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Author Topic: What does the Jesus prayer "mean?"  (Read 4724 times) Average Rating: 0
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Cassiel
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« on: April 19, 2008, 03:03:34 PM »

In another post, Heorhij wrote,

"Also the Jesus prayer, I believe it's always OK, at any circumstances, whether you are alone or with other people. Simply "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (It sounds better in languages that convey the original Greek "eleison" as love, tenderness, healing power, etc., rather than the English "mercy"/"pity".)"

This got my curiosity going.  I've only been praying the Jesus prayer for a couple of months, and I've observed my thoughts about it change during this time.  At first I had sort of a juridical understanding (I'm coming from Roman Catholicism: hard not to have this view), which I sometimes still have: "have mercy on me" meaning "forbear judgment," "hold off your just action."  As I went through some more desperate struggles during lent it came to mean "help me, ASAP - your will be done!" 

But I hadn't considered what it might mean in other languages.  "Love, tenderness, healing power" carry very different connotations than "mercy/pity," as Heorhij notes.  Thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2008, 03:23:21 PM »

The Greek word "eleison" comes from the word for oil, which was used for healing. In Hebrew, like other Semitic languages, the root word means "womb," indicating a mother's care, love, protection, etc.
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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2008, 07:42:12 PM »

Well, if you translate the English word "mercy" on Russian it sounds like "pomilovat' ", "smilostivit'sya". Those verbs have the common root "mil". The base "mil" uses in many words like verbal noun "miloserdie" for example, what means  being ready to help somebody, to show your love for people. The verb "milovat' " (what means same like "pomilovat' " - to have mercy), also has the second meaning - to show your love for somebody. The adjective "milyj",  means "somebody who is nice , who is good".
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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2008, 07:55:39 PM »

So beautiful and interesting! Another one of those moments when I rejoice that I was led by God (for all my doubts and  faults) to Holy Orthodoxy! How blessed we all are!
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2008, 09:55:45 PM »

Well, if you translate the English word "mercy" on Russian it sounds like "pomilovat' ", "smilostivit'sya". Those verbs have the common root "mil". The base "mil" uses in many words like verbal noun "miloserdie" for example, what means  being ready to help somebody, to show your love for people. The verb "milovat' " (what means same like "pomilovat' " - to have mercy), also has the second meaning - to show your love for somebody. The adjective "milyj",  means "somebody who is nice , who is good".

Exactly. In Ukrainian, they say that a mother "myluje dytynu," meaning, she pets, kisses, "babies" her child. It's an expression for the most tender love you can imagine, the love of a mother for her baby, and it has absolutely zero connotations of "mercy"/"pity." As far as I understand, the Greek "eleison" - "annoint with oil," "soften wounds with oil," etc. - is a lot closer to the Slavic "milovat'"/"myluvaty" than to the Latin "miserere" -> the English "have mercy."
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« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2008, 12:21:19 PM »

Please correct me if I am wrong here...

I am under the impression that the primary function of The Jesus Prayer is that it should be used as a "hesichastic tool" to achieve inner silence.

A "single focus" which will allow one to remove all other thoughts, cares and emotions from the mind.

If this is indeed the case, than over analysis (a trait for which I am notorious) defeats the whole purpose. Being a technical writer, semantics is one of my real passions but, in the case of The Jesus Prayer, isn't it intended to just be used to focus on the Person of Christ rather than on any actions that we hope to receive from Him?
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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2008, 12:49:12 PM »

I've always been under the impression that while it can be used as a hesychastic tool, that is not it's only use.

Lev Gillet wrote a wonderful little book that I have unfortunately lost in one of my many moves over the past few years about the Name of Jesus and its use in prayer.  The little primer at the back of the Jordanville prayerbook is a great resource for learning about the Jesus Prayer, as well.
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2008, 04:27:08 PM »


... in the case of The Jesus Prayer, isn't it intended to just be used to focus on the Person of Christ rather than on any actions that we hope to receive from Him?

