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“First of all, although men have a common destiny, each individual also
has to work out his own personal salvation for himself in fear and
trembling.  We can help one another to find out the meaning of life, no
doubt.  But in the last analysis the individual person is responsible
for living his own life and for ‘finding himself.’  If he persists in
shifting this responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the
meaning of his own existence.”

Thomas Merton

“I understand very well, father! For the sake of God teach me how to obtain it,” I exclaimed with joy.


“We shall read about how to learn this prayer in the book called the Philokalia. It contains the complete and detailed sci­ence of unceasing interior prayer, expounded by twenty-five holy fathers. So sublime and profitable is this book that, it is revered as the chief and primary guide to the contemplative spiritual life and, as Saint Nikiphoros expresses, ‘it leads to salvation with­out labor and fasts.'”


“Is it then more sublime and holy than the Bible?” I asked.


“No, it is not more sublime nor is it holier than the Bible, but it does contain lucid explanations of what the Bible holds mysti­cally and what cannot be easily grasped by our short-sighted mind. I will give you an example of this. The sun is the greatest, most bril­liant, and most excellent luminary of the heavens, but you cannot contemplate it and examine it with the naked eye. You need a piece of treated artificial glass and although it is a million times smaller and duller than the sun, with the glass you can examine this magnificent emperor of the heavenly luminaries, admire it and attract its fiery rays. In the same way Sacred Scripture is a brilliant sun and the Philokalia is the necessary piece of glass which facilitates our access to that most sublime luminary. Listen now and I will read by what means unceasing interior prayer is to be learned.”


The elder opened the Philokalia, searched for an instruction of Saint Symeon the New Theologian and began: “Sit in silence and alone. Bend your head. Close your eyes. Breathe ever more quietly. With the imagination look inside your heart. Carry your intellect, that is your thought, out of your head and into your heart. As you breathe say quietly with your lips or in your intellect alone: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’… Try to drive away your thoughts. Keep restful patience and repeat this process very frequently.”

The Pilgrim’s Tale (Classics of Western Spirituality)

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