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Author Topic: Jesus prayer/centering prayer  (Read 9592 times) Average Rating: 0
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militantsparrow
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« Reply #45 on: November 07, 2009, 11:13:36 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.

Thank you Ignatius. You've done a very nice job explaining. I really appreciate it. What you're describing, the openness to "easternness" of much Orthodox spirituality is one of the things that draws me to Orthodoxy. You've given me much to chew on and experience.
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« Reply #46 on: May 03, 2012, 11:46:42 AM »

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.

Going to resurrect this thread as I'm currently a practitioner of Centering Prayer.  I call it meditation, though, because that's what it is: Theravada Buddhist meditation.  Personally, I think any practical guide to basic Buddhist meditation could substitute for many of the instructional books concerning Centering Prayer as both methods concern themselves with a quieting of the mind.  Both have different ultimate goals, of course, but both goals are achieved through maintaining presence and mindfulness.  Though any good Buddhist would deny it, I do believe that the more intense periods of samadhi (concentration) which long-time practitioners of meditation experience are actually moments of contemplation as we Christians understand it.  I believe God attempts to reveal Himself to Buddhists through meditation, but His Presence is often confused with some other term.  However, I see Centering Prayer and Theravada Buddhist meditation as harmless - but I can only speak for myself.  For me, it enabled me to unwind, to quiet my mind, to open my heart, etc.., but some of those results have been changing.

In fact, it's been through the practice of Centering Prayer that I've been able to discern my calling to become Orthodox.  Centering Prayer even led me to explore the spirituality of Orthodoxy more deeply.  I began to see certain links between the silence of Centering Prayer, the physical and spiritual desert of the Desert Fathers, and ultimately to the long tradition of hesychastic prayer.  I've been reading George Maloney's "Prayer of the Heart" and a lot of what he says in that book echoes so many of the sentiments expressed by Thomas Keating in his own books.  I think what Keating is concerned with more than anything is to get people to just sit down for a short period twice a day and just silence their minds, open their hearts and experience the apophatic nature of God, be open to His energies, witness Him walking beside us even during our darkest hours.  I can't see Keating being overly dogmatic about what method.  It's clear to me that he drew inspiration from Hesychasm when developing Centering Prayer.

Here lately, though, I've found Centering Prayer counter-productive.  I find that I'm more alone with my thoughts than I need to be.  Nothing about Centering Prayer of Buddhist meditation specifies that one completely silences the mind; rather, you try to obtain an inner stillness despite the normal flow of thought.  You simply observe the movement, not become involved with it.  This is all well and good for some, perhaps, but not for me any longer.  I think that I will use my periods of silence during the day to pray the Jesus Prayer, entering into inner stillness through mental recitation, as I believe the Desert Fathers did.  Trying to sit down and get yourself to be calm and still and silent without preparation is very, very difficult.
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« Reply #47 on: May 03, 2012, 02:37:59 PM »

Going to resurrect this thread as I'm currently a practitioner of Centering Prayer.  I call it meditation, though, because that's what it is: Theravada Buddhist meditation.  Personally, I think any practical guide to basic Buddhist meditation could substitute for many of the instructional books concerning Centering Prayer as both methods concern themselves with a quieting of the mind.  Both have different ultimate goals, of course, but both goals are achieved through maintaining presence and mindfulness.

I used to be very involved with Centering Prayer and the Christian Meditation taught by Benedictine monk John Main.  I led weekly “Christian meditation” groups and retreats at parishes, coordinated retreats led by a well-known Benedictine monk, etc.  This was my life for many years.  In the final year of my involvement with this movement, I was in a period of novitiate as a Benedictine Oblate (one who tries to follow the Rule of St. Benedict while living in the world), trying to decide whether to take my final vows as an Oblate and remain in the Christian Meditation movement, or whether to enter the Orthodox Church.  As I entered more and more deeply into the discipline of Christian Meditation over many years and came to know others who were very experienced in this practice, and simultaneously studied the Orthodox faith and the tradition of the Jesus Prayer, I came to see that Christian Meditation/Centering Prayer were of a very different spiritual origin and orientation than the tradition of the Desert Fathers and its continuation in the Orthodox Church today.  I came to the conclusion that CM/CP were completely incompatible with the Orthodox tradition, and so in the end I had to make a choice of which to follow for the rest of my life. 

