Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lay People and the Prayer of the Heart

To a layman who asked about Noetic Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me), Elder Ephraim of Katounakia had this to say:

Set aside half an hour out of the twenty-four to say the Prayer. Whenever you are able; but the evening is best. Say it without using the prayer rope - in supplication, pleading, and with tears. 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' Cultivate this, and you'll see what fruit it brings. From half an hour, it will become an hour. And guard this hour. Whether the phone is ringing, or you have this task you need to do now, or you're sleepy, or some blasphemy is confronting you. Nothing. Turn off the phone. Finish your tasks. Do this half hour and you'll see. You've planted a little tree, and tomorrow or the day after it will bear fruit. St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil both began like this and became luminaries for the whole world. St. Symeon the New Theologian had experiences of the Uncreated Light while still a layman. He was a layman. How many laymen appear as such exteriorly, but deep down are monastics!
Elder Ephraim of Katounakia:

From Obedience Is Life: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, p. 196.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Value of Afflictions

From Homily 36 of St. Isaac the Syrian 
"This is the will of the Holy Spirit, to be His beloved in continual reality. The Spirit of God does not dwell in those who live in rest because the Most-Good God wished that His beloved servants should not have rest in this life, but rather live in suffering, difficul
ties, worries, poverty, and nakedness, in solitude and debts, in sicknesses and defamations, in battles and crushing of heart, with sickly body and image detested by others, in a state which does not compare to other people's, and a lonely, peaceful, and quiet dwelling, completely invisible to men and free of anything that produces earthly consolation. Therefore, these people weep, and the world laughs; these sigh, but the world enjoys; these fast, but the world amuses itself. During the day, they wear themselves out; and, during the night, they prepare for deprivation. There are some who offer themselves to weariness voluntarily and also submit to afflictions; some are persecuted, while others were killed, and some hid in cellars. In them was fulfilled the word that says, "You will have afflictions, but in Me you will have joy," because the Lord knows that the ones who live in rest cannot remain in His love. Therefore, Christ the Saviour has prevented these from rest and satisfaction. He Whose love is more powerful than death of the body wanted to show also in us the power of His love. Amen."


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bible's Message on Living Life Well

Some of God’s truths and guidelines found in the Bible regarding mental health and living life well:
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13 
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 
Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:22-23
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 
He (God) helps the brokenhearted and binds their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
You, Lord, give perfect peace even in turmoil to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus in John14:27


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Go To Church When I Can Pray At Home?

They say: "We can pray at home". Thou art deceiving thyself, O man!

Of course, one can pray at home. But it is impossible to pray there as in church, where such a multitude of hearts are uplifted to God, merging into one unanimous cry.

Thou wilt not be so quickly heard while praying to the Master by thyself, as when praying together with thy brethren, for here in church there is something greater than in thy room: agreement, unanimity, the bond of love, and finally here are the prayers of the priests. The priests stand before us, then, so that the prayers of the people, being weak, would be united to their more powerful prayers and together with them ascend to heaven.

The Apostle Peter was freed from prison, thanks to the common prayers offered for him.... If the Church's prayer was so beneficial for the Apostle Peter and delivered such a pillar of the faith from prison, why, tell me, dost thou disdain its power and what kind of justification canst thou have for this.

Hearken unto God Himself, Who says that the multitude of people who pray to him with fervor moves Him to have mercy. He says to the Prophet Jonah: "Shall I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which dwell more than 120 thousand people." He did not simply mention the multitude of people, but that thou mightest know that prayer together has great power.

By Saint John Chrysostom


Monday, May 9, 2011

Science Studies the Jesus Prayer

Can seven words—Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me—change lives?

