Archive for the ‘The Philokalia’ Category

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The Philokalia On Prayer 2 – Various

February 8, 2013
The Early Church Fathers of the Western Christian Tradition are widely known, but the Early Desert Fathers of the Orthodox Church (The Writers of the Philokalia) are not as widely known or understood. What makes them unique is their unusual asceticism. Most of them became hermits and lived in the caves of Egypt to uncover the deepest secrets of the inner soul of man. It was in this profound aloneness and heightened dispassion, that these Early Desert Fathers found God. And it was in this utter silence, that they expounded the deep truths which they discovered and wrote down for generations to come. ‘Writers of the Philokalia’ seeks to simplify the four to six volume collection of the Philokalia by introducing the lives and teachings of these Desert Fathers in an Overview fashion.

The Early Church Fathers of the Western Christian Tradition are widely known, but the Early Desert Fathers of the Orthodox Church (The Writers of the Philokalia) are not as widely known or understood. What makes them unique is their unusual asceticism. Most of them became hermits and lived in the caves of Egypt to uncover the deepest secrets of the inner soul of man. It was in this profound aloneness and heightened dispassion, that these Early Desert Fathers found God. And it was in this utter silence, that they expounded the deep truths which they discovered and wrote down for generations to come.

Prayer, like faith itself, is a gift from God. But we must actively accept the gift through our participation.

The Fathers define prayer as a spiritual weapon. Unless we are armed with it, we cannot engage in warfare, but are carried off as prisoners to the enemy’s country. Nor can we acquire pure prayer unless we cleave to God with an upright heart. For it is God who gives prayer to him who prays and who teaches man spiritual knowledge.
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, A Century Of Spiritual Texts, Sec. 8

Especially important is pure prayer — prayer that is unceasing and uninterrupted. Such prayer is a safe fortress, a sheltered harbor, a protector of virtues, a destroyer of passions. It brings vigor to the soul, purifies the intellect, gives rest to those who suffer, consoles those who mourn. Prayer is converse with God, contemplation of the invisible, the angelic mode of life, a stimulus toward the Divine, the assurance of things longed for, “making real the things for which we hope” Hebrews 11:1). As an ascetic you must embrace this queen of the virtues with all your strength. Pray day and night. Pray at times of dejection and at times of exhilaration. Pray with fear and trembling, With a watchful and vigilant mind, so that prayer may be accepted by the Lord. For, as the psalmist says: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer” (Psalm 34:15).
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, A Century Of Spiritual Texts, Sec. 60

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The monastic tradition emphasizes the importance of rising early to praise God.

Whatever a man loves, he desires at all costs to be near to continuously and uninterruptedly, and he turns himself away from everything that hinders him from being in contact and dwelling with the object of his love. It is clear therefore that he who loves God also desires always to be with him and to converse with him. This comes to pass in us through pure prayer. Accordingly, let us apply ourselves to prayer with all our power; for it enables us to become akin to God. Such a man was he who said: “O God, my God, I cry to Thee at dawn; my soul has thirsted for Thee” (Psalm 63:1, LXX). For the man who cries to God at dawn has withdrawn his intellect from every vice and clearly is wounded by divine love.
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic A Century Of Spiritual Texts, Sec. 94

Prayer gives thanks for blessings received and asks for failures to be forgiven and for power to strengthen us for the future; for without God’s help the soul can indeed do nothing. Nonetheless, to persuade the will to have the strongest possible desire for union with and enjoyment of God, for whom it longs, and to direct itself totally toward him, is the major part of the achievement of our aim.
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, Theoretikon

Almsgiving heals the soul’s incensive power, fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for the contemplation of created things. For the Lord has given us commandments that correspond to the powers of the soul.
St. Maximos The Confessor, First Century On Love, Sec. 79

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In the West, there is a strong tradition of prayer using images (kataphatic prayer), as well as imageless (apophatic) prayer. In the East, however, and especially in the Athonite (that is, having to do with Mount Athos) spirituality contained in the Philokalia, the use of images in prayer is strongly discouraged.