Christian Meditation (CM) and Centering Prayer (CP) were attempts to “Christianize” Hindu mantra meditation as taught by Swami Satyananda in Malaya (in the case of CM) and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (in the case of CP).  While abbot of Spenser Abbey in Massachusetts, Fr. Thomas Keating would invite Zen masters to teach his Trappist/Benedictine monks to meditate.  Since Christian Meditation/Centering Prayer methods come directly from the non-Christian East, there is no surprise that one would come to a similar experience by practicing these same methods even within different religions.  In fact, the experience is very much the same, which is why within the CM/CP circles it is very popular to believe that at their “mystical core” all religions experience the same thing and only describe this experience in different terms.  Some describe their experience in terms of “God” and “Love”, while others in terms of “Emptiness” or the “Absolute”, for instance, depending on the religious doctrines through which this same experience is interpreted. 

From my ever deepening engagement with Orthodoxy, I came to see that this “common experience” at the “mystical core” of all these practices is only the experience of our own created nature, our own created human spirit.  This experience of our own created spirit is often described in terms of experiencing “reality” outside of the consciousness of time and space, an experience of limitlessness, of eternity, of boundlessness, of oneness, etc.  This is a very enlightening and transformative experience for people, but it is purely the experience of created reality arrived at as a natural consequence of applying a certain psycho-somatic technique.  In other words, this experience has nothing to do with entering into communion with the Uncreated God through His divine and uncreated energies (grace).  But, is such an experience of one’s created spirit a bad thing? 

In Christian Meditation and Centering Prayer, one is often taught about the experience of communion with God, when in reality the practitioners of these methods are only being led to the experience of the limitlessness of their own created spirit.  When one experiences their own created spirit and mistakes this for the experience of the Uncreated God, this is a delusion, and this delusion becomes the greatest obstacle to actually knowing God and entering into communion with God.  This delusion, in fact, creates a greater obstacle to knowing God than even the grossest passions because one has been brought ultimately to the worship of his own self as God.  This is the experience of the Hindu that says “Atman is Brahman” or “Self is God”.  Through the belief that one’s own created spirit is God or equal to God, which is the same as mistaking your created spirit for the Uncreated Spirit, one falls into the same delusion as Lucifer at the time of his great fall. 

The contemplative movement in the West today, which is led primarily by the teachings of Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation, has at its core this spiritual deception and confusion regarding the experience of God and one’s own created spirit.  It is no wonder, then, that the leaders of this movement, from the famous Thomas Merton to the “teachers” of our own time, see no problem with Christians learning to meditate from Zen masters and Hindu gurus (I have met a few Roman Catholic religious who are also certified Zen Roshis, for instance).  The practice of these methods have led to a “New Christianity” which is not a return to the tradition of the Desert Fathers (which this movement tries to exploit for its own justification) and the early Church, but is rather a betrayal of the very foundation of the apostolic faith and the establishment of a new faith which lays the foundation for the future religion of Antichrist. 

It is very popular in the CP/CM teachings to refer to the Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Payer as being of the same tradition.  This, in fact, is how I first learned of the Orthodox Church.  As one looks deeply into each tradition, however, one will see that everything is approached very differently.  You can then see the continuity and consistency of the Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Prayer and its complete inseparability from baptism in the Orthodox Church and participation in an Orthodox sacramental life.  You can then compare this to the recently created traditions of Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation which have no living continuity with the early Church but which were revived only through contact with the non-Christian East.  You can then look for the fruits of these traditions, you can see the Desert Fathers of old and the contemporary Desert Fathers of the Orthodox Church that have the exact same tradition and worldview as the fathers of old; and compare this to the fact that the CP/CM movements have produced no such contemporary saints that are as the Desert Fathers.  The deeper you enter into these subjects, the more you will see their divergence, and yet only one of these traditions is consistent with the faith “once and for all delivered to the saints”.   
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« Reply #48 on: May 03, 2012, 02:59:18 PM »

Going to resurrect this thread as I'm currently a practitioner of Centering Prayer.  I call it meditation, though, because that's what it is: Theravada Buddhist meditation.  Personally, I think any practical guide to basic Buddhist meditation could substitute for many of the instructional books concerning Centering Prayer as both methods concern themselves with a quieting of the mind.  Both have different ultimate goals, of course, but both goals are achieved through maintaining presence and mindfulness.

