Holy Cross Monks on Prayer  

Posted by Joe Rawls

The Anglican Order of the Holy Cross has published Holy Cross News 2011-2012 which is entirely dedicated to prayer, as seen from the perspective of several of the community's monks.    I include three excerpts.  Nicholas Radelmiller and  Andrew Colquhoun talk about how prayer affects them in very personal terms.  Adam McCoy presents a more scholarly essay aiming to reinterpret the spirituality of Evagrius Ponticus in contemporary terms.  (The newsletter is apparently unavailable online but can probably be obtained by contacting one of the monasteries).

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Nicholas Radelmiller:  The Divine Office:  Food for the Soul
...A principal value is that [the Office] is not dependent upon my emotional state, desire to pray, nor often on my effort.  Instead it is a format or activity into which I insert myself on a regular basis and which supports me in prayer.  Sometimes I greatly look forward to praying the Office.  Other times I am not much interested.  Still the Divine Office happens, prayer is offered, and often it is a rich experience of God.  Sometimes it seems to be a kind of divine conversation in which I am invited to participate. 

...If, for some reason, I am away from the celebration of the Office I find I miss it.  Occasionally if I am in a bad mood it seems to take forever to get through one Office.  Occasionally an Office provides a vivid glimpse of glory.

The Divine Office is also known as the "Work of God" or "Opus Dei".  After some years I think it is called this because God does most of the work.  Benedict was so right when he said that nothing should be preferred to the work of God. 

Andrew Colquhoun:  Prayer Can Get Old
...Then I started getting old.  Prayer changed.  I thought I was in trouble with my faith but that wasn't so.  I believed and trusted more than I ever had.  I just found that formal ways of prayer were few and far between.  Things between me and God were more familiar than distant.  Praying has become quieter and without drama.

I remarked to someone that I had lost my passion.  She retorted that that seemed appropriate to her.  Passion in old age is less sweaty, more even.  I imagine myself on one side of the fireplace and God on the other.  Both of us sitting quietly, not having to say much but delighting in one another's presence, in love without drama.  It feels good!

I still love to pray the office.  I love lectio.  I have worn out rosaries.  And every now and then I lose it with God and act like the child I feel.  With great love, God waits for me to come back to the fire and the intimacy and I find the love has deepened.

Adam McCoy:  Evagrius and Me
...We do not believe in the four humors as a basis of understanding how the body and mind interact.  Rather, we have come to believe that the mind functions best when the body functions well.  We do not give the name "demon" to external mental forces, but we know they exist.  Advertising, propaganda, music and entertainment, reading and conversation all stimulate our desires and passions.  We recognize that our own thought need management, but we have very different understandings of how they work, through psychology and through understanding how the brain works.

So taking our understanding of what Evagrius was doing in his own time--giving his readers a complete program of body and mind management to lead them to the conversation with God--what might our own ascetical practices be?  How can we direct our bodies and minds to the goal of conversation with God?

For me the conclusion is clear.  I should get my body healthy and keep it that way.  Eating less and more healthily, exercising, reducing stress, living more simply, getting and implementing medical care when it is needed without becoming a hypochondriac, all serve this end and are spiritual practices.  I should learn more about my mental and psychological life, getting better at distinguishing reality from fantasy, learning how my mind customarily works and disciplining it to understand my past and my preoccupations so that they don't control me.  It also means choosing to control external activities and stimuli, reading, music, entertainment, personal interactions, and work (to the extent that I can) to help me in my goal of conversation with God, making time for God.

This is ascetic practice that makes sense to me.  I have the same goal that the desert fathers and Evagrius did:  conversation with God.  I have the same instruments they did:  my body, my mind and my spirit.  I have the same intention:  to bring them all into alignment with my goal.  But since physiology and psychology are different, the means to these goals will be from our era, not theirs.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at Friday, December 30, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

4 comments

Anonymous  

Have you ever met Brs. Nick or Adam? Who would ever have guessed that this was going on in their heads?

January 2, 2012 at 5:31 PM

I needed this this week, Joe. Thank you.

January 4, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Anonymous, I know both of them fairly well and have had to re-evaluate certain opinions.

January 6, 2012 at 4:07 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
January 6, 2012 at 4:08 PM

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