Teaching subjects on the orthodox christian life
When God, The Holy Trinity, created us He gave us a purpose to live. This purpose is the “God’s likeness”, to become like Him, to be gods through His Divine grace and after our free will. The Church Fathers have written many things in order to help us to find our way to “likeness of God”, the perfection.
The work for perfection is not an easy one especially after the original fall. That is why God Jesus Christ became Man in order to help us to reach our original goal, the deification, the perfection. Saint Basil the Great says: “God became man in order man become god”. Church Fathers who dedicated their life to the teaching of the Gospel and the unconditional love for God, for fellow human beings and for the world generally. They have written some practical teachings on the Christian life just to help the faithful people to improve themselves in spiritual life and to imitate Jesus Christ in every day practice. We present here the following subjects that can be a good help to those who want sincerely to be in God’s path and to reach deification – God’s likeness.
These subjects are practical enough and can be a good help for those who are dedicated to teaching the Orthodox faith to other people. Of course it is absolutely necessary first the teacher to pay special attention to the content of the subject that he/she is going to teach others and to try to put it into practice. So that it will be his/her own personal practice and not theories, in order to be a teacher through life and vivid example rather than through words. The teacher can organize the program of teaching in such a way in order to give people a clear idea about the Christian spiritual life in our Orthodox Church and to help them to want to try to live according to God’ will. He/she has to present first the whole subject, in a very clear and understandable way, and after that to give them the opportunity to express themselves by asking questions and saying their own opinions. A good discussion after the presentation of the subject is always necessary and very helpful.
1. DAILY LIFE OF AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
Every morning when we get up and start a new day, we make plans in our mind to do some things. We mention here an incident from the life of St. German of Alaska. Some people asked him what was the most important thing he had in mind every morning starting the new day. He gave this answer: “I say to myself, try above everything else to do this: from this day forward, from this hour, from this minute, start to love God above all.” A very important answer! It puts stress on: “Now”, “this hour” in other words on immediate action. We have to love God, not starting tomorrow, in the future, not at some other time, but at this moment, this hour and now, today, from this day forward, from this hour, from this minute. The devil says to us “do that later,” “tomorrow” but God says to us to do it “now”, “today”. This is what we find again and again in Holy Scripture. In the Psalm 94, for example, it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart”. God speaks to us today with many occasions. We have to think of how Christ begins His public preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. He reads from the book of Isaiah which says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, He has anointed me to preaching good news to the poor”. And then our Lord closes the book and He says to the people: “Today this text has come true”. The first word of Christ’s public preaching in St. Luke’s Gospel is: “Today”. And St. Paul says the same: “Behold, nowis the day of salvation”. The accepted time, the decisive moment is this moment, NOW. So the most important moment is the present moment through which we are now living. The most important person is he whom we are meeting here and now. And the most important task is the particular thing that we are doing at present. The questions now come: How are we to have a kind of watchfulness? What is the meaning of “now” in our life? What actually disturbs us from doing good things now? Why do we postpone our duties for another time? Generally we are quick to take decisions and very slow to put them into action. We are always ready to postpone our work for tomorrow, to put into action our decision later and not now. Christian life must have a starting point Now, not tomorrow, not later. Each moment opens out for us eternity, heavenly life. We must be attentive all the time; attentive but not anxious. Our slogan must be: “Do it now”! Practical ways in everyday life Let us suggest a few practical ways that may be obvious, but it can help us to live our daily life properly as Orthodox Christians. 1) First of all ask the question: “How do I start the day? What is the first thing I should do when I wake up? Surely, as Christians, the first thing we should do is to make the sign of the cross. We should begin the day by saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. We should begin the new day, with a sense that this is the day of the Lord, a new day that God gives us; as the Psalms say: “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”. We should not begin the new day with a sense of fear, anxiety or a sense of boredom: another day, ah, the same thing over again. We should begin the new day with a sense of hope and thankfulness, a sense that we have a new opportunity: this new day is a gift of grace from God. We should live each day as if it were the first day in our life, even to think that this day may be our last day on this life. And by making the sign of cross we are affirming that we accept with joy and hope this new day as a gift from God. 2) What is the last thing that we should do when we lie down to rest? Surely once more we should make the sign of the cross. The Fathers of the Church also tell us that when we lie down to rest we should think about death. That is often misunderstood. For many people to think about death sounds like something morbid and unhealthy. But what is meant in our Orthodox tradition by the remembrance of death is something quite different. We are to be aware how close to us the world of the eternal happy life, and how quickly our life on earth passes. The only think that is so certain in our life is the fact of our death. Soon or later we are going to pass away, to enter into the other life; the eternal life where we meet God and live with Him forever. Each day we stand on the frontier between the present life and the life to come. That is what is meant by the memory of death, and that is the spirit in which we commend ourselves into the hands of God. 3) Prayer must be our everyday occupation. The days that we have not prayed are wasted days. If we do not find a little time each morning to pray, there will be absent in that day a dimension to God’s likeness. A day without prayer is a day that does not have a spiritual direction and purpose. Each task then is not done in Christ and with Him. Every Christian in his daily life should find time to pray morning and evening, however short, we should not leave that out. Only in that way our life, little by little becomes a prayerful life. 4) Concentration. We all have a problem with prayer. It is how to concentrate. What are we to do about the numerous thoughts that we have? As soon as we try to be quiet we find that there is an inward television set that we are unable to turn off by an effort of will. Irrelevant images and thoughts are coming in our mind and they disturb us. Bishop Theophan says that our thoughts, when we try to pray, are like the mosquitoes and flies buzzing on a hot evening. What are we to do about that? The best way to start is to recall the need to live in the present moment. If, when you are praying, you realize that your attention has wandered, ask yourself: “What am I saying at this moment?” or if you are in church for a Church service, ask yourself: “What is being read, what is being sung now, at this moment?” If you didn’t attend to the Epistle, for example, and you suddenly realize that you don’t even know what was read, instead of worrying about that say, “Now it is the Gospel, I will listen to that”. We should not start by worrying about losing our attention, because these worries create many other problems, but let us try to have little moments of attentiveness and build on them. And slowly, slowly the different thought will disappear and the mind will be concentrated on prayer. 