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Author Topic: Jesus prayer/centering prayer  (Read 9314 times) Average Rating: 0
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Vlad
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« on: November 19, 2008, 11:15:36 PM »

What is the difference between the Jesus Prayer and centering prayer as practiced by some Catholics? Anybody know, this has been bugging me for awhile as I have been reseaching both and see many similarities.
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2008, 01:36:08 AM »

What is the difference between the Jesus Prayer and centering prayer as practiced by some Catholics? Anybody know, this has been bugging me for awhile as I have been reseaching both and see many similarities.

Thanks for that qualifier. Centering prayer is what the libs do. Not recommended.

We poor denuded "normal" Catholics have to settle for the Divine Office and the Holy Rosary.
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2008, 06:31:09 AM »

What is the difference between the Jesus Prayer and centering prayer as practiced by some Catholics? Anybody know, this has been bugging me for awhile as I have been reseaching both and see many similarities.

Thanks for that qualifier. Centering prayer is what the libs do. Not recommended.

We poor denuded "normal" Catholics have to settle for the Divine Office and the Holy Rosary.

You poor thing lubeltri all you have to rely on is tried and tested Holy Tradition practiced by the many Saints.
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2008, 09:19:53 AM »

The problematic origins & practice of centering prayer: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1997/9711fea1.asp
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2008, 04:32:37 PM »

I read a few books by Basil Pennington about centering prayer a few years ago. I got the impression that it was a very ecumenistic, whatever-works-for-ya sort of approach, which would be the opposite of the time-tested traditions surrounding the Jesus prayer.
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2008, 05:13:24 PM »

I must be out of touch...  Tongue  Before this thread I had never even heard of the centering prayer.
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« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2008, 12:34:00 AM »

I read a few books by Basil Pennington about centering prayer a few years ago. I got the impression that it was a very ecumenistic, whatever-works-for-ya sort of approach, which would be the opposite of the time-tested traditions surrounding the Jesus prayer.
Thats the feeling I get too.
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« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2008, 12:37:25 AM »

What is the difference between the Jesus Prayer and centering prayer as practiced by some Catholics? Anybody know, this has been bugging me for awhile as I have been reseaching both and see many similarities.

Thanks for that qualifier. Centering prayer is what the libs do. Not recommended.

We poor denuded "normal" Catholics have to settle for the Divine Office and the Holy Rosary.

You too huh? Do you pray the old Roman Breviary or the New "butcherd" liturgy of the hours. I have a nice set of the devine office from 1911. It's awesome. I could never go back to the Liturgy of the hours after I began using the old Roman breviary, same as the Mass the NO is goofy and touchy feely now that I have attended the trad I have a hard time taking the Novus Disorder seriously.
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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2008, 12:43:03 AM »

I must be out of touch...  Tongue  Before this thread I had never even heard of the centering prayer.
It seems to me to be like eastern meditation in a Christian setting. But the Jesus prayer kinda has that too. At least thats teh feeling I get.
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2008, 01:06:09 PM »

The one thing the Liturgy of the Hours has going for it is that it is simpler, shorter and easier to use. The main point of it was to make it more accessible for ordinary laity to pray. In that respect I think it has important value. However, the English translation of it is wretched and hopefully will be replaced just like the translation of the Mass is being replaced now.

I don't pray the Roman Breviary. I'm not sure I'm up to it! Very complex and long.

I compromised by getting a Monastic Diurnal (the traditional Benedictine Day Hours---everything except Matins). It's somewhat simpler in rubrics than the Roman Breviary, is in both Latin and English, and it all fits into one thick pocket-sized book.
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« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2008, 01:44:43 AM »

The one thing the Liturgy of the Hours has going for it is that it is simpler, shorter and easier to use. The main point of it was to make it more accessible for ordinary laity to pray. In that respect I think it has important value. However, the English translation of it is wretched and hopefully will be replaced just like the translation of the Mass is being replaced now.

I don't pray the Roman Breviary. I'm not sure I'm up to it! Very complex and long.

I compromised by getting a Monastic Diurnal (the traditional Benedictine Day Hours---everything except Matins). It's somewhat simpler in rubrics than the Roman Breviary, is in both Latin and English, and it all fits into one thick pocket-sized book.

