Friday, August 17, 2018

Prayer - 54 Points on Prayer from Saint Theophan

The following 54 points on prayer from Saint Theophan the Recluse are taken from the collection of writings on prayer found in the book The Art of Prayer.

1. Enter into the spirit of the prayers which you hear and read, reproducing them in your heart; and in this way offer them up from your heart to God, as if they had been born in your own heart under the action of the grace of God.
2. Prayer is the primary work of the moral and religious life. p62
3. The atmosphere of the soul is not purified until a small spiritual flame is kindled in the soul. This flame is the work of the grace of God....This flame appears when a man has attained a certain measure of purity in the general moral order of life. p 65
4. The principal thing in prayer is a feeling heart. p 67
5. You must not let your thoughts to wander at random, but as soon as they run away, you must immediately bring them back, reproaching yourself, regretting and deploring this straying of the must make great effort. p 67
6. The virtuous and humble monk hides his virtues as a rich man hides his treasures, and does not follow his own wishes. p 75
7. Do not allow your mind to be idle, but let it meditate and pray in secret...sometimes meditating on a verse from the Psalms, and sometimes praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” p 77
8. Meditate on the thought of God, On the remembrance of death, and recollect your sins with self reproach. Be conscious of these things and speak about them often with yourself m where am I going? Or: I am a worm and not man. p 79
9. Prayer must not be simply an occupation for a certain time ,but a permanent state of spirit. p 80
10. He who prays without ceasing dwells constantly in the Lord, knows the Lord as God, acquires fear of Him, by fear enters into purity, and by purity into divine love. p 84
11. God is everywhere: see that your thoughts too are always with God. p86
12. The principle thing is to walk before God, or under God’s eye, aware that God is looking at you, searching your soul and heart, seeing all that is there. p 90
13. There is just one method which is obligatory for all: to stand with the attention in the heart. p98
The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever before your consciousness that God is in you, as He is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that He sees all that is within you, knowing you better than you know yourself. p100
14. Awaken in your soul the thirst for salvation...And then cry out to Him...It is not words that matter but your feeling nags towards the Lord. p 108
15. Let the Jesus Prayer be on your tongue; let God’s presence be before your mind; and in your heart let there be the thirst for God, for communion with the Lord. When all this becomes permanent, then the Lord, seeing how you exert yourself, will give you what you ask. p108
16. To achieve spontaneous prayer, we must force ourselves to pray in a particular way — with the Jesus Prayer. p113
17. Before or after your rule of prayer, night and morning or during the day, consecrate a fixed period of time for the performance of this one prayer. p 113
18. The more the Jesus Prayer penetrates into the heart, the warmer the heart becomes, and the more self propelled becomes the prayer, so that the fire of spiritual life is kindled in the heart. p 114
19. When you pray, do not end your prayer without having aroused in your heart some feeling towards God, whether it be reverence, or devotion, or thanksgiving, or glorification, or humility and contrition, or hope and trust. Also when after prayer you begin to read, do not finish reading without having felt in your heart the truth of what you read. p 120
20. Our whole object is to acquire the habit of keeping our attention always on the Lord... p122
21. Any rule of prayer that is properly followed will produce as its first fruits attention and a warm tenderness of heart. p 124
22. It is necessary in the first place to be cleansed of passions. p 126
23. Try to acquire a kind of soreness in your heart. p 127
24. Consider everyone to be better than yourself. p 129
25. Establish in the heart a quiet but warm and constant feeling towards God, not expecting ecstasy or any extraordinary state. p131
26. But as soon as man expects to achieve something in virtue of his own power and self-mastery, then immediately true spiritual life, full of grace, is extinguished. p 134
27. Also must he force himself to self-belittlement, regarding himself as poor and the lowest of all men; he must refrain from idle talk, always studying the words of the lord and keeping them on his lips and in his heart. He should also force himself to avoid irritation and angry speech... p135
28. It is best never to think of yourself as having attained anything, but always to see yourself as poor, naked, blind, and worthless. p 136
29. He who in total humility puts himself in the hand of a merciful God, attracts the Lord to himself. p 136
30. If you have filled your mind with earthly things, if you have given yourself up to the cares of daily business, you have already quenched the Spirit. p150
31. Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth. p151
32. Do not measure yourself. If you think you can decide any question about your progress, it means that you are beginning to measure yourself to see how much you have grown. Please avoid this as you would avoid fire. p 159