5) Reading the Holy Bible. We should not forget to read Scripture daily, and as we read let us have the sense that this is a word being spoken by Jesus Christ to us personally. Feel that each part of Holy Bible is addressed to yourself. Bishop Tikhon of Zadonsk says: “If the king wrote you a letter, would you not open it with excitement and read it with attention? But the King of Heaven, the great King, has Himself written you a letter, and this letter, the Holy Bible, you treat with contempt”. When you open the Bible Christ is speaking to you, you are speaking to Him. As you read it have the sense of a personal dialogue with our Savior Himself. 6) Going to daily work. Having said our morning prayer, as we go to our daily work, we try to have the sense that we are all the time in God’s presence. Father A. Schmemann says: “A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds everywhere Christ and rejoices in Him”. We are to treat the whole world as a means of communion with God. We are to see God in all things, and all things in God. We are to find God in all things. We are also to find God in all persons. Let us ask these questions: Did we feed the hungry? Did we give drink to the thirsty? Did we take the stranger into our home? Did we visit the sick? That is what we shall be asked at the Last Judgment: How did we treat our immediate neighbor? What we answer to these questions that Christ asks every one? Love for our neighbor means love for everyone who is near to us, these people whom I meet in my home, in my work, in my parish. And we are to think that we see Christ at each person whom we meet each day and hour. We are to think what Christ says in the parable. “Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of my brethren, you have done it to Me.” Every relation with another human being is also a relation with Christ, it is a meeting with Him. 7) Jesus Prayer. What will help us in our everyday life to find Jesus Christ wherever we go? Bishop Ballistics Ware answers this question: “For myself the greatest practical help I have found is the frequent use of Jesus Prayer, the invocation: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Speaking of that, I am particularly thinking of the use of the Jesus Prayer in all the odd moments of the day. If we frequently say the Jesus Prayer, which is such a simple prayer, it is always there, ready when you wish to say it. If we do it often that will help, in a remarkable way, to feel God’s presence and to feel all the people as our brothers in Christ”. We can use the Jesus Prayer every moment in our daily life. When we are working, while we are waiting for the bus to come, when we are traveling, when we are walking, going to our work or when we work at home or outside. We use this prayer when we are happy or when we are in a difficult situation facing obstacles in our everyday life and in our spiritual life. The Jesus prayer is an easy and simple prayer that can be said at any moment day and night. 8) Fear of God. “Fear of God” is an expression that does not imply that the believer is under a situation of terror and anxiety, but it is reverence and deep respect for God. It is an orientation towards God, full of trust and humble acceptance of the Gospel of Christ. Abba Dorotheos says: “There are two kinds of fear – one is introductory and the other one is perfect. For example, somebody does the will of God through fear of Hell. He is only in the beginning, he is not struggling for good itself but through fear of pain and infliction. Another person follows God because he loves God Himself and he wants to please Him and to live always with Him. This person has true love and he knows what it means to be together with God. The second person fears and keeps God’s will not because he fears being hurt or because of Hell, but because he has tasted the sweetness of being with God and he is afraid of falling away and being deprived of this sweetness. In our every day live we have to try to reach perfect fear starting with the first fear but we must not stay on this level but try to achieve the perfect fear; the deep respect of God, and being with Him. That is the result of perfect love to God and sends away the initial fear. We can reach perfect fear starting from the initial fear. That is why is written: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10). The Fathers of the Church say that human beings obtain fear of God when they have remembrance of death and Hell and when they search themselves continuously how they spend the whole day and night. This is a way to improve love and dedication to God and to get the perfect fear. When we neglect ourselves in every day life, think all the time about material things, avoid mentioning death or Hell and living indifferently and keep company with those who are indifferent we expel fear and love of God. When we postpone for later to do God’s will and neglect concentration and prayer we stop to try to improve our love to God and we remain in the level of negative fearing and never reach the positive fear of God which is love.
2. LOVE THE TRUTH
The Fathers of the Church say: “Take care to guard your tongue, not say lies but speak all the time the truth, not be irritated, not answer back when you are irritated, not to criticize others, not to complain all the time. All these send away the positive fear of God and call devil to guide your life”. Abba Dorotheos says: “Hold your tongue and through that, you find the way to God. You need great vigilance so that you are not cheated by lies. No one who lies becomes united with God. Lying is alien to God.” The devil is a great liar and the “father of lies” (John. 8:44), while God is the Truth. He Himself said: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we want to be saved, we have to see clearly what separates ourselves from God, the Truth, and what makes us be attached to the “father of lies, the devil”. In our life we use very frequently the lies. We used to hide with a clever way the truth and naturally we say lies without any difficulty and hesitation. Many times we think that it is impossible, living in our community, to say always the truth. It is difficult for us, who say that we are Orthodox Christians, to follow Jesus Christ Who is the Truth and easier we become followers of “father of lies, the devil”. He used so many lies to deceive Adam and Eve and to draw them to fall. And we today are always ready to follow him using easily the lies. If we want to be God’s children, rejecting evil, we are obliged to love the truth, with all our strength and concern, going away from all falsehood, so that we will not be separated from truth and from life. Here we are going to say in some details the deep meaning of the lies in our life. It is necessary to understand what the lie is and how it exists in our every day life, because knowing it deeply we will be ready to work hard in order to be able to avoid it and to start loving the truth. There are three kinds of lie: Lying in thinking, lying verbally and lying through one’s own way of life. (a) Lying in thinking. The person who lies in his thinking is the one who has many suspicions. While he sees someone talking with another, he is suspicious and says, “A! They are talking about me!” Generally he is suspicious of his neighbor in everything the other is doing and he says: “He did that because of me”, “he does not love me and keeps me away”. This is the person who lies in his mind, his thoughts and understandings. From what he says nothing is true, but all is based on his own suspicions. From these suspicions come curiosity, slander, quarreling and condemnation. This person suspects everything and even what he does not know and suffers living with these lies. Therefore we must never trust our suspicions because they make us to live a life full of lies. Because a suspicious person can destroy his life and reject any good thought even a straight rule. Persons troubled by this passion never have good relationships with others, because they are so easily persuaded by their own suspicions and they are not open to others and they are unable to be accepted