(Sister Elizabeth how are you?)
Over the past five weeks I have been writing a series on Hesychastic Prayer as taught by the Greek Orthodox tradition. Hesychastic is a strange sounding word, but it is essentially the Greek Orthodox word for silent, contemplative prayer. If you have a moment, please see at least the last 2 posts for the introductory remarks on this subject.
As for any practices or suggestions in this series or in anything else I write, please feel free to adapt or discard as you feel appropriate. My one request though is this: That you make your decisions about my perspectives on practice, and those of anyone else, with the highest degree of rigor, personal integrity, and honesty that you are capable of.
Also to please keep in mind that some of what you embrace today you may come to believe is not as true as you originally believed. And, some of what you reject today you may come to see in a different light in the future. In all such matters a patient sincerity and open-mind is all that is needed as you continue to discern which faith practices are your true path.
This prayer of repentance may well be one that strikes modern ears as misguided, or just plain foolish. Many others who claim to be devout, may gloss over this prayer without much sustained effort one way or the other. Both reactions are to be viewed with care. But before you make any real determination I encourage you to reflect on the teaching implied in the prayer with real care. It is based on a core teaching of Hesychastic prayer (and that of most other Christian traditions of prayer). That teaching is that a full and honest awareness of the depth and true nature of one’s sinful acts and thoughts is an essential prelude to any serious practice of meditation. Key to an understanding of this practice of confession and repentance is the insight that grossly self-centered acts and malicious thoughts darken the mind and dull the perceptual faculties. Without a frank and honest admission of such acts and tendencies the swollen ego, stunted mind, and unclean heart will simply not be able to perceive the way forward to any meaningful healing and spiritual progress. Buddhists, and those involved in 12 step programs, and those of other faith traditions, will engage practices of this kind differently than will traditional Christians such as the Greek Orthodox. But none will deny the fundamental importance of efforts along these lines.
It is simple. No amount of meditation will be of any real help if you are not fully aware of, and repent (in other words show real remorse), misguided actions and urges. The same is true if you do not fully see how covert, self-aggrandizing motivations may reside hidden and tucked underneath the high-sounding rationales that serve as the cover for many of your plans, schemes, and agendas.
A Season of Reflection
I turn my thoughts to you O Lord Jesus Christ here in this season of preparation and ask to be forgiven my sinful deeds, thoughts and malicious urges which prevent me from experiencing the full measure of your grace.
I turn my thoughts to you O Lord Jesus Christ here in this season of confession and repentance and ask to be forgiven my foolish pretensions and the plans, schemes, and agendas of ego and vanity which prevent me from beholding the full beauty and splendor of your grace.
I turn my thoughts to you O Lord Jesus Christ here in this season of reconciliation and triumph and ask you to heal the deep wounds of my heart and mind, body and soul that I may be free to receive the gifts of your perfect love and eternal life.
A prayer of this kind as a prelude to meditation helps deflate the inflamed ego. This deflation at depth, in concurrence with the other practices of virtue and faith, are needed to allow the free circulation of grace which, in turn, transforms the mind and heart. It is this transformation by grace of the mind and heart that allows the most intimate experiences of the spiritual life to develop. Christians call these experiences the indwelling of Christ or union with God. Those of other faiths or ethical systems use different words.
If you do engage the practice of confession and repentance, what will surprise you is how beautiful and tender are the sensitivities that arise within you.
And besides, what could be more counter-cultural than a serious review of conscience and acts of repentance and contrition.
All the best,
Please let me know what you think or send me those prayers you have written yourself. All constructive comments will be responded to.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” host of Meditationpractice.com
will at meditation practice dot com (spelled out to limit spam)