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For those among them who do say something in their writings, we will only give a brief presentation of their personality and look at what concerns monastic life alone in their works, leaving on one side what belongs to a course on Patrology. The purpose of this study of the history of monastic spirituality, then, is to make personal contact with the spirit which was at work in our Fathers in the faith, the first monks. It should be an apprenticeship to lectio divina. Then, we do not pretend to say everything that can be said on the subject.
It underlines: "the need to make a choice, considering the huge amount of material. One part will be the presentation of the subject or the author, as we must place our first monks in their historical context in order to understand them; this will be fairly brief, as many other books deal with the history of monasticism.
Mention will also be made of the principal works of the authors studied; but we will concentrate particularly on their teaching. To understand this, contact with texts is indispensable. It is through these above all that our Fathers speak to us and pass on the Spirit who dwelt in them. We will cite the texts on separate pages, giving their reference in the course.
Identifying the sources as we go along helps to understand them better, and so to value them. Then, we thought it would be helpful to check the knowledge gained by revision at the end of each main subject. As the course is now being used by other monasteries, we have added, for the use of the tutors, the answers to the revision and the exercises on the Rule of St Benedict; and also some explanations of the texts, which do not pretend to be the only explanations!
The PLAN followed tries to be both logical and chronological, but as monasticism appeared at the same time in several places, it is not possible to be completely chronological. After this Introduction, we study the Prehistory of monasticism 1 , then the earliest preparation, before there were any texts. Having established this landmark, the initial step, we take a look at what happened round the Mediterranean basin, the panorama of all the different kinds of monks who appeared in the fourth century 3.
We stay in Egypt, to look at the anchorites who were the Fathers of the desert, and we study their Apophthegmata 6. This takes us to Evagrius, one of the Desert Fathers, who put their teaching into writing 7 , and to Cassian who took it to the cenobites of Gaul 8. Then we look at the "strong race of cenobites" with another Mother-Rule, that of Basil, to which we add some monastic texts of his brother Gregory of Nyssa 9. We turn next to the author who goes under the name of Ps.
Macarius, and who depends to some extent on Basil and Gregory Then we pass on to the last of the Mother-Rules, that of Augustine After a quick look at Western Monasticism 12 , strengthened in Gaul by Cassian, we finish with the later inheritors of this magnificent flowering of Eastern monasticism which we have studied: the monks of Gaza 13 in the fifth and sixth centuries, and John Climacus in the seventh We are going to study the history of monastic spirituality.
Let us consider what we mean by this. First, is monasticism a typically Christian phenomenon? To this we must reply: No. There were monks long before Christianity. Fifteen hundred years before Jesus came, there were monks in India. Most non-Christian religions have known some form of monastic life. In Europe, the mediterranean religions of antiquity had virgin priestesses: the Pythia of Delphi, the Roman vestal virgins, vowed to chastity at least for a time, but this was understand in a physical rather than a moral way.
Among the Greek philosophers, there were also modes of life similar to that of monks. In the first half of the sixth century BC, Pythagoras founded a sort of community which one entered through different degrees of initiation. However there was, on the whole, no practice of sexual ascesis. Much later, after the rise of Christianity, Islam, which has never officially recognised any form of monastic life, nevertheless had from its earliest days ascetics living in solitude who practised continence in the presence of God.
Fraternities sprang up subsequently for training in a method of raising the soul to God. Even in the New World, at that time unknown in Europe, in the pre-historic religions of America, Fr Lafitau, a 17th century missionary quoted by Dom Jean Leclerq has shown that there were communities of consecrated virgins. The famous temples in Peru under the Inca kings had communities of vestal virgins whose rules were more severe than those of the Roman vestals.
The temples in Mexico had religious of the same kind: "They ate in common and slept in large halls, rising in the night and assisting in a choir like our religious at Matins. There were also men who were virgin. It may be that in ancient times some lived in community, like the Essenians. But I think nevertheless that it is more likely that they retired into solitude, at some distance from their village, where they lived separately like hermits, having only a servant who brought them the necessities of life. From these examples we can see that before Christian monasticism, there was in all the religions a universal phenomenon which resembled what we call monasticism.
These special forms of life, not always similar, included essential elements of monastic life. Let us try to see what are the essential elements of this kind of life which we have defined by the general term "monastic," several examples of which we have observed outside Christianity. We can infer that they will certainly occur in our Christian monastic life as well.
The first thing that stands out is that these various forms of para-Christian monastic life have a tendency to set themselves apart, to separate themselves from the world in isolation from the rest of men. This isolation often has an exterior sign, a wall, a reserved enclosure, access to certain buildings being reserved to the ascetics. Yet frequently they insist rather on the cloister of the heart. This separation from the world is indicated by a distinctive habit and a special way of cutting the hair. It is ratified by different rites of aggregation or initiation.
We also find ascetic practices such as celibacy, at least temporarily, and poverty understood as detachment. These practices are meant to encourage interior vigilance. They do not insist very much on obedience which is considered to be the consequence of a general openness or availability developed through meditation. On the other hand great stress is. Finally, the third essential element: mystical aspiration that is to say a profound sense of the Absolute and a desire for communion with this absolute reality.
This is perhaps the deepest foundation of the monastic life, for it is the source of a keen awareness of the radical insufficiency of this changing world. It is the driving power of the two other elements: separation from the world and ascetic practices. We can now formulate a broad definition of monasticism: it is a manner of life having a spiritual goal which transcends the objectives of earthly life, the attainment of which is considered the one thing necessary.
In the daily living out of an unconditional response to the love of Christ, one discovers practices similar to those in other forms of monastic life; for the demands inherent in such a way of life are always the same, but the source is different, for the Christian monk and nun it lies in the Gospel imperative. For them these elements are transfigured and illuminated by the wonderful coming of a God of love to mankind in the person of Christ. Christian monks and nuns will be in love with the person of Christ. Their ascesis will be a communion with his Kenosis self-emptying and his Passion.
Their mystical aspiration will find its full-flowering in the union with a divine-human person who will bring them into the heart of the Trinity. What is its meaning for us as Christians? In Christianity, it does not mean looking for extraordinary experiences. In this sense, mysticism is at the foundation of Christianity; baptism introduces us into the mystery of Christ, into the mystical life. Real union with God through belonging to Christ, the God-Man, is a supernatural reality which remains mysterious and hidden. This communion comes about in this life in faith through the sacraments and through the desire to lead a holy life, the desire to do "what is pleasing to God," a Pauline expression which we will find again in Basil , and through the pursuit of continual prayer which, as we will see, is characteristic of these first monks.
The more intense this communion with Christ, the more the gifts play their part. Gregory of Nyssa will explain it by the idea of synergy. It sometimes happens that, under the influence of the gift of wisdom, the baptised person suddenly experiences the presence of Christ in the soul, a mysterious contact, a kind of spiritual touch of divinity, without intermediary: the presence of God invades the soul. So in this text from St Basil: "If ever a kind of light falling on your heart has suddenly given you an awareness of God, flooding your soul in a way that makes you love God and despise the world and all material things, this obscure and fleeting image can help you to understand the state of the just who rejoice in God with a peaceful and unending happiness.
This joy is sometimes bestowed by the Providence of God, but rarely, so that this little taste may lead you to the remembrance of the good things which you do not possess" Homily on Psalm This text emphasises the unexpectedness, the suddenness of these graces, and also their rarity. The vocabulary of spiritual authors who have experienced them gives numerous expressions to underline these two qualifications. There is a second meaning of the word which denotes a completely gratuitous gift of God, a grace which is not a proof of sanctity, for it is perhaps given to convert or to encourage. It is a grace which is not indispensable in order to reach great holiness, but which one can however desire as a precious help on our journey to God.
St Basil also said: "Once the soul is possessed by the desire for its Creator and has experienced in its heart the joy of his beauty, it would not exchange this great joy and these delights for anything the world can offer with its great variety of fleshly passions; on the contrary, that which others find disagreable increases their joy" Homily on Giving Thanks 2.
St Therese of the Child Jesus, who has been described as: "the greatest mystic of modern times," is a beautiful example to help us understand the two meanings of this word. How she longed to be united to Jesus, so much so that she desired suffering and to find her joy in it because Jesus had suffered. At the end of her life this mystical aspiration was summed up in the desire to want nothing but what Jesus wanted for her: "You fill me with joy by all that you are doing," she said.
These are the heights to which we are invited. This is authentic Christian mysticism. The first document about Christian monks whose author we know the author is the " Life of Antony ," by St Athanasius. So the history of monasticism begins with Antony c. The repercussions of this first writing were enormous. But it must not be thought that the "Life of Antony" was the beginning of monastic life.
This book appeared in But a papyrus shows there was a large group of monks round Antony in Lower Egypt already about Well before that, there were monks in Syria and even in Gaul, on an island near Lyons. Monasticism did not begin by being passed from one to another but arose like spontaneous eruptions, or like a spring gushing forth in different places from a source underground. This sudden emergence of monasticism in several distant geographical points: Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Gaul, suggests an underground spring, a secret preparation by the Holy Spirit.
There was as it were a prehistory of monasticism: a prehistory within the hearts of men and women, a prehistory, that is, of monastic spirituality, a few features of which we shall try pointers to this preparation by the Spirit. It seems that among the many causes which could, directly or indirectly, be at the source of the emergence of monasticism in the third century, the following can be identified in chronological order: a vague outline in the Old Testament, more defined ascetical movements among the Jews in the time of Jesus, the radical call of the gospel teaching which gave rise to consecrated virginity faily early on, then martyrdom and finally Origen.
Although Jerome spoke of "the monks of the Old Testament" Ep. This is no doubt because the people as a whole were considered to be consecrated. On the other hand the expectation of the Messiah called for child-bearing in the hope of bringing him into the world. This excluded consecrated virginity; we read that the daughter of Jephta "bewailed her virginity" Jg. However we do find some idea, some traces of consecrated life: the levites for whom God is the only inheritance; the nazirites a name meaning "consecrated , for life or temporarily, was sanctioned by certain restrictions.