Gracias et Pax vobiscum lubeltri,

I am fortunate to live near a Benedictine Abbey whose monks pray the Liturgy of the Hours with much care. Perhaps I have benefited from them with my own Faith but I must say that I have never studied 'centering prayer' and so cannot comment on it's value or lack there of in pursuit of virtue. I am more familiar with classic Catholic Pieties but I don't dispute that virtue can be attained through many means. When we forget that all spiritual work is merely a means to a end (i.e. a virtuous life) then we allow room for the Spirit to speak through whichever means He so wishes.
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« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2009, 09:21:36 PM »

i love the jesus prayer,im making my own prayer beads to go with that prayer. laugh
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2009, 12:20:29 PM »

i love the jesus prayer,im making my own prayer beads to go with that prayer. laugh

I would recommend Classic Catholic Pieties to Eastern ones for those who are Roman Catholic but to each his/her own.
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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2009, 02:43:20 PM »

I would recommend Classic Catholic Pieties to Eastern ones for those who are Roman Catholic but to each his/her own.

This raises a good question: do Eastern Catholics prayer the Jesus prayer? If they do, and it's recognized by Rome, why shouldn't those of the Latin rite embrace the traditions of the Eastern rite as their Pope has? Could not the arguement be made that the Roman rite could learn and benefit from the Eastern rite and vice versa?

I believe the same arguement could be made that those in the Eastern Rite of the Orthodox Church could learn and benefit from those in the Western Rite, and vice versa.
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« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2009, 10:07:12 PM »

I would recommend Classic Catholic Pieties to Eastern ones for those who are Roman Catholic but to each his/her own.

This raises a good question: do Eastern Catholics prayer the Jesus prayer? If they do, and it's recognized by Rome, why shouldn't those of the Latin rite embrace the traditions of the Eastern rite as their Pope has? Could not the arguement be made that the Roman rite could learn and benefit from the Eastern rite and vice versa?

I believe the same arguement could be made that those in the Eastern Rite of the Orthodox Church could learn and benefit from those in the Western Rite, and vice versa.

The Jesus Prayer as I understand it is to be said at all times especially during idle times. However, there are those who chose a solitude and special place for this prayer. I, myself, say the Jesus prayer when I am waiting for a train or driving my care but when a quiet moment is encountered I do the breathing excercise.  Some Orthodox Christians understand this phase of Breathing in the prayer. 

A slow deliberate Inhale: "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God", and a slow deliberate exhale "Have mercy on me a sinner". 

Very peaceful indeed and it has a calming effect as well.

JoeS

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« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2009, 01:05:55 AM »


This raises a good question: do Eastern Catholics prayer the Jesus prayer? If they do, and it's recognized by Rome, why shouldn't those of the Latin rite embrace the traditions of the Eastern rite as their Pope has? Could not the arguement be made that the Roman rite could learn and benefit from the Eastern rite and vice versa?

I believe the same arguement could be made that those in the Eastern Rite of the Orthodox Church could learn and benefit from those in the Western Rite, and vice versa.

All that I can say is that before I spoke the Jesus Prayer I was a devout Catholic. After I spoke the Jesus Prayer it ignited a journey into Eastern Piety and eventually into Holy Orthodoxy. I'm unsure if mixing or cross-pollinating Western and Eastern Piety is a constructive thing. Personally, coming from the Western Church, as I have, Roman Catholics need to seriously recover a holistic western spirituality which has practically vanished in the American Catholic Church. Dabbling with the eastern spirituality and piety will only reveal the void within their own modern practice.

This, of course, was my experience and so I can only speak from what I am encountered. Just as a recovery is needed in the Western Liturgy so too is a recovery of Western Spirituality. Borrowing practices from the East will only reveal the riches hidden there and the poverty now in the West. It is like bread crumbs dropped before hungry birds.
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« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2009, 01:27:03 AM »

All that I can say is that before I spoke the Jesus Prayer I was a devout Catholic.
Apparently you were a devout Roman Catholic nine hours ago, asking St. Francis of Assisi to pray for us:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13375.msg285301.html#msg285301
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« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2009, 02:05:10 AM »

All that I can say is that before I spoke the Jesus Prayer I was a devout Catholic.
Apparently you were a devout Roman Catholic nine hours ago, asking St. Francis of Assisi to pray for us:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13375.msg285301.html#msg285301

Shocked Are you telling me that Ignatius is Francis Christopher?
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« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2009, 02:06:00 AM »

All that I can say is that before I spoke the Jesus Prayer I was a devout Catholic.
Apparently you were a devout Roman Catholic nine hours ago, asking St. Francis of Assisi to pray for us:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13375.msg285301.html#msg285301

Shocked Are you telling me that Ignatius is Francis Christopher?
He is telling you himself in his signature line.
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« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2009, 02:13:36 AM »

I've been on this board for almost two and a half years, and I never knew the two were the same person! I mean, how can one tell---they both are so different.