33. Remembrance of God is never idle but invariably leads us to meditate on the perfection of God and on His goodness, truth, creation, Providence, redemption, judgement, and reward. p 163
34. It is wrong to become attached to too much reading. It leads to no good and builds a wall between heart and God. It leads to the development of a harmful curiosity and sophistry. p168
35. Instead of concentration upon external behavior, all those who work on themselves must have as their aim to be attentive and vigilant, and to walk in the presence of God. p 170
36. When we have no communion with God, and do not feel Him within us, we must recognize that we have turned away from our aim and from the way chosen for us. p 172
37. You must believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is within us—by the power of baptism and holy communion, according to His own promise; for He is united with us through these Sacraments. p 173
38. The kingdom of God is within us when God reigns in us... This reign begins as soon as we resolve to serve God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then the Christian hands over to God his consciousness and freedom...and God accepts the sacrifice. p 180
39. What have you to feel above all else? Self-satisfaction, self-appreciation, self-conceit, and all other things beginning with self. p 187
40. Giving yourself in prayerful surrender to God and His grace, call out each of the things that incite you to sin and try to turn your heart away from them, directing it towards their opposite... It is necessary to go on working on ourselves in this way until, instead of self-pity, there is born in us mercifulness and ruthlessness towards ourselves, a desire to suffer, to torture ourselves, to tire out our soul and body.... It is ne essay to go on working until our appetite exclusively for things material, sensory, and visible disappears completely, and is replaced by a feeling of disgust for such things; and instead we begin to thirst and to search only for what is spiritual, pure, and divine. ...the heart comes to be filled with a sense of being but a pilgrim on earth, whose whole longing is for his heavenly home. p 203
41. Do not theologize. P 208
42. High opinion of ourselves gives rise to two things: blowing our own trumpet and censuring others. p 209
43. Refrain from any kind of judging. We should do better to direct our censure and criticism against ourselves. p 210
44. Self-gratification is the cause of all evils. p 214
45. When you talk to someone, above all refrain from upsetting him by aggressiveness, or by expressing an opinion directly opposed to his, from an obvious desire to have your own way. P 217
46. Progress in the spiritual life is shown by an ever-increasing realization of our own worthlessness, in the full and literal sense of this word. p222
47. Tears are the measure of progress, an unceasing tears are a sign of coming perfection. p226
48. The more man contemplates his sin and the more he laments over himself, the more pleasing and accessible he is to the Holy Spirit, who like a physician approaches only those who recognize themselves as being ill... Look upon your sin, and search it out... Deny yourself...and weep over it. p 227
49. Activities are not the main thing in life. The most important is to have the heart directed and attuned to God. p 235
50. Act and speak always with the awareness that the Lord is near and direct everything according to His pleasure. p 239
51. A custom yourself to be with the Lord unceasingly, whatever you may be doing, and do everything for Him, striving to bring it to harmony with His commandments. Then you will never feel sad, for you will know that you are always doing His work. p 239
52. To do everything in the Name of the Lord means to turn all to His glory, to try to perform everything in such a way as to please Him, conscious that it is His will. It means also to surround every deed by prayer to Him; to begin it with prayer and to end it with prayer; as we begin, to ask His blessing; as we proceed, to beg His help; and as we finish, to give Him thanks for accomplishing His work in us and through us. p 249
53. Wish that the spirit of deep humility should always reign in you. This brings tears and contrition, and it also prevents us from being puffed up with pride at having them. p 274. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

More wisdom on Reading

When reading the holy fathers, we find a place that responds to us: say, a word about a virtue that we do not have, but would like to acquire, or about any shortcoming that we have and from which we wish to get rid of, - let us stop and reflect on this. For example, I found some teaching on the passion of anger. I close the book, I sit, I think and I pray, how can I stop being angry, and imprint it in my mind. And when we read an infinite number of pages in a row, and we like everything, and the content is full of meaning, then we forget a lot. If I read, read, read, and eventually close the book and leave - then I do not remember anything and do not return my mind to the read. The goal is not to read as many pages as possible, but to make us benefit from what we read.
Abbess Theosemni of Chrysiopigi Monastery Chania, Crete