I used to be very involved with Centering Prayer and the Christian Meditation taught by Benedictine monk John Main.  I led weekly “Christian meditation” groups and retreats at parishes, coordinated retreats led by a well-known Benedictine monk, etc.  This was my life for many years.  In the final year of my involvement with this movement, I was in a period of novitiate as a Benedictine Oblate (one who tries to follow the Rule of St. Benedict while living in the world), trying to decide whether to take my final vows as an Oblate and remain in the Christian Meditation movement, or whether to enter the Orthodox Church.  As I entered more and more deeply into the discipline of Christian Meditation over many years and came to know others who were very experienced in this practice, and simultaneously studied the Orthodox faith and the tradition of the Jesus Prayer, I came to see that Christian Meditation/Centering Prayer were of a very different spiritual origin and orientation than the tradition of the Desert Fathers and its continuation in the Orthodox Church today.  I came to the conclusion that CM/CP were completely incompatible with the Orthodox tradition, and so in the end I had to make a choice of which to follow for the rest of my life. 

Christian Meditation (CM) and Centering Prayer (CP) were attempts to “Christianize” Hindu mantra meditation as taught by Swami Satyananda in Malaya (in the case of CM) and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (in the case of CP).  While abbot of Spenser Abbey in Massachusetts, Fr. Thomas Keating would invite Zen masters to teach his Trappist/Benedictine monks to meditate.  Since Christian Meditation/Centering Prayer methods come directly from the non-Christian East, there is no surprise that one would come to a similar experience by practicing these same methods even within different religions.  In fact, the experience is very much the same, which is why within the CM/CP circles it is very popular to believe that at their “mystical core” all religions experience the same thing and only describe this experience in different terms.  Some describe their experience in terms of “God” and “Love”, while others in terms of “Emptiness” or the “Absolute”, for instance, depending on the religious doctrines through which this same experience is interpreted. 

From my ever deepening engagement with Orthodoxy, I came to see that this “common experience” at the “mystical core” of all these practices is only the experience of our own created nature, our own created human spirit.  This experience of our own created spirit is often described in terms of experiencing “reality” outside of the consciousness of time and space, an experience of limitlessness, of eternity, of boundlessness, of oneness, etc.  This is a very enlightening and transformative experience for people, but it is purely the experience of created reality arrived at as a natural consequence of applying a certain psycho-somatic technique.  In other words, this experience has nothing to do with entering into communion with the Uncreated God through His divine and uncreated energies (grace).  But, is such an experience of one’s created spirit a bad thing? 

In Christian Meditation and Centering Prayer, one is often taught about the experience of communion with God, when in reality the practitioners of these methods are only being led to the experience of the limitlessness of their own created spirit.  When one experiences their own created spirit and mistakes this for the experience of the Uncreated God, this is a delusion, and this delusion becomes the greatest obstacle to actually knowing God and entering into communion with God.  This delusion, in fact, creates a greater obstacle to knowing God than even the grossest passions because one has been brought ultimately to the worship of his own self as God.  This is the experience of the Hindu that says “Atman is Brahman” or “Self is God”.  Through the belief that one’s own created spirit is God or equal to God, which is the same as mistaking your created spirit for the Uncreated Spirit, one falls into the same delusion as Lucifer at the time of his great fall. 

The contemplative movement in the West today, which is led primarily by the teachings of Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation, has at its core this spiritual deception and confusion regarding the experience of God and one’s own created spirit.  It is no wonder, then, that the leaders of this movement, from the famous Thomas Merton to the “teachers” of our own time, see no problem with Christians learning to meditate from Zen masters and Hindu gurus (I have met a few Roman Catholic religious who are also certified Zen Roshis, for instance).  The practice of these methods have led to a “New Christianity” which is not a return to the tradition of the Desert Fathers (which this movement tries to exploit for its own justification) and the early Church, but is rather a betrayal of the very foundation of the apostolic faith and the establishment of a new faith which lays the foundation for the future religion of Antichrist. 

It is very popular in the CP/CM teachings to refer to the Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Payer as being of the same tradition.  This, in fact, is how I first learned of the Orthodox Church.  As one looks deeply into each tradition, however, one will see that everything is approached very differently.  You can then see the continuity and consistency of the Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Prayer and its complete inseparability from baptism in the Orthodox Church and participation in an Orthodox sacramental life.  You can then compare this to the recently created traditions of Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation which have no living continuity with the early Church but which were revived only through contact with the non-Christian East.  You can then look for the fruits of these traditions, you can see the Desert Fathers of old and the contemporary Desert Fathers of the Orthodox Church that have the exact same tradition and worldview as the fathers of old; and compare this to the fact that the CP/CM movements have produced no such contemporary saints that are as the Desert Fathers.  The deeper you enter into these subjects, the more you will see their divergence, and yet only one of these traditions is consistent with the faith “once and for all delivered to the saints”.   