It may seem a lot of effort over just seven words: Finding 110 Eastern Orthodox Christians, giving them a battery of tests ranging from psychology to theology to behavioral medicine, and then repeating the tests 30 days later. But the seven words—"Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" (a.k.a. the Jesus Prayer)—are among the most enduring in history. What Boston University psychologist George Stavros, Ph.D., wanted to find out was whether repeating the Jesus Prayer for ten minutes each day over the 30 days would affect these people's relationship with God, their relationships with others, their faith maturity, and their "self-cohesion" (levels of depression, anxiety, hostility, and interpersonal sensitivity). In short, Stavros was asking whether the Jesus Prayer can play a special role in a person's "journey to the heart."
The answer—at least on all the scales that showed any significant effect compared to the control group—turned out to be a resounding yes. Repeating the contemplative prayer deepened the commitment of these Christians to a relationship with a transcendent reality. Not only that, it reduced depression, anxiety, hostility, and feelings of inferiority to others. So powerful were the psychological effects of the prayer that Stavros urges his colleagues to keep it in mind as a healing intervention for clients. He recommends that the prayer be used along with communal practices so that one's relationship with God and others is "subtly and continuously tutored." In other words, going inside to find God does not mean going it alone.
From Spirituality & Health—The Soul/Body Connection. Publication date unknown. Posted 8/21/2005.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Humility Key to Deification

Holy Fathers say that we may achieve the Deification in the Church. However, Deification is a gift from God and not something that we ourselves achieve. We have to love, to struggle and be prepared to be worthy, capable and acceptable to receive and keep this gift from God, because God doesn’t want to do anything out of our freedom. Therefore, the Holy Fathers say that we do receive the deification, and God is realising such deed.

We may find several necessary preferences (predispositions) on the man’s road to deification.

The Humility
According to the Holy Fathers, the first preference to deification is humility. Without the blessed humility, man cannot place himself in the orbit of deification, to receive the Divine grace and to unite with God. Man needs humility even to understand that deification is the aim of his life. How can you recognise that the main objective of your life is outside you, i.e. in God, without humility?
When some lives an egocentric life, human-centric life, then he puts himself in the centre of such life. He becomes an aim to himself. He believes that he may achieve self-perfection, self-dependence, and self-deification. No doubt, this is the spirit of the contemporary culture, contemporary philosophy, and contemporary policy as well. All these branches has one particular goal: to create a better world, more just and more fair, but in an autonomic way, a world that will put the man in the centre of everything, without any connection to God, without recognition that God is the spring of every goodness. Adam has made the same mistake, believing that he may become god with his own abilities, means to become perfect. All humanists make Adam’s mistake during all the centuries passed. They do not consider the unity with God as the fundamental cause for perfection of man.

Everything that is Orthodox is God-centric, having the Godman Jesus Christ as its centre. Everything that is not Orthodox: the Protestantism, Catholicism, Masonry, Chiliasm, Atheism and others has this common denominator: the man is in the centre. For us, the centre is the Godman Jesus Christ. It is easy therefore someone to become (be) a heretic or a chiliast, mason – whatever – but it is hard to be (become) an Orthodox Christian. To be (become) a Christian, you must first to accept that you are not the centre of the world, but it is Christ. In other words, the beginning of the path to deification is the humility, means that we recognise that the objective of our life is out of us, and that it is placed in our Father and Creator.

The humility is necessary also to show to us, that we are ill, that we are full of weaknesses and passions.

The one, who starts going on the road to deification, must have unceasing humility to be relentless on this road. If he starts thinking that he may progress by his own force and abilities, then the pride enters in him. He loses everything he gained before in such case, thus he must starts the road from the very beginning, to become humble, to become conscious of his weakness, and to stop relying to his own only. It is necessary for him, to rely on the grace of God, so that he may stay steady on the path to deification.

Therefore, in the life of Saints, the great impression comes out from their great humility. They, despite having been close to God, having lived in His lightness, having been miracle-makers, Myrrh-flowing, in the same time thought about themselves that they have been very low, that they have been far from God, and that they have been the worst among people. Such their humility made them gods by grace.

Archimandrite George Kapsanis