THE JESUS PRAYER, METHOD #3: St. Sophrony

From his book, His Life is Mine

In these pages, Sophrony delves more deeply into the nature and meaning of our union with God through the Jesus prayer.

In the first place, he reminds us, we utter the prayer with our whole being—not simply through only the senses or the intellect.

Knowledge which is imbued with life (as opposed to abstract knowledge) can in no wise be confined to the intellect: there must be a real union with the act of Being.

How is this possible and achievable? Sophrony has the answer. “This is achieved through love,” he explains. Love is the difference between uttering the words of the prayer and praying the prayer.

Love begins in the heart, and the mind is confronted with a new interior event and contemplates Being in the Light of the Divine love.

This is infinitely more difficult than merely saying the words or forgetting about the words all together to enter a state of engrossment as an end unto itself.  He admits:

There is no ascetic feat more difficult, more painful, than the effort to draw closer to God, who is Love

This is because

Love is not something given to us: it must be acquired by an effort made of our own free will.

Love requires a choice and a commitment to submit ourselves to others. It entails using our free will to accept Christ and practice his commandments in our daily lives. This means fighting pride which is considered the greatest obstacle to love. Sophrony reminds us how we spend most of our days criticizing others for not acting according to our script for the world, remembering insults and injustices to us, attempting to control, impress and garner praise from people.

Love for Christ means experiencing him in his fulness and not as solitary individual. Giving ourselves over to Christ in love is revelatory and transforming as “in him there is not only God but the whole human race.”  We connect with him as well as understand ourselves as inter-connected components in the larger composition of the universe and achieve harmony with it.

Praying the Jesus prayer in love, asks us to resist the spell of impersonal ecstasy that the repetition of the Jesus prayer might bring about, and to be conscious of the person of Christ and the fact that…

The name of Jesus speaks to us of the extreme manifestation of the Father’s love for us.

The Jesus prayer entails the discipline of praying to a personal God while forgetting the world and being aware of the meaning of the words that we repeat.

In the Jesus prayer, he says, we are driven, not only by the pursuit of peace and inner silence but by the quest to experience the beauty of the divine revealed to us by Christ. “The gospel for us is Divine Revelation.”

Sophrony thus, returns to a theme that concerns him—the perception that the Jesus prayer is a type of Christian Yoga—and points out the differences.

In the personal and revelatory relationship with God that we experience, our individuality is not obliterated.

Though prayer in the Name of Jesus in its ultimate realization unites man with Christ fully, the human hypostasis is not obliterated, is not lost in Divine Being like a drop of water in the ocean.

This is the difference between prayer and ecstatic experience as an end unto itself.

This brings about a true transformation in our perception of the world around us. As we repeat the prayer, conscious of our love for Christ, Jesus becomes even more sacred to us, and we no longer perceive the world through the senses or intellect alone but as unified, creative energy. Sophrony describes how a sense of peace flows unto us at this point and “a luminous aura envelops heart and head.” We have finally united the two through our choice of love in which we repeat the Jesus prayer.

To acquire prayer is to acquire eternity.

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