430px-David_(Kirillo-Belozersk)Syncletice of holy memory said: “Men endure sore travail and conflict when they are first converted to the Lord, but later they have joy unspeakable. They are like men trying to light a fire, the smoke gets into their eyes, their eyes begin to drop tears—but they succeed in what they want. It is written: ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ [cf. Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3; Hebrews 12:29]: and so we must kindle the fire of God with tears and trouble.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 3.16

Continuing my series on the four forms of prayer, I come to supplication. As I mentioned in my first post, according to Abba Isaac, supplication is “particularly suitable to beginners, who are still smarting under the recollection of their sins.” In the course of exploring what supplication looks like, I would also like to examine contrition, since that is the affective state that corresponds to it. I find Amma Syncletice’s statement to be a helpful counterbalance to Abba Isaac. After all, spiritual wisdom is often aimed at the concrete. The principles apply in typical cases, not absolutely. In this case, I find a reciprocal relationship between contrition and supplication. Supplication is the appropriate response to contrition, Abba Isaac is correct, but it also helps to cultivate contrition in those to whom it does not come so easily. Continue reading