How long has this been generally known?
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« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2009, 02:19:04 AM »

I've been on this board for almost two and a half years, and I never knew the two were the same person!
Neither did I until today.

I mean, how can one tell---they both are so different.
We have our ways... Wink


How long has this been generally known?
About 10 hours.



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« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2009, 02:27:44 AM »

I'm speechless. It's like multiple personality disorder. I'm at a loss to determine which one is real and which is not.
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« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2009, 02:40:00 AM »

I'm at a loss to determine which one is real and which is not.

Well, if we look at it logically, I have no way of knowing whether you are Catholic and you have no way of knowing whether I am Orthodox. The only thing we can go on is what the other person professes to believe and pledges allegiance to.
Ignatius asks for mercy. Anyone who asks for mercy should be granted mercy, and anyone who seeks sanctuary should be granted sanctuary. I don't understand any more than you do why he did what he did, but when it comes down to it, who are we that men should have to bear their souls to us?
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« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2009, 02:51:21 AM »

I'm speechless. It's like multiple personality disorder. I'm at a loss to determine which one is real and which is not.

I agree.  Yikes.
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« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2009, 12:14:25 PM »

Grace and Peace,

The ugly truth bared is not as much a burden as the trouble taken to continue the deception. When I came to the forum I was a devout Catholic full of zeal but curious of Holy Orthodoxy and it's claims. After some heated debates I began to become intransigent in my defense of Catholicism. I felt, at the time, Catholicism needed someone to champion it's cause for unity, common spirituality, etc. I never intended to be deceptive but I can honestly say that I didn't take advantage of the fact I had multiple accounts. As Francis-Christopher I found myself attempting to represent Catholicism as well as I was able if not actually representing myself and were I was in my journey. It became for me a means of defense of all that I held dear but in the end it was something I felt I could not bear. After struggling with it and the burden I bore I created the 'ignatius account' to start fresh and honestly inquire in the Orthodox faith. I had been attending Vespers with a local Orthodox Mission for a while and the gravity of Orthodox Spirituality had already begun to exercise itself on me and I felt a new account would free me from a responsibility to defend Catholicism while I was in this no-man's-land between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. If, in my inquiries, I found that conversion was not possible, in good conscience, I had my old account to return to but I found, at times, it helpful to play devil's advocate in a few threads or to represent Catholic sensibilities on some topics which did lead to deceptions for which I ask for pardon and mercy.

At times, I am of two-minds on the subject and I can see both sides but I agree with Father Chris that it is not right to do so under two accounts. It was deceptive and I am sorry. I never intended to be less or more than I am but maybe pride got the better of me but creating a new account was not the way to reconcile this fact. I will bare with any questions concerning this if any have them but I ask for kindness and please forgive.
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« Reply #25 on: January 21, 2009, 12:53:49 PM »

God forgives, and so do I.
Let's all resolve to be honest with one another, as Christ asks of us. Let our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no" because everything else is of the devil (Matthew 5:37).
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« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2009, 10:51:13 PM »

I don't know much about centering prayer or the Jesus Prayer, but based on what I do know there is a world of difference.

The Jesus Prayer is recited in such a way that some might call it a "mantra" but its not a mantra at all. It's not just some space filler to empty your mind. The words mean something. Its meant to fill your heart with a very specific message, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  It's a real prayer. It's a profound prayer. And most importantly, because it's a prayer, it is communication to our Lord. We're not just looking inward, we're reaching out to our God.

Centering prayer is quite the opposite. The "mantra" or "key words" are meant to keep our mind occupied so we don't think about anything else. The goal is to free ourselves of thought so that God may talk to us. But to me this seems very un-Christian. To paraphrase Chesterton, it leaves us looking for truth within ourselves instead of seeking the Truth, Christ.
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« Reply #27 on: November 04, 2009, 02:47:04 PM »

I don't know much about centering prayer or the Jesus Prayer, but based on what I do know there is a world of difference.

The Jesus Prayer is recited in such a way that some might call it a "mantra" but its not a mantra at all. It's not just some space filler to empty your mind. The words mean something. Its meant to fill your heart with a very specific message, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  It's a real prayer. It's a profound prayer. And most importantly, because it's a prayer, it is communication to our Lord. We're not just looking inward, we're reaching out to our God.

Centering prayer is quite the opposite. The "mantra" or "key words" are meant to keep our mind occupied so we don't think about anything else. The goal is to free ourselves of thought so that God may talk to us. But to me this seems very un-Christian. To paraphrase Chesterton, it leaves us looking for truth within ourselves instead of seeking the Truth, Christ.