Samson was a nazirite, but his adventures with Delilah show that, unfortunately for him, marriage was not among these restrictions! Here too some of them were married 2 Kg The prophets Amos, Hosea and Jeremiah adumbrated the hermit life of monks by idealising life in the desert where God made a covenant with his people. Isaiah called on the people to: "prepare a highway in the desert for the Lord" Is. At the end of the Old Testament writings, one finds a hint of the fruitfulness of the barren woman and the virgin. John appeared at the threshold of the New Testament announcing Jesus, and also the advent of monks: he was not married, he lived in the desert, fasted, prayed, meditated on the Law and above all gave proof of his humility: "He must grow greater and I must grow less.
Profane history also demonstrates the existence of forms of life very close to monasticism. At the time of Jesus, historians mention the existence of Jewish ascetics who have retired from the world. The historian Josephus and Philo of Alexandria both mention the existence of groups of religious Jews called Essenes. This religious movement was probably fairly widespread, comprising the group at Qumran among others. It was a conservative movement which sought to separate itself from the corruption of Israel in order to seek God in holiness; their Rule said: "They separate themselves from the dwellings of wicked men to go into the desert to make straight the way of God.
In his book "On the Contemplative Life" Philo speaks of other ascetics who lived in Egypt to the east of Alexandria near lake Mareotis by the sea. The only writer to mention them, he sometimes went there, he says to make a retreat far from the noise of the world. He called them "Therapeutae" from a Greek word which means "to serve" and "to heal" and Philo meant it in the second sense: they were those who healed their passions Text 3. He wrote of them as an educated and pious rabbi, caught up in allegorical exegesis and platonic philosophy Text 4. These two groups led a demanding ascetic and community life.
Only isolated examples of celibate religious are found. We can be sure that the demands of the Sermon on the Mount, the example of virginity in Jesus to the Corinthians on celibacy and the great love of the Lord who died for sinners very soon gave rise to the desire among men and women to give love for love and to consecrate their lives to God in virginity. There are hints of it everywhere. Later the letter of Clement of Rome, c. Hermas, in , mentions virgins in Rome, and Ignatius an apparently numerous group of virgins in Smyrna. Polycarp and Justin also mention them.
The word "monk" appears for the first time at the end of the second century in the apocryphal gospel of Thomas which celebrates the blessedness of the monachus. In the same period, between and , we know that there were people in Syria and in Corinth who led a life of poverty and asceticism, and practised chastity.
Here too they were stillindividuals, probably living in the family home or in the town, and we cannot yet speak of monasticism. But very soon there appeared, mixed with this good grain the darnel of self-complacency in the form of contempt of the world. In the first half of the third century we find the first example of organised monasticism: the "Sons of the Covenant" who lived in common, at the service of the Church and dedicated to worship, and leading a life of poverty.
This is the first known example of cenobitism, nearly a century before the first signs of Egyptiam monasticism. But a little later there appeared among them the "Messalian" movement, which comes from the Syrian word meaning "to pray. Among those who adopted this attitude, some remained within the Church, others left. Finally, about , came Antony, the first monk whose story we have in writing. His vocation came through hearing the Gospel. The history of Christian monasticism properly so-called begins.
There is a third cause of the sudden rise of monasticism at the beginning of the third century: martyrdom. Very soon monasticism was seen as bound up with martyrdom, either as a preparation for it or a continuation of it. We are told that when the persecution of Diocletian broke out and Christians were taken to Alexandria, Antony left his monastery and accompanied them saying: "Let us go too, to watch those in the combat and to struggle with them if we are called to do so.
They believed they were living out the same mystery as the martyrs, the total identification with Christ who died and rose again. This mystery of maryrdom, which is at the heart of the life of the Church could never disappear. It is this emphasis which is found in the Greek life of Pachomius Text 5. This raises a problem, for if monasticism equals martyrdom, do we, whether monks or novices, think we are martyrs? Here are three texts which tell us what the Old Men thought.
First an apophthegm maxim or Saying attributed to Athanasius, a contemporary of Antony who wrote his life Text 6. Then two other texts, one about nuns and the other about monks Texts We already have some explanations. To understand it more clearly, we will study a text of one of the most celebrated martyrs, Ignatius of Antioch. In his letter to the Romans he shows us what sort of a man he is and what a martyr is like. We shall find that this letter brings us to the heart of our monastic life, and in studying it we will find out whether there is anything in the Rule of St Benedict concerning the spirituality of martyrdom.
Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria. Captured during a persecution, he was taken to Rome overland and by sea, to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena during a pagan festival. On arriving in Asia Minor, he stayed for a time in two towns: Smyrna and Troas. Delegations from the neighbouring churches there came to visit him. He wrote several letters, including one to the Romans in which he told them he was coming and asked them not to rescue him from the torture. This letter was written spontaneously, and reveals the heart of a martyr; it is not a literary or conventional piece of writing.
Apart from an introduction and a conclusion, there is no plan; Ignatius writes as ideas come to him, as if he was speaking. There are two themes which have great importance in the future development of monastic spirituality: the theme of spiritual combat and that of the imitation of Christ which we will come across again in other texts in the literature of the martyrs. For example, here is a text which illustrates the first theme, that of spiritual combat; the martyr, like the monk later, is aware of fighting against the demon Text 9.
The other theme, that of the imitation of Christ, is found, among others, in the story of the martyrs of Lyon. Text This inward presence of Christ who suffers with and in his martyr, is found also in the famous text of the Passion of Sts Perpetua and Felicitas Text Later we will see the same idea in the life of Antony, Christ was there when Antony was struggling against the demon.
It is a good thing for us to remember this in temptation: Christ is there near us, although we think we are alone, and he helps us to overcome it. Lastly there is a man who, like Ignatius, was a great lover of Christ and like him wanted to give his life for Him. He was one of the great geniuses of Christianity, comparable to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. He wrote many books which had a great influence on monasticism in its early stages.
We will not study him here; we will only describe a few points in which he influenced this movement of the spirit — and of the Spirit — which gave birth to monasticism. There is a continuity between the spirituality of the martyr and that of Origen. His life was spent in alternating periods of persecution and calm. His father died a martyr during the persecution of Severus, and his mother had to hide his clothes so that he would not go and declare himself a Christian.
He wrote an Exhortation to Martyrdom during the persecution of Maximin the Thracian and he himself was arrested and tortured during that of Decius; he died three years later as a result. It is not surprising then that we find in his writing the theme of spiritual combat. Moreover, at the beginning of his life Origen was in charge of a school for formation in the Christian life, a sort of "School of the Faith" before its time, where the students came to be instructed by him.
They lived together, ate together, prayed together. At the end of his stay of five years as a scholar, according to the custom of the time, the student made a. We still have one made by one of his pupils, Gregory, which means "wide-awake," who later became a bishop and whose holiness was demonstrated by so many miracles that he was called the Thaumaturgus, that is the "wonder-worker. As a teacher and candidate for martyrdom, Origen placed the spiritual combat at the centre of his asceticism and his morality, a theme which became central in nascent monasticism as well.
It is a central theme because there is no Christian life without struggle, for we stand at the crossroads, as the first psalm underlines. This theme of the two ways, often referred to in what follows, presupposes a choice, often a difficult one, which implies a struggle.
There is a whole doctrine of spiritual combat in the works of Origen, and this topic is taken up by the ascetics of the East and indeed in spirituality as a whole. Here is a quick outline of the leading ideas which one can find throughout the writings of Origen on the spiritual combat:. The spiritual combat is a fact : we all have to make a choice between good and evil, and this choice is not made without a struggle when our freedom is involved. So there are two sorts of combatants Text The spiritual combat takes place in the heart.
Later we will find all these ideas in the works of Origen taken up by the Fathers of the Desert: the struggle against evil thoughts, guarding the heart, the need for vigilance, discernment of spirits and candour towards a spiritual Father. Confiding in an elder is a powerful help for the soldier of Christ. But there are others to help us, God himself and his angels. Moreover we ourselves have weapons to defend us in the struggle: first of all, prayer: "One holy man who prays is much stronger than an army of sinners," Origen assures us; and also the virtues, above all faith and humility, Origen often quotes the words of Paul: "the shield of faith with which you can quench all the fiery darts of the evil one" Eph.
This combat is very useful : first because we are sometimes beaten and so discover our weakness, which helps us to be humble. Then it strengthens our virtue and brings a reward. Also it is useful for others, we can fight for them. Here is a remarkable text which shows what a grasp Origen had of the Mystical Body and of the hidden help we can give to others who have not had the graces we have had Text The doctrine of Origen on virginity has also left a deep mark on primitive monasticism.
Here is another schematic presentation:. The model is Jesus who is Chastity as he is all the virtues. Mary is also the model. Origen is the first theologian to teach the virginity of Mary after child-bearing. Mary was the first woman to have been a virgin as Jesus was the first man. The roots of virginity are found in the nuptial union of Christ and the Church; of which Christian marriage is a symbol realised in the flesh; the union of the Word with the soul happens in a spiritual manner in the Christian who seeks God. But this union of the soul with the Word is much stronger for one who is a virgin; it is in fact superior to marriage because it not only symbolises the union of the Church with Christ, but also demonstrates it and brings it about.
The virginity of the Church is realised by the complete chastity of some of her members. Virginity in its essence is an exchange of gifts between God and human beings; between God and the man or woman who is a virgin there is a shared gift:. The gift of God to men and women. It is a grace which comes from God, and God guards virginity in the soul; it must be kept safe by prayer Text It is a grace which comes from the Trinity: the Father guards it, the Son brings it about, cutting away the passions with the sword that is himself and, in so far as it is a charism, it is a sharing in the Holy Spirit.
The gift of men and women to God. It is a sacrifice offered by the soul to God in the sanctuary of the body. It is the most perfect gift after martyrdom. The source is charity. It is through love one remains a virgin, a love which puts God above all else, and wants to give love for love. In giving him our whole body, we imitate God who has given us all. Conditions : This gift is manifested by mortification, watchfulness over the body, guarding the senses.
