St Ignatius Brianchaninov on the Jesus Prayer  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Ignatius lived from 1807 to 1867. He was born into a noble landowning Russian family. After study at a military academy at St Petersburg he received a commission in the Tsar's army as an engineer. A few years later he resigned due to illness, and after recovering his health became a monk. He was soon recognized for his piety and became abbot of a monastery near St Petersburg when he was only 26. At the age of 50 he was consecrated a bishop but quite sensibly resigned his bishopric after only four years to become a hermit (Anglican bishops take note). He spent the remainder of his life as a spiritual father, often guiding his directees by means of letter-writing. He was canonized by the Russian Church in 1988. Here are two of his comments on the Jesus Prayer:

The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine name. The power and effect of that name are divine, omnipotent and salvific, and transcend our ability to comprehend it. With faith therefore, with confidence and sincerity, and with great piety and fear ought we proceed to the doing of the great work which God has entrusted to us: to train ourselves in prayer by using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...

Novices need more time in order to train themselves in prayer. It is impossible to teach this supreme virtue shortly after entering the monastery of following the first few steps in asceticism. Asceticism needs both time and gradual progress, so that the ascetic can mature for prayer in every respect. In order that a flower might bloom or the fruit grow on a tree, the tree must first be planted and left to develop; thus also does prayer grow out of the soil of the other virtues and nowhere else. The monk will not quickly gain mastery of his mind, nor will he in a short time accustom it to abide in the words of the prayer as if enclosed in a prison. Pulled hither and thither by its acquired predilections, impressions, memories and worries, the novice's mind constantly breaks its salvific chains and strays from the narrow to the wide path. It prefers to wander stray aimlessly and mindlessly over great expanses, though this be damaging to him and cause him great loss. The passions, those moral infirmities of human nature, are the principal cause of inattentiveness and absentmindedness in prayer...The passions are brought under control and mortified little by little by means of true obedience, as well as by self-reproach and humility--these are the virtues upon which successful prayer is built. Concentration, which is accessible to man, is granted by God in good time to every struggler in piety and asceticism who by persistence and ardor proves the sincerity of his desire to acquire prayer.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at Wednesday, November 28, 2007 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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