Looking 'inward' is 'reaching out to our God'. Within the heart there stands a gate which opens to the Interior Master (i.e. Holy Spirit). There are a few things I don't like about Fr. Thomas Keating but I don't think that using 'key words' or "mantras" for centering the mind is something I would dwell on as a point of departure from authentic Christian spirituality. What I mean to say is that just about all of our 'Christian' spirituality was taken from Neo-Platonists and Sophists of the day. Early Christian Monastics 'used' these techniques for preparation to obey the Commandments. They are a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves.
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« Reply #28 on: November 04, 2009, 06:25:12 PM »

I don't know much about centering prayer or the Jesus Prayer, but based on what I do know there is a world of difference.

The Jesus Prayer is recited in such a way that some might call it a "mantra" but its not a mantra at all. It's not just some space filler to empty your mind. The words mean something. Its meant to fill your heart with a very specific message, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  It's a real prayer. It's a profound prayer. And most importantly, because it's a prayer, it is communication to our Lord. We're not just looking inward, we're reaching out to our God.

Centering prayer is quite the opposite. The "mantra" or "key words" are meant to keep our mind occupied so we don't think about anything else. The goal is to free ourselves of thought so that God may talk to us. But to me this seems very un-Christian. To paraphrase Chesterton, it leaves us looking for truth within ourselves instead of seeking the Truth, Christ.

Looking 'inward' is 'reaching out to our God'. Within the heart there stands a gate which opens to the Interior Master (i.e. Holy Spirit). There are a few things I don't like about Fr. Thomas Keating but I don't think that using 'key words' or "mantras" for centering the mind is something I would dwell on as a point of departure from authentic Christian spirituality. What I mean to say is that just about all of our 'Christian' spirituality was taken from Neo-Platonists and Sophists of the day. Early Christian Monastics 'used' these techniques for preparation to obey the Commandments. They are a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves.

Thank you for the response, Ignatius.
It's tough for me to provide you with a rebuttal because I'm honestly not an expert on centering prayer. But I believe my point which was aimed at answering the OP holds true. The OP posed the question, "What is the difference between the Jesus Prayer and centering prayer as practiced by some Catholics?"

The difference to me is that centering prayer uses a device (I say mantra) to keep our minds empty. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer with deep meaning. It isn't meant to empty our mind, but to fill it.
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« Reply #29 on: November 04, 2009, 08:32:21 PM »

I hope this is germane to the OP: I noticed that a Catholic female scribe in the early middle ages signed her work asking for mercy from her readers (I imagine she meant, compassion for her scribal errors) and from God, 'upon me, a sinner, and a woman'. This is surely an echo of the Jesus prayer? The source is post-Schism, but it sounds as if at least the memory of the prayer was alive and well in Catholic minds for some time.

The Jesus prayer is such a beautiful prayer.
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« Reply #30 on: November 04, 2009, 09:49:50 PM »

I hope this is germane to the OP: I noticed that a Catholic female scribe in the early middle ages signed her work asking for mercy from her readers (I imagine she meant, compassion for her scribal errors) and from God, 'upon me, a sinner, and a woman'. This is surely an echo of the Jesus prayer? The source is post-Schism, but it sounds as if at least the memory of the prayer was alive and well in Catholic minds for some time.

The Jesus prayer is such a beautiful prayer.

Very nice, Liz. Thanks for sharing. I do know that the Jesus Prayer is used in the Eastern Catholic churches. At least for the few Eastern Rite Catholics I know, it is used as often as Westerners use the Rosary.
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« Reply #31 on: November 05, 2009, 10:52:13 AM »

I don't know much about centering prayer or the Jesus Prayer, but based on what I do know there is a world of difference.

The Jesus Prayer is recited in such a way that some might call it a "mantra" but its not a mantra at all. It's not just some space filler to empty your mind. The words mean something. Its meant to fill your heart with a very specific message, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  It's a real prayer. It's a profound prayer. And most importantly, because it's a prayer, it is communication to our Lord. We're not just looking inward, we're reaching out to our God.

Centering prayer is quite the opposite. The "mantra" or "key words" are meant to keep our mind occupied so we don't think about anything else. The goal is to free ourselves of thought so that God may talk to us. But to me this seems very un-Christian. To paraphrase Chesterton, it leaves us looking for truth within ourselves instead of seeking the Truth, Christ.