Prayer and mortification are necessary for virginity; they are the elements of sacrifice which the soul, the priest of the Holy Spirit, offers to God within the sanctuary of the body. Chastity of the body has for its goal chastity of the soul and chastity of the heart, which is even more important. On the other hand, in the case of the violated virgin, the defilement of the body is of no account if the heart remains virgin. It is like the virtue of spiritual childhood Text In this sense it prolongs the life in paradise where Adam and Eve, before they came together, were little children newly created by God with whom they walked and talked in the garden.
It is a prophecy of the eschatological state of the Resurrection, for it is the flesh and sin which constitute an obstacle here below to the union of the soul with the Word. In our present state, it liberates us for the service of the Lord. Following Paul, Origen contrasts the servitude of marriage to the freedom of the virgin. If virginity is inspired by a spiritual love of God who is sought above all else, then it frees us to give ourselves completely to the service of God.
NOTE 1: For Christian monks and nuns the mystery of baptism is the foundation on which rest the defining elements found in every form of monasticism. Emphasising the special character of the underlying source of the Christian monastic life gives rise to a more authentic dialogue with other forms of monasticism.
It enables the Christian to find in them, in all truth, the hidden presence of the Spirit of God. These men despise riches, they share their goods in an admirable way; none can be found among them who has more than another. For it is a law among them that those who come to join them must give all their possessions for the use of the community, so that among them all there is no degrading poverty or excessive riches. The possessions of each are mingled with those of everyone else and all, like brothers, have but one property.
Those who look after their property are elected and each of them is allocated his work by all the members. They are formed in piety, holiness, justice, domestic and civic duties, knowledge of what is good, what is bad and what indifferent, so that they may choose what is right, avoid what is not, taking for their three-fold rule the love of God, the love of virtue and the love of mankind. They give many examples of the love of God: constant purity throughout their lives, the refusal to take oaths or to lie, the belief that the divinity is the cause of all that is good but nothing evil.
Their love of virtue is shown by their contempt of riches, glory and pleasure; by self-discipline and endurance and also by frugality, simplicity, good-naturedness, modesty, respect for the law, an equable nature and all similar virtues. They show their love for mankind by their kindness, their equality among themselves and community life which is above praise, and so merits a brief mention here.
As well as living together in confraternities, their house is open to visitors from outside who follow the same ideals. There is one common purse and all expenses are met from it, they have the same clothes and the same food; in fact meals are in common. The custom of sharing the same dwelling, the same kind of life and the same food is not found anywhere else to the same extent. And this is perhaps natural: in fact, they do not keep for themselves what they receive as wages for their work.
The way of life chosen by these philosophers is evident from the name they bear: Therapeutae or Therapeutrides is an apt description, first because the art of healing which they profess is superior to that practised in our cities — in these only the body is cared for, but the Therapeutae also care for souls who have fallen prey to grievous and almost incurable diseases brought upon them by a life of pleasure and lusts, afflictions, fears, greed and folly, injustice and an endless multitude of other passions and woes.
Secondly because they have been taught to lead a healthy life obeying the holy laws, and given to the worship of the Being. May the sect of the Therapeutae whose constant effort is to see clearly, aim at the contemplation of Being, and rise above the sun that is perceived by the senses and never abandon this rule which leads to perfect happiness. Those who adopt this therapeutic, deciding to do so not through force of habit or the advice and encouragement of others, but because they have been enraptured by divine love, and captivated by divine possession, in a state of inebriation like the Bacchae or the Corybantae, until they behold the object of their desire.
Then, as their desire for immortality and the blessed life makes them believe that their mortal life is already over, they leave their property to their sons and daughters, or their family, deliberately making them their heirs in advance; those who have no family leave everything to their companions and friends. It is right that those who have once taken hold of the treasure of spiritual vision should surrender blind treasure to those whose understanding is still blind.
Because they saw the struggles and the patience of the martyrs, the Elders among the Greeks became monks, that they might begin renew their lives. It is often said: Where are the persecutions so that we may become martyrs? Be a martyr of conscience, die to sin, mortify your body and you will be a martyr by intention. Do not virgins bear witness, not by undergoing bodily suffering for a short while, but by enduring all their life long, without weakening, the true combat which is the struggle for chastity?
The patience and strict fidelity with which monks persevere in the profession which they have undertaken once and for all, never fulfilling their own will, make them daily crucified to the world and living martyrs. The day before our combat I saw the following vision. Pomponius the deacon came to the prison gate and knocked violently.
I went out and opened the gate for him. He wore a white tunic without a belt and sandals. He said to me: "Perpetua, we are waiting for you, come! At last we came to the amphitheatre, quite out of breath. He led me into the centre of the arena and said to me: "Do not be afraid. I am with you and struggling with you. I looked at the huge crowd who watched in astonishment. I knew that I was condemned to die by the beasts and I was surprised that none were let loose on me. Then out against me came an Egyptian of ferocious appearance to fight me, together with his henchmen.
At the same time some handsome young men came to help and support me. I was stripped, and I was a man. My supporters began to rub me down with oil, as is the custom before a contest. Then I saw the Egyptian on the other side rolling in the dust. Then a man of great height came out, so tall that he rose above the amphitheatre. He wore a flowing purple tunic with two stripes over his chest.
He wore sandals of gold and silver and carried a staff like the chief gladiator and a green branch with golden apples. He called for silence and said: "If the Egyptian defeats this women, he will slay her with the sword; but if she is victorious, she will receive this branch. We drew close and began to fight. The Egyptian tired to get hold of my feet; I kept striking him in the face with my heels.
Suddenly I was lifted up into the air and I began hitting him without touching the ground. When the end was near, I put my hands together, linking my fingers; I seized the head of the Egyptian, who fell to the ground and I put my foot on his head. The crowd began to shout and my supporters sang psalms. I went up to the chief gladiator and took the branch. He kissed me and said to me: "Peace be with you, my daughter! At this moment I awoke. I realized that it was not with wild animals that I would fight, but with the devil; but I knew that victory would be mine. Blandina was hung on a post and exposed as bait for the wild animals that were let loose on her.
She seemed to hang there in the form of a cross; she prayed continually in a strong voice, strengthening the brethren in their ordeal. In their torment the brethren there saw with their eyes Christ crucified for them in the person of their sister, to assure them that all who suffer for the glory of Christ will live forever in communion with the living God.
None of the animals touched Blandina, so she was taken down from the post and led back to the prison. She was kept for a new struggle. The victory won in further contests would bring final and inevitable defeat to the wicked serpent, and strengthen her brothers by her example. Tiny, weak and insignificant, she was clothed in the strength of Christ, the mighty and invincible athlete. As the day of the spectacle drew near, Felicitas was distressed that her martyrdom might be postponed because of her state, for it is against the law for women with child to be executed.
Three days before the contest they all prayed together to the Lord. Immediately the birth pangs came upon her. Because she was in labour after only eight months, she suffered much and groaned. One of the gaolers said to her: "If you groan like this now, what will you do when you are thrown to the beasts? You scorned them when you refused to sacrifice.
Like a farmer, he surrounded us with great care; he was not content with what appears on the surface and can be seen by all, but he delved, testing our most intimate depths, questioning, proposing, listening to our replies. Then, when he had noticed something in us which was neither unproductive or useless, but which promised some return, he dug it up, put it back, watered it and cleared away the rubbish; he brought to the task all his skill and attention, and he tormented us. Brambles, thistles, herbs and weeds and every kind of plant that our agitated souls produced in plenty, he cut off completely by his arguments and prohibitions.
When he had fully prepared us and made us worthy to receive the words of truth, then, as to a well-prepared and friable soil ready to germinate the grains sown in it, he brought his seeds in profusion I do not say that he was an example of a wise man, although if I did, it would be the truth; but he desired very much to be one. He did violence to himself, one might say, with all his zeal and ardour, beyond human strength. He did his best to form us, of course, in the same way, to give us mastery and understanding, not just of the impulses of the soul as an objective science, but of the impulses themselves.
He obliged us, if one can so speak, to practise justice by means of our own spiritual efforts to which he urged us to be faithful he turned us from the multiplicity of the affairs of this life and the tumult of public life, urging us to examine ourselves and be busy with our own affairs.
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What could be a more fitting task for the soul and worthy of it, than to be occupied with itself, not looking at things outside, nor being concerned with the affairs of others, without being involved, in a word, in the worst faults; but rather, turned towards its own interior life, to dwell within itself and practise justice? Amalech, the enemy of Israel, attacked and forced the people to turn aside from the true path. It was he, in fact, who first attacked the Hebrews as they left Egypt for Rephidin, when Moses said to Joshua: "Choose out some men and go out to meet Amalech tomorrow, I will stay on the top of the hill and hold the staff of God in my hand.
Understand by this who Amalech is whom God "attacks with his hand hidden," that is to say, without being seen. Here are two soldiers in armour; one is the soldier of God, the other the soldier of the devil. The soldier of God has the "shield of faith," the soldier of the devil the shield of unbelief. It is like a battle; when two men confront one another, it may happen that one of them falls, but then he gets up and becomes the conqueror.
Into the same way in our contest which we wage against the"Prince of this world," if perchance it happens that one of us is overcome and falls into some sin, it is possible that after this sin he may repent, rise up and hold the evil he committed in horror; and then afterwards not only is he on his guard, but he makes reparation to God, "bathing his bed with tears every night," making his own the confidence of the prophet: "Does anyone fall without being helped to rise?
Or does he who has fallen not get up again? Among the people of God there are some who are soldiers of God, as the Apostle said; they do not interfere with the affairs of the world. They "go to war," fighting against the hostile nations and "against the evil spirits," on behalf of the rest of the people of God and the weak who are hindered either by age or sex or by their own choice. They fight by their prayers, fasts, piety, gentleness and chastity.
All the virtues are their weapons of war, and when they return victorious to the camp, even the non-combatants who are not called or who are not able to fight profit from their labours. God will give the most excellent gift which is perfect purity in celibacy and chastity, to those who ask for it in their prayers with their whole soul in persevering faith. When a man mortifies his carnal desires, putting to death the works of the body through the spirit, carrying the mortification of Jesus in his body until he returns to the state of a child unaware of carnal love, then he is converted and becomes like a child.