The only thing that I would add to the above, which is *really* well-stated, would be to put orthodox Catholicism (including Eastern Catholicism) along with what you said about the Orthodox Church.  Others may, and have the right to disagree, but that's just my opinion.  It saddens me enormously that, given the fullness of our Christian (Orthodox and Catholic) faith, one would find a need to "import" totally unnecessary practices and pseudo-theologies from paganism.
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« Reply #49 on: May 03, 2012, 03:14:57 PM »

Really wonderful contributions in this thread.  Seriously, this is a real diamond in the rough.  Certainly better than any of my tiresome arguments against the practice.

Mint, thanks for your appraisal of the practice, i.e. calling it for what it is.

Jah77, amazing!  Thank you for providing your experiences and insights.  I have never practiced centering prayer, but it struck me as a very different form of prayer than practiced by the past and current Church. Yet one that is seemingly similar and capable of misleading people to think it is an acceptable or improved substitution.

It saddens me enormously that, given the fullness of our Christian (Orthodox and Catholic) faith, one would find a need to "import" totally unnecessary practices and pseudo-theologies from paganism.

Indeed.  This is the primary reason why I throw fits when Orthodox try to incorporate it.
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« Reply #50 on: May 03, 2012, 04:11:58 PM »

It saddens me enormously that, given the fullness of our Christian (Orthodox and Catholic) faith, one would find a need to "import" totally unnecessary practices and pseudo-theologies from paganism.

Indeed.  I plan on selling all of my Thomas Keating books.
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« Reply #51 on: May 03, 2012, 04:27:46 PM »

It saddens me enormously that, given the fullness of our Christian (Orthodox and Catholic) faith, one would find a need to "import" totally unnecessary practices and pseudo-theologies from paganism.

Indeed.  I plan on selling all of my Thomas Keating books.

Good thinkin'!
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« Reply #52 on: May 04, 2012, 09:59:29 AM »

Regarding my previous post, I wanted to add a few quotes from Elder Sophrony of Essex and Hieromonk Damascene of Platina from Hieromonk Damascene’s book “Christ the Eternal Tao”:

Fr. Damascene says concerning the experience of inner light:

“Here we are treading on dangerous ground, so it is necessary to step lightly. This is where many who have practiced watchfulness have fallen into delusion over the centuries. Everything depends on the purity of one's intention in going within. If one's intention (conscious or unconscious) is not to face one's sin-condition, repent and thus be reconciled to God, but instead to "be spiritual" while continuing to worship oneself, then one can - upon becoming aware of the light of one's spirit - begin to worship it as God. This is the ultimate delusion.”


Archimandrite Sophrony is then quoted as saying:

"Attaining the bounds where 'day and night come to an end,' man contemplates the beauty of his own spirit which many identify with Divine Being. They do see a light but it is not the True Light in which there 'is no darkness at all.' It is the natural light peculiar to the mind of man created in God's image.

"The mental light, which excels every other light of empirical knowledge, might still just as well be called darkness, since it is the darkness of divestiture and God is not in it. And perhaps in this instance more than any other we should listen to the Lord's warning, 'Take heed therefore that the light which is in you be not darkness.' The first prehistoric, cosmic catastrophe - the fall of Lucifer, son of the morning, who became the prince of darkness - was due to his enamored contemplation of his own beauty, which ended up in his self-deification."


Fr. Damascene then comments on this passage:

“The darkness of divestiture of which Fr. Sophrony speaks is the state of having risen above all thought processes, which we have described earlier. If a person's motive is prideful, he will stop at this point, admiring his own brilliance; but that brilliance will still be darkness. He will think he has found God, but God will not be there. He will find a kind of peace, but it will be a peace apart from God.

“To go beyond thought is not yet to attain true knowledge. Such knowledge comes from the Word speaking wordlessly in the spirit that is yearning for Him; it does not come from the spirit itself. The Word will come and make His abode with the spirit only if the person approaches Him in absolute humility, for He Himself is humility, and like attracts like.”


Fr. Sophrony writes further on those who go within themselves without humility:

"since those who enter for the first time into the sphere of the 'silence of the mind' experience a certain mystic awe, they mistake their contemplation for mystical communion with the Divine, whereas in reality they are still within the confines of created human nature. The mind, it is true, here passes beyond the frontiers of time and space, and it is this that gives it a sense of grasping eternal wisdom. This is as far as human intelligence can go along the path of natural development and self-contemplation...