Looking 'inward' is 'reaching out to our God'. Within the heart there stands a gate which opens to the Interior Master (i.e. Holy Spirit). There are a few things I don't like about Fr. Thomas Keating but I don't think that using 'key words' or "mantras" for centering the mind is something I would dwell on as a point of departure from authentic Christian spirituality. What I mean to say is that just about all of our 'Christian' spirituality was taken from Neo-Platonists and Sophists of the day. Early Christian Monastics 'used' these techniques for preparation to obey the Commandments. They are a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves.

Thank you for the response, Ignatius.
It's tough for me to provide you with a rebuttal because I'm honestly not an expert on centering prayer. But I believe my point which was aimed at answering the OP holds true. The OP posed the question, "What is the difference between the Jesus Prayer and centering prayer as practiced by some Catholics?"

The difference to me is that centering prayer uses a device (I say mantra) to keep our minds empty. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer with deep meaning. It isn't meant to empty our mind, but to fill it.

Grace and Peace,

My response to your point would be that both Eastern and Western traditions use cataphatic (via positiva) as well as apophatic (via negativa) methods. The problem with your response is you are characterizing apophatic prayer as non-Christian when is has been used from the beginning. Cataphatic prayer, like the way you are suggesting using the Jesus Prayer, is also a practice from the very beginning of Christian Prayer. We cannot turn these two types of methods against on another because you happen to have a bias toward one or the other. Do a search on apophatic and cataphatic and you will quickly understand what I am talking about. Such knowledge is also the answer to the PO's question "What is the difference..." one is Apophatic (emptying) and the other is Cataphatic (filling) but I would argue that the real richness of the Jesus Prayer is it's Apophatic (emptying) conclusion. The prayer is lost within the depths of the one praying and he or she no longer counts nor is cognitively aware of his or her praying as he or she dwells in contemplation of the Divine. Very often we must perpare ourselves through a cataphatic method before embarking on deep levels of contemplation. Our busy lives are simply not conducive for such ventures until we "order" ourselves through cataphatic practices. Mantras are not simply space fillers as you discribed either. Sit down with a Buddhist or Yogi and you'll soon realize that their methods are very developed. Unlike Fr. Keating I don't believe we necessarily need to incorporate their methods but I see nothing inherently wrong in him doing so as early Christians borrowed similar methods from the Neo and Middle-Platonists and the Sophists of their day.
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« Reply #32 on: November 05, 2009, 02:01:48 PM »

Ignatius,
Thanks for the response. You've raised some good points and brought my attention to some new words and concepts (apophatic and cataphatic). Much of my knowledge of centering prayer comes from what I've heard second hand through Catholic apologists and priests. That is, they flatly condemn it.

But I think you've shared enough with me for me to realize I need to explore these things a little more on my own.

Thanks again.
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« Reply #33 on: November 05, 2009, 02:26:59 PM »

The Catholic apologists who condemn centering prayer rightly do so but those who advocate it are Catholic apologists too. As Orthodox Christians we can see that inclusion of non Christian techniques in prayer or meditation, contrary to revelation, contrary to the traditions of the fathers is to be avoided.
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« Reply #34 on: November 05, 2009, 06:03:52 PM »

Ignatius,
Thanks for the response. You've raised some good points and brought my attention to some new words and concepts (apophatic and cataphatic). Much of my knowledge of centering prayer comes from what I've heard second hand through Catholic apologists and priests. That is, they flatly condemn it.

But I think you've shared enough with me for me to realize I need to explore these things a little more on my own.

Thanks again.

I'm not encouraging you to take up 'Centering Prayer', far from it. What I am saying is that you shouldn't criticize the apophatic method it uses as even Hesychasts use apophatic prayer practices and to very good effect. That being said, Centering Prayer has some serious weaknesses, being by and large a novelty (i.e. interpret this as 'new') prayer practice among Catholics and one that has many syncretistic ties with Buddhist/Hindu prayer practices. So recent convert has a point but what recent convert must understand is that even Orthodox cataphatic traditions have there beginnings and those beginnings where among the Middle-Platonist Hermits of the Desert. Any Orthodox study of the Faith will revel this knowledge. We must understand that our prayer traditions are not 'magical', they are simply true and they work. Knowing why they work and recognizing that same truth in other spiritual traditions is nothing new in our Faith, East or West. The Hesychast breathing techniques and sitting contemplation are very similar to Yoga Pranayama and Dharana practices. What is true is true and should be honestly recognized. These methods work. That said we, as a tradition, need to recognize that these techniques are already with us, we need not necessarily import them from eastern religions although the argument can be made that Christianity was very liberal in it's infancy with the practices of those traditions around them.
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« Reply #35 on: November 05, 2009, 06:10:45 PM »

The Catholic apologists who condemn centering prayer rightly do so but those who advocate it are Catholic apologists too. As Orthodox Christians we can see that inclusion of non Christian techniques in prayer or meditation, contrary to revelation, contrary to the traditions of the fathers is to be avoided.

