As a seeker I feel there is still much within Orthodoxy.
Many who despise religion and Christianity in particular have a problem with the concept of Sin.
For a seeker I feel this is a ridiculous notion. To me admitting that one makes mistakes is a good idea. Simply saying sorry, and reconciling how you
personally have messed up. What is wrong with simply recognising as a human being you make mistakes? The problem occurs if you don’t move on from them.
Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repetitively with the same results. By realising you have made a mistake you can grow, move on and grow toward the Rose (the true self).
To me, sin is merely anything that I place before myself and the Rose itself. Yes the exoteric place rules and regulations, but really if one looks deep enough, the overall heart of those regulations are to help us reach our true selves (Yes I am aware they have been twisted by agenda, but at their heart….).
There is much to learn for a seeker from main stream religion, many hidden pearls that lie within the mud. One merely has to open their heart to find them.
–Br Benjamin A
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
The actual words of our short prayers can vary. We might say the classic version of the Jesus Prayer, or we might say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” We may say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy.” Or, we might say a Psalm verse, or a Bible quote, or some other prayer.
Monks of old said, “Lord, make haste to help me. Lord, make speed to save me,” all day long.
The history of the Jesus Prayer goes back, as far as we know, to the early sixth century, with Diadochos, who taught that repetition of the prayer leads to inner stillness. Even earlier John Cassian recommended this type of prayer. In the fourth century Egypt, in Nitria, short “arrow” prayers were practiced.
Abba Macarius of Egypt said there is no need to waste time with words. It is enough to hold out your hands and say, “Lord, according to your desire and your wisdom, have mercy.” If pressed in the struggle, say, “Lord, save me!” or say, “Lord.” He knows what is best for us, and will have mercy upon us.
The Jesus Prayer is also called the Prayer of the Heart. In Orthodoxy, the mind and heart are to be used as one. St Theophan tells us to keep our “mind in the heart” at all times. Heart means the physical muscle pumping blood, and emotions/feelings, and the innermost core of the person, the spirit. Heart is associated with the physical organ, but not identical with it. Heart means our innermost chamber, our secret dwelling place where God lives.
“The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angles, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace; all things are there.” So says St. Macarius.
Someone said the heart is a dimension of interior consciousness, awareness, where we come in touch with an inner space, a space of no dimensions. This consciousness is timeless, the place where tears reside and deep contact with the present moment abide, and from which restful movement comes. Acting out of our heart means to act lightly, with vigor and enthusiasm. When not in that inner awareness, we are restless, agitated and self-concerned.
There is within us a space, a field of the heart, in which we find a Divine Reality, and from which we are called to live. The mind, then, is to descend into that inner sanctuary, by means of the Jesus Prayer or wordless contemplation, and to stay there throughout our active day, and evening. We descend with our mind into our heart, and we live there.
The heart is Christ’s palace. There, Christ the King comes to take His rest.
Contemplation has been described as clear awareness without words. Contemplation is a “seeing clearly.” We lay aside thoughts, not to lead to a vacuum or drowsiness, but to inner plenitude. We deny to affirm. Wordless contemplation is not an absence, but a presence, a God-awareness. The aim is to bring us into a direct meeting with a personal God, on God’s terms.
Inner silence, inner stillness, called hesychia, is experienced by wordless sitting, imageless contemplation. When consciousness strays, a phrase like “Lord Jesus” can be used to bring the mind back, and then the person sits quietly in the presence of the Lord. The desire of wordless sitting awareness is to open oneself to God, to listen to God.
Some teachers suggest that if we are able, we spend a half hour of wordless sitting, begun by asking God to teach us to pray, or a Bible quote. Usually this is best done in the morning, upon rising or before noon. If the person is able, a block of the some quiet time is also recommended for the evening. Hopefully, all this is worked out with the direction of a spiritual guide.
Both the Jesus Prayer and contemplation make us single-centered, concentrating upon the here and now, focused, one-pointed. The point is God.
We don’t say the Jesus Prayer, or enter wordless contemplation, to get “some benefit.” We don’t pray to reduce our stress, or strengthen our immune system, or lose weight, or add years to our life. On the contrary, we enter prayer to follow Christ, to become open to Him. His way is the Way of the Cross.
The Jesus Prayer is one of the oldest of Christian prayers,
dating in its original form to the words the two blind men
cried out to Jesus in Matthew 20:31. It was formalized
by the Orthodox Churches in the 5th century.