But what a person does tells us about who he is.  We say we worship a merciful God and we ask Him to have mercy on us, but what do we mean by "mercy"?  In Western Christianity, the mercy of God has come to mean "the wonderful tendency of God not to squash his creatures who are horrific worms deserving of being squashed."  One of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy was the idea that yes, we've really screwed ourselves us and through our actions have made ourselves horrific, but God made us "very good" and wants to help us stop making a horror of ourselves.  He wants to do that because He loves us.  If we repeat the request "have mercy on me" over and over again with the Western idea in mind, we reinforce it.  If we do it with the Eastern idea in mind, like what Heorhij describes, we reinforce our perception of Christ as the one who loves us more than the person that (for most of us) was the most loving one in our early lives - our mother.  The actions we ascribe to Christ determine our perception of who He is.  So I don't consider this over-analysis, I guess.  Does that make sense?
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2008, 12:34:56 PM »

I guess Howdydave has a point, but what others say also makes sense. Not all of us Orthodox people are hesychasts, nor should we all be. When you work two jobs, sit at exasperating business meetings and your wife is about to give birth to your third child in your two-bedroom home, you most definitely aren't a hesychast, nor you can be. But you can, and should, still use the Jesus prayer, it is very highly recommended to all of us. --G.
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2008, 12:43:29 PM »

I guess Howdydave has a point, but what others say also makes sense. Not all of us Orthodox people are hesychasts, nor should we all be. When you work two jobs, sit at exasperating business meetings and your wife is about to give birth to your third child in your two-bedroom home, you most definitely aren't a hesychast, nor you can be. But you can, and should, still use the Jesus prayer, it is very highly recommended to all of us. --G.

Hesychia can be found in some sense in all of the above situations; you can learn to have inner stillness no matter what is going on around you. it is infinitely harder though. But it can be done over a lifetime. "Incremental gain" is the name of the game it seems to me.
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« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2008, 02:29:38 AM »

I would agree with Deacon Anastasios. If I'm not mistaken hesychasm means inner stillness, and perhaps it's only because I seek monastic vocation that I'm of the conviction that every Orthodox Christian should strive for hesychia!

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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2008, 01:27:05 AM »

Howdy Basil!

You too, eh?

Maybe our paths will cross at a monastery somewhere!
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2008, 01:28:36 AM »

Please correct me if I am wrong here...

I am under the impression that the primary function of The Jesus Prayer is that it should be used as a "hesichastic tool" to achieve inner silence.

A "single focus" which will allow one to remove all other thoughts, cares and emotions from the mind.

If this is indeed the case, than over analysis (a trait for which I am notorious) defeats the whole purpose. Being a technical writer, semantics is one of my real passions but, in the case of The Jesus Prayer, isn't it intended to just be used to focus on the Person of Christ rather than on any actions that we hope to receive from Him?

Well according to Kallistos Ware there are two main uses of the Jesus Prayer.

Bishop Kallistos Ware said this about the Jesus Prayer,

"The Jesus Prayer can be used in two main ways. It can be used as part of our special daily prayer time, when we are seeking to pray and nothing else, I might call that the fixed use.  Than the Jesus prayer can be used during the day as we go about our charactristic activities in all the passing moments that might other wise be wasted as we are doing familiar tasks. As we are walking from place to place, as we are waiting for the bus, or as if drive a car, which I don't, when we are stuck in a traffic jam, the first thing when we wake up in the morning, the last thing before we go to sleep, if we can't sleep at night. We can say the Jesus prayer in free way.

The fixed use of the Jesus prayer helps to produce within us a comtemplitive attitude, it helps to create silence within us.  The Jesus prayer is a prayer in words, the words are very simply and are constantly repeated, in and through the words of the Jesus prayer we reach out into the living silence of God.  Sometimes yes we can wait on God and not say anything, those are very precious moments, if we try to do this regularly we may find in practice we are simply subject to endless wondering thoughts. We can't by a simply act of will turn off the internal televisions, so the Jesus prayer gives us in our prayer time, a specific way of praying. A practical method which can help to gather us in prayer, can help us overcome wondering thoughts, can help us to attain through words an action of silence of waiting on God, of listening to Him. That would be how I understand the Jesus prayer in our set prayer time. The fixed use.