Thank you, recent convert.
I agree with you. I just don't know how to respond to the points Ignatius brought up, "...both Eastern and Western traditions use cataphatic (via positiva) as well as apophatic (via negativa) methods..." I don't know how to respond because I don't know the truth behind some of his claims. For example, "...early Christians borrowed similar methods from the Neo and Middle-Platonists and the Sophists of their day."

That being said, even if he is correct doesn't make it right. Just because some group did/does x doesn't mean x is ok. I also disagree with Ignatius assessment that "...the real richness of the Jesus Prayer is it's Apophatic (emptying) conclusion." In my brief time with the prayer, it doesn't seem very Apophatic. But I'm not entirely familiar with the term.

How would you respond to Ignatius' points?
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« Reply #36 on: November 05, 2009, 06:50:09 PM »

The Catholic apologists who condemn centering prayer rightly do so but those who advocate it are Catholic apologists too. As Orthodox Christians we can see that inclusion of non Christian techniques in prayer or meditation, contrary to revelation, contrary to the traditions of the fathers is to be avoided.

Thank you, recent convert.
I agree with you. I just don't know how to respond to the points Ignatius brought up, "...both Eastern and Western traditions use cataphatic (via positiva) as well as apophatic (via negativa) methods..." I don't know how to respond because I don't know the truth behind some of his claims. For example, "...early Christians borrowed similar methods from the Neo and Middle-Platonists and the Sophists of their day."

That being said, even if he is correct doesn't make it right. Just because some group did/does x doesn't mean x is ok. I also disagree with Ignatius assessment that "...the real richness of the Jesus Prayer is it's Apophatic (emptying) conclusion." In my brief time with the prayer, it doesn't seem very Apophatic. But I'm not entirely familiar with the term.

How would you respond to Ignatius' points?

I may be too obtuse here, but does it matter if someone else understands the spirit (as opposed to the words) of a prayer differently from you? How can anyone possibly quantify or clarify these things? I would not even be confident that different people understand and explain their experiences in any way that makes it possible for us to categorize their responses into groups.

Ignatius, you say that,

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The prayer is lost within the depths of the one praying and he or she no longer counts nor is cognitively aware of his or her praying as he or she dwells in contemplation of the Divine

I like the idea of prayer being lost within the depths of the one praying. But, to me, this prayer constantly reminds of the individual, the unworthy 'sinner' who speaks. There is the language of pure and original Christian truth - Jesus, son of God - and there is the universal human plea - have mercy - but then the speaker must vocalize his or her condition and own it in individual terms - have mercy upon me, a sinner. How can you cope with that shift from the universal language of Christianity to the personal admission of guilt, without the prayer becoming very self-aware and 'near'?

I'm sorry if I'm missing the subtleties here - I just find this prayer is one that works for me, and I'd like to wrestle out why I find it so strong.
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« Reply #37 on: November 05, 2009, 07:12:47 PM »

To Orthodox members:
Do you think it is unwise to use the prayer rope without spiritual guidance from a priest?
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« Reply #38 on: November 05, 2009, 08:13:40 PM »

To Orthodox members:
Do you think it is unwise to use the prayer rope without spiritual guidance from a priest?

I think caution should be taken when praying the Jesus Prayer and it should be done under guidance. Without guidance, one can easily fall into delusion. Its easy for someone to read Way of the Pilgrim and then pick up a prayer rope and say the prayer and all of the sudden think they are a hesychast or a saint because they say (and this does happen) or at other times people will read such things and expect to have unceasing prayer of the heart over night and they become frustrated. In Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos' book A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, the hermit tells him that one of the errors when doing the Jesus Prayer is to think that we can achieve grace in a short period and people pray the prayer in order to have the Uncreated Light and they get disappointed and lose heart. In order to avoid these errors, one should be under guidance.
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« Reply #39 on: November 05, 2009, 08:49:07 PM »

I may be too obtuse here, but does it matter if someone else understands the spirit (as opposed to the words) of a prayer differently from you? How can anyone possibly quantify or clarify these things? I would not even be confident that different people understand and explain their experiences in any way that makes it possible for us to categorize their responses into groups.

