Transfiguration, apse, St. Katherine's, Sinai. 6.c.
A. UNCEASING PRAYER
UNIQUELY CHRISTIAN GOAL:
1. Pagan antiquity generally aimed at placating and keeping dangerous deities at a distance.
2. Pious Judaism emphasized necessity for holiness of one who prays.
3. Jesus invites notoriously impure to CALL GOD FATHER - this had been the sole privilege of saintly rabbis in Jesus’ day)
4. Jesus tells parable of widow and unjust judge “so that they would PRAY ALWAYS (πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι - pantote proseuchesthai) and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
5. St. Paul urges UNCEASING PRAYER: 1 Thes. 5:17: PRAY UNCEASINGLY (ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε - adialeiptōs proseuchesthe)
6. Christian virtue of parrhesia in speaking to God: ... in [Christ Jesus our Lord] we have boldness and confidence of access (παρρησίαν/parrhesian) through our faith in him. (Ephesians 3:12)
HOW CAN IT BE PRACTICED?
7. Didache recommends thrice-daily Lord’s Prayer; Cyprian and Tertullian recommend consecration of different hours of day with prayer
8. Clement of Alexandria and Origen maintain that the Christian gnostic does not always need to use words in order to pray always.
9. Evagrius Ponticus recommends short, intense prayer during temptations (de.Orat. 98) and encourages “pure” (imageless) prayer (68, 71, 73).
B. MONOLOGISTIC PRAYER
(see: introduction to lectio divina)
1. Compare lengthy self-glorifying prayer of pharisee with brief monologistic plea of “justified” tax collector in Luke 18:13: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner ( Ὁ θεός͵ ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ).
2. Paul emphasizes significance and power of Jesus’ name: At the name of Jesus every knee should bend (Phil 2:10); Always give thanks in the name of our lord Jesus Christ to God the Father (Eph 5:10).
ONE WORD ; SHORT PHRASE
... WHEN you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret (ἐν τῷ κρυπτῳ); and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 And in praying do not heap up empty phrases (βατταλογήσητε) as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven . . . (Mat. 6:7-9)
ἐν τῷ κρυπτῳ / en to krupto: κρυπτός / kruptos : secret, hidden private; inward, inmost
βατταλογήσητε / battalogeo: babble, use many words
MONOLOGISTIC prayer generally but not always (the Rosary is one important exception to this rule) tends towards apophatic, (imageless, wordless, non-iconic) experience of God.
THE KATAPHATIC TRADITION
(The Way of Affirmation)
IMAGES; LIGHT; LITERATURE;
Sacramental Focus; Scriptural Focus
(Liturgy of the Hours)
(Taizé, Gregorian Chant)
Stations of the Cross; The Rosary
THE APOPHATIC TRADITION
(The Way of Negation)
[SIMPLICITY, ABSENCE of IMAGES; DARKNESS; WORDLESS INTUITION]
MONOLOGISTIC (Private-) PRAYER
The Jesus Prayer (Hesychasm)
The prayer of the Cloud of Unknowing
(Contemplative praying of the Scriptures)
C. DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS
of the JESUS PRAYER
according to Bishop Kallistos Ware
St. Seraphim of Sarov.
1. Invocation of the NAME of Jesus
2. Prayer for mercy: PENTHOS - (sorrow, mourning, compunction)
3. Discipline of: CONSTANT REPETITION
4. IMAGELESS / NON-ICONIC
To these defining characteristics can be added other prominent themes:
A. Bring the MIND (nous) into the HEART (kardia)
B. Vision of the Divine LIGHT
C. Physical Techniques in 14th century ATHOS (e.g. Gregory of Sinai)
This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 2003