But I would once would add, the Jesus prayer is not compulsary, we are not to say it is the only way, we are not to even say it is the best way, all I wish to say of the Jesus prayer is that it has helped very many people. It has helped me. It may help you too. But it is not compulsary.

As to the free use, it would seem that its aim is to help us to find Christ everywhere. Alexander Schmemann says in his excellent book, "for the Life of the World," 'The Christian is one where ever he looks see everywhere Christ and rejoices in Him. So the free use of the Jesus prayer, helps us to see Christ everywhere. It helps use to bring Christ into the different moments of our daily life. So that our awareness of God's presense with us, is not just limited to our set prayer time but flows over into the day so as we go about our familiar task, while performing those task with full attentiveness, we can also be aware that Christ is with us.  Where ever we are and what ever we do.  So the Jesus prayer bridges the gap between prayer time and work time. It help us to turn our work into prayer.

St. Paul says to Pray without ceasing. Not just morning and evening, not just seven times a day, without ceasing, continuiously.  How are we to do that?  Perhaps the best way is to use very frequent prayer, to have throughout the day moments of prayer. The prayer may not be continuous but it will become more and more frequent. And that is the first step in to fulfilling St. Pauls injunction. So the Jesus prayer helps us to make the whole world a sacrement of God's presense. Where ever we go, what ever we do.  We feel that Christ is with us.  Many people are called to use the Jesus prayer in this free way eventhough they may not use the Jesus prayer in their set prayer times, in the fixed way. That is perfectly alright. [/color]Each should follow the path of prayer that each is personally called. With the guidance of cousre of their spiritual father or spiritual mother. "

I transcripted this from,

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/a_conversation_with_met_kallistos_ware_on_the_sacramental_life/

It is toward the end of the podcast around 36 minutes and 35 seconds of the lecture, in the questioning and answering part of the lecture.  Please excuse the typos and mistakes in my transcription, but I feel it is very near exact.

I felt it was necessary because people here seem to be promoting only one use of the Jesus Prayer, when there are in fact two main ways to use the Jesus prayer according to Bishop Kallistos Ware.

I would also add, even though there are two main purpose of the Jesus prayer, it doesn't mean there isn't secondary uses of the Jesus prayer.  I don't think we should not be so legalistic in our approach toward the Jesus prayer. Our faith is flexible, within limits of course.  And our Lord knows best.

I hope this helps.
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2008, 12:32:38 AM »

Hi everyone,

I am new this forum and I hope to learn and enrich myself with the truth about our Beloved Orthodoxy.

There are volumes of books on the Jesus Prayer. There is no shortage of advice on how to apply it to our lives, but when it comes to practising it I feel as though I am repeating words and dont seem to get anything out of it. Sad Any thoughts.

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« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2008, 01:26:51 AM »

Hi everyone,

I am new this forum and I hope to learn and enrich myself with the truth about our Beloved Orthodoxy.

There are volumes of books on the Jesus Prayer. There is no shortage of advice on how to apply it to our lives, but when it comes to practising it I feel as though I am repeating words and dont seem to get anything out of it. Sad Any thoughts.



If you get the chance, find a monastic or visit a monastic community willing to perfomr what is called the "Jesus prayer service"....
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« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2008, 08:00:28 AM »

It also seems as if the Jesus Prayer can help us pray continually, in the spirit of, our other daily prayers (Trisagion, Lord's prayer, Angelic salute etc.) with cautious sobriety and humility.
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« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2008, 06:50:49 PM »

"If you get the chance, find a monastic or visit a monastic community willing to perfomr what is called the "Jesus prayer service"...."