by them. “There is nothing more harmful than suspicion” the Church Father say and call us to try with all our strength not to trust our own suspicions and do immediately whatever we can to transform them into good thoughts. So we will not harm ourselves and our soul shall have peace. (b) Lying verbally. The liar in words is he who tries to hide his real inner thoughts and fide many excuses for his actions. For example when he is too lazy to get up and go to the Church services he says: “I was too tired or I had a headache and I couldn’t come to Church”. He also tells many lies to avoid accepting his real situation and asking forgiveness without any self-justification. If someone blames him for something, he tries to change his words and to blame the other saying that and he says that he did not understand him, and that he himself did not have such an intention and so on. So this person tells many lies to justify himself. That is why self-justification leads to destruction. Lying has its roots in three vices (wickedness): first one cannot blame and humiliate himself, second he feels some pleasure and third he wants to gain something. So the person who says lies does not stop from turning this way always and saying anything in order to achieve his purpose. This person is never trusted, for even if he says a true word no one believes him. Even when he speaks the truth others doubt him. (c) Lying through one’s own way of life. A liar is also the person who lies in his whole life. He lies when in reality he is greedy, sinful, selfish, and he speaks about charity and praises sympathy. He is a very proud person but he admires humility. Even after confessing his weaknesses, he starts to admire and praise himself for his good actions. Speaking like that about himself he does not think of others who may be scandalized with what he says even when the others know his behavior and understand better who really he is and what is the truth.. A person who lies in his life always wants to cover his own shame by giving the impression that he has virtues when he really has not any of them or he has something very little; he basically wants to mislead others. That is why he cheats others by talking about his successes, his virtues, praising and admiring them as if they were his own and he had experience of them. This person believes that everything that God gave to him is his own success and he is very proud of them. This is the person whose very life is a lie. This is not at all a simple person but a two-faced person. He has an internal and an external face, and he is very troubled and creates troubles in his environment being ready any time to hide the truth and to say great lies. He has nothing to do with truth and avoids so speak the reality because he is afraid of it. We know that “God is truth”. If we want to go near Him to become “like Him”, and to reach deification, which is God’s likeness, we must avoid any kind of falsehood, lie and to live always in truth, speaking the truth even when we meet difficulties and it is very hard for us. Self-knowledge is the best help to find and follow the way of truth. To that direction the first thing we have to do is to search ourselves to find why we say lies and which kind of lie we have. We have to accept it and sincerely to do our best to get rid of it. This is not very easy work but must make any attempt to that direction if we want to have a progress in our spiritual life and to be real Orthodox Christians. Let us struggle to obtain the truth so that we may be united with Him, Jesus Christ Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let God make us worthy of His own truth. Only that way we shall be real Christ’s followers.
3. SPIRITUAL LIFE IN A COMMUNITY
How life in a community can help us in spirituality “People need people”. “One man is not a full man”. “We exist in our togetherness”, these are thoughts saying by the Church Fathers and they want to put stress on the value of the community life. Living in a community among others is a special blessing from God because we have many opportunities thought the others to know our self and to try to correct it. Through the other people we can get a better knowledge of our behavior and our inner situation. We use to say that the “other people are a clear mirror to see our self into it”. Living in a community we have perfect opportunities to be improved spiritually because the others can help us to be improved. We can gain benefits from a common life if we concentrate on this: abandon our life entirely to God’s hands. That means: we have to learn to leave everything to God alone and be ready to accept His guidance without any anxiety and agony. We must believe that shall have many problems even we live in the best community; and the inner and spiritual problems are more serious than the material ones. Living in a community we can realize these problems. Even when we have food to eat, house to stay, work to do, people around us, but we have inner serious problems, we have difficulties in our common life. The life in the community makes us able to see these situations clearly and to realize that many times we become victims of these problems; or rather we become real slaves, and so our life in the community is not happy. We mention here some reasons or motives behind our behaviors, which create problems in our spiritual life: a) Jealousy. This feeling becomes a passion and the motivation for many problems with other people. It is a strong and entirely negative feeling. Jealousy motivates every bad and sinful action in us. Jealousy in the common life is whatever bad you can imagine. It is really a bomb in the foundation of a community and it does so great damage because it is coming from Satan. It is a clear satanic characteristic. We remember that Satan, out of his jealousy for the happy human beings in Paradise, went near to them in order to destroy their divine happiness. Jealousy brings separation between people and destroys every good attempt. It destroys the spiritual relationships and brings confusion and separation and both of them are real catastrophe. The way to face jealousy is first to understand that it is necessary to pay proper attention to this weakness and to find it in our self, to see that this is hidden under many expressions and behaviors. Secondly we have to accept it and to face it properly. We must not wait to find the solution to our problems with others in trying to correct the others’ behavior. But the correction starts from us. We have to do everything to change our selves, our reactions and not trying to correct the others. Leave the others to do their own work in themselves. b) Blaming the others. This is a very bad habit that we have living in a community. We are ready to accuse the others for our failure, our bad behavior, even for our sins. Easily we justify ourselves and believe that somebody else or a situation caused our bad behavior. We have to pay attention not to blame the others for something that annoys us and not try to correct them and not ourselves. This is the bad way to have spiritual progress. c) Difficulty to communicate with others. Many times living with other people we find very difficult to have a good communication with them. This is a real problem, but the only solution is to look to ourselves sincerely and to find the reason why there is this difficulty. Some other reasons which create problems are: (1) Inferiority. We feel inferior and think that we are not able to do what the others expect from us to do. So this feeling, which is in our deep self, prohibits us to speak freely and to express our thoughts. ‘I am not like the others’, ‘I cannot do this or the other like them’ are thoughts we do frequently. All these show that we have not humility and spiritual life, but make evident that we do not know our real self and we are very far from a real Orthodox Christian life. So the felling of inferiority prohibits us from a harmonious life in community. (3) Selfishness. Many times we are so enclosed in ourselves that we cannot see the others’ point of view. We have not ears to listen to others patiently because we are closed and concentrate only to ourselves. (4) Superiority. The Pharisaic behavior: “I am not like the others…” is exactly the behavior of a superior person. He