Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fr Bede Griffiths on Jesus Prayer

"If anyone asks me how I pray, my simple answer is that I pray the Jesus prayer. Anyone familiar with the story of a Russian pilgrim will know what I mean. It consists simply in repeating the words: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I have used this prayer now for over 40 years and it has become so familiar that it simply repeats itself. Whenever I am not otherwise occupied or thinking of something else, the prayer goes quietly on. Sometimes it is almost mechanical, just quietly repeating itself, and other times it gathers strength and can become extremely powerful.

I give it my own interpretation. When I say, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God", I think of Jesus as the Word of God, embracing heaven and earth and revealing himself in different ways and under different names and forms to all humanity. I consider that this Word "enlightens everyone coming into the world", and though they may not recognise it, it is present to every human being in the depths of their soul. Beyond word and thought, beyond all signs and symbols, this Word is being secretly spoken in every heart in every place and at every time. People may be utterly ignorant of it or may choose to ignore it, but whenever or wherever anyone responds to truth or love or kindness, to the demand for justice, concern for others, care of those in need, they are responding to the voice of the Word. So also when anyone seeks truth or beauty in science, philosophy, poetry or art, they are responding to the inspiration of the Word.

I believe that that Word took flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and in him we can find a personal form of the Word to whom we can pray and to whom we can relate in terms of love and intimacy, but I think that he makes himself known to others under different names and forms. What counts is not so much the name and the form as the response in the heart to the hidden mystery, which is present to each one of us in one way or another and awaits our response in faith and hope and love.

When I say, "have mercy on me, a sinner", I unite myself with all human beings from the beginning of the world, who have experienced separation from God, or from the eternal truth. I realise that, as human beings, we are all separated from God, from the source of our being. We are wandering in a world of shadows, mistaking the outward appearance of people and things for reality. But at all times something is pressing us to reach out beyond the shadows, to face the reality, the truth, the inner meaning of our lives, and so to find God, or whatever name we give to the mystery which enfolds us.

So I say the Jesus prayer, asking to be set free from the illusions of this world, from the innumerable vanities and deceits with which I am surrounded. And I find in the name of Jesus the name which opens my heart and mind to reality. I believe that each one of us has an inner light, an inner guide, which will lead us, through the shadows and illusions by which we are surrounded, and open our minds to the truth. It may come through poetry or art, or philosophy or science, or more commonly through the encounter with people and events, day by day. Personally I find that meditation, morning and evening, every day, is the best and most direct method of getting in touch with reality. In meditation I try to let go of everything of the outer world of the senses, of the inner world of thoughts, and listen to the inner voice, the voice of the Word, which comes in the silence, in the stillness when all activity of mind and body ceases. Then in the silence I become aware of the presence of God, and I try to keep that awareness during the day. In bus or train or travelling by air, in work or study or talking and relating to others, I try to be aware of this presence in everyone and in everything. And the Jesus prayer is what keeps me aware of the presence.

So prayer for me is the practice of the presence of God in all situations, in the midst of noise and distractions of all sorts, of pain and suffering and death, as in times of peace and quiet, of joy and friendship, of prayer and silence, the presence is always there. For me the Jesus prayer is just a way of keeping in the presence of God."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

St. John Chrysostom on the Importance of Daily Reading of the Scriptures



St. John Chrysostom on the necessity of reading scripture daily.
I also always entreat you, and do not cease entreating you, not only to pay attention here to what I say, but also when you are at home, to persevere continually in reading the divine Scriptures.

When I have been with each of you in private, I have not stopped giving you the same advice. Do not let anyone say to me those vain words, worthy of heavy condemnation, "I cannot leave the courthouse, I administer the business of the city, I practice a craft, I have a wife, I am raising children, I am in charge of a household, I am a man of the world; reading the Scriptures is not for me, but for those who have been set apart, who have settled on the mountaintops, who keep this way of life continuously."

What are you saying, man? That attending to the Scriptures is not for you, since you are surrounded by a multitude of cares? Rather it is for you more than for them. They do not need the help of the divine Scriptures as much as those do who are involved in many occupations. The monks, who are released from the clamor of the marketplace and have fixed their huts in the wilderness, who own nothing in common with anyone, but practice wisdom without fear in the calm of the quiet life, as if resting in a harbor, enjoy great security; but we, as if tossing in the midst of the sea, driven by a multitude of sins, always need continuous and ceaseless aid of the Scriptures. They rest far from the battle, and so they do not receive many wounds; but you stand continuously in the front rank, and you receive continual blows. So you need more remedies.

Your wife provokes you, for example,
your son grieves you,
your servant angers you,
your enemy plots against you,
your friend envies you,
your neighbor curses you,
your fellow soldier trips you up,
often a law suit threatens you,
poverty troubles you,
loss of you property gives you grief,
prosperity puffs you up,
misfortune depresses you,
and many causes and compulsions to discouragement and grief, to conceit and desperation surround us on all sides, and a multitude of missiles falls from everywhere.

Therefore, we have a continuous need for the full armor of the Scriptures.

For recognize, it is written, that you go through the midst of snares and walk on the ramparts of the city. For example, the designs of the flesh attack more fiercely those who live in the midst of the world.

A handsome face,
a splendid body strikes us in the eyes;
a shameful phrase piercing our ears troubles our mind;
and often an effeminate song weakens the tension of our soul.

But why am I saying this? That which often seems the slightest of all these attacks, the scent of perfume falling from courtesans as they pass somewhere nearby has captured and taken us away as prisoners by a mere accident. And there are many things like these which besiege our souls: we need the divine medicines to heal the wounds which we have received and to protect us from those which we have not yet received but will receive.

We must thoroughly quench the darts of the devil and beat them off by continual reading of the divine Scriptures.

For it is not possible, not possible for anyone to be saved without continually taking advantage of spiritual reading.

Actually, we must be content, if even with continual use of this therapy, we are barely able to be saved. But when we are struck every day, if we do not use any medical care, what hope do we have of salvation?

Reading the Scriptures is a great means of security against sinning. The ignorance of Scripture is a great cliff and a deep abyss; to know nothing of the divine laws is a great betrayal of salvation. This has given birth to heresies, this has introduced a corrupt way of life, this has put down the things above. For it is impossible, impossible for anyone to depart without benefit if he reads continually with attention.

St. John Chrysostom On Wealth and Poverty , pg. 58-60 Saint Vladimir Press