I will take that on board thank you.

I also explained this same problem to my Spiritual Father last night.
The first reaction was smile and then he comforted me by saying " Dont be fooled into thinking that they are 'mere' words that you are praying, because those mere words have everything for us Orthodox Christians". He continued to say that the evil one has tried to implant those negative thoughts into my head so I dont try to pray the Jesus Prayer.

After my confession and discussion, I felt comforted and rejuvinated and ready once again to confront the world.

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God Have Mercy on me a sinner
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« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2008, 02:46:43 AM »

The Greek word "eleison" comes from the word for oil, which was used for healing. In Hebrew, like other Semitic languages, the root word means "womb," indicating a mother's care, love, protection, etc.

No, the Greek word eleison (ελέησον) comes from the word eleos (έλεος). The word for oil, elaion (έλαιον), comes from the word for olive, elaia (ελαία). Note the different spellings, including the diphthong αί which gives the e sound in the words pertaining to olives and oil. The words for mercy and oil are etymologically and linguistically different, and are not to be confused!

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this confusion, even from the pen or keyboard of otherwise knowledgeable people. Yet I'm sure it won't be the last .... Roll Eyes
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« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2008, 07:35:18 AM »

No, the Greek word eleison (ελέησον) comes from the word eleos (έλεος). The word for oil, elaion (έλαιον), comes from the word for olive, elaia (ελαία). Note the different spellings, including the diphthong αί which gives the e sound in the words pertaining to olives and oil. The words for mercy and oil are etymologically and linguistically different, and are not to be confused!

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this confusion, even from the pen or keyboard of otherwise knowledgeable people. Yet I'm sure it won't be the last .... Roll Eyes

Many scholars have stated that the words elaion and eleison share the same root, for example, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom:
Quote
These words 'have mercy' are used in all the Christian Churches and, in Orthodoxy, they are the response of the people to all the petitions suggested by the priest. Our modern translation 'have mercy' is a limited and insufficient one. The Greek word which we find in the gospel and in the early liturgies is eleison. Eleison is of the same root as elaion, which means olive tree and the oil from it. If we look up the Old and New Testament in search of the passages connected with this basic idea, we will find it described in a variety of parables and events which allow us to form a complete idea of the meaning of the word. We find the image of the olive tree in Genesis. After the flood Noah sends birds, one after the other, to find out whether there is any dry land or not, and one of them, a dove - and it is significant that it is a dove - brings back a small twig of olive. This twig conveys to Noah and to all with him in the ark the news that the wrath of God has ceased, that God is now offering man a fresh opportunity. All those who are in the ark will be able to settle again on firm ground and make an attempt to live, and never more perhaps, if they can help it, undergo the wrath of God.
Source.
Is your claim that they are not related a scholarly one, or merely a personal opinion?
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« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2008, 10:06:47 AM »


The excellent book "Orthodox Worship" describes the meaning of the word mercy as follows:

    "The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for 'Lord, have mercy,' are 'Kyrie, eleison' ­ that is to say, 'Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.' Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal ­ a very Western interpretation ­ but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray 'Lord, have mercy,' with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy."*
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« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2008, 11:29:06 AM »

Wow, that does have a very different meaning.