When during prayer no conceptual image of anything worldly disturbs intellect, then know that you are within the realm of depression.
St. Maximos The Confessor, First Century On Love, Sec. 88

He who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he who prays entirely without distraction loves God truly. But he whose intellect  is fixed on any worldly thing does not pray without distraction, and consequently he does not love God.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Second Century On Love, Sec 1

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Christ becomes king over man’s soul through man’s frequent prayer and the outpouring of his self. He becomes the true center of its being and movements. At that stage, man will never find rest in anything except in Christ alone, where the image would rest in its own likeness. Since the soul has been created for immortality, it will thus find in Christ, when it unites with him, its ultimate joy. Through his existence, he consummates its own existence and immortality.
Matthew the Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life: The Inner Way

Two states of pure prayer are exalted above all others. One is to be those who have not advanced beyond the practice of the virtues, the other in those leading the contemplative life. The first is engendered in the soul by fear of God and a firm hope in him, the second by an intense longing for God and by total purification. The sign of the first is that the intellect, abandoning all conceptual images of the world, concentrates itself and prays without distraction or disturbance as if God himself were present, as indeed he is. The sign of the second is that at the very onset of prayer the intellect is so ravished by the divine and infinite light that it is aware neither of itself nor of any other created thing, but only of him who through love has such radiance in it. It is then that, being made aware of God’s qualities, it receives clear and distinct reflections of him.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Second Century On Love, Sec. 6

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Imageless prayer is seen as superior to the use of images in prayer, and as necessary to unceasing prayer.

It is said that the highest state of prayer is reached when the intellect and the flesh and the world, and while praying is utterly free from matter and form. He who maintains this state has truly attained unceasing prayer.
St. Maximos The Confessor,  Second Century On Love, Sec. 6

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Enmity is considered not only alien to the life of prayer, but as an enemy of prayer. Here Maximos exhorts us to accept an apology (if made), or to assume that we are at fault. The point is not to establish who is right, but to be forgiving and humble.

Has a brother been the occasion of some trial for you and has your resentment led you to hatred? Do not let yourself be overcome by this hatred, but conquer it with love. You will succeed in this by praying to God sincerely for your brother and by accepting his apology; or else by conciliating him with an apology yourself, by regarding yourself as responsible for the trial, and by patiently waiting until the cloud has passed.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Fourth Century On Love, Sec. 22

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Maximos provides practical guidance for each part of the soul and body. The Eastern approach is holistic.

If you want to be a just person, assign to each aspect of yourself — to your soul and your body — what accords with it. To the intelligent aspect of the soul, assign spiritual reading, contemplation, and prayer; to the incensive aspect, spiritual love, the opposite of hatred; to the desiring aspect, moderation and self-control; to the fleshly part, food and clothing, for these alone are necessary (1 Timothy 6:8).
St. Maximos The Confessor, Fourth Century On Love, Sec. 44

Who in this generation is completely free from impassioned conceptual images, and has been granted uninterrupted, pure, and spiritual prayer? Yet this is the mark of the inner monk.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Fourth Century On Love, Sec. 51

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The Philokalia on Prayer 1 – Various

February 7, 2013
The Philokalia is a "principal spiritual text" for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches; the publishers of the current English translation state that "The Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church."

The Philokalia is a “principal spiritual text” for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches; the publishers of the current English translation state that “The Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church.”

The Philokalia is a collection of writings by monks of the fourth to the fifteenth centuries and more than any other text reflects the Eastern Church’s interpretation of the Bible’s meaning. Philokalia means “Love of the Beautiful” and shows the text’s emphasis on the mystical and contemplative practices to engage all our senses in the acts of worship and prayer. The translations here are done by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Bishop Kallistos Ware. The annotations by Allyne Smith.

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Evagrios the Solitary (346-399), also known as Evagrius of Pontus, was a monk and an ascetic. His spiritual father was Makarios of Alexandria (died ca. 395), and he also knew Makarios of Egypt. He was ordained reader by Basil the Great (ca. 330-379) and deacon by his friend and mentor, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), known in the East as Gregory the Theologian. He was greatly influenced by the Cappadocians — Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 340-394), Gregory of Nazianzus, and Macrina (ca. 330-380) — and by Origen (ca. 175-254). His works, written in Greek and subsequently translated into Syriac and Latin, were very influential in shaping the Eastern spiritual tradition.

If you are disheartened, pray, as the apostle says (James 5:13). Pray with fear, trembling, effort, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. To pray in this manner is especially necessary because the enemies are so .malignant. For it is just when they see us at prayer that they come and stand beside us, ready to attack, suggesting to our intellect the very ‘things we should not think about when praying; in this way they try to take our intellect captive and to make our prayer and supplication vain and useless. For prayer is truly vain and useless when not performed with fear and trembling, with inner watchfulness and vigilance.
Evagrius The Solitary, Outline Teaching On Asceticism And Stillness In The Solitary Life

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Obedience to God’s commandments is the first step in the spiritual life.

