Monday, October 3, 2011

Aids in Practice of Jesus Prayer - Fr. Nikodim (1)



In the recent issue of The Orthodox Word there is an excellent article on the Jesus Prayer that is filled with practical advice.  It is "A Conversation with Elder Nikodim on the Jesus Prayer" by Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany.  In this article I found 20 useful pieces of advice that surely can help those who practice the Jesus Prayer.  I will in a series of posts share them.

Elder Nikodim was a Russian monk on Mount Athos in the Kellia of Karoulia.  He was a student of the Philokalia which he read regularly.  In his early life he was a noncommissioned officer in the Tsar's Army during World War I.  When the Tsar was overthrown, inspired by The Way of a Pilgrim, he decided to leave the army and take up a life serving, not an earthly king, but a heavenly king.  He went to Mount Athos and lived in the St. Panteleimon Monastery, as well as in its skeets, Chromitsa and New Thebaid.  He took on Fr. Theodosius as his spiritual father who was known to be very strict.  He taught him the essential virtue of humility.  "Obedience and humility are the essential preparatory conditions for the work of mental prayer" he copied from the work of Saint Theophan the Recluse.  This he learned does not come from the outward order of monastic life but from one's inner state.  He asked his spiritual father how he should engage in mental prayer after he died and he replied, "engage in mental prayer in a repentant spirit, and don't seek sweet feelings of the heart or visions of th emend....Well, now by your obedience you deserve outward stillness; for inward stillness, take care to acquire zealous repentance."

Fr. Nikodim was known as a good ascetic who was kind, merciful, always helped the poor and showed hospitality to everyone.  He conducted extensive correspondence with various Russian people out side of Russia and instructed them in prayer.

During World War II he was joined by Hiershemamonk Seraphim and they would keep vigil all night.  One would take the first half of the night and the other the other half. They were strict in their fasting.
In the late 50's he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places there.
He had a stoke which kept him from writing. He died on February 15, 1984.

The article that contains his advice was written by Archbishop Mark who was a convert to Orthodoxy, tonsured into monasticism in 1975 and made several visits to Mount Athos where he became acquainted with Elder Nikodim. The interview he recorded was made in 1982 which was near the end of Fr. Nikodim's life.

Here are the beginning instructions as taught to Elder Nikodim by His spiritual Father Fr. Theodosius

1. Do you pull the rope quickly?
They would say the Jesus Prayer in stead of reading the daily services.  Elder Theodosius instructed him on the use of the prayer rope.  He said, "No, not quickly.  With the breath.  So that it fits with one's inhalations and exhalations––"Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."

2. You do the prayer sitting down?
Elder Theodosius responded, "Sitting down.... At the beginning we stand when we say, "O Heavenly King Comforter..."Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal..., Have mercy on me, O God [Psalm 50]...". and the Creed.  Then you sit down––or pray with bows.


2 comments:

  1. The prayer rope is an excellent aid for concentration during prayer.

    You do not have to count anymore when using a prayer rope so all your concentration is towards the prayer.

    It has helped me tremendously to focus my mind during prayer.

    Regards and God Bless,

    Sabrina

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