Let no one think, my Christian Brethren, that only persons in holy orders, or monks, are obliged to pray unceasingly and at all times, but not laymen. No, no! It is the duty of all us Christians to remain always in prayer.
~ St. Gregory Palamas, On the Necessity of Constant Prayer for all Christians in General
This is both an encouraging and a hard saying. It is encouraging because it affirms the focus of this blog, everyday asceticism. It is hard because it seemingly sets the bar so high. Continue reading
An old man said: “Chastity is born of serenity, and silence, and secret meditation.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 5.25
Unchastity, and the lust from which it is born, is a problem that we do well to revisit often with an ear to the wisdom of the fathers. How many relationships, marriages, ministries, careers, and so on have been ruined by a person’s own lust? This unnamed old man offers an interesting insight to contemplate. If chastity is “born of serenity, and silence, and secret meditation,” then logically unchastity thrives where there is no serenity, no silence, and no secret meditation. Continue reading
An old man said: “Take care to be silent. Empty the mind. Attend to your meditation, in the fear of God, whether you are resting in bed or at work. If you do this, you will not fear the assaults of demons.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 11.47
A distinctively Christian meditation is not so easy to come by these days, certainly not in the United States, at least. However, meditation has been a Judeo-Christian practice for as far back as we know. I offer here a few meditations on the subject from my own studies and experience.
The very first psalm contrasts the way of the righteous with the way of the impious and sinners. Of the righteous man, we are told, “His will is in the Law of the Lord, and in it he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The Lord, in fact, commanded the people of Israel to order their whole lives around meditating on the Law, putting commandments on their doorposts, talking about them whether walking or resting, standing or sleeping. It was always to be on their hearts, minds, and tongues.
For Christians, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. Thus meditation on the Law (though not neglected) is transcended by meditation on Christ himself. Eventually this developed into a very specific tradition known as the Jesus Prayer, the repetition of the name of Jesus, particularly through some variant of the following: “Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Continue reading
Saint Syncletice said: “My sons, we all know the way to be saved, and fail to travel it because we do not care.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 11.31A
Salvation can be a controversial subject, but only because it is such an important one. For my part, I would say that there are many senses of the word and that too much energy has been spent in the past by people who were talking past each other. That is not to say that they never have had real differences. But much of the time they were like the six blind men and the elephant in the famous Hindu parable. Continue reading
Abba Hyperichius said: “Keep praising God with hymnody, and meditate continually, and so lift the burden of temptations that come upon you. A traveller carrying a heavy burden stops from time to time to take deep breaths, and so makes the journey easier and the burden lighter.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 7.20
Deep breaths. Stop and take deep breaths. This is something for which I can use continual reminders. Thankfully, I have a baby. Continue reading