"Dwelling in the darkness of divestiture, the mind knows a peculiar delight and sense of peace... Clearing the frontiers of time, such contemplation approaches the mind to knowledge of the intransitory, thereby possessing man of new but still abstract cognition. Woe to him who mistakes this wisdom for knowledge of the true God, and this contemplation for a communion in Divine Being. Woe to him because the darkness of divestiture on the borders of true vision becomes an impenetrable pass and a stronger barrier between himself and God than the darkness due to the uprising of gross passion, or the darkness of obviously demonic instigations, or the darkness which results from loss of Grace and abandonment by God. Woe to him, for he will have gone astray and fallen into delusion, since God is not in the darkness of divestiture."


To experience the darkness of divestiture and the light of the mind, says Fr. Sophrony, "is naturally accessible to man," but to experience the Uncreated Light of the Divinity is given to man by a special action of God. These two experiences differ qualitatively from each other. Fr. Sophrony writes:

"It has been granted to me to contemplate different kinds of light and lights - the light the artist knows when elated by the beauty of the visible world; the light of philosophical contemplation that develops into a mystical experience. Let us even include the 'light' of scientific knowledge which is always and inevitably of very relative value. I have been tempted by manifestations of light from hostile spirits. But in my adult years, when I returned to Christ as perfect God, the unoriginate Light shone on me. This wondrous Light, even in the measure vouchsafed to me from on High, eclipsed all else, just as the rising sun eclipses the brightest star."

Fr Damascene then comments on this passage:

“We do not practice watchfulness so that we can become silent and peaceful. Rather, we become silent so that we can know the unpleasant truth about ourselves, and so that we "hear" the Tao/Logos speaking directly to our inward being. He does not speak in an audible voice; His voice makes no noise even in the mind... Scripture calls His voice still and small. We cannot hear it unless we tune in to it by separating from all the static noise in our heads.”

After these words, Fr. Damascene then goes on to describe the Orthodox teaching regarding the Jesus Prayer. 


In the Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Prayer, the practice of the Prayer cannot be separated from the Orthodox sacramental and ascetical life.  Since the non-Christian meditation practices, such as are followed by Buddhists, Hindus, and many non-Orthodox Christians (in the tradition of Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, John Main, etc.) are primarily psycho-somatic techniques that lead to the experience of one’s created nature, these techniques can easily be practiced by different people regardless of their religion, and all who practice these techniques come to a similar experience.  In the Orthodox Church, however, man’s salvation, theosis, and his entire spiritual development begins with the reception of the Holy Spirit through baptism and chrismation in the Orthodox Church.  By entering and remaining in the Orthodox Church, man begins to receive and be deified by the Uncreated Energies of God as he grows in humility, virtue, and repentance while regularly receiving deifying grace through the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. 

Confession, repentance, humility, and self-control provide the fertile ground for the seeds of the Jesus Prayer to grow and bear fruit; while providing also the protective leaves that shield and preserve the fruit from the disease and scorching heat of pride and delusion.  For a tree to bear fruit, however, it is not enough to have good soil and leaves for protection, but sunlight is needed also for growth and vitality.  In the same way, along with confession, repentance, humility, and self-control, man needs the divine rays of uncreated grace from the sacraments of the Orthodox Church.   
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« Reply #53 on: May 04, 2012, 10:22:50 AM »

The only thing that I would add to the above... would be to put orthodox Catholicism (including Eastern Catholicism) along with what you said about the Orthodox Church.  Others may, and have the right to disagree, but that's just my opinion.

I would have to disagree here.  There have been many Eastern Catholics who have tried to make progress in the Jesus Prayer, but who eventually realized that they could not make much progress until they joined the Orthodox Church.  I have commented already on the fact that in the Orthodox Church man's spiritual development and theosis begins with baptism and chrismation in the Orthodox Church.  As I'm sure you know, the Orthodox Church does not consider baptisms or other sacraments performed outside of the Orthodox Church as true and grace-filled sacraments.  The Uncreated Energies of God operate through the sacraments of the Church, but when when a priest or bishop goes into schism and is broken off completely from the body of Christ, the sacraments performed cease to be effective and grace-filled.  This reality explains how so many abuses occurred in Roman Catholicism once they became separated from the Church, just as it explains the chaos of Protestantism and the absence in both of these groups of saints who are of the same spiritual stature and worldview (phronema) as the saints of the first centuries. 