The nearer he comes to this state, the greater he is in the kingdom of heaven, superior indeed to all the ascetics who have not attained such a degree of self-restraint. If you are mortified, you can bear excellent fruit; Isaac — Joy — is the first fruit of the spirit. Your seed, that is to say your deeds, will rise up to heaven and will becomes deeds of light compared to the shining splendour of the stars.
Moreover if your understanding is pure enough, your body holy and your deeds undefiled enough, you can bring forth Christ himself. Choose what is right, refers to the discernment of spirits. There are three principles: love of God, love of virtue and love of neighbour. This and the preceeding text show the importance placed by the Essenes on common ownership and manual work. These are all valuable in Christian monasticism: monks, lovers of Wisdom, seek apatheia , a state where they can control their passions; this state of peace brings them to prayer and contemplation.
A condition of this life is the abandonment of possessions. The table above shows further differences known from other sources between the Essenes and Therapeutae. The first represent Judaism in Palestine, the second in the Diaspora. But chastity must be seen as a proof of love, and it is love that makes one a martyr. The very beautiful story of the martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicity is made up of two parts. The second is the account of the martyrdom itself written by a witness, perhaps Tertullian.
The first is the journal which Perpetua wrote in her prison before she was put to death. In this account, this great woman recounted several of her dreams. This text is one of them, a premonitory dream which expresses the depths of the dreamer. I became a man — This refers to a well known context in the ancient world where the reunion of the sexes signifies a supernatural state of wellbeing like that of the gods.
A man of great height — In Judaeo-Christian literature God always appears as a very large man or angel. The next words need to be deciphered: purple , symbol of royalty; gold, symbol of divinity; silver , often refers to the Word cf. I knew victory would be mine — An optimism which we will find again: the devil is not to be feared, Christ has conquered him. This theme is found in the following text. Like a farmer — Gregory has retained the explanations of Origen who often spoke of the Father as a farmer and the field which is the soul. Basic education, for him, is the ability to be moulded: which we find in the following lines.
The example of a wise man — to become wise was the ideal of ancient man. A wise person then will be one who follows Christ, the fervent Christian or the monk. To reach this goal, Gregory recalls two teachings of Origen: self-discipline and knowledge; not a theoretical knowledge, but a practical understanding of the impulses of the soul. Plato described these impulses as the concupiscible and the irascible, or desire and anger.
Self-knowledge leads to self-discipline; ideas which we will come across again. Self-discipline and self-knowledge, Gregory continues, lead to justice. By justice he means one of the four great virtues of the Greeks he mentions the others in the passage following our text. It is the virtue which gives to each his due. According to Plato, justice is present when the impulses of the soul which Gregory has just mentioned are governed by reason.
There are here two images of the cross, Moses with his hands held up and with the staff in his hand. Thus it is by the cross and by prayer that "God attacks with his hand hidden" the demon Amalech. Later Antony will say that the demons greatly fear the sign of the cross. An important text for future monasticism.
In line 3 the soldier of God is seen as keeping at a distance from the world. Further on, his weapons are prayer, fasting and the virtues, which future monasticism will also develop. Finally one finds already in Origen a sense of the Mystical Body which justifies the usefulness of the monastic life; the monks fight for those who cannot. The history of monasticism begins then with Antony, for he was the first monk about whom anything was written. Writings by him: we have 7 letters from his own pen.
The first is a treatise on conversion and asceticism. The other six are addresses to his disciples. Writings about him: besides 38 apophthegmata whch are not very original, there is the Life of Antony by Athanasius. This is a book every novice should have read, it shows us what a bishop of the fourth century thought about monastic life. Let us first see who this bishop, the author of the Life of Antony.
Athanasius came from Egypt, the same country as Antony. At that time it was a large city, and a port where all sorts of people and religions met. There was an important Jewish community there and also a very active Christian community. But there was also darnel among the wheat, for it was at Alexandria that Arianism, the first of the great heresies began; it was spread by Arius, a priest of Alexandria. He said that Jesus was a man, indeed a great man, and very holy, but he was not God. Athanasius was one of the first to fight this heresy which caused much evil during the whole of the fourth century.
Already condemned at the council of Nicea , it was then condemned definitively at the council of Constantinople ; which affirmed that the Son is of the same nature as the Father. When Athanasius assisted at the council of Nicea he was only a deacon. A little later he was named bishop of Alexandria and he stayed there for 46 years until his death in During all that time he fought Arianism relentlessly.
He had to spend half his episcopate in exile; the emperors, who supported the Arian heresy for political reasons, first exiled him for 2 years in Treves, then for 5 in Rome. Then they condemned him to death and tried to kill him. Athanasius fled to his monk-friends in the desert to escape from the soldiers who were trying to capture him. He was completely safe with the monks who loved and venerated him. Three times Athanasius was forced to escape to the desert where he lived for a long time.
In this way he came to know the desert and the monks who lived there very well. These monks were not all holy people; in the beginning, people fled to the desert for all sorts of reasons: to evade paying taxes; to escape from military service which at that time was obligatory and very arduous.
Some, like Athanasius, went there for better motives; to avoid having to worship pagan deities and to escape persecution. But a great many of those who went to the desert experienced solitude as a good opportunity for a life of prayer and intimacy with God. Later they went to the desert because they felt called there by God.
There are two ideas about the desert which are both found in the Bible: it is a sterile and inhospitable land to which the scape-goat laden with the sins of the people is driven; or it is the place where God is loved, the land of betrothal. Both these aspects are found in the life of Antony. At this time, when Christianity was spreading, the desert seemed to be the only place left for him. He waged war against the monks who came to live there. The monk continued the work of redemption. This is one of the aspects of the desert. The other is more optimistic.
Although one went to the desert to fight against the devil, like Antony, an even stronger motive was to go there to meet God. The motivation is positive, one left the city of men for the city of God. This then was the setting in which Athanasius wrote the "Life of Antony. But neither is it a simple biography, like that of a celebrated man. Athanasius did not write at random, he had a purpose. He wanted to set right some deviations, correct deficiencies which he had noticed during his time with his friends, the monks.
He wanted to give them a model in the person of Antony, to show them what a typical monk was like. Another Father of the Church, Gregory of Nazianzan, said of the "Life of Antony" that it was a monastic rule in the form of a story Or. We will choose some texts: The introduction and vocation of Antony, where Athanasius underlines three conditions for being a monk. The few texts that we have looked at give us a glance at the life of Antony, as St Athanasius saw it. We can fill it out by looking at his letters. First of all we have the theme of the spiritual combat which we have seen in Origen.
This theme has great importance for Antony. It means a struggle against the devil, but at the level of the passions. Man was created good, he has become sick. The passions are a sickness of the heart. It is through them that the devil tries to lead us to perdition. This is why vigilance and asceticism are necessary, they slowly transform even the body. Antony is optimistic, he knows that we have nothing to fear from the devil if we resist him to his face.
He has no real power, for Christ has conquered him. In order to overcome him, first we must unmask him, which is why discernment of spirits is so important. Texts 13, Athanasius wants to tell us too that Jesus is there with us in our struggle Text 6 , he is present in his Spirit who gives us light and strength. In Letter 1 Antony calls the Spirit: "the friend of the heart" who "teaches us how to heal the wounds of the soul. Prayer, which brings us close to Jesus and his Spirit, is also very important in this struggle against the demon. In two places he quotes psalm "Do not let your eyes grow sleepy, nor your eyelids grow heavy" ; Perseverance is shown by the desire to progress a little more each day, it is always beginning again.
Another interesting point: the monk does not seek God by himself, he is united to all his brothers. The further he goes into solitude, the more he is in a mysterious way in contact with his brothers. Antony was an Egyptian. His parents were well-born and prosperous; they were Christians. From his earliest childhood he was brought up in the fear of the Lord. When he was a child he remained with his parents and he had no desire to leave them or his home.
As he grew older he did not want higher learning. He had no desire to be with other boys. He did what the Scriptures say about Jacob: he wanted only to remain quietly with his family. When he was a child he worked well. When he grew older he did not scorn his mother and father but did what they said. He paid attention to the readings at church and kept them carefully in his heart. His parents had money, but still the boy did not care about having much food and rich meals. That was of no interest to him. What they gave him was fine and he made no demands.
When his father and mother were dead, Antony went on living with his sister who was quite young. He was eighteen years old.
He was responsible for the house and his sister. While he was walking there he had something on his mind. He said to himself: "The Apostles gave up everything and followed the Lord; and in the book of the Acts it is said that the first Christians sold their possessions and they laid the money at the feet of the apostles for them to give to the poor. So they hoped to have a great reward in heaven. It was the time for the Gospel reading.
Antony heard the Lord saying to the rich young man: "If you desire to be perfect, go, sell your property, and give to the poor and follow me. Then you will have wealth in heaven. The land was rich and very fertile, and he gave it to the villagers. So he and his sister were free from that wealth. He sold all his furniture, keeping some things for his sister, and gave the money to the poor. On another day, Antony went into the House of God. He heard the Lord saying in the Gospel reading: "Have no care for tomorrow. His sister he put into the care of some faithful virgins for them to see to her education.
After that he gave himself to asceticism, not living in his house. He paid attention to his behaviour and made himself undergo hard living. At that time there were not many monasteries in Egypt. The monks did not know the great desert atall. One who desired to watch his behaviour did so alone near the village where he lived. In the neighbouring village there lived an old man who had been an ascetic by himself since his youth. Antony went to see him and tried to do as well as he did.
At first Antony himself began by living near his village. When he heard of a zealous man he acted like a wise bee, he went after him. Then he went back home. This was how he lived at first. He decided firmly not to go back to his possessions and to forget his family. The work of ascesis was all his desire, all that he sought. He worked with his hands because he had heard the word of St Paul: "If a man will not work, let him have no food.
He prayed all the time because he had learned that we should pray constantly in our hearts. He gave attention to the readings in church so that he did not let fall any of the words of Scripture.
Indeed he kept it all in his memory, and his memory took the place of books. When he went to visit some ascetics he obeyed them whole-heartedly. He wanted to learn how to imitate their good acts and the ascesis of each one, so as to act like them. He watched them and noted: this one is kind, that one is always in prayer. He saw how one was awake at night for prayer, another gave his attention to reading the word of God. This one gave him pleasure because he was patient, that one because he fasted and the earth was his bed at night.
