Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Fruits of the Jesus Prayer ( Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos )

I will mention to you some of the fruits of the Jesus prayer,since i can see you are very eager to learn.In the beginning the Jesus prayer is the bread which sustains the athlete,then it becomes oil which sweetens the heart and,in the end,it becomes wine which intoxicates man,that is,which creates ecstasy and union with God.To be more specific,The first gift which Christ gives to the man of prayer is the awareness of his sinfulness. He stops believing that he is " good" and considers himself"the desolating sacrilege..standing in the holy place"(Matt,24,15).Like the saw of a surgeon cutting through bone,the sharp word of the spirit penetrates to the depths of the soul.There is so much impurity within us! Our soul reeks. Sometimes people come in my cell and they give a bad odour..from their inner filth.Well then, whatever was unknown before to the athlete, is now revealed to him through the Jesus prayer.

As a result,he considers himself below all people and thinks Hell is his only eternal habitation and starts crying.He cries for his dead self.Is it possible for one to cry for the dead of his neighbour and not for the dead who is in his own house?In this way the athlete of the Jesus prayer, too,does not see the sins of others,but only his own death.His eyes become fountains of tears which flow from the affliction of his heart.He weeps like a condemned person,and at the same time he cries,"Have mercy on me",Have mercy on me","Have mercy on me".With these tears,as we said above,the purification of soul and nous begins. As water cleanses dirty things,as the falling rain clears the sky of clouds and the earth from filth,likewise tears cleanse and whiten the soul.The tears are water of the second baptism. Thus the Jesus prayer brings the sweetest fruit of purification.-Is man completely purified when divine grace visits him?-He is not purified completely,but is always seeking purity of heart for purification is a never ending effort.St.John Climacos reports this saying which he had heard from a monk,who had achieved dispassion."The perfect but still unfinished perfection of the perfect".The more one weeps the more one is purified;the more one sees the deeper layers of sin the more he feels the need to weep again. St.Symeon the New Theologian elucidates this point well:
"These by frequent prayer,by unutterable words by the flow of the their tears purifying their souls.As they see their soul purified,they are set on fire with love,the fire of desire,to see it perfectly pure.
But as they are powerless to find perfection of light the process is incomplete.The more I am purified I,the sinner,am illumined,the more He appears,the spirit who gives purity.Each day,it seems I begin again to be made pure,to see.In a fathomless abyss,in a measureless heaven,who can find a middle or an end?
As you under stand,my father,man is being continuously perfected and cleansed.The passive aspect of the soul is first cleansed and then the intelligent power of the soul.The faithful are initially delivered from the passions of the flesh; then-through harder prayer and more intensive struggle,from the passions of hatred ,anger and rancour.When man manages to be freed from anger and rancour,it is obvious that the passive aspect of his soul has almost been purified.Then the entire warfare is carried out in the intelligent aspect,and the athlete wars against pride,vainglory and against all vain thoughts.This warfare will follow him to the end of his life.But all this course of purification takes place with the help and energy of grace,so that the faithful becomes a vessel receptive of rich divine grace. Again St.Symeon writes:
For man cannot overcome his passions unless the light comes to our help.Even so,it does not happen all at once.Man by nature cannot receive all of a sudden,the spirit of God.But much must be achieved, all of which is in his power. Detachment of soul,despoiling of goods,separation from his own,giving up his will,renouncing the world, patience in temptations, prayer, sorrow, poverty, humility, dispassion.
-And how does one understand that his soul is beginning to be purified?-This is easy,the wise hermit answered.It becomes perceptible very soon.Hesychios the elder uses a nice image.As poisonous food which enters the stomach and causes disturbance and pain,comes out when we take medicine,and the stomach is relieved afterwards and feels the relief,the same happens with spiritual life.When man accepts evil thoughts and subsequently,experiences their bitterness and their heavyness,he "vomits easily and casts the evil thoughts out completely"through the Jesus prayer,attaining the sense therefore that purification is taking place.Moreover, the man of prayer becomes aware of purification,because the internal wounds that the passions cause cease bleeding.In the Gospel of the Evangelist Luke we read about the woman who had a flow of blood that:"she..came up behind him,and touched the fringe of His garment;and immedeately her flow of blood ceased"(Lk.8.44).
When one approaches Jesus Christ, he is immediately healed-"the flow of blood ceases":the blood of passions ceases to flow.I wish to say that images,circumstances,persons who used to scandalize us cease to now.In other words, when various persons or things disturb us,it is obvious that we are wounded by the attacks of the devil.It is within us that the scandal lies.Being purified through the help of the Jesus prayer,he sees all people and all things as creatures of God.He considers,especially human persons,as images of God Who is full of love.Whoever,therefore,is dressed with the grace of Christ also sees the others dressed with such grace,even if they are naked.Whereas he who is destitute of Divine grace,sees even those who are dressed as if they were naked!

An excerpt from the book "A Night in the desert of the Holy Mountain" by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos


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