Regarding Eastern rite Catholics, the Jesus Prayer, and the necessity of entering the Orthodox Church, there are many examples that can be provided.  The lengthy account of the conversion of the Eastern Rite patristic scholar Fr. Placide (Deseilles) comes to mind from the book “The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain” (if you haven’t read this account, send me a PM). 

Fr. Theophanes of Kapsokalyvia on Mt. Athos was formerly an Eastern Rite Catholic and refers near the beginning of this interview to the fact that he could not really understand the Jesus Prayer until he became Orthodox:

http://distancelearning.iocs.cam.ac.uk/videos/index.php?page=videos&groupid=67740

An Orthodox Monk who blogs anonymously has written some articles on this subject which are also worth reading:

http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2005/10/jesus-prayer-in-eastern-rite-catholic.html

http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2010/08/byzantine-catholic-forum-takes-on-our.html

http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2010/08/more-on-byzantine-catholic-forum.html
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« Reply #54 on: May 04, 2012, 10:56:40 AM »

“Christ the Eternal Tao"

Based on your quotes, this seems like one to add to the reading pile.
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« Reply #55 on: May 04, 2012, 11:57:13 AM »

The only thing that I would add to the above... would be to put orthodox Catholicism (including Eastern Catholicism) along with what you said about the Orthodox Church.  Others may, and have the right to disagree, but that's just my opinion.

I would have to disagree here.  There have been many Eastern Catholics who have tried to make progress in the Jesus Prayer

Many??  Someone has verifiable numbers for this?  How exactly does one come to *know* this?

, but who eventually realized that they could not make much progress until they joined the Orthodox Church.  I have commented already on the fact that in the Orthodox Church man's spiritual development and theosis begins with baptism and chrismation in the Orthodox Church.

Same applies to the Catholic Church.

As I'm sure you know, the Orthodox Church does not consider baptisms or other sacraments performed outside of the Orthodox Church as true and grace-filled sacraments.

I *know* no such thing.  That statement is highly arguable (not to mention somewhat inflammatory) and hotly debated.  What I do know about it is that some Orthodox agree with you about that, some Orthodox disagree with you about that, and some Orthodox remain agnostic about it, at least with regards to Catholic baptisms and other sacraments.

 
The Uncreated Energies of God operate through the sacraments of the Church, but when when a priest or bishop goes into schism and is broken off completely from the body of Christ, the sacraments performed cease to be effective and grace-filled.  This reality explains how so many abuses occurred in Roman Catholicism once they became separated from the Church, just as it explains the chaos of Protestantism and the absence in both of these groups of saints who are of the same spiritual stature and worldview (phronema) as the saints of the first centuries.

Do we have to keep beating this dead horse over and over?  And over and over?  Catholics could flip that around and say the same about Orthodoxy.

Regarding Eastern rite Catholics, the Jesus Prayer, and the necessity of entering the Orthodox Church, there are many examples that can be provided.  The lengthy account of the conversion of the Eastern Rite patristic scholar Fr. Placide (Deseilles) comes to mind from the book “The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain” (if you haven’t read this account, send me a PM). 

Fr. Theophanes of Kapsokalyvia on Mt. Athos was formerly an Eastern Rite Catholic and refers near the beginning of this interview to the fact that he could not really understand the Jesus Prayer until he became Orthodox:

http://distancelearning.iocs.cam.ac.uk/videos/index.php?page=videos&groupid=67740

An Orthodox Monk who blogs anonymously has written some articles on this subject which are also worth reading:

http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2005/10/jesus-prayer-in-eastern-rite-catholic.html

http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2010/08/byzantine-catholic-forum-takes-on-our.html

http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2010/08/more-on-byzantine-catholic-forum.html


I won't dispute that there are Eastern Catholics who "translated" into Orthodoxy.  There are also Orthodox who have "translated" or converted to Catholicism.  How many either way?  Who knows?  The fact remains that there are many who have not and will not.  Do you know the state of their hearts and souls?  Do you know how well or how little they have "progressed" in the Jesus Prayer?  Do you know how well or little they have "progressed" in *any* prayer rule or practice or regimen?  I'm willing to bet the answers to all the above are "no", and would be so not just for you but for any other human except perhaps one who *is* able to read the hearts and souls of others.
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« Reply #56 on: May 04, 2012, 02:30:51 PM »


The Orthodox Church does not recognize sacramental grace outside of the Orthodox Church.  People get confused when Orthodox receive converts without baptizing them, or when Orthodox refer to Roman Catholics as having “valid” baptisms or “valid” apostolic succession, but such language is used to affirm only that the *forms* of sacraments exist outside of the Church and does not affirm that sacramental grace exists outside of the Orthodox Church.  Some receive converts without baptizing them, for instance, because that person is considered to have already received a valid form of the sacrament of baptism which only needs to be filled and completed by the grace of the Holy Spirit through the act of being received into the Church which is the abode of sacramental grace. 