He observed: this one is gentle, that one is generous. But it seemed to him that all of them had a great love and a holy fear for Christ and they all loved one another. After having struggled against the demon, Antony desired to be strong against himself. He went off some distance to the tombs. He asked a friend to bring him some bread from time to time. Then he went into one of the tombs, his friend shut the door and Antony did not come out again.
But the enemy refused to have that, he was afraid that the desert would soon be full of ascetics. So one night the demon came in with a great number of bad spirits. He whipped Antony so unmercifully that he fell speechless to the ground, so much did he suffer. The thought came to Antony: "These pains are so great; the blows of a man could not cause such great pains. But the Lord never abandons those who place their trust in him. So he took care of Antony. The next day his friend came with bread.
He opened the door, and saw Antony on the ground as if dead. He carried him to the church. There he put him down on the ground. But in the middle of the night. Antony came to himself. He opened his eyes and saw that all were sleeping and only his friend keeping watch. So he made a sign to him to come near and he made this request: "Take me back to the tomb while the others are still asleep.
The Lord did not forget Antony, for he had been fighting with evil spirits. He came to bring him help. So Antony looked up and this is what he saw: the roof seemed to be opening, a ray of light came down to him. Suddenly the evil spirits had gone. At the same time his body was no longer painful. The walls were standing up straight again, and the building was once more intact. Antony saw that the Lord had come to help him. He could breathe more easily. His sufferings were gone. Seeing the light, Antony said to the Lord: "Where were you? Why did you not come at the first to help me in my trouble?
You fight back well. You have not been overcome. Those words gave him such comfort that he was stronger than he had been before the fight.
Praying With Icons - Jim Forest
At that time Antony was about thirty-five years old. So he went to see the old man he had known before. Antony requested him to come and be with him in the desert. But the old man did not agree, he was not young, and it was not common to go off into the desert at that time. By looking at accounts of the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm from a variety of sources and perspectives, the contentious issues between accounts will be put into a wider perspective that considers fundamental differences in worldviews.
First and foremost, the initial inspiration for this project comes from my father, Dr. David Pittman Johnson, and my mother, Linda Russell Johnson, who endured sitting through endless hours of encouraging talks over the last four years. This work is dedicated to both of them. My primary supervisor, Dr. James Cox, was a constant and reliable guide throughout the entire Ph. Steven Sutcliffe, was also essential in helping me to define my focus and see its relation to the larger academic picture. There were countless monks and priests from Mount Athos, Essex, Edinburgh, and Alabama and elsewhere who gave a human face to my topic and humbly offered their first-hand knowledge and advice to me.
The New College office staff has also been instrumental in the completion of this thesis. Smith and Murphy…………….. Johnson on Appropriation……………………………………… In other words, nobody asks you to believe a single thing when you first start out. All you have to have in the beginning is quantity. Then, later on, it becomes quality by itself.
Salinger novel Franny and Zooey 37, This book plays a significant role in the history of the Jesus Prayer, but here the quotes, although fictional, are meant to illustrate two conflicting views of the central practices in this dissertation: the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm, which both describe aspects of an Orthodox tradition of inner prayer that was fully developed by the fourteenth century.
The two excerpts also provide a suitable point of entry into the issues dealt with in this work: they serve as a vivid example of the complex tensions that have resulted from the gradual escape of these practices from their original Orthodox Christian1 monastic settings into the wider world. The interpretational fallout that has resulted from this process is paralleled in other similar situations when such a local practice goes global and enters a wider sphere of contestation. As a result of their spread into increasingly diverse global settings, these practices have been invoked and adopted by groups that differ in their fundamental assumptions about the general nature of authority and tradition and make competing claims regarding the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm.
In other words, the present claim is that, along with a global geographical shift, the practices have undergone a global shift in their interpretative framework and conceptualising of tradition and authority. Rather than writing from within the same tradition and being subject to a particular shared authority, with a similar understanding of each, many of those currently writing about the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm come from a range of traditions, exist under a variety of authorities, and have various understandings of these traditions and authorities.
This interpretative shift can be most clearly seen in disagreements on specific issues such as how the hesychasm is related to other forms of interior prayer and how it relates to the wider Orthodox tradition. In order to unpack this claim of geographic and interpretative shift, it will be helpful to ask several relevant questions: What exactly is it that has shifted, or what are the practices in question?
How has this shift occurred? Where have the practices spread? How are the practices interpreted in various settings? What are the key issues that distinguish these interpretations? These questions also give a rough structure and chapter outline to the presentation. In the course of looking at the contextual and interpretive shift of the practices, more general issues and debates will come to the fore and help to situate the current topic in a broader scholarly context.
This introductory chapter will introduce motivations for studying the topic, methodological concerns, and principles of selection for sources. The following chapter will deal with the first question posed above: What are the practices in question? This involves defining the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm by way of a general description of the practices and their theological underpinnings with reference to several of the more widely known and commonly cited sources.
This question is addressed by providing a general historical overview that focuses on several key events that are crucial in the shift towards a more global context. These events, which are primary factors in the shift in interpretations and the resulting disparity between them, include immigration from countries with a strong Orthodox Christian presence into countries without such an historical presence, and the collection, publication, dissemination and translation of written materials on the topic of hesychastic prayer and the Jesus Prayer.
The purpose of the fourth chapter is threefold: to show the scope of settings in which the practices are now found, to give a general idea of what claims are being made in these settings, and to act as a first step towards a more detailed examination of contrasting claims between settings. To accomplish this, the fourth chapter will look at the wide range of groups that have adopted the practices or invoked their authority and some of the literature that has emerged from these groups.
This broad survey will lay the groundwork for a more detailed study of the specific claims being made in regard to the practices. The fifth chapter will then examine specific encounters and examples of interpretive conflicts on various issues between such groups. This chapter will make extensive use of popular sources of engagement, such as Internet blogs, discussion boards, and online book reviews. These sources can reveal a level of intimacy and honesty not often found in traditionally published material.
The contentious issues that emerge from this chapter will provide the material for the theoretical considerations found in subsequent chapters. The next several chapters will consider issues on which interpretations of the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm differ. The first issue, which is taken up in the sixth chapter, concerns the theoretical concept of authority. This chapter begins with a consideration of how theories on modes of transmission of traditions apply to the discussion of spiritual guidance. This is followed by a discussion of the notion of locality and globality and an appraisal of the relevance of the notion of subjectivization to the present topic.
The second issue addressed is the role of diverging interpretations of tradition in understandings of the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm. Following this is an examination of how the practices are seen as tools for the contemplative renewal of Christianity. The chapter will also look at the different ways hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer are seen in relation to the wider traditions of Orthodox Christianity and to forms of prayer in other religious traditions. The eighth chapter will discuss the debate over religious appropriation and the issue of therapy and religion.
The last chapter will conclude with a summary of the themes discussed and will directly address the thesis and reiterate the major conclusions of the dissertation. This chapter will also restate the importance of this particular study to wider discussions in the field of Religious Studies. Despite their extremely rich histories and importance in the contemporary and historical religious landscape of Orthodox Christianity and the wider world, these practices remain unexplored by Religious Studies scholars.
While there have been several noteworthy historical and theological studies of the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm from within academia, there is an overall lack of academic work on the subject in the field of Religious Studies in particular and there is certainly no single comprehensive text. It will not attempt to act as a comprehensive text, being limited to more modest goals, but it will hopefully act as an opening to a more widespread scholarly discussion of the subject within Religious Studies.
These and several other texts will be the primary works used to introduce the present topic in the remainder of the section. The lack of diverse scholarship on the subject is one reason for the decision to engage in a project on the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm and a second reason is their widespread popularity.
While they may have started as local or regional phenomena in Orthodox monasteries, the practices have since made their way across much of the globe, following closely behind the spread of the Orthodox Christianity. As well as spreading from an Orthodox monastic setting to an Orthodox lay setting, it has reached many other Christian denominations and into other traditions and worldviews outside Christianity.
A recent trip to a Barnes and Noble bookshop again confirmed this, with several volumes of the hesychastic collection called the Philokalia available for purchase in the Religion section. These books were among the handful of books related to Orthodox Christianity in the bookshop, and, therefore, were representatives of the religion as a whole.
This ubiquity, along with the lack of academic attention, is sufficient to warrant extensive research, but these reasons are joined by several other, more personal factors. One source of motivation for the project stems from growing up within several dioceses in the Orthodox Church in the United States. Growing up in Russian and Greek Orthodox churches in the United States, the Jesus Prayer was vaguely familiar to me, but not until much later did I learn that there was an entire tradition of interior prayer specifically associated with this short, unassuming prayer.
The rediscovery of this tradition that I had been so close to, and yet so unaware of, since childhood, added a deeper and more personal interest in and motivation for the project. When I began to read various accounts of the tradition, the tension between views of the prayer was quickly apparent. This text does not focus specifically on the Jesus Prayer, but acts as a good general reader on historical and theological points in Orthodox Christianity and is updated fairly often. Salinger late in The dynamic tension between these accounts also helped to reinforce my interest by adding a provocative element that called for more explicit, critical analysis.
One basic difference in this approach is that it will examine the topic as an issue both within and without the Orthodox Church, rather than only as the quintessential Orthodox prayer. In fact, the issues that arise from the tension between interpretations of the practice by different groups will be central to the focus of the project. The practice has traditionally been associated with Orthodox Christianity since this is the context it grew out of and where it became most prominent.
Because the practices have since gone beyond this setting, it seems appropriate to consider the new parameters of their use and interpretation. While existing literature sometimes touches upon the use of the practices outside of the church, the overall concern is typically to either connect the practice to other traditions and, in doing so, to claim an essential unity between this tradition and other traditions, or else to effectively distance it from other traditions and maintain its uniqueness.
The present study does not attempt to support either of these claims. Instead, the general motivation of this dissertation is to focus on several areas where perspectives on the practices differ and to attempt to understand what these differences can tell us and what brought about this situation. After an historical and theological background is used as an entrance into the topic, many of the subsequent sources will be from within the last century.