My question is, though, what do we put the emphasis on when we're praying the Jesus Prayer?  I've read in many places that one should always focus on the words and pray them with meaning and not with inattentive repetition.  Are we to focus on the Person of Christ alone with the words?  Do we approach Him with joy, expectant hope, contrition, or abasement of ourselves?  All of these?  Do we apply the prayer to specific sins (this may present a practical problem as our sins are without number)?  I often become inattentive when praying, so about half of my prayer time is being spent praying for attentiveness and forgiveness for my wandering intellect, each and every time I wander.  What disposition does the Lord have toward us in this prayer?  I have benefited from the Lord's mercy in this prayer but I honestly have never looked at Him in a way that you all say the other languages do.  Generally I see Christ the same way with an icon or without, which is as a great mystery.  I don't know how He is relating to me at any moment, and the icon usually conveys a blank or disinterested stare at something else, since the eyes are diverted.  On the icon from St. Catherine's monastery, the eyes are fixed directly at the viewer but it seems like a very judgmental and terrifying stare.  I also somehow got the idea from my non-orthodox Christian life that God is aloof like an undisturbed, placid ocean and that our relationship is categorically determined as if we number among the elect or in whatever way we can somehow identify with His state.  It's interesting that the Jesus Prayer has lessened this idea somewhat, because for the first time in my life I have felt an inkling of something actually going on.  I know we're not supposed to depend on those feelings, but I wonder how we differentiate between the "feelings" we get from God and the honest intellectual, emotional, or ultimately noetic recognition of Him.

It just occurred to me and it helps to think that God's attributes are infinite, but His Person, and that of His Son and His Spirit, although they are not strictly persons as men are, are persons in such a way that we can relate to them as persons.  I used to, as a Protestant, confuse God's attributes, essence, and persons, and I guess I am still doing the same thing.  It's hard to even relate to God as an infinite person or something like that and then scrutinize His attributes for some divine arrangement or configuration of His dispositions that somehow lets me in and loves.  This kind of talk is confusing, which is why I like the simplicity of the Symbol of Faith.

Sorry that this has turned into more of a rant than questions. 

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.
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« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2008, 04:13:26 PM »

Quote

Irenaeus07, as an aside, did you transcribe the whole interview?! If you did then wow! because I *also* did - without of course knowing you did!

It's available in three parts starting here, and my full pdf transcript can be found here.

-tpkatsa
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« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2008, 07:18:49 PM »

Wow, that does have a very different meaning.

My question is, though, what do we put the emphasis on when we're praying the Jesus Prayer?  I've read in many places that one should always focus on the words and pray them with meaning and not with inattentive repetition.  Are we to focus on the Person of Christ alone with the words?  Do we approach Him with joy, expectant hope, contrition, or abasement of ourselves?  All of these?  Do we apply the prayer to specific sins (this may present a practical problem as our sins are without number)?  I often become inattentive when praying, so about half of my prayer time is being spent praying for attentiveness and forgiveness for my wandering intellect, each and every time I wander.  What disposition does the Lord have toward us in this prayer?  I have benefited from the Lord's mercy in this prayer but I honestly have never looked at Him in a way that you all say the other languages do.  Generally I see Christ the same way with an icon or without, which is as a great mystery.  I don't know how He is relating to me at any moment, and the icon usually conveys a blank or disinterested stare at something else, since the eyes are diverted.  On the icon from St. Catherine's monastery, the eyes are fixed directly at the viewer but it seems like a very judgmental and terrifying stare.  I also somehow got the idea from my non-orthodox Christian life that God is aloof like an undisturbed, placid ocean and that our relationship is categorically determined as if we number among the elect or in whatever way we can somehow identify with His state.  It's interesting that the Jesus Prayer has lessened this idea somewhat, because for the first time in my life I have felt an inkling of something actually going on.  I know we're not supposed to depend on those feelings, but I wonder how we differentiate between the "feelings" we get from God and the honest intellectual, emotional, or ultimately noetic recognition of Him.

It just occurred to me and it helps to think that God's attributes are infinite, but His Person, and that of His Son and His Spirit, although they are not strictly persons as men are, are persons in such a way that we can relate to them as persons.  I used to, as a Protestant, confuse God's attributes, essence, and persons, and I guess I am still doing the same thing.  It's hard to even relate to God as an infinite person or something like that and then scrutinize His attributes for some divine arrangement or configuration of His dispositions that somehow lets me in and loves.  This kind of talk is confusing, which is why I like the simplicity of the Symbol of Faith.

Sorry that this has turned into more of a rant than questions. 

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.

Awesome, I really enjoyed reading your post.

