Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spirit of Prayer

...We should do well to remember that prayer,
independently of man’s intellectual capacity, can bring a higher form of
cognition. There is the province of reflex consciousness, of demonstrative
argument; and there is the province where prayer is the passageway to
direct contemplation of divine truth.

There is a pronounced tendency among scientists of the present century to
claim integral knowledge of the natural world. ‘The sum total of all that is
already known emphasises the unlimited capacity of the human mind, and
proves that every natural phenomenon is cognizable’, declared a Russian
scientist in 1958. We, Christians, similarly aspire to integral knowledge of
being, in the deepest and widest sense. The world of matter does not yet
encompass plenitude of being. Without belittling the importance of
experimental science, of vital necessity, perhaps, in the struggle for
existence, we still cannot overlook its limitations. I once heard the following
story of a professor of astronomy who was enthusiastically discoursing in a
planetarium on the nebulae and like marvels. Noticing an unpretentious
priest who had joined his group of students, the professor asked him:

‘What do your Scriptures say about cosmic space and its myriad stars?’
Instead of giving a direct answer the priest in turn posed a question.
‘Tell me, Professor,’ he said, ‘do you think that science will invent still more
powerful telescopes to see even farther into the firmament?’
‘Of course progress is possible and science will always be perfecting
apparatus for exploring outer space,’ replied the astronomer.
‘There is hope, then, that one day you will have telescopes that can show all
there is in the cosmos, down to the last detail?’
‘That would be impossible- the cosmos is infinite,’ replied the scientist.
‘So there is a limit to science?’
‘Yes, in that sense, there is.’
‘Well, Professor,’ said the priest, ‘where your science comes to a full stop,
ours begins, and that is what our Scriptures tell of.’

Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov (2001) (2nd ed.) His Life is Mine. Chapter
6: Prayer of the Spirit. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Cathedral Prayer web page with many articles on Prayer

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