This is not the time period covered by existing academic studies, which tend to focus on the early history of the Jesus Prayer and hesychastic practice. Here, the more central concern is the way the practices are presently understood and used. Yet another divergence from past studies is in the range of sources used. For one, this will help to measure a demographically wider range of opinions on the topic, rather than relying only on recognised authorities for answers.
Many of these atypical sources are often not adequately considered in other literature because the authority and position of the speaker are usually the criteria for relevance. There is also an underlying assumption that there is a single, true understanding of how to pray and understand the Jesus Prayer. Here, such an assumption cannot be maintained at the outset or else the study will end up where it starts.
While the description of the practices does begin with several standard texts on the subject, the purpose of relying on these texts is to provide a starting point where one would typically begin when engaging in a study of the subject. Thus, the standard texts act as a springboard into a more thoughtful consideration of the complexities of the topic. Instead of immediately dismissing a claim as helpful or unhelpful because of its stance relative to a tradition, I hope to allow for a richer dialogue by allowing these voices a chance to speak rather than suppressing them. Looking to a wider variety of sources will also help in understanding how the practices actually function in everyday settings rather than idealising them or reducing them to their presence in certain authorised settings.
One major limitation that has been imposed, partly out of choice and partly out of necessity, is a linguistic one. A wealth of information relevant to the current topic exists in the Greek, Russian, Romanian, and Serbian languages, among others. What initially appeared to be an impediment to research was finally a useful check on the source material. The totality of this material is overwhelming in its volume. Such an abundance of material becomes unwieldy when applied to a focused research programme.
Therefore, only sources that are available in English translation have been consulted, with the exception of several cited sources that have not yet been translated. This study has both the advantage and disadvantage of being primarily a literary approach to the topic. It is my hope that future research on related topics will explore other methods of gathering data, such as interviews and accounts of participant observation, but the abundant written material that prompted the initial interest for the project takes priority in the current approach.
While much could be gained from in-depth fieldwork, surveys and interviews on the topic, the current approach has been restricted to written texts that are available for public scrutiny, either printed or online.
This is not to downplay the importance of such fieldwork for any detailed investigation that aspires to fully account for this, or any, phenomenon. Instead, the omission is due to the fact that it would require another dissertation in order to adequately deal with these approaches and the issues they raise. There is such an abundance of unexamined written material on the subject that there was no need to look elsewhere for inspiration and insight. No doubt, there come certain hindrances from an approach limited to written sources, but some of the intimacy of fieldwork can be found in sources such as Internet discussion boards and blogs.
Many of these popular sources were located by online research and so web-presence has often been an important factor in the inclusion of these sources. Thus, there are inevitably relevant groups that could have provided interesting material that have not been included in this study. Again, the sources that have been consulted have been more than sufficient to provide material for a rich and varied analysis of the topic. There exists much to be studied in relation to the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm in contemporary settings and the present approach is just one among many possible avenues of research.
Many new questions, issues, and avenues of research could emerge from a consideration of the themes examined in this dissertation. This is just to emphasise that the aim of the present project is not be exhaustive, but to offer an opening to a topic that is relatively unexplored territory in Religious Studies.
Each has its own value and purpose and, for the most part, they will complement each other as auxiliaries without one specific theoretical approach being primary. Therefore, there is not one methodological framework that exactly describes the present strategy of research and interpretation. The approach can be best characterised as employing a cluster of theories that revolve around the general concepts of authority, tradition, globalisation, and appropriation. The first concept, authority, will be explored in chapter six, primarily through the theories of Heelas and Woodhead on subjectivisation , Max Weber on the types of legitimate authority , and Ong on orality and literacy in relation to authority and the transmission of traditions The theme of globalisation does not have its own chapter, but is relevant throughout the discussion and will be addressed specifically during the discussion of authority in chapter six.
This chapter will also briefly discuss the concept of Orientalism in the work of J. Clarke The topics of appropriation and commodification 5 Other works on authority have been consulted without playing an integral part in the theorising. See Lincoln and Sennett Johnson , and David Howes a; b. Not all of these theorists will receive full or equal attention and there will be other relevant theories that are mentioned only in passing. Now the significance of some of these sources in relation to the project as a whole will be explained. These alternatives are described as life-as and subjective-life, respectively, and the authors see the contemporary shift as being increasingly towards subjective-life.
The authors take this idea of a subjective turn from the philosopher Charles Taylor and several others. Heelas and Woodhead see this turn as having taken place in much of Western culture generally and they maintain that, once its importance is properly recognised and taken into account, it can help to confront some of the confusions found within the contemporary academic study of religion.
Their thesis will be helpful in considering the present topic as it relates to the claim of a turn towards subjective authority in the religious sphere. The role of authority in subjectivisation is mentioned in The Spiritual Revolution, but is not explored in much depth. This typology relates the discussion of authority to the transmission of practices since the ongoing rationalization of religion is tied to the way a tradition originally based on charismatic authority becomes codified and changed into something that can be easily passed on to future generations.
Walter Ong provides some helpful insights into the importance of the medium of transmission and the distinctiveness of oral and written transmission as it relates to the type of authority that is operative in a certain tradition. Following this is a consideration of theories regarding the dynamic between the global and the local. This theme, explored in the works of Roland Robertson, Peter Beyer, and Zygmunt Bauman, concerns the natures of the settings where the practices originated and the settings where they have recently spread.
The setting characterised as local is understood to refer to the relative uniformity of authority, while the global setting is distinguished by its plurivocal authorities. The consequences of a cultural product going from one type of setting to another is also discussed, as when a global product is adapted for local use or a local product is globalised based on its local appeal.
Many of the aforementioned questions are also closely related to the issue of tradition. The discussion of tradition will begin with a consideration of the pioneering work of Edward Shils as well as Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Shils offers a solid foundation for subsequent studies of tradition with an understanding of tradition that makes room for self-reflexivity and critique as integral parts of tradition, which attempts to balance the forces of stasis and change.
The issue of tradition will be further explored with the help of Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. This act of antiquating is exposed as a strategy that bestows an appearance of authenticity, and therefore authority, to the group making the claim. In the process of delineating their thesis, the authors appear to make a distinction between invented and genuine traditions. Michael D. Clark responds to Hobsbawm and Ranger in his text about the American discovery of tradition as part of its own history, despite its best efforts to avoid it.
In his response, he makes a helpful distinction between tradition and heritage, with heritage being formative and tradition being normative as well as formative. Jonathan Z. Smith and Tim Murphy both discuss the balance of preservation and innovation that is inherent in the relationship between a canon, understood generally as tradition, and its interpreter.
One of the distinctions addressed is the novelty in interpretations that attempt to recover the original purity or essence of a canon that has long been ignored or suppressed in its received interpretation. Following this, the notion of detraditionalisation will be considered. There are several existing views on this matter that come to quite different conclusions concerning tradition, but the position to which the present study is most indebted is seen in John B.
This approach distinguishes between different aspects of tradition, claiming that while some aspects such as normative and legitimative functions have been significantly undermined by modernity, other aspects, for example, hermeneutic and identity- forming functions, have not. As she focuses on the structuring and restructuring of religious groups based on claims of belonging to authentic traditions, in some ways her thesis is closely linked to the theories of Hobsbawm and Ranger, but it does not use the same negative language and connotations.
These theoretical positions on tradition will collectively help to determine how to characterise the transition that has occurred as a result of the spread of the practices. One rift that can occur between understandings on the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm as they occur in different cultural settings is a disagreement on the issue of cultural property and appropriation.
For example, one group may see its ritual practices as essentially its own property or as something dangerous for others to tamper with or change. Other groups may view these same practices as part of the public domain and feel entitled to use them and share them with others. In other words, groups have different ideas about the ownership of the religious activities in which they engage.
Theorists fall into opposing camps regarding their estimations on whether cultural appropriation is good, bad, to be avoided, or inevitable but here I will be primarily concerned with exploring how the discussion on appropriation can be applied to the present context. Equally, there is often a movement in the other direction as local goods can become globalised and reshaped based on values that are foreign to their local existence, or the globalisation of the local. Taken together, these two processes constitute the phenomenon of glocalisation. Understood in one way, this work is about the popularisation of a practice.
In addition to the limitations already mentioned, several other criteria were used in selecting the material to be used. The non-academic sources that have been included here were chosen for several reasons. One reason was to ensure the involvement of sources that illustrated the variety of interpretations of the topic. This underscored the interesting fact that a single practice can be understood in several fundamentally different ways. This also opened the discussion for further exploration into exactly how and why some sources have different understandings.
Additionally, the variety of perspectives points to the profusion of groups that seem to find the practice meaningful. This principle will be especially operative in the process of giving a general account of the various relevant groups, and then when focusing on several in accounts in particular. Additionally, the principle of perspectival variety has kept the project from turning into a simple unilateral exposition of the practices.
Along with popular printed literature, a variety of popular online material was used. Sources such as blogs, bulletin board posts, and book reviews show that the issue is contentious within a broader segment of the population and not solely within theological or academic settings. They allow voices to be heard that do not have official group representation or that diverge from the mainstream opinion.
These settings also provide a shared space where views that may not normally interact can enter into honest, often anonymous, dialogue in an environment that may feel more personal or confidential. Exchanges that might normally take place only in private are often laid open for the perusal of any casual browser or the scrutiny of any researcher. These sources are also meant to remedy the general under-representation of such sources in research.
Though they are considered atypical or alternative, they are extremely popular forms of interaction today and are some of the richest sources for mining popular opinion. Since one of the issues most central to this study is the various ways in which authority is understood, by focusing only on specialist articles and books considered authoritative, the project would have neglected sources and voices not typically recognised as official that could potentially be more illustrative of the issues as they exist outside of the arena of specialists.
Another criterion used in choosing sources was the ability of a source to demonstrate the spread of the hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer. This spread involves movement into new geographic and social settings and also within the various sectors of a single group, such as the spread to the monastic, priestly, and lay ranks within a single religion or denomination.