thinks that he knows everything and usually is too much “teacher”. He speaks and advises the others more than listen to them. He thinks that he has nothing to accept from the others. The superior person is very selfish and he does not see any other except himself. (5) Criticism (gossiping). This is a habit that brings only distraction and separation. Looking around to see the actions of others, to criticize them and correct the others behavior we loose entirely our way to God. We become good judges and saviors of the people and never humble members of the community. So we keep ourselves very far from the others. A person, who is criticizing all the time, thinks that the others are unjust to him, and he tries always to justify himself. He is waiting from the others to behave well to him, while he is not behaving like that to them. Usually his eyes are turning not up to God, either inside himself, but around him looking carefully what the others are saying or doing, and that only for the purpose of criticizing them and their actions. He becomes a strict judge ready to contemn others. A behavior like that creates great problems in common life and never helps to a good communication between the group members; and of course these persons have not any spirituality. Overcoming the problems If we want to overcome these problems, to get a spiritual life and to live peacefully in a community we have to follow this way: We have to remember all the time that in our baptism we “put on Christ”. What does it mean for us? Did we really have put on us Christ? Is that obvious in our every day life? Let us try to give some sincere answers to these questions. Every day in the morning we must start with this question: “What I have to do today in order to put on me Christ?” At the end of the day, at night we have to ask ourselves: “Did I try today to put Christ on me or I neglected Him?” Doing that every day Jesus Christ, little by little, becomes our ‘precious dress!’ We continue the questions: “Did I put on this ‘dress’ or have I torn it with my actions, my thoughts, my jealousy or criticism? Tearing after tearing at last I have a rag on me!” Nothing is more important than to go every day nearer to Christ and to be dressed this divine garment! As far as we deal with the others – what did they say, what did they do, why did they react like that – we lose the opportunity to “put on Christ” and at the end we are naked. And this happens especially when we pay much attention to the others’ behavior and criticize them. When we want the others to be so and so, because we believe that the way we think is the best, shows that we want what is more convenient to us and we do not care about them. We expect from them to do whatever makes us to feel “well”. In that case the problems are not overcome. Harmonious life In order to live harmoniously in a community we have to avoid to create cliques and to abolish them by any means. These cliques start first with people from the same tribe, with persons who are most widely accepted members of the group, or with persons who for different reasons are rejected in the group. There are also age-group relations and classmates groups. All these cliques separate people who develop aggressiveness, hate and destroy the unity of the community creating many problems to its members. Also quarrels destroy the communication of the persons belonging to a group. The existence of quarrels shows that there is not love but indifference. Indifference is exactly the opposite of love, not hate but indifference. So quarrels are expression of frustration, or aggressiveness and rejection. All of them are very strong negative feelings that create quarrel and destroy the unity. We cannot find ever an ideal community. Everywhere there are problems of communication and difficulties to face each other. The only thing is to struggle each one of the members for the spiritual life, and have close contact with God through Sacraments and continuous prayer. In a community the life is going smooth and progressing only when everyone (from the first to the last) attempts hard to be humble, to pray deeply and to have a constant repentance. So as members of a group life we do not wait the others to change, to pay attention to us and to correct ourselves. Our first and main work must be the spiritual improving of ourselves. The grace of God is given only to the humble person, to him who accepts peacefully humiliations, rejections and does not complain when the others ignore him. There is only one solution to our problems: prayer; prayer through which we leave everything to God. When we believe that we are the one who will solve all the problems we fail 100%. The only thing we succeed is to put aside God and ignore Him, and take into consideration only our selves.
4. A WAY TO SPIRITUAL LIFE
If somebody would tell us, the orthodox Christians, that we do not love God that we hate our neighbor and we do not believe in God’s Word we would be much surprised to hear this. We would be ready to support ourselves saying: “How is it possible not to love God our Creator and Protector? What is there to believe in if not the Word of God, in which everything is true and holy? I wish well to my neighbors, and why should I hate him?” But if we stay quiet and think carefully about these questions and search about our spiritual life, our inner beliefs and motivations we shall find which our real inner situation is and how far we are from the reality of the Orthodox spiritual life. We shall find in fact how many sins we commit and how long way we have to cover to the spiritual life and to get our salvation. Salvation is given to us by God through His incarnation, suffering and resurrection. But it depends on us to get this great gift that is given freely and demands our sincere will to accept it. Jesus Christ stands at the door of our soul and knocks. He knocks but He does not open the door. He waits us to do that if we want to. So the first step to that journey to salvation and to Orthodox spirituality is our intention to follow Jesus Christ and secondly to try, to struggle to put into continuous practice His teaching. In the wonderful spiritual book “The way of a Pilgrim” we find a wise advice for spiritual attempts. In this book a father confessor says that we have lost the way to the spiritual growth because we ignore the precious gift of God, His great love for us. We can find this way if we pay a sincere attention to the following points: a) Love to God, b) Love to our neighbors, c) Strong faith and d) Pride and sensuality. Turning our eyes carefully on our self and searching it we see that, in fact, we are missing in these four points: 1) Love to God. In fact we do not love God Who loves us so much, and because of this love He became human being in order we to become gods. If we loved God we should be continually thinking about Him with great joy. Every thought of God would give us gladness and delight. On the contrary we much more often and much more eagerly think about ourselves and earthly things. Thinking about God is hard work for us after the sinful life we live. If we love God, then talking with Him in prayer would be our nourishment and delight and would draw us to unbroken communion with Him. But, on the contrary, we not only find no delight in prayer, but even find it a hard effort. We struggle with reluctance and are ready to occupy ourselves with any unimportant job and make a very short prayer just to say to ourselves that we pray! Our time slips away unnoticed in vain occupations, but when we are occupied with God, when we put ourselves into His presence every hour seems like a year. If a person loves another, he thinks of him all the time without ceasing, he cares for him, and in all cases the beloved person is in his thoughts. But we, throughout the day, seldom set aside even a single hour for meditation upon God, to fill up our heart with love of Him. We are busy in talk about every day matters and things that degrade our spirit; and all these give us pleasure. But in the consideration of God we are dry, bored and lazy. Sometimes when we are drawing by others into a spiritual conversation, we try to shift the subject quickly to one that pleases our desires. We are tirelessly curious about novelties, about civic affairs and political events; we eagerly seek the satisfaction of love of knowledge in science and art, and in ways of getting things we want to possess. But the study of the knowledge of God and of faith, make little impression on us, and so we do not satisfy the hunger of our soul, and not improve our love to God. Love for God is recognized by the keeping of His commandments, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”, says Jesus Christ. If we do not make attempts to do so, then the conclusion follows that we do not love God, and our spiritual life does not exist. Saint Basil says: “The proof that a man does not love God lies in the fact that he does not keep His commandments”. So let us ask ourselves: Do we believe in God the Father? We must answer this question not with words but by our life. When we are despaired it is because we forget that we have a Father Who cares for us, to Whom we can always turn and Who knows all our needs and is ever ready to give us all blessings. Earthly friendship, love or security in which we put our trust may fail us. There is only One Power that does not fail; One Father Who never leaves us, however imperfect and sorrowful we are: He is God Who loves deeply. 