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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category


Jesus-Prayer

It is June, and with the arrival of summer vacations comes the inevitable slew of “beach reading” recommendations. These range from the sublime to, well, the not-so-sublime. The selection runs the gamut from the political to the potboiler. But, I have another suggestion for your vacation edification that also begins with “p”-prayer, specifically, the Jesus Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner]” is one of the great treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy. This simple verse derived from Scripture has long been used by Christians in the East as a form of contemplative prayer. In recent decades, understanding and use of the Jesus Prayer has spread from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and into the lives and spirituality of many Western Christians.

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My good friends at St. Simeon’s Skete in Kentucky, true prayer warriors themselves, suggested two books on the prayer while they were visiting last fall, and then left behind their copy of the first of these, The Jesus Prayer-A Way to Contemplation by Bp. Simon Barrington-Ward, the retired bishop of Coventry. Bp. Simon received instruction in this form of prayer from Archimandrite Sophrony, one of the greatest of recent Orthodox teachers living in the West and his work on and with the prayer shines forth. Truly, this is one of those books you begin to read and discover that you have a true gem.

As an introduction, this engaging book is not bound up in the language of theology but is quite accessible to those who are new to the Jesus Prayer. I also found that it contains much of value for those of us who have practiced it for many years and are fairly familiar with the literature on it. Bishop Simon makes a compelling case that the Jesus Prayer, as a way to practice the presence of Christ, has a special role to play in the revival, reformation, and mission of the church.

Bp. Simon writes in style best described as simple elegance. It is clear that he knows the Bishop Barrington-Ward has written an excellent introduction and overview to the subject. His writing style is simple yet elegant. He knows the territory well and gives a useful overview of the history and literature of the Jesus Prayer, its various developments over the centuries, uses to which people have put it. His coming at the spirituality of the Eastern Church from a Western perspective is quite helpful, particularly to those who are unfamiliar with the spirituality of Orthodoxy and the Eastern Church.

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In the second book, Praying the Jesus Together, Bp. Simon teams up with “Brother Ramon”, an Anglican Franciscan hermit. Friends for many years, they were stirred by a sense that the Holy Spirit was guiding them, and drew together for a shared week of prayer at Glasshampton Monastery in England. Praying the Jesus Prayer Together shares what they learned in an experience they describe as a week of glory-a week marked by Brother Ramon’s physical suffering from cancer. While Brother Ramon’s cancer would ultimately disrupt their collaboration, they discovered how profoundly the disease and attendant suffering enriched and enhanced their communion as they prayed the Jesus Prayer together.

Until reading this book, I had always regarded the Jesus Prayer as a somewhat solitary work. I had found it deeply personal, and something distinctive from the Rosary or breviary prayers in community. Yet, the book provides practical guidelines for how to practice the prayer, not only individually, but also corporately. The authors, bishop and monk, teach with great clarity and power. They ground that teaching in the Scriptures and adding insights and stories from the Western church and from around the world. In the end, they relate the Jesus Prayer to some of the most profound themes in the Christian faith, as well as some of the most essential patterns of Christian discipleship, particularly in community.

So, my advice is to let the latest breathless thriller or conspiracy theory wait until the fall. Instead of reading a book, take one or both of these books with you to the beach, the mountains or wherever you may be rusticating. Then, go ahead. Get out your prayer rope or beads, and pray a book this summer. You will be quite glad for doing so.

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Apart from a vigorous renewal of catechesis at all levels, what our Church needs in clergy and laity is a real deepening of the spiritual life. We become so intermingled with the world as to lose the fresh enthusiasm of the early martyrs and confessors. We are lacking in that zeal and self-sacrifice which won, in early times, England and Europe to the Faith.

Many Clergy perform their duties in a perfunctory way. To preach Christ effectually the priest  must preach of the Cross from the pulpit of the cross.

We need Communities whose life enables them to study and practice the mysteries of the spiritual life. How far below most of us come from the standard of that “fulness of God” revealed in the New Testament! How comparatively little is known of the science of prayer, as developed by the great teachers and saints!

Some lay people say a morning or evening prayer and some clergy make meditation.  But, in a truly religious home or rectory, those who dwell there should practice a life of devotion through regular daily offices and their prayers would bring a blessing upon the Church and thus especially enrich it.

-Adapted from The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 5),  edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914

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CHRIST our Passover is sacrificed for us : therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with [the]* old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness : but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor. v. 7.

CHRIST being raised from the dead dieth no more : death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once : but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin : but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. vi. 9.

CHRIST is risen from the dead : and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death : by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die : even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. xv. 20.

[Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.]*

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through* Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

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Carry the Cross

Jesus was condemned by the Jewish council.  He was and given up by Pilate first to be scourged, and then to be crucified.