Additionally, some sources were chosen based on their ability to cross boundaries and blur lines between perspectives, effectively showing the complexity of the topic by highlighting variations in understandings within a group. Often perspectives can cross traditional belief boundaries and this will be taken into account by selecting sources that do not always follow the party line within the group they represent.
While there will be a number of disparate groups mentioned throughout the course of this project, not all groups will be allotted the same amount of space. This is a result of the ranging relevance of sources that mention the practices. Some groups only mention the Jesus Prayer or hesychasm in passing and do not go on to explore them in detail. The degree of detail or degree of engagement can be considered another principle for deciding which accounts should have the most time in the spotlight. As mentioned earlier, I will begin by looking at the wide range of groups that have some relation to the practices, but several accounts and perspectives will emerge as particularly relevant due to their degree of engagement with the practices.
From the initial few readings I did on the Jesus Prayer, hesychasm, and prayer of the heart, the controversies, caveats and disagreements all seemed to involve a small number of themes that revolved around the nature of authority and tradition. Several contentious issues, among others, included the need for a spiritual guide, the similarity or dissimilarity of the practices to other traditions found outside of the Orthodox Church, and the role of method and technique. Reflecting on these issues led me to the conclusion that behind the diversity of issues at stake was a conflict that involved, more broadly, the themes and roles of authority and tradition.
I felt that, due to the amount of tension and variety these issues inspired, this conflict was central to understanding what gives rise to arguments and divergent interpretations of the practices. While there are unquestionably more issues to be explored, I have decided to keep these themes in the foreground and explore the role they have in the many sources that are available on the subject. Thus, if a source does not touch on these issues whatsoever, it is less likely to play a prominent role, though it may give some other information that is helpful to the project.
By determining the selection of sources based on the relevance to these themes, I do not intend to determine my conclusions at the outset, but rather to establish the boundaries of the investigation based on what appear to be common issues and themes at work in many accounts of the practices.
To do this, we will repeatedly refer to several of the most well-known and standard texts on the subject. It is a lifestyle that is characterised as ascetic, in the sense that it involves ascesis, or spiritual work, which is aimed at making one 6 Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is by far the most prolific scholar on the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm. The reliance of this chapter on his works is very much recognised and acknowledged, but it is an inevitable result of his overwhelming prominence in this area of study. This lifestyle is premised on the idea that external silence helps to facilitate internal silence, which is, in turn, the path to pure prayer and receptivity to grace As the inner silence that hesychia denotes is thought to be aided by external silence, monastic life, as a life that arduously seeks to avoid external distractions from prayer, is closely connected to hesychasm.
Though many sources repeatedly insist that hesychia is the ideal of every Christian and not just monks and nuns, monasticism is central to hesychasm as the lifestyle that is most complementary to the aim of inner stillness in prayer. There are several related terms from the Philokalia that are part of the same ascetic tradition known as hesychasm: proseuche prayer or inner attention , nepsis watchfulness , mneme theou memory of God and phylaki kardia guarding the heart.
The heart is purified when attention and watchfulness prevent the disturbance of the continuous memory of God by guarding against the entrance of other thoughts. The memory of God is often accomplished with the help of the repeated use of a prayer, typically the Jesus Prayer. This is sometimes described as progressive journey from the city to the desert to the cell and, finally, into the heart. The grace that was originally received during the mystery, or sacrament, of baptism, of which one is typically unaware in day-to-day life, becomes a perpetual fact of consciousness The author sees these four types as distinguishable, yet in no way mutually exclusive iv.
The various accounts of hesychasm that we will encounter at a later point will each stress these different elements to varying degrees, so that each may be speaking of different, if related, forms of hesychasm. While monasticism provided the soil for the practice to take root, hesychasm, as we will later see, is not limited to the monastic world. In other words, this first understanding of the term is also excessively broad and does not provide enough precision for our definition since it could refer to an extremely wide range of ideas and practices.
The second sense of hesychasm as a 14th century technique of prayer also has its own limitations. Both of these first two meanings will be important, but, if it is made to include the use of the Jesus Prayer,8 the second aspect will be the most instrumental in distinguishing hesychasm from other traditions and a necessary condition for the presence of hesychasm. Palamite theology underlies many accounts of hesychasm, but it often functions as an implicit rather than an explicit element, forming part of the vocabulary used to explain hesychastic experience.
It could be more or less succinctly characterised as the practice of non-discursive prayer with roots in Evagrian and Palamite theology and monastic spirituality that strives to attain inner silence and deification through the use of the Jesus Prayer and other physical techniques. The physical practices that distinguish hesychastic practice from other Orthodox prayer are summarised by Bishop Kallistos Ware as: repetitive use of a short prayer typically the Jesus Prayer , regulated breathing, specified posture and inner exploration Ware These four elements did not materialise together as a distinct tradition but came from pre-existing traditions that were bound together over time to become an identifiably unique practice.
Now some of the particular elements of hesychastic prayer will be examined in more detail. It is said to have been used without interruption in the Orthodox Church from the sixth century, at the latest, onward to the present day Ware The Jesus Prayer is sometimes used without the other features of hesychasm and this is often the role it takes in the lives of the Orthodox lay- community. The need for a spiritual guide or elder Russian staretz, Greek gerontas is often stressed as an important aspect of the advanced practice of the prayer, although it is claimed that elders are much less common than they once were 4, Ware and many others claim that, without proper guidance, the potential for delusion is so great that one should not even approach the more technical aspects of the Jesus Prayer without it With extremely thoughtful reading, the writings of Scripture and the Church Fathers on inner prayer can sometimes act as a guide themselves, but usually having a background in the faith is considered an essential precondition for practicing the prayer The Jesus Prayer is only one aspect of the more all-encompassing way of life that the term hesychasm implies.
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At the same time, the Jesus Prayer is more general than hesychasm in the sense that it is practiced in settings outside of a fully hesychastic life. The prayer is most often used repetitively as an aid to achieve constant prayer that is called for by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians and taken literally by those who practice hesychasm. Understandings of what exactly the Jesus Prayer encompasses can be various. Others argue that this is too loose of a definition and insist that the Jesus Prayer is distinct from these other variations and is primarily a tool for reaching continual prayer, arising from a more basic spontaneous expression of penthos Hausherr This simplicity allows anyone to devote themselves to it 3, One who is not theologically inclined can still pray this prayer with complete devotion because of its simple content and short length.
The flexibility of the prayer allows it to be at least partly personalised based on particular circumstances and individual needs.
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The Prayer is said to be applicable to many situations and many lifestyles: monks, nuns, clergy, and single or married laypeople in their various professions. It is sometimes said to encapsulate the whole of the Gospels and sum up the role of Jesus in the world. The idea that there is a power inherent in names, especially the divine name, is understood in terms of the Hebraic theology of the name ; Gillet In defining the Jesus Prayer and distinguishing it from other similar prayers, the presence of the divine name is said to be an essential and constant factor Ware Though clear references to the Jesus Prayer do not occur until around the sixth century, the content of the prayer is described as scriptural based on the reverence to the divine name in both Christian and Jewish scriptures Though the included name is said to give the prayer an advantage over other prayers, there is usually a delicate balancing act between attributing efficacy and preeminence of the prayer to the words it contains, or the thought and feelings behind them.
As Theophan the Recluse d. While the prayer is supplicatory in nature, the supplication is not rational or verbal, but comes from the silence deep within onself, where language is no longer necessary or useful and where one is closest to God The most direct encounter with God is only possible when all thoughts and words are laid aside The external silence that is demanded by this lifestyle is seen as an ideal situation in which to turn inward with prayer. As a result of this fall, humans became fragmented in a fundamental way with far-reaching effects that touch every aspect of existence.
The original natural harmony of intellect, desires, and emotions was thrown out of balance and thereafter these powers of the soul did not perform the functions they were naturally created for: the constant contemplation, desire, and praise of God. Instead, each became enchanted by the created world and humanity turned its attention to this created diversity rather than to the creator who was responsible for this diversity, effectively cutting the person off from their divine source.
Even the actual saying of the prayer should not be thought about while praying, but rather Jesus should be the sole object of attention 4. This internal disintegration is not a fact that most people are clearly aware of, but it becomes apparent as one begins to be transformed during metanoia, or change of mind, which is a perceptual shift in which grace is perceived directly rather than experienced unconsciously 3. This union does not operate in binary, as either full separation or full union, or progress in a steady, predictable way.
The path towards theosis is a spectrum on which the end of full theosis is completely realised only after death This progress is described as a journey down into the heart where the prayer reaches deeper and deeper levels of the self. Oral prayer is when one is attentively saying the prayer aloud. Ware describes the Patristic understanding of the heart well: The heart in this context is to be understood in the Semitic and biblical rather than modern Western sense […] it is our innermost being […] the centre not only of consciousness but of the unconscious, not only of the soul but of the spirit, not only of the spirit but of the body, not only of the comprehensible but of the incomprehensible; in one word, it is the absolute centre 17, These stages of prayer are thought of as more or less sequential steps in a development, but are not mutually exclusive.
The same spectrum that exists for the general path towards theosis applies to stages of prayer aimed at this goal as well. In other words, merely experiencing a high level of prayer does not make one immune from falling back into the lower stages. As one advances in this prayer, the one who is praying becomes silent and the prayer says itself as the self-active prayer of the Holy Spirit within oneself 1.
Letting the prayer speak without effort is actually letting God speak 2. Practiced freely, the prayer is to be prayed throughout the day at any available moments and especially in moments of anxiety or inner turmoil. This is the setting in which prayer aids and specific instructions are usually to be considered most applicable. According to Ware, one can use the prayer freely without ever making this kind of formal use of it 6. This is seen in both the free and fixed use of the prayer.
Additionally, there are certain settings where the Jesus Prayer takes on a communal character, being recited aloud by either one participant while the others pray silently, or by an entire group of participants praying aloud simultaneously or taking turns.
Since its goal is continual prayer, the Jesus Prayer is used communally in monasteries both within established services and outside of these times, such as while preparing food. Some Orthodox lay-communities also make use of the Prayer communally. In most accounts, the justification for this claim is traced to Biblical passages and Hebrew beliefs about the power of the divine name. Thus the attributes and powers of God were actually summoned when the holy name was uttered.