2) Love our neighbor. Do we love our neighbors? In fact we are not ready to love our neighbors as we love our self, according to Christ’s commandment. We are unable to lay down our life for their sake; we do not even sacrifice our happiness, well being and peace for the good of our neighbors. If we did love our neighbor as our self his misfortunes would distress us also, his happiness would bring delight to us too. But on contrary, we listen to curious, unhappy stories about our neighbor, and we are not distressed; we remain quite undisturbed or, what is still worse, we find a sort of pleasure in them. Many times bad behavior of our brother we are not ready to cover with love, but we criticize him publicly. His well being, honor and happiness do not delight us as our own, and we behave if they were something quite alien to us, give us no feeling of gladness. On the contrary we feel envy and contempt him. We have no love for our neighbors when we criticize them, judge them and spent time for endless gossiping. Frequently we make hard criticism and we have the great tension to correct them, to teach them, to change their behavior according to our understanding. There is not love in us for them when we are ready to blame them for everything and to accuse them for things that in fact we ourselves are responsible. Can we say that we love our neighbor when we are not even thinking to sacrifice our desires or our will for their sake? Or when we find pleasure in the unhappiness of our enemies? We are locked in the prison of our self (that is egoism, selfishness), and we have not clear eyes to look at our neighbors, neither ears to listen to them. Only we are ready to “sift” them out with a “thin sieve”… 3) We have not strong faith. We can say that we are very wick in spiritual life when we have not strong faith to God. We must not be surprised when we say that we have no faith to God and to His teaching. It is enough to have a searching look to our life and every day behavior in order to see how weak our faith and our trust to God are. If we firmly believed in the eternal life and we were continuously concentrated on it, we would live in this transit life as foreigners who have always in their mind their leaving which is going to happen when we do not know. On the contrary we live this life without thinking the eternal life and the sudden departure from it and we behave as we are not going to reach the end or all the centuries. Our care is to satisfy this transitory life of sensations. If we were firmly persuaded and believed without doubt that beyond the grave lays eternal life, we should be continuously thinking of this. Our prayer and our devotion to God did not find residence in our soul because our faith to the God’s love and eternity is very weak or naught. Weak faith leads us to a worldly life and we lose any kind of spiritual life; we live as unbelievers far from Jesus Christ’s teaching. If we believe that the Holy Gospel is the Word of God, we should be continuously occupied with it, we should study it, find delight in it and with deep devotion fix our attention upon it. Wisdom, mercy, love, are hidden in God’s Word. That would lead us to happiness and we should find gladness in the study of the Law of God day and night. In God’s Law we should find nourishment like our daily bread, our heart would be drawn to the keeping of its laws and our spiritual life will be improved. Nothing on earth would be strong to feed us like that. If we have a deep faith of Christ’s teaching and try to put it into practice we will be able to get real humility and to find the way to orthodox spirituality. 4) We are full of pride and sensuality. All our actions do not show our spiritual life, but confirm that we are proud and full of sensual self-love. Seeing something good in ourselves, we want to bring it into view, or to pride ourselves upon it before people or inwardly to admire our self upon it. Whatever we do successfully we want to ascribe it all to our own strength and regard our self as superior to others, or at least no worse than they. If we notice a fault in us, we try to excuse it and we cover it up by saying: ‘we made like that because…’ we blame other persons or situations and avoid blaming our self. We get angry with those who do not treat us with respect and consider them unable to appreciate the value of people. We boast about our gifts, and we regard our failures as something human. If we strive after anything good it is for the purpose of winning praise, or earthly consolation. In other words, we continuously make an idol of our self and seek in all things the pleasure of the senses, and nourishment for our sensual passions. Going over all these four points we see our self as proud, unbelieving, without love to God and hating our neighbor. So we do not have any spiritual life and every thing is based on our selfishness. This is the real sinful state, and if we wand to grow up in Holy Spirit we have to realize the sins they are hidden within us and up to now we have never noticed them! In order to be cleansed from all these and to start living a spiritual life we must try to know first the causes of all these evils and secondly to find the way to cure them. The cause of not loving God is the weak faith we have. The Church Fathers say: “If you do not believe, you cannot love”. Love usually grows with knowledge and continuous attempts. And the greater the depth and extent of the knowledge the more love there will be, the more easily the heart will soften and lay itself open to the love of God. So we can see that the cause of those sins is sloth in thinking about spiritual things. Sloth destroys in us the feeling of the need of going nearer God. If we want to know how to overcome this evil, we have to strive after enlightenment of our spirit by every means attain it by attentive study of the Word of God and of the writings of the Holy Fathers. In that struggle we can also find help in prayer, meditation, spiritual counsel and by the conversation of those who are good and wise in Christ. We can understand how much disaster we meet because we are lazy about seeking light for our souls through the word of truth; because we do not study God’s law day and night, and we do not pray about it diligently and unceasingly. And because of this our inner man is hungry and cold, starved, so that it has no strength to take a step forward on the road of spirituality and salvation! Let us decide to make use of these methods and be humble, and as often as possible fill our minds with thoughts of heavenly things and God’s will. Love must be poured in our hearts, and pray as often as we can, for prayer is the chief and strongest means for our spiritual renewal. “For unless we forgive those who have injured us, God will not forgive our sins” (Matt.7:7-12). Here we can find how to succeed in prayer and see that forgiveness is the condition in order prayer may be effective. Jesus Christ told us to pray always, at all times and in every place, and not grow discouraged, that is to say not get lazy. Continuous, unceasing prayer is the best way to salvation.
5. SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT HUMILITY
Humility is not simply a Christian virtue, but rather is a condition of life, the foundation of all virtues. Jesus Christ says: “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). Christ is the greatest example of humility. “He became human that we might become divine” (St. Athanasios). So, humility is the way of Christ. It is the fundamental element for a real Christian life. Every Christian is humble before God and before others in the community. Humility is a free recognition of one’s limits and abandonment to the love and grace of God. The Saints say that any virtue can be achieved only by humility. “We need humility more than anything else. Without it we cannot say, ‘forgive me’. All the temptations of the enemy are destroyed by humility”. The fundamental obstacle in our spiritual life is the selfishness, the terrible self-centeredness. This is not natural to a person but the pride and selfishness appear as a result of bad training and of bad development of the natural trait of ambition that is implanted in every human being. The natural situation is the humility that characterizes especially the little children. That is why Jesus Christ gave as an example of genuine humility by taking a little child and said: “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 18:4). So all of us we are called to humble ourselves to get the great virtue of humility in order to have a place in the Kingdom of God. In the Holy Bible we have many examples of people who were real humble persons and found their way to Jesus Christ. Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and all the Saints in our Church are for us great models of a genuine humility. We have to see, in some details, what exactly humility is and how can we get it and to mention some practical points concerning this great and fundamental virtue. Humility, according to Orthodox understanding, is to be ready to listen to others and not to object immediately after the other’s expression. It is the quality of being modest or having a lowly opinion of oneself. Humility is to have an honest recognition of our own shortcomings and weaknesses together with the deep belief on the mercy of God. That is to accept our weaknesses and think that when we have that or the other success it is the result of our free will and the God’s grace, and not only our own success. St. John Climacus says: “Humility is to forget constantly our own achievements, and if we possess something worthy of pride we must not be proud but we consider ourselves as dust, as nothing”. So humility is to believe that our brothers are better and wiser than ourselves, and to have them higher than ourselves, and to put us below everyone. St. Dorotheos writes: “Humility is to attribute to God all virtuous actions and abilities and not to feel proud of them, and rely of them.” A person who, even he has plenty of good characteristics and spiritual progress, never speaks of them, and avoids showing off, but he gives thanks to God of everything, is a real humble person. The nearer he approaches God, the more he sees himself as sinner, and put himself below everyone else and prays continuously to God for the others. Humility has a person who never criticizes the others and always he has a good word to say for them. His aggress is directed only to himself and never to other people. He does not complain about the difficult situations, the problems he has with other persons or with his health, etc. He does not quarrel and tries to justify himself and usually he keeps quite in such discussions. Humble person is he who can easily forgive the others and immediately forgets everything. He never judges anyone, even if with his eyes sees someone sinning and violating the commandments of God. We have to pay special attention to this expression: ‘forgive me’, to use it with a deep understanding of the meaning of these words. Revenge also has nothing to do with humility. A humble person never takes revenge whatever will happen, even if his heart itself may try to resist him. Real humility is not humble in words and outwards appearance, but is deeply planted in the very heart. Evagrius says: “Humility does not allow you to be angry or provocative. Humility is the only way to draw God’s grace to our soul. This means that we are ready to accept God, open our heart and the grace of God comes and protects us from anger and any arrogant behavior, which separates us from God”. The humble person accepts his weaknesses, recognizes his faults and blames mainly himself for whatever happened to him. He will not tolerate somebody else to take the blame. He asks forgiveness and tries to correct himself. Humility is the best foundation of obedience. A proud and selfish person is unable to obey even to God, while the humble person can easily obey God and people. The arrogant person is always unable to bend his head and say: “Your will be done.” But humility is to be under everyone and to attribute all your achievements to God. This is perfect humility and grows naturally in the person through the keeping of God’s commandments. The humble person is not arrogant, selfish and egocentric. He brings deep spiritual fruit. For example when a tree has much fruit the branches are bent down and sometimes break. A tree without fruit is raised up and grows upwards. It is similar with the person without humility. When somebody humbles himself, it bears fruit and the more fruit it bears, the humbler the soul becomes. The more the humble person approaches God the more he sees himself as sinner. Those who seek glory are like a naked man trying to find a small rag or anything else to cover his nakedness. The person, who is naked of virtues, seeks the glory of people. In this person there is not humility. No one can learn humility from words alone, and theories but through practice and experience. Humility is to consider yourself under all and to pray unceasingly to God. This is the way to humility. Humility itself is divine and cannot be comprehended. Through prayer you humble yourself. As much as you humble yourself, you receive the help of God and progress in humility. To acquire humility is not an easy thing to get; it is a continuous and life-long struggle. The truly humble person feels that he must continue his efforts all the more up to the end of his life. Even when he lays on his deathbed he feels that he has not yet learnt humility. St. Silouan the Athonite at the end of his life said: “I humble myself day and night, and yet I am not humble as I should be.” The way to humility is not an easy one but it is the safest way to live the real spirituality in Orthodox Church. In the spiritual book “The way of a Pilgrim” we find a wise advice for spiritual attempts. A father confessor says that we have lost the way to the spiritual growth because we have not humility.