Good point.
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« Reply #40 on: November 05, 2009, 10:38:59 PM »

I may be too obtuse here, but does it matter if someone else understands the spirit (as opposed to the words) of a prayer differently from you? How can anyone possibly quantify or clarify these things? I would not even be confident that different people understand and explain their experiences in any way that makes it possible for us to categorize their responses into groups.

Good point.

I am writing from my iPhone so I must be short. Don't worry overmuch about all this. Just execise caution in making judgements on these practices. If you are praying the Jesus Prayer, then continue with diligence but try not to make judgments regarding apophatic prayer practices. They are truly treasures and in time you will recognize there value even within your practice of the Jesus Prayer.

Peace.
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« Reply #41 on: November 06, 2009, 09:27:39 AM »

The Catholic apologists who condemn centering prayer rightly do so but those who advocate it are Catholic apologists too. As Orthodox Christians we can see that inclusion of non Christian techniques in prayer or meditation, contrary to revelation, contrary to the traditions of the fathers is to be avoided.

Thank you, recent convert.
I agree with you. I just don't know how to respond to the points Ignatius brought up, "...both Eastern and Western traditions use cataphatic (via positiva) as well as apophatic (via negativa) methods..." I don't know how to respond because I don't know the truth behind some of his claims. For example, "...early Christians borrowed similar methods from the Neo and Middle-Platonists and the Sophists of their day."

That being said, even if he is correct doesn't make it right. Just because some group did/does x doesn't mean x is ok. I also disagree with Ignatius assessment that "...the real richness of the Jesus Prayer is it's Apophatic (emptying) conclusion." In my brief time with the prayer, it doesn't seem very Apophatic. But I'm not entirely familiar with the term.

How would you respond to Ignatius' points?
I just want to clarify that I do not think centering prayer is evil or the eastern meditative traditions some of it draws from (like Zen or whatever) are evil. From my limited historical knowledge though, I realize that early Sts. like Basil the Great recognized there were virtuous pagan Greeks (Plato etc.) who were naturally inclined towards future reception of the Gospel. St. Justin the Martyr  also recognized virtue in the eastern traditions like Buddhism but much of those traditions were not known by the Gentiles of the Roman world who received the Gospel so apparently little interface developed and what traditions proceeded from their original inceptions seem to be incompatible with Christianity. I once heard Fr. John Damascene (pupil of Fr. Seraphim Rose) speak and he mentioned that the original basis of Taoism expresses a natural inclination towards the Gospel which interfaces, "In the beginning was the Tao (Word) and the Tao (Word) was God." (John 1:1) although Taoism apparently morphed into other manifestations of tradition (according to the Fr as best I recall) that would be incompatible with Christianity. So (for ex.) I would think that Tibetan Buddhism which emerged centuries after the death of Buddha & interfaced with its indigineous Bam religion would be highly incompatible with Christian tradition (and Centering Prayer clerics have had much counsel with Tibetan & other Buddhists). Hope this makes sense & I want also to clarify that my post was meant to be succinct & hope it did not convey any agitation.
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« Reply #42 on: November 06, 2009, 12:39:42 PM »

I just want to clarify that I do not think centering prayer is evil or the eastern meditative traditions some of it draws from (like Zen or whatever) are evil. From my limited historical knowledge though, I realize that early Sts. like Basil the Great recognized there were virtuous pagan Greeks (Plato etc.) who were naturally inclined towards future reception of the Gospel. St. Justin the Martyr  also recognized virtue in the eastern traditions like Buddhism but much of those traditions were not known by the Gentiles of the Roman world who received the Gospel so apparently little interface developed and what traditions proceeded from their original inceptions seem to be incompatible with Christianity. I once heard Fr. John Damascene (pupil of Fr. Seraphim Rose) speak and he mentioned that the original basis of Taoism expresses a natural inclination towards the Gospel which interfaces, "In the beginning was the Tao (Word) and the Tao (Word) was God." (John 1:1) although Taoism apparently morphed into other manifestations of tradition (according to the Fr as best I recall) that would be incompatible with Christianity. So (for ex.) I would think that Tibetan Buddhism which emerged centuries after the death of Buddha & interfaced with its indigineous Bam religion would be highly incompatible with Christian tradition (and Centering Prayer clerics have had much counsel with Tibetan & other Buddhists). Hope this makes sense & I want also to clarify that my post was meant to be succinct & hope it did not convey any agitation.

