memorization...from my perspective...though I've found myself once or twice in such immediate and disturbing distress that the whole prayer was lost to me save for the holy name of Jesus which I invoked till I was calm enough to carry on with the full lines of the prayer.

It has occurred to me over the years that not all people are moved by the same devotions. There are many in the Latin west that I never have been drawn to use. I tend, in some ways, to be a minimalist when it comes to variety in devotion and devotional objects. I tend to be attracted to verbal prayers that are longer and more intricate...so words are important to me and I love moleben and akathist prayers when there is time and access to community prayer, but I also use acclamatory prayer from the Psalms, from the Gospels, from the liturgy and these short bursts of doxological and bead-less prayer are the meat of unceasing prayer for me. Others have other kinds of practices that work just as well or better for their temperaments and needs.

M.

#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 11:01 PM

Anyone who thinks that the adaptations to Greek and Russian practice was meant to weed out western heretical practice really needs to read the Introduction to the text by St. Theophan which is most readily available.


The introduction by Prof. H. A. Hodges to 'Unseen Warfare' as revised by St Theophan is not without it critics who say that he sees Roman Catholic and Orthodox spirituality as two sides of the same coin. Be that as it may, in response to the above quote, the Introduction does make clear that St Theophan, much more so than St Nicodemus, was 'thorough' in removing 'Latinisms', substantially re-wrote some chapters and added several of his own. Eight chapters on prayer, even as written by St Nicodemus, were removed and seven new ones substituted. All this was in order to remove 'Latinisms' and make the text conform to Orthodox doctrine. See generally part IX of the Introduction.

#20 Mary Lanser

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:29 AM

The introduction by Prof. H. A. Hodges to 'Unseen Warfare' as revised by St Theophan is not without it critics who say that he sees Roman Catholic and Orthodox spirituality as two sides of the same coin. Be that as it may, in response to the above quote, the Introduction does make clear that St Theophan, much more so than St Nicodemus, was 'thorough' in removing 'Latinisms', substantially re-wrote some chapters and added several of his own. Eight chapters on prayer, even as written by St Nicodemus, were removed and seven new ones substituted. All this was in order to remove 'Latinisms' and make the text conform to Orthodox doctrine. See generally part IX of the Introduction.


One way to begin to identify the "Latinisms" is to read both Scuppoli and St. Theophan, and compare it then to Hodges' Introduction. The "Latinisms" can be seen then as matters of tradition rather than what might be called heterodoxy or heresy, depending on your lexical preferences. At least that is how it has appeared to me over time...That kind of comparison takes time but it is worth the effort, I think. It seems to me that it is important that we maintain our individual traditions as carefully as possible without thoroughly rejecting those things in the other, which ought to be treasured.




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