Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Prayer of Jesus

Well, I can’t write my usual Sunday wrap-up of ‘This Week in Madonna House’, for the simple reason that I was not around MH this week much at all. Canon law prescribes that Catholic priests make a five-day retreat once a year, so this week was my chance to do that—I stayed on MH property, in one of the small houses we have set aside for such purposes, and pretty much strove for a week of silence and prayer.

In lieu of being able to tell you all the exciting things that went on in MH (of which I am wholly ignorant), I thought I would share from one of the books I brought with me, this fine study of the Jesus Prayer (the repetitive rhythmic praying of the name of Jesus, usually in the form of ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’). It certainly spoke to me very deeply of what I at least am trying to do in my own prayer life, poor as my execution may be on any given day. So here is a little meditation on the power of the name of Jesus, for your Lenten edification:

There are many levels to the ‘prayer of Jesus’. It grows deeper and expands as we discover in the name each new level. It must begin as adoration and a sense of presence.

Then this presence is tested as that of a Savior (for such is the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’). The invocation of the name is a mystery of salvation insofar as it brings with it a deliverance. In uttering the name, we already receive what we need. We receive it henceforth in Jesus who is not only the giver but the gift; not only the purifier, but all purity; not only does he feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, but he himself is food and drink.

He is the substance of all good things (if we do not use this term in a strictly metaphysical sense). His name gives peace to those who are tempted: instead of arguing about temptation, instead of considering the raging storm (that was Peter’s mistake on the lake after his good beginning), why not look at Jesus alone and go to him walking on the waves, taking refuge in his name?

Let the tempted man meditate quietly and pronounce the name without anxiety or feverishness, and may his heart be filled up by this name and serve as a barrier against strong winds. If a sin has been committed, let the name serve as a means towards immediate reconciliation. Without hesitation or delay, let is be pronounced with repentance and perfect charity and it will become at once a sign of pardon.

Jesus will take his place again in the life of the sinner, just as, after his Resurrection, he came back to take his place so simply at the table where the disciples who had deserted him offered him fish and honey.

It is obviously not a question of rejecting or of underestimating the objective means of penance and absolution which the Church offers to the sinner; we are speaking here only of what takes place in the secret reaches of the soul.
The Prayer of Jesus, by a monk of the Eastern Church, pp. 102-103

At any rate, this is a truly great book, and there is lots more where that came from. And know that I was praying for all of you this week, and continue to do so in this season of mercy and penitence.

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