Again, people get confused when non-Orthodox are received into the Orthodox Church without baptism, or when the phrase “valid” is used to refer to the apostolic succession or sacraments of another Christian group, but that does not change the fact that the Orthodox Church does not recognize the presence of divine grace working through non-Orthodox sacraments.

Regarding those who have converted to Orthodoxy from Eastern Rite Catholicism, and your assertion that some Orthodox have converted to Eastern Rite Catholicism, I am thinking particularly of people like Hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge) and Hieromonk Placide (Deseilles) who were patristic scholars and lived for decades as monastics on the Eastern Rite under the Pope before coming to the conclusion that they were on a dead end that could only be resolved by entering the Orthodox Church.  Do you have such people, who lived for decades as Orthodox monks and were renowned as patristic scholars, who came to the conclusion that they were in a dead end in Orthodoxy and so fled to the Pope?

On the subject of judging the progress of others, my only point is that I have heard several accounts of those who sought to practice the Jesus Prayer in a serious way in Eastern Catholicism who found this attempt to be futile and so converted to Orthodoxy.  Fr. Theophanes of Kapsokalyvia, as one example, said after his conversion that he really wasn’t able to understand the Jesus Prayer properly until his conversion to Orthodoxy.  Other long-time Roman or Eastern Catholics have spoken of the great grace they received after entering the Orthodox Church.   

Within the Orthodox Church, we have many contemporary examples of hesychasts who labored day and night praying the Jesus Prayer and whose lives exemplified the same spiritual qualities as the Desert Fathers of old.  I have not heard of any contemporary hesychasts of Eastern Rite Catholicism whose lives were of the same spiritual character as our contemporary Orthodox saints and elders.  I have never seen a book on the Jesus Prayer by a contemporary hesychast of Eastern Rite Catholicism.  I assume that if an Eastern Rite Catholic wanted to seriously learn to pray the Jesus Prayer, he would find little support within Eastern Rite Catholicism and would need to turn to the books and counsels of living and reposed Orthodox saints and elders who do not consider Eastern Rite Catholicism as part of the Church and have no communion with Eastern Rite Catholics.  Of course, if I am wrong about any of this, please feel free to challenge me on these points.

Before I was Orthodox, the Benedictines trying to recover practices of “contemplative prayer” were always quick to point out that such a tradition died in Roman Catholicism after the Schism (though they would blame scholasticism rather than the Schism), but that a similar (to them) tradition of the Jesus Prayer remained a living tradition in the Orthodox Church from apostolic times until today.  For those who wish to truly learn this way of prayer, it is necessary to be part of this living tradition. 
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« Reply #57 on: May 04, 2012, 03:25:44 PM »

“Christ the Eternal Tao"

Based on your quotes, this seems like one to add to the reading pile.

There is a better pile to add it too.
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« Reply #58 on: May 04, 2012, 03:29:57 PM »


The Orthodox Church does not recognize sacramental grace outside of the Orthodox Church.  People get confused when Orthodox receive converts without baptizing them, or when Orthodox refer to Roman Catholics as having “valid” baptisms or “valid” apostolic succession, but such language is used to affirm only that the *forms* of sacraments exist outside of the Church and does not affirm that sacramental grace exists outside of the Orthodox Church.  Some receive converts without baptizing them, for instance, because that person is considered to have already received a valid form of the sacrament of baptism which only needs to be filled and completed by the grace of the Holy Spirit through the act of being received into the Church which is the abode of sacramental grace. 

Again, people get confused when non-Orthodox are received into the Orthodox Church without baptism, or when the phrase “valid” is used to refer to the apostolic succession or sacraments of another Christian group, but that does not change the fact that the Orthodox Church does not recognize the presence of divine grace working through non-Orthodox sacraments.