Contained in the prayer is a uniquely clear
summation of the Christian faith:
Jesus the man is declared by name to be the Christ,
the annointed one of God,
as well as being the Lord of our lives;
he is declared to be the Son of God,
and therefore divine; he is declared to be
in the position of judgment and mercy,
and we confess to be sinners requiring His grace.
The practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches
calls for the Jesus Prayer to be used for the constant prayer
that Saint Paul speaks of in his First Letter
to the Thessalonians (5:17), where the prayer is kept
on the lips and in the hearts of believers at all times.
In its ultimate form, this prayer method
is called Hesychasm.
It also serves as perhaps the
most succinct Gospel message available.
Russian mysticism is predominantly monastic (though one meets an occasional exception like the modern non-monastic mystics, Father John of Kronstadt-recently canonized by the Orthodox Church-and Father Yelchaninov). It therefore thrives in solitude and renunciation of the world. Yet iyone who has even the most superficial acquaintance with Russian Christendom is aware that the monasteries of Russia, even more than those of the West, exercised a crucially important influence on society, whether as centers of spiritual life and transformation to which pilgrims flocked from everywhere, or as bases for missionary expansion, or, finally, as powerful social forces sometimes manipulated-or suppressed‑for political advantage. Such struggles as those between St. Nilus of Sora.and St. Joseph of Volokolamsk speak eloquently E the age-old conflict, within monasticism itself, between the iarismatic drive to solitary contemplation plus charismatic pastoral action, and the institutional need to fit the monastic community into a structure of organized socio-religious power, as a center of liturgy and education and as a nursery of bishops.
Other conflicts, such as that between Eastern Orthodox spirituality and Westernizing influences, play an important part in the lives of the monks and mystics of Russia. Many students of Russian spirituality will be surprised to learn what a great part Western theological attitudes and devotions played in the formation of St. Tikhon in the eighteenth century. The seminary which Tikhon attended was organized on the Jesuit pattern and yet he was not influenced by postTridentine Catholic thought. Dr. Bolshakoff identifies him rather with German pietism. In any case, we must not be too quick to assume that St. Tikhon’s spirituality is purely and ideally “Russian.” Yet, paradoxically, this combination of Western and Eastern holiness is a peculiarly Russian phenomenon. St. Tikhon was perhaps the greatest mystic of the age of rationalist enlightenment.
Russian mysticism is to be traced largely to the greatest monastic center of Orthodox mysticism, Mount Athos. Ever since the eleventh century the Russian monastic movement had been nourished by direct contact with the “Holy Mountain”-interrupted only by the Tatar invasions of the Middle Ages. Liturgy, asceticism, and mysticism in Russia owed their development in great part not to literary documents but to the living experience of pilgrim monks who spent a certain time at Athos, either in the “Rossikon” (the Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon) or in various sketes and cells, before returning to found new monasteries or renew the life of old ones in their country. Periods when, for one reason or another, communication with Athos has diminished have also been periods of monastic decline in Russia.
One of the characteristic fruits of Russian monachism on Athos is the “Prayer of Jesus,” the constant repetition of a short formula in conjunction with rhythmic breathing and with deep faith in the supernatural power of the Holy Name. This was a Russian development of the Greek Hesychast way of prayer taught by St. Gregory Palamas. The “Prayer of Jesus” became the normal way of contemplative prayer in Russian monasticism, but, more important still, it was adopted on all sides by devout lay people, especially among the masses of the poor peasantry.
Until recently, Western theologians were highly suspicious of Athonite “Hesychasm” and regarded it as perilous, even heretical. Deeper study and a wider acquaintance with non Western forms of spirituality have made Hesychasm seem a little less outlandish. It is now no longer necessary to repeat the outraged platitudes of those who thought that the Hesychasts were practicing self-hypnosis, or who believed that, at best, the monks of Athos were engaged in a kind of Western Yoga.
The “Prayer of Jesus,” made known to Western readers by the “Tale of the Pilgrim,” surely one of the great classics of the literature of prayer, is now practiced not only by characters in Salinger’s novels but even at times by some Western monks. Needless to say, a way of prayer for which, in its land of origin, the direction of a “starets” was mandatory, is not safely to be followed by us in the West without professional direction.
–Thomas Merton (Mystics and Zen Masters)
The Pilgrim’s Tale