At many times in each of their studies, Hausherr and Gillet lament the uniformity used in the Jesus Prayer and, like Ware, argue for a more personal adaptation Hausherr ; Gillet While it is claimed that typically many years, or a lifetime, are required to achieve prayer of the heart, there are exceptions which would help support the idea that it is ultimately not a strictly formulaic and generic progression, but a unique path for each who embark on it and ultimately out of our control Ware Certain people are said to have had the natural predisposition and calling for this type of prayer and reach the state of self-acting pure prayer relatively quickly Sometimes this is linked to the particular vocation, personality type, or external circumstances of the one praying.
In other words, the Jesus Prayer may not be the best means of reaching theosis for everyone. This is usually defended by pointing out the Christian context and content of the Jesus Prayer. Even so, there remains the necessity of a deliberate effort of the human will to fulfil the aims of the prayer This emphasis on the balance of Divine-human synergy is at the core of many Orthodox descriptions of the use of the Jesus Prayer.
Like in other traditions, the prayer rope as it is used here helps one keep track of the quantity of prayers, with ropes having anywhere from 33 to knots or beads. There is often a tassel that dangles from the rope and this is said to be used for wiping away the tears that are considered vital signs of progress in the prayer by expressing metanoia.
Indeed, it is also seen as simply a task related to the prayer to act as an outlet for the body and a way for the body to be involved in the prayer 7. Sometimes writings suggest that the prayer be linked with the breath by synchronising the two. While the repetition of the prayer in some cases is recommended as slow and focused, for example one hundred times in an hour in Russian sources such as Fr. Ignatii Brianchaninov, other recommendations in the Greek tradition include recitation at a much faster pace, with briskness rather than deliberation being the aid for attention Several sources, such as The Way of a Pilgrim mention synchronising the heart beat to the prayer as well 8.
The aim of this is to bring the prayer from the mind into the heart with the breath and letting it stay there to work on the heart for a few seconds before exhaling Eventually, the heart will begin to pray automatically, but only by the grace of God. Whereas there is much effort involved in the first two stages of prayer, prayer of the heart is said to be strictly a matter of grace.
This would explain why some who work a lifetime to achieve it never do, while others achieve it with little effort. Still, the rule of thumb indicates that it takes a great deal of time and effort to reach the heights of prayer. The exact description of an advisable posture is not found in every prescriptive text of the prayer, but it is commonly taught that sitting is ideal, whereas most Orthodox prayers are performed standing.
The prayer, when said alone, is often done in darkness and silence. As darkness can often have a soporific effect, occasional prostrations are also suggested 7. In addition to the aids recommended based on the experiences of others, what is usually emphasised is that the prayer should be as attentive as possible and whatever aids in this is seen as acceptable.
This makes answering doubters even more difficult because the appeal is to different criteria altogether where spiritual suffering is the root of all other forms of suffering. Instead of social action, prayer is seen as the best service that those living a monastic life can provide. In order truly to become monks, persons must disengage with the world and its constant whirlwind of concerns on one hand, but also be acutely aware of suffering in the world and suffer on its behalf in constant prayer for everyone and everything in it.
This may, however, only apply to a certain level of spiritual development as some monks are thought to be able to remain in this state of pure prayer continually while being simultaneously engaged in the world. Thus the life of a hesychastic monk is seen as a specific calling which is only for some, and which may require that some tasks, such as social activism, be left up to those who have other callings. One argument against the supposed isolation from the real problems of humanity is that the monastic lifestyle, rather than simply addressing the surface of the problem or the effects of fallenness, is a direct encounter with the internal root of all human problems in fallen nature.
The heart is seen as the place where evil emerges and also where the human and divine meet, and therefore it is necessary to return to this source in order to truly confront our problems and almost infinite potential for development. As prayer is understood as a supremely effectual act, it follows that, from this perspective, constant and pure prayer for the entire world would be regarded as fruitful and anything but selfish.
Seraphim of Sarov d. In this respect, the psychological dangers that lie on the hesychastic path are sometimes emphasised. The imagination Greek phantasia can produce visions that one mistakenly takes as visions of the divine light and assumes to be indications that one has already reached pure prayer 14, Having discussed the general characteristics of the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm, we will now go on to consider how these traditions were formed and how they were spread from their original settings into a more global environment.
The factors contributing to this spread that will be considered fall under many headings, including literary, political, and theological. A general historical overview of the practices will help to highlight these factors, which will play a role in theoretical discussions in later chapters. We have already seen how several elements of the Jesus Prayer can be distinguished: the invocation of the name of Jesus, the appeal for mercy with sorrow for sin, the discipline of frequent or continual repetition of prayers, and the attempt to reach a state of non-discursive prayer Ware b: ; While evidence suggests that these elements only coalesced into the recognisable practice of the Jesus Prayer in the fourteenth century, each of these elements can be found to exist on its own in much earlier texts.
Still, there are a number of important events that have determined the historical course of this tradition. We will now see how aspects of the practices emerged and eventually merged to form the practice later known as the Jesus Prayer. The ideal of continual prayer in Christianity can be traced back at least to this period Ware After the end of the Diocletian persecutions in the second century CE and the subsequent legalisation of Christianity by Constantine I d. Though the writings were collected in the fifth or sixth century Harmless , they derive from earlier Coptic sources and it is most probable that, when originally written down, they were primarily intended for a localised monastic audience.
Like most monastic texts, there is much that is left unsaid about the monastic context in which they were written since the texts were written in a small local context and this background knowledge was assumed. The repetitive prayers of the Desert Fathers usually took the form of a memorised selection from Christian scripture, often a Psalm Ware The brevity of these prayers allowed the monks to engage in their day-to-day activities while keeping God constantly in mind and therefore present throughout the day Some of these phrases, such as Psalm 69 and Psalm 50, are related to appeals for mercy and expression of sorrow for sins, or penthos, which is the second element of the Jesus Prayer, but there does not seem to be a special preoccupation with the name of God in the Apophthegmata Patrum Likewise, there is no real emphasis on apophatic or image-less prayer.
The element of imageless prayer was introduced in the fourth century by Evagrius of Pontus d. He inherited this apophatic approach primarily from the Cappadocian Fathers, and especially Gregory of Nyssa Ware The Cappadocian Fathers, in turn, were themselves elaborating on the third century works of Clement of Alexandria d. Apophaticism later became an important element in the development of the Jesus Prayer as the fourth element mentioned above. While Evagrius was taught by several of the Desert Fathers, such as Macarius the Great, his writings are a departure from their style and approach to prayer and the spiritual life.
We have now seen the emergence of three of the four elements of the Jesus Prayer: short, repetitive prayers, compunction, and imageless, interior prayer. Writing in the fifth century, Nilus of Ancyra d. When the outlets of the mind are blocked in non-discursive, imageless prayer, the mind is said to need an outlet for activity, and the name of Jesus is given as a remedy for this mental restlessness Diadochus says that through determined effort, the invocation will grow to be more spontaneous and effortless, as if it had a will of its own, and will act as a guard over the mind and heart, repelling all that is foreign to our human nature in its original perfection Thus, Diadochus provides a specific method for reaching the apophatic prayer that was first described in detail by Evagrius.
Barsanuphius d. Ware claims that the sources point to the initial use of the name of Jesus in a longer formula Gillet, ; Hausherr, ; Ware, In the following several centuries, several Orthodox monks wrote notable works on the Jesus Prayer, such as John Climacus, or John of the Ladder d. These authors speak of the Jesus Prayer as a tool for unifying inner attention, stripping the mind of mental images, and eventually reaching a state of hesychia The prayer becomes even more prominent and descriptively detailed in the works of Gregory of Sinai d.
Additionally, his disciples settled in Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia and propagated hesychastic teachings in these areas Ware c: In this way, Gregory of Sinai functioned as a link between the Coptic and Greek worlds in his move from Sinai to Athos and also, as a link between the Greek and Slavic worlds through his disciples It has hosted monasteries since at least the ninth century and is known for its tight restrictions on visitors. For an in-depth study of Mount Athos, see Speake and Sherrard However, Ware does point out that the Jesus Prayer cannot be found in all early Orthodox writings.
It is not explicit in the writings of some of the most influential Orthodox theologians of this period, such as Pseudo-Dionysius, Isaac of Syria d. This official theological explanation helped ground the prayer in a doctrinal formulation and consequent authority that continues to exist in the Orthodox Church. By grappling with the question of how to relate apophatic theology to the experience of God, hesychasts in the fourteenth century brought together both Evagrian and Pseudo-Macarian terminologies and formulated a mystical doctrine which attempted to address both of these issues Ware The key figure in this debate was the Athonite monk Gregory Palamas d.
Palamas responded to the first by claiming that the hesychastic methods of prayer were actually based on the biblical notion that the entire human is made in the image of God, rather than just the human intellect. Therefore, he argued, it must also be appropriate for the body and the mind to both be involved in prayer.
To answer the next two criticisms, Palamas brought up the distinction first formulated by Philo d. Therefore, a true vision of this divine light is indicative that one has undergone theosis to a significant degree This light is regarded as one of the divine energies, which are considered uncreated, fully divine and eternal. Through these councils and controversies, hesychastic methods and the experience of God as the vision of the divine uncreated light were confirmed as key elements in Orthodox theology, where they have remained to the present day.
Following the culmination of hesychast victory in these councils, the tradition on Mount Athos slowly declined until the eighteenth century, due partly to the political situation on the Ottoman occupation of Greece. Between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, Palamite-inspired hesychasm spread to areas north of Greece such as Moldavia, Serbia and Russia. Anthony of Kiev d. Sergius of Radonezh d. Both Russian and Greek monks brought the theology of Gregory Palamas to Russia, and disciples of Sergius of Radonezh were on Mount Athos at the height of the hesychast controversy during the fourteenth century xxii.
This group maintained that the best way to strengthen the Greek people under Turkish rule was a popular rediscovery of the Byzantine church fathers, rather than looking to the views of Western European Enlightenment that educated Greeks were bringing from their education abroad Ware The two editors of this collection are very clear in their introduction that the Philokalia was meant to be not only for monks, but also for Orthodox laypeople Sherrard