Regarding those who have converted to Orthodoxy from Eastern Rite Catholicism, and your assertion that some Orthodox have converted to Eastern Rite Catholicism, I am thinking particularly of people like Hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge) and Hieromonk Placide (Deseilles) who were patristic scholars and lived for decades as monastics on the Eastern Rite under the Pope before coming to the conclusion that they were on a dead end that could only be resolved by entering the Orthodox Church.  Do you have such people, who lived for decades as Orthodox monks and were renowned as patristic scholars, who came to the conclusion that they were in a dead end in Orthodoxy and so fled to the Pope?

On the subject of judging the progress of others, my only point is that I have heard several accounts of those who sought to practice the Jesus Prayer in a serious way in Eastern Catholicism who found this attempt to be futile and so converted to Orthodoxy.  Fr. Theophanes of Kapsokalyvia, as one example, said after his conversion that he really wasn’t able to understand the Jesus Prayer properly until his conversion to Orthodoxy.  Other long-time Roman or Eastern Catholics have spoken of the great grace they received after entering the Orthodox Church.   

Within the Orthodox Church, we have many contemporary examples of hesychasts who labored day and night praying the Jesus Prayer and whose lives exemplified the same spiritual qualities as the Desert Fathers of old.  I have not heard of any contemporary hesychasts of Eastern Rite Catholicism whose lives were of the same spiritual character as our contemporary Orthodox saints and elders.  I have never seen a book on the Jesus Prayer by a contemporary hesychast of Eastern Rite Catholicism.  I assume that if an Eastern Rite Catholic wanted to seriously learn to pray the Jesus Prayer, he would find little support within Eastern Rite Catholicism and would need to turn to the books and counsels of living and reposed Orthodox saints and elders who do not consider Eastern Rite Catholicism as part of the Church and have no communion with Eastern Rite Catholics.  Of course, if I am wrong about any of this, please feel free to challenge me on these points.

Before I was Orthodox, the Benedictines trying to recover practices of “contemplative prayer” were always quick to point out that such a tradition died in Roman Catholicism after the Schism (though they would blame scholasticism rather than the Schism), but that a similar (to them) tradition of the Jesus Prayer remained a living tradition in the Orthodox Church from apostolic times until today.  For those who wish to truly learn this way of prayer, it is necessary to be part of this living tradition. 


Big sigh.

I'm really very tired of arguing about the whole issue of sacramental grace and where it is and isn't.  I'm not going to convince you to accept my point of view, nor are you going to convince me that you are "right" about yours.  Stalemate, I'm afraid.

One must always be careful of saying "many" or "very few" about these kinds of things when one really has no idea of the numbers involved.  That you can provide examples of one or two people or even more and I cannot proves nothing at all about either the Jesus Prayer or those practicing it in *any* spiritual tradition.  What it probably proves, if anything at all, is that you're more widely read than I and possibly more familiar with or pay more attention to these kinds of things than I.  Other than that, zippo.
 
The fact that some former Eastern Catholics reached a dead-end, so to speak, with the Jesus Prayer, and only progressed further once they became Orthodox proves nothing about anyone but themselves.  One cannot know if they had persevered with it and stayed in the Eastern Catholic Church whether they would have remained at their dead-end or progressed as they did in the OC.  You know, we'll never know "what would have happened if...".  You cannot extrapolate from the specific to the general in this kind of situation, because you just do not know and never will.

The Jesus Prayer is one form of prayer, often but not always incorporated into the hesychastic spiritual practice.  It has benefited, continues to benefit, and will benefit in the future many people, even some who are not "hesychasts", per se.  But so have any number of other prayer forms and rules.  There is, imho, no "best" form of prayer.  Prayer is prayer, and different people benefit better from some forms than from others.  Ours is not to judge either them, their prayer practice, or how they do or do not "progress" in whatever form of prayer or spiritual practice they undertake.  It is quite enough that we focus on *our own* spiritual practice and development and leave others to theirs.

One observation I have made over the past few years, and I state it with some degree of hesitation, is that, amongst some North American converts to Orthodoxy there is a tendency to almost idolize or at least over-idealize "The Jesus Prayer" as if it were a "Way" unto itself rather than a tool to assist those who pray it with humility and without hoopla ("hey, look guys...I'm practicing THE JESUS PRAYER and I say 20,000 repetitions per day, each with a full prostration--my priest SAID I should pray it.  How many do YOU do?") to still themselves and be with God.

I think that's really all I have to say on the matter.
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« Reply #59 on: May 04, 2012, 04:07:44 PM »

“Christ the Eternal Tao"

Based on your quotes, this seems like one to add to the reading pile.

I'd skip the Eternal Tao and go straight to anything you can get your hands on by Elder Sophrony.
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