Grace and Peace,

Clarification is a good and helpful thing, especially on the internet...  Roll Eyes

We should recognize distinctions between 'technique' (the actual prayer practice... for example sitting quietly saying the Jesus Prayer audibly while counting them with a chokti), and 'method' (cataphatic prayer type... for example audible rote prayer) and 'motive' (seeking spiritual experience, contemplation, or actual interior preparation for such activities). We can discuss these three elements of 'any' prayer practice without getting into a discussion about a faiths theology per se, particularly with regards to the 'method'. If we are speaking specifically about apophatic prayer methods we ultimately need to understand the 'motive' of that particular practitioner to understand if such would be effective for our own personal practice. We are not speaking about a Christian entering into another religious practice whole-cloth but we know, at least historical scholars know, that early Christians studied and prayed in the same techniques and methods and with the same motives as their pagan spiritual contemporaries (stoics, Neo and Middle-Platonists and other Sophist Hermits of the Desert). Just as their Philosophy was used to express the mysteries of the Christian Faith so too were their prayer practices and even much of their motives for such activities. We must remember that the virtues were known and taught by the Pagans, first. We must remember that it was among the Greek Pagans that the Gospel was received, perhaps for good reason? The Prayer of the Publican was, in time, amended with the truths of the Christian revelation first voiced by St. Peter and eventually by everyone who professed the Christian Faith... O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a Sinner! I believe if our faith would have not solidified we might have seen this further amended to say O Lord Jesus Christ, Our God... as we see in the Divine Liturgy.

The point I would continue to make is that apophatic prayer isn't bad... Centering Prayer may be a novelty among Catholics, it's underpinnings may very well be syncretistic, philosophically speaking. I've heard Fr. Thomas Keating speak on more than one occation and he seems to lack a firm Christology and perhaps a firm Christian Theology but that shouldn't cause us to flee from Hesychia (the Greek Goddress/spirit of Quiet and Silence), she is also the daughter of Dice ;-)

Our entire Faith is rich in such interconnections with Pagan Spirituality and we must not reject such 'natural' fusion but be careful of 'unatural' ones. Which begs the question, what is natural and unnatural fusion? Clearly the Protestants have rejected both as 'yeast' to a more purely Semetic interpretation of the Gospel.
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« Reply #43 on: November 06, 2009, 10:22:21 PM »

ignatius,
I think I see where you're coming from now. Your suggesting that we not categorically dismiss a certain style or method of prayer. I can agree with that. I'm not sold on centering prayer however as I've heard many people whom I respect speak about its problematic roots. I will look into it further myself though so I may have a first hand opinion.

May I ask how you would respond to the original post. What is the difference between the Jesus prayer and Centering prayer?
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« Reply #44 on: November 07, 2009, 01:25:30 AM »

ignatius,
I think I see where you're coming from now. Your suggesting that we not categorically dismiss a certain style or method of prayer. I can agree with that. I'm not sold on centering prayer however as I've heard many people whom I respect speak about its problematic roots. I will look into it further myself though so I may have a first hand opinion.

May I ask how you would respond to the original post. What is the difference between the Jesus prayer and Centering prayer?

Grace and Peace,

Yes, that is all that I am suggesting. I have attended a few presentations with Fr. Keating and to be honest his style and presentation left me uninspired but that shouldn't cause us to flee the quieting of minds and the ordering of our hearts through methods which require 'silence'... apophatic prayer practices not unlike Centering Prayer. That said in my original reply I pointed out the deep roots of 'apophatic prayer' present in a mature practice of the Jesus Prayer. The tongue ceases and the mind quiets as the hum of the Jesus Prayer gives way to a stillness which descends upon the mind and heart of the one praying. It is the entering through the Gate of the Soul to sit at the feet of the Interior Master. Your mind ceases to be 'filled with the Jesus Prayer' and finds itself within a peaceful resting state in the heart. This is the whole point of the Jesus Prayer in my humble opinion. Yes, it is a very effective practice and of much value for the preparation of souls. My problem with Centering Prayer is that, like most modern practices, 'leaps' at the goal with little preparation and very little means of quieting the mind through cataphatic means. It is the cataphatic or rote repetition of short prayers that apply 'reigns' lightly upon the mind and begins the process of 'ordering' the cognitive appetite and yet also nourishes the intuitive depths of our consciousness. So you see the full expression of the Prayer of the Heart or Jesus Prayer is 'both' cataphatic and apophatic. To miss it's apophatic nature is a tragic loss for one who would venture into its practice. Which is way I was so quick to caution you or anyone from seeing it as simply a means to 'fill the mind'. Yes that actual prayer itself is a wonderful and concise 'credo' but let us not simply stop there... let us venture on into it's depths where hang the greater fruits for the soul.
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