6. WE ADDRESS GOD THROUGH PRAYER
Prayer is our addressing to God. It proves that we were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made out of nothing and we possess nothing of our own. But in God’s mercy, He made us personalities endowed with heart, reason and free will. So we can address Him from the bottom of our heart through the prayers. With our free will, with a soul full of humility and gratitude to God, we can increase the spiritual gifts and achieve the likeness to God. Prayer is the best way to that achievement. At the same time, prayer reminds us of our smallness and helplessness, since we made of nothing and has nothing of our own; this is why we speak to God and ask Him about everything. Getting His blessing we can become His friends or rather His children, if we obey Him and do things of love and charity. Whenever we pray, we must keep our mind and heart turning to our Lord. Otherwise our prayer is useless (see Matt. 15:8). In our prayer, we have to be as a child, humble and innocent and to leave the prayer to penetrate us and not be lost in vain words and dreams. Our heart does not feel the truth of our words during prayer if we lack faith and we are blind to our sins and judge and condemn the others. When we say: “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive the … others”, but we do exactly the opposite, we say lies and become hypocrites going far away from God. So except of liars we are proud and not humble at the time of prayer. In order our prayer to be a burning one it is necessary to have humility; if our prayer is mechanical means that we have great pride and God does not accept us. Those who have not learned the art of heart’s prayer must say their prayers slowly, and wait for the heart to respond to every word. This does not come soon to us who cannot concentrate in prayer. In such situation we must articulate every word in prayer very slowly. We have to wait for every word to be reflected deeply in our heart. This is a good way to address God through prayer. If we pray with our lips or read from a book, many words do not reach our heart. This is a hypocritical prayer. Our lips say one thing, and our heart feels another. Our lips say the word of the truth, while our heart stays deaf to it. When, on the other hand, we pray silently, with our heart, we do not care to pronounce the words but concentrate on the content and the powerful message, and our heart gets used to the truth. So we enter the meaning in which the prayer was written, and step by step we learn to pray in the Holy Spirit (“in the Spirit and truth”). We have to remember that we do not say a single word in vain if our prayer goes straight from the heart. God responds to every heart’s desire, whether we put it into words or not. Some people say that they soon grow tired when they pray. This means that they do not see God with their mind’s eyes, though He is close to them, on their right hand. They have to open their heart to Him and be concentrated on Him. So they will feel refreshed after some time spent in prayer. Let us look the Saints to learn their zeal, their spiritual life and their devotion to God Who strengthened their faith. They reached to this level because they used to pray unceasingly. Their conduct with God was vivid and continuous. Let us look at preachers and martyrs, to learn the firmness of their faith and piety in the face of sinner and non-believers. Let us look at the ascetics, to learn prayer, pious meditation that lead them to deification. All of them can be powerful examples for strengthen our struggle to prayer properly. St. John of Kronstadt says: “Pray zealously for others, alone or together with them, whether they ask you or not. Then God will bestow His grace on your heart to make the prayer blessing for you to love of God and your neighbor”. Truthful are these words that based on experience. We are often reluctant to pray for others; and do it mostly out of habit or in the hour of need. Our heart is deaf to this prayer. So we must learn to say our heartfelt prayers with great faith, and they will bring us many benefits from God, because He wants to share our faith and love with our brothers. It is very hard to say: “Lord, Your will be done” when we face affliction, mourning, especially when we suffer from our neighbors. It is not easier to pray when we are causing troubles and pain to our neighbors. We have inside ourselves the conviction that these actions are not accepting by God. So we have first of all to repent and ask forgiveness in order to pray really. When the sorrow and pain are coming to us by others we must try, even hard, to pray for them repeating: “Your will be done”. We should bow to God’s will in all humility, and make the offering of our heart to the Lord not in peace and happiness alone but in pain, mourning and any affliction. If we want to help our neighbor overcome his difficulties, do not hope to do it with our power alone. Without God’s help we do nothing. We pray to Him with our heart to enlighten our neighbor’s heart and mind. If He sees that our prayer comes from our heart and is full of love, He will grant our desire and soon we will see a change in that person we were praying for. We pray to Our Lady, Mother of God, the Theotokos, when the temptation of wickedness and enmity is coming in our heart. She is always ready to listen to us the humans and through her Son sends us peace and love. She is our beloved Mother who prays unceasingly (continually) for peace on earth and in all Christian hearts. We ask the intercessions of the Saints who also do not forget us and God fulfils the prayers of the Saints for us. So we can call to a Saint with deep faith knowing that he is near us in the Holy Spirit and ready to help us. Saint John of Krostadt was a person who used to pray constantly. Let us try to imitate him as far as we can and pray all the time. We can use his prayer: “O Holy Trinity, save me from pride and teach me the wisdom of humility. Cover me with Your wing and protect me from all sins. Open my heart to repent continually. By Your commandments strengthen my weak heart for good works. I know, my Lord, that I am nothing without You and that I can work no good without You. Teach me, my Lord, to love You with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself. O Lord, open my eyes to my sins and give me repentance, for I am the worst sinner”.
7. PRAYER, THE HEART OF ORTHODOX LIFE
Prayer is the mother of Christian Orthodox life. It produces virtues from the union of the human being with the Holy Spirit. Actually prayer is the fulfillment of the first and chief commandment of God; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and your strength…” (Matt. 22:37). It is impossible for a person to turn with all his strength and with all his being towards God, except by the action of prayer, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the mirror of a believer’s spiritual progress. It should be his chief task in his every day life and the center of all his activities. Being an alive member of Church it is essential to learn to pray properly, so that in prayer the believer may work out his deification, his salvation. Prayer by its nature is communion and union of man with God. A Church Father says: Prayer is the ‘mother and the daughter of tears which bring humility and spiritual life’. Abba Agathon speaks about prayer: “Prayer is something very great. It is a bridge for crossing temptations, a wall of protection from afflictions, a solution to conflicts, a spring of virtues, a source of spiritual gifts, invisible progress, food of soul, enlightening of mind, an ax for despair, release from sorrow, the wealth of the believer”. Preparation for prayer The first thing we have to do is to reject resentment and condemnation of our neighbors. Christ Himself commands this preparation: “When you stand praying, if you have something against anyone, forgive him.” (Mk.11:25). Then we have to reject any earthly care and free our thought that occupies our mind, and to realize our sinfulness, and in humility to try to speak to God. St. Isaac the Syrian says: “If one does not recognize himself as a sinner, his prayer is not acceptable to God”, it is rather the prayer of the Pharisee. We stand at prayer before the invisible God as if we see Him, and with the conviction that He sees us and is looking at us attentively. Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov says: “Stand before God just as a guilty person with sins, but think that He is full of love for you and does not condemn you because of His love for human beings. Feel the presence of God when you pray, and you will realize that the prayer leads you to peace”. Apostle Paul says that we pray with thanksgiving: “Pray without ceasing; give thanks for everything.” It means praising God for His countless blessing poured out on everyone. By such thanksgiving the soul is filled with a wonderful peace. It is filled with joy in spite of the fact that sorrow covers it on all sides. By thanksgiving, a man acquires a living faith so that he forgets all his worries and totally surrenders himself to the will of God. “Be anxious about nothing, but in all circumstances by prayer with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God” (Phil.4:4-6). Such a disposition of soul is an excellent preparation for prayer. Attention at prayer Prayer requires attention in order to be a firm property of the person praying, and bear abundant fruits. The fruits are illumination of mind, peace of heart, and quickness of soul for the life of the Spirit. The absolute attention that keeps prayer completely free from distraction and from irrelevant thoughts and images is a gift of God’s grace. We show our sincere desire to get the gift of grace by forcing ourselves to pray with attention whenever we pray. St. John the Ladder says: “If the mind, in prayer, gets out of its attention in the words, it must be let back into them again. The human mind in its fallen state is naturally unstable and inclined to wander everywhere. But God can give it stability in return for patience of prayer”. Especially helpful in keeping the attention during prayer is an unhurried pronunciation of the words of prayer. We must pronounce the words without hurrying so that the mind may quite easily stay enclosed in the words of the prayer, and not slip away from them. We can also say the words loudly when we pray alone, which helps to hold the attention. It is an exercise, which leads us to the perfect prayer. The only thing we need is to accustom ourselves to the practice of prayer while we have the opportunity. At first we must force ourselves to pray. Soon prayer begins to afford consolation, and this enlightens our attempts and encourages us to force ourselves more. We need to force ourselves to pray every moment throughout our life. Really few are they who do not need to force themselves to pray, they have this special gift from the Holy Spirit. The unceasing prayer Jesus Christ said: “Ask and you will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you” (Mat.7:7). St. Paul repeats the Lord’s teaching and says: “Pray without ceasing” (1Tim.2:8). The message here is to try to pray continuously. People who have love to God in their hearts can pray at all times and in all places, lifting up to God their hands and their mind, and purifying their heart by the Holy Spirit. It is obvious that unceasing prayer cannot be easily possessed by a faithful. In order to become eventually capable of this kind of prayer he must practice frequent prayer. As the easiest way of practicing unceasing prayer is to pray with the “Jesus Prayer”: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”, is the prayer which we use to call “Jesus Prayer”. Bishop Ignatius says: “Try to pray with Jesus prayer as often as you can. Do you happen to have a moment free? Do not waste it in idleness, or doing some vain and trivial work, use it for practice of the Jesus prayer. He who does not train himself to frequent prayer will never receive unceasing prayer, which is a gift of God and a sign of His mercy towards a faithful person”. ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, for all day long I cry to You’ (Ps.85:3). Corporate prayer In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the first Christians “continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ fellowship and in the breaking of the Bread, and in the prayers” (Acts 2:42). From the beginning, prayer – both corporate and private – was essential to the life of the Church. Every Orthodox Christian, therefore, is expected to participate fully in the Church’s liturgical prayer and to have a personal rule of prayer. It is through prayer that we communicate with God. We praise Him for His great love and ask His mercy for our sins. We bring before Him our troubles and concerns. We also pray for one another, as St. James says (5:16). Prayer is, therefore, an expression of the very nature of Church. In prayer we do not only sped time with our Lord, but we share our love for God with others as we make intercession for their needs. Prayer is the very language of the Church, the beginning and the end of our life in Christ. The Apostles observed the practice of specific prayers at specific times of the day (Acts 20:16). The Orthodox Christians do the same today. The daily cycle of prayer begins in the evening with the service of Vespers, and continues with Compline, which is read after supper; the Midnight Office, Matins and the Canonical Hours: First (6 a.m.), Third (9 a.m.), Sixth (noon), and Ninth (3 p.m.). Through this cycle of prayer, each day is sanctified, set apart, for God. The sanctification of the day is clearly stressed at the “Prayer of the Hours”, which is read at every service except Matins and Vespers. In this prayer we are reminded of God’s mercy and ask for His guidance throughout the day. We ask him to direct our lives according to His commandments. Among others we say: “…O Lord, set aright our minds; cleanse our thoughts; and deliver us from all calamity, wrath, and distress. Compass us with Your holy angels, that we may have the unity of the faith, and glorify You…Amen”. The Daily Office consists also of the Psalms. The Psalter was the hymnal of Israel, and it remains the primary hymnal of the Church. Every service has specific psalms assigned to it. For example, the Liturgical day begins with Psalm 103(104), which glorifies God for the wonders of the creation. During the great Lent, the reading from the Psalter is double. We have to say that the Divine Liturgy is not counted among the daily services, which are tied to specific times of the day; through it we sanctify the time. The Liturgy reaches beyond time into eternity. Unfortunately, the Daily Office is served only in monasteries and in a few parishes. The fact that most laymen do not have access to these services does not mean that we have not the need to sanctify our day through prayer. The first Christians had a daily rule of prayer. The Church teaching instructed them to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. To this may be added prayers in special times of need and prayers in preparation for Confession and Communion. Orthodox Christians are never forbidden from praying in private, but we are strongly encouraged to use the prayers of the Church that have been sanctified by their use through the centuries. By using the these prayers we are sure that they are according to the will of God, so we avoid the problem mentioned by St. James: “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss” (James 4:3). All spiritual guides in the Church agree that it is better to pray a short rule of prayer with attention and devotion than to try to rush through a long rule. The point is to have a practical rule of prayer and stick to it. In edition to the daily cycle of prayer, there are also the weekly, yearly, and the Easter cycles that determine the theme of a particular day. The weekly cycle begins with Sunday, on which we commemorate Christ’s resurrection. Each Sunday is a remembrance of Easter. On Monday we commemorate the holy Angels, on Tuesday St. John the Forerunner, on Wednesday and Friday the holy Cross, on Thursday the Apostles and St. Nicholas, and on Saturday the martyrs and the departed faithful. Because of the commemoration of the Holy Cross, Wednesday and Friday are set apart as fast days. The yearly cycle refers to those feasts and fasts that occur on fixed dates of the year. Various saints are commemorated each day of the year. There are twelve “Great Feasts” of the Church, nine of which are assigned specific dates. The Church year begins on September 1st. It is significant that the first Great Feast of the year commemorates the Nativity of Theotokos (September 8), and the last commemorates her Falling Asleep (August 15). The Great and Holy Easter is the “Feast of feasts”. The Easter cycle, the date of which varies from year to year, begins with Great Lent, includes the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, Holy Week, Easter itself, the Ascension, and the Feast of Pentecost. This period is perhaps the richest source of spiritual nourishment the Church has to offer. There is another form of prayer that is not related to any of the liturgical cycles. It is the “Jesus Prayer”. This prayer consists of the constant repetition of a short prayer centered on the name of Jesus Christ. In this prayer we affirm our belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and confess our own sinfulness. Through this constant invocation of the name of Jesus, the heart is purified and receives divine grace. When we are in Church, we pray the prayers of the Church, and in some cases we use the Jesus Prayer. In times of great joy or trouble, we cry out to God from the depths of our heart with thanksgiving and supplication. At the times when we perform difficult tasks, we have the Prayer of Jesus to occupy our mind and spirit and direct our attention toward our Lord. In this way, prayer becomes the very substance of our life, the very air that we breathe.
E. Ganouri – imaik.gr