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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Jesus Prayer - author is unknown

Dome with the icon of the Pantocrator at St. Luke's Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall, PA 
  Dome with the icon of the Pantocrator at St. Luke's Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall, PA
 
The following is from a Russian nineteenth century spiritual classic whose author is unknown.  It is about the Jesus Prayer. 
It is appropriate for this time of the year, the Lenten season. The roots of the Jesus Prayer are Apostolic. It was advocated by Fathers of the Church, including Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, whom we commemorate on the Second Sunday of Lent.

The greatness of the Jesus Prayer is revealed in its very form, which consists of two parts.  The first part, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,' leads the mind into the history of the life of Jesus Christ, or as the Fathers explain, it contains within itself the short form of the Gospel.  And the second part, 'have mercy on me a sinner,' tells the story of our weakness and sinfulness in an extraordinary way because it is not possible for a poor, humble, and sinful soul to express its petition more fundamentally and precisely.  Every other petition would not be as comprehensive and all-inclusive.  For example, if one were to say, 'Forgive me, cleanse me from my sins, free me from my transgressions, blot out my offenses,' all of these words would express only one petition, prompted by fear and coming from a cowardly and negligent soul who wishes to be freed from punishment.  

But the expression 'have mercy on me' not only sets forth the petition for forgiveness, which is the result of fear, but is a sincere cry of filial love and trust in the mercy of God; it is a cry of a soul humbly aware of its weakness and lack of control in its vigilance over self.  It is a cry for pardon, grace, and strength from God to overcome temptation and to conquer one's sinful inclinations.  This can be compared to a poor debtor asking his gracious creditor not only to excuse his debt but, considering his poverty, to give him alms.  This profound expression, 'have mercy on me,' says as it were 'Gracious Lord! Forgive me my sins and help me to improve my life; give me an ardent desire to do your will and convert my mind, my heart and will to you alone.'

- From The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, translated by Helen Bacovcin, Doubleday: Image Books, 2003.

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