I have the same question about what should we try to be focusing on while praying the Jesus prayer.

Thoughts please.

Lord have mercy
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« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2008, 07:21:08 PM »

My question is, though, what do we put the emphasis on when we're praying the Jesus Prayer? 

Simply say the words and allow yourself to be still. Period.

In other words: Stop thinking! That's the whole point!! Less think, more being.

Just be still. Make some prostrations. Say the words. Mean the words. Try to cultivate a quietness, especially quietness of mind and heart. Above all, stay humble & keep it simple. Sometimes we adults, caught in the ways of the world, make things much more complicated than they really are!

Fr. John McGuckin, who has written extensively on the Early Church Fathers' understanding of prayer and the spiritual life, has a podcast series dedicated to applying their teachings on prayer to modern life:

http://www.myocn.net/index.php/Turning-to-the-Fathers/

The first episode of the series touches on all of this:

http://www.myocn.net/images/stories/podcast//TTTF/TTTF080404-McGuckin-HumblePrayer.mp3
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Byzantine2008
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« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2008, 07:37:45 PM »

Simply say the words and allow yourself to be still. Period.

In other words: Stop thinking! That's the whole point!! Less think, more being.

Just be still. Make some prostrations. Say the words. Mean the words. Try to cultivate a quietness, especially quietness of mind and heart. Above all, stay humble & keep it simple. Sometimes we adults, caught in the ways of the world, make things much more complicated than they really are!

Fr. John McGuckin, who has written extensively on the Early Church Fathers' understanding of prayer and the spiritual life, has a podcast series dedicated to applying their teachings on prayer to modern life:

http://www.myocn.net/index.php/Turning-to-the-Fathers/

The first episode of the series touches on all of this:

http://www.myocn.net/images/stories/podcast//TTTF/TTTF080404-McGuckin-HumblePrayer.mp3

Thank you for your reply. Will tery to put it into practise. Smiley

Lord have mercy
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We must seek out heresy within ourselves...


« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2008, 09:39:25 AM »

I'm sure someone must have stated what I am about to state.

The Jesus Prayer is one of the most beautiful prayers that can define our purpose in prayer and to engage in what the Apostle Paul instructed in terms of ceaseless prayer!

Many Monastics will tell you to repeat this prayer many, many, many times! The reason reveals itself if such instruction is put into practice.

At least for Monastics, in many ways (among others) the Jesus Prayer unites the Kardia and Nous together, by resisting the passions which afflict us.

While ceaseless prayer is not for everyone, it makes us even moreso, worthy in Christ.
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Byzantine2008
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« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2008, 07:56:58 PM »

I'm sure someone must have stated what I am about to state.

The Jesus Prayer is one of the most beautiful prayers that can define our purpose in prayer and to engage in what the Apostle Paul instructed in terms of ceaseless prayer!

Many Monastics will tell you to repeat this prayer many, many, many times! The reason reveals itself if such instruction is put into practice.

At least for Monastics, in many ways (among others) the Jesus Prayer unites the Kardia and Nous together, by resisting the passions which afflict us.

While ceaseless prayer is not for everyone, it makes us even moreso, worthy in Christ.

Thank You.

That’s I find the most difficult is to focus after repeating it many many times. My mind wanders and I have to keep on persisting in remaining focused on the words.

It certainly is a struggle to acquire, but I will just have to try being patient and humble with my approach.

Lord Have Mercy on me a sinner
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« Reply #27 on: August 05, 2008, 09:51:36 PM »

No, the Greek word eleison (ελέησον) comes from the word eleos (έλεος). The word for oil, elaion (έλαιον), comes from the word for olive, elaia (ελαία). Note the different spellings, including the diphthong αί which gives the e sound in the words pertaining to olives and oil. The words for mercy and oil are etymologically and linguistically different, and are not to be confused!

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this confusion, even from the pen or keyboard of otherwise knowledgeable people. Yet I'm sure it won't be the last .... Roll Eyes

Interesting. May I ask, then: what's the meaning of "eleison" vs. "elaion?"