When the soul has been purified through the keeping of all the commandments, it makes the intellect steadfast and able to receive the state needed for prayer. Prayer is the communion of the intellect ith God.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 2-3

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John Chrysostom is thinking along these lines when he writes, “The mystery [of the Eucharist] requires that we should be innocent not only of violence but of all enmity, however slight, for it is the mystery of peace.”

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If you desire to pray as you ought, do not grieve anyone; otherwise you “run in vain” (Philippians 2:16). “Leave your gift before the altar; first go away and be reconciled with your brother” (Matthew 5:24), 1 when you return you will pray without disturbance. For rancor darkens the intellect of one who prays, and extinguishes the light of prayers.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 21-22

Undistracted prayer is the highest intellection of the intellect. Prayer is the ascent of the intellect to God. If you long for prayer, renounce to gain all. Pray first for the purification of the passions; second, for reverence from ignorance and forgetfulness; and third, for deliverance from all temptation, trial, and dereliction.
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 35-38

Do not pray only with outward forms and gestures, but with reverence and awe try to make your intellect conscious of spiritual prayer.
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 28

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Buddhists refer to this distraction from prayer as “monkey mind” — when we try to still the mind, it seems determined to “jump from tree to tree,” that is, from thought to thought.

If intellect is still distracted during prayer, you do not yet know it is to pray as a monk; but your prayer is still worldly, embellishing the outer tabernacle. When you pray, keep close watch on your memory, so that it does not distract you with recollections of past. But make yourself aware that you are standing before God. For by nature the intellect is apt to be carried away by memories during prayer. While you are praying, the memory brings before you fantasies either of past things, or of recent concerns, or of the face of one who has irritated you. The demon is very envious of us when we pray, and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose. Therefore he is always using our memory to stir up thoughts of various things and our flesh to arouse our passions, in order to obstruct our way of ascent to God.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 45-47

The state of prayer is one of dispassion, which by virtue of the most intense love transports to the noetic realm the intellect that longs for wisdom
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 53

He who prays in spirit and in truth is no longer dependent on created when honoring the Creator, but praises him for and in himself.
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 60

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For the Church Fathers in the Eastern Christian tradition, theology refers first to God the Trinity; second to the experience of God the Trinity; third to the worship of God the Trinity; fourth to the Holy Scriptures; and last (and arguably least) to “thinking about God.”

If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you heologian.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 61

I shall say again what I have said elsewhere: blessed is the intellect that is completely free from forms during prayer. Blessed is the intellect that, undistracted in its prayer, acquires an even greater longing for God. Blessed is the intellect that during prayer is free from materiality and stripped of all possessions. Blessed is the intellect that has acquired complete freedom from sensations during prayer.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 1 17-120

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Hesychios the Priest (eighth or ninth century) was thought by Nikodimos to have been the early fifth-century Hesychios of Jerusalem, but nowadays he is believed to have been the later Hesychios, who was abbot of a monastery on Sinai. His work draws on Maximos Confessor, Mark the Ascetic, and John Klimakos (ca. 579-649). He emphasized devotion to the name of Jesus.

If we have not attained prayer that is free from thoughts, we have no weapon to fight with. By this prayer I mean the prayer that is ever active in the inner shrine of the soul, and that, by invoking Christ, scourges and sears our enemy.
St. Hesychios The Priest, On Watchfulness And Holiness, Sec. 21

It is written: “Prepare yourself, O Israel, to call upon the name of the Lord your God” (Amos 4:12, LXX); and the apostle says, “Pray without Ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Our Lord himself says, “Without me you can do nothing. If a man dwells in me and I in him, then he brings forth much fruit”; and again: “If a man does not dwell in me, he is cast out as a branch” (John 15:5-6). Prayer is a great blessing, and it embraces all blessings, for it purifies the heart, in which God is seen by the believer.
St. Hesychios The Priest, On Watchfulness And Holiness, Sec. 62

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Unceasing prayer first brings us to the stage of purgation, which Is naturally followed by the second stage of illumination. But Hesychios warns that a lack of humility will prevent this illumination.

It is through unceasing prayer that the mind is cleansed of the dark Ids, the tempests of the demons. And when it is cleansed, the divine light of Jesus cannot but shine in it, unless we are puffed up by esteem and delusion and a love of ostentation, and elevate selves toward the unattainable, and so are deprived of Jesus’ help. Christ, the paradigm of humility, loathes all such self-inflation.
St. Hesychios The Priest, On Watchfulness And Holiness, Sec. 175

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