Today He hung upon the cross, His head crowned with thorns, His hands and feet nailed, His failing eyes dimmed with blood, His parching throat raging with thirst.

As yet He has not spoken, except one cry which, with eyes lifted up to heaven, He uttered when, with a harsh shock, the cross had been fixed in its place, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

His Mother and the disciple whom He loved stand below, together with St. Mary Magdalene, but at the word of Jesus that disciple took Mary unto his own home, returning, however, himself to Calvary. The elders around the cross are mocking and taunting Him: not sparing even His dying pains, and the thieves join with them therein. But the prayer and the patience of Jesus have their effect on one of them, and he is enraptured with the promise that that very day he shall be with his Saviour in the rest of Paradise.

Darkness has been gathering around, startling the watchers and the crowd, and now from the midst of that darkness bursts suddenly forth a great and exceeding bitter cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Peace, however, to some degree returns, and He asks for water. Then comes the first cry of victory achieved, “It is finished.” Then comes the exclamation of perfect peace, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.+

A soldier pierced His side, and the fountain was opened for sin and for uncleanness.

Prayer

Wash me, O my Savior, in Thine own blood, and as Thou didst lay down Thy life to redeem me from all iniquity, help me now to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, that, overcoming by Thy grace all temptations. I may follow Thee in Thy path of obedience; so that my life may be blessed, and my death may be peaceful, and I may hereafter reign with Theo in the glory to which Thou art now restored, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, art blessed and glorified, one God, world without end Amen.

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When the day opened the Lord Jesus was still in retirement, probably at Bethany, with His disciples.  Soon St. Peter and St. John were sent to make ready in the borrowed guest-chamber for Him and them against His coming in the evening. This upper room became the holiest place in the holy city.

In the evening He there washed His disciples’ feet, assuring St. Peter that to be washed by Him was necessary for them. Then followed the institution of the Holy Communion, “Take, eat, this is My Body; Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many of the remission of sins.” To them the promise was fulfilled, “He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me and I in him.” He spoke to them also words of most affectionate consolation, and gave the promise of the Comforter; and then followed the Hymn, the Intercession, the going forth over the brook Kedron.

Beyond this brook was the Garden of Gethsemane, and toward that place, as often before, He now journeyed. Taking the chosen three, He left them within the Garden, and passed on about a stone’s throw alone. His soul, He had told them, was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; and He begged them to watch with Him.

The prince of this world was coming, and it was the hour of the power of darkness. The struggle with the natural, and therefore innocent, weakness of the flesh, and with Satan, who made use of it to turn Him from His purpose, then began but while He could add to His prayer, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done,” He was unconquered, and was still true to Himself, and obedient to the Father’s purpose and will.

Again and again He returned to His friends to seek sympathy from them, but they were sleeping for sorrow. At length the weary struggle was over, the offering of Himself in will had been made, and He was ready for the cross with all its injustice, cruelty, and shame.

Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, help me like Thyself to choose always the path of duty and of right, however bard it may be, that I may glorify Thy Name. Amen.

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Tuesday in Holy Week

“…as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,”-St. Mark 11:27.

A leave-taking has generally something of sadness about it; but more so if anyone has from pure love and affectionate interest been striving for the good of others.  However, if they have persistently rejected his endeavors and scornfully refused his aid, the sorrow with which he parts from them in their misguided blindness, will be great indeed. Such was the sorrow which the Lord Jesus felt. We hear that “He departed and did hide Himself from them.”

First, however, He spoke to them solemnly and plainly of their hypocrisy, hardness of heart, selfishness, and spiritual pride.  He pronounced woe again and again upon the scribes and Pharisees on account of these faults.

His burning words passed at length into tones of the most tender compassion. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” He exclaimed, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not.” He would have gathered them, and they would not be gathered. Even now He pursues with tender entreaties and solemn warnings: “Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Then, He turned sadly away and departed. He had still much teaching for His disciples, but as regards the people His ministry of teaching was now over. He would have gathered them, but they would not be gathered.

A day will come when, if I have never sought Him, He will thus turn away from me also. I may be as they were, moral, respectable, and outwardly religious. Yet, He turned away from them, and He may turn away from me. He turned away from them because their religion did not consist in the love of God and of man.  He turned away because they were incapable of faith and moral earnestness.  Finally, He turned away because they had the form of godliness only, and while they cared much for the praise of men they thought little of the glory of God.

Prayer

Draw me, O Lord Jesu Christ, that I may seek Theo with my whole heart, and fill me with truth and love, I beseech Thee. Amen.

 

 

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Palm Sunday


 

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Please join us for the Blessing of the Palms and Procession at 11:00 a.m.-St. Alban’s Parish, 4006 Hermitage Road, Richmond, Virginia 23227

Almighty and everlasting God, who of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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