Заранee благодарeн! Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: August 05, 2008, 11:49:59 PM »

Eleos and Eleison are the noun and verb for mercy; elaion means oil, or, more specifically, olive oil. Elaia is olive tree or its fruit.
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« Reply #29 on: August 06, 2008, 12:07:27 AM »

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this confusion, even from the pen or keyboard of otherwise knowledgeable people. Yet I'm sure it won't be the last .... Roll Eyes

Hehe. You betcha. Reminds me of the aphoristic mantra of one of my Ancient Greek profs: Etymology by sound is not sound etymology!
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Holy Father Patrick, pray for us!


« Reply #30 on: August 06, 2008, 04:59:02 AM »

Thank you, pensateomnia. It never ceases to amaze me how people still get this one wrong. It must also be remembered that Greeks are notorious for their love of puns and wordplay, even in liturgical texts. The vigil texts for St Nicholas of Myra and St Basil the Great are good examples. The St Nicholas feast is stuffed full of puns on myrrh and Myra, which are very similar when rendered in Greek, and the St Basil texts have copious references to his regal stature (basileios means like a king, the same spelling as the saint's name), as well as to the sweet-smelling herb basil (basilikos, which is the same word as royal, or of the kingdom.

The Polyeleos/Polielei psalms (or the verses from them - Aineite to onoma Kyriou/Hvalite imya Gospodnye) sung at Matins are so named because of the frequent refrain about the abundance of God's mercy. They are also sung while the priest is standing in the middle of the nave, under the main chandelier. The Greek word for chandelier is polyelaios, meaning many oil lamps. A wonderful coincidence, as well as a liturgical moment of great spiritual significance.

Mind you, the Slavonic vigil to St Vladimir also uses wordplay, based on the word mir, which, even in modern Russian, means both world and peace. Of course, such subtleties are difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce when translating in another language.
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« Reply #31 on: August 06, 2008, 06:43:51 AM »

Eleos and Eleison are the noun and verb for mercy; elaion means oil, or, more specifically, olive oil. Elaia is olive tree or its fruit.

Thank you. I got it. Yes, I agree, one should not deduce ethymology from similarities in sound. That's what Fomenkites do. Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: August 06, 2008, 11:02:59 AM »

Simply say the words and allow yourself to be still. Period.

In other words: Stop thinking! That's the whole point!! Less think, more being.

Just be still. Make some prostrations. Say the words. Mean the words. Try to cultivate a quietness, especially quietness of mind and heart. Above all, stay humble & keep it simple. Sometimes we adults, caught in the ways of the world, make things much more complicated than they really are!

Fr. John McGuckin, who has written extensively on the Early Church Fathers' understanding of prayer and the spiritual life, has a podcast series dedicated to applying their teachings on prayer to modern life:

http://www.myocn.net/index.php/Turning-to-the-Fathers/

The first episode of the series touches on all of this:

http://www.myocn.net/images/stories/podcast//TTTF/TTTF080404-McGuckin-HumblePrayer.mp3

Thank you.  I'll keep that in mind and listen to these podcasts.  Stillness, humility, and simplicity; that sounds great.
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« Reply #33 on: August 06, 2008, 01:26:41 PM »

The Greek word "eleison" comes from the word for oil
May I ask, where did you find the etymology of ἔλεος-eleos (mercy)? because according to the Liddell-Scott and the Stamatakos dictionary (considered as the most complete and authoritative lexicons among scholars), the etymology of the word is uncertain or not clear.
The same thing can be said for ἔλαιον-elaeon (olive oil). Its etymology is doubtful. All we know is that in Mycenaen Greek (Linear B) ἔλαιον is written as ἔλαιFον from the ancient word for the olive tree (ἐλαίFα), and that ἔλεος is masc. while ἔλαιον is neuter. These words do not have the same root and cannot be used interchangeably, although they sound the same
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