Saturday, June 22, 2013

Remaining with God When He is Within You

This is from the writings of Nil Sorsky, where he is discussing the “prayer of the heart” – the Jesus prayer; he calls it “pushing the mind into the heart”:

Take your mind and enclose it in your heart while you control your breathing by breathing as seldom as possible…Call on the Lord Jesus with ardent desiring and patience as you resist all thoughts.

…However, if you cannot pray without thoughts in a silenced heart, but you find the thoughts multiplying, do not become discouraged, but remain in prayer…

If you see, Gregory says, the impurity of evil spirits in the thoughts that are presented in your mind, do not be frightened… Do not give any attention to them, but control your breathing as much as you can and enclose your mind in your heart, as you arm yourself by calling on the Lord Jesus…

Later, he adds this, under a section entitled “Continue to Pray in Times of Consolation”:

If, therefore, you see that your prayer is operating unceasingly from the depths of your heart, and you are deeply centered, do not leave your prayer ever to rise and chant, lest your prayer will leave you, due to your negligence. For to leave God within you in order to seek him from outside is like leaving him from the heights to call on him by stopping lower.

I like that. If one has been given the grace to be fully enveloped in the Jesus prayer, he says, it would be foolish to leave that communion with God in order to rise and pray the Divine Office… “leaving God within you in order to seek him from outside”.

When I pray the Divine Office, of course, I am usually alone. That gives me some freedom to adjust the times when I pray, and also to adjust my behavior to whatever God allows to happen in that time of chanting the office. Especially during vigils, I am sometimes struck by the meaning of a particular verse – a flash of insight will come over me. At times, I pause and meditate for a few moments on that insight. Since I am alone, I have that liberty. My spiritual director once told me that when those moments come, I should stop and let the thought/prayer complete itself; if you just keep forging ahead, you will never recapture that moment and the meaning you grasped at that time.

I guess we need to strive to be aware of God’s grace at work in our prayer life so that we can take full advantage of the ways in which he seeks to speak to us.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

(The quotes are from Nil Sorsky: The Complete Writings, Paulist Press)

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