February 1978 talk, Serial No. 00552

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Vina Retreat

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I'd like to talk about prayer, which is really related to what we've been talking about. We've been talking about the heart, and so that leads right into the question of what takes place in the heart. Lots of things take place there, but this is perhaps one of the most significant things that happens there for a monk. But before I talk about that, I'd like to say something about King David, because a lot of our prayer, after all, is the prayer of the Psalms, and we attribute the Psalms to King David, even though he's sort of the typical, the symbolic figure of the singer, the musician, the man who worships the Lord in his heart. In fact, I was talking about the Christian heart as being a new creation. Now that may be true, that with the gift of the Holy Spirit, with the Incarnation, there is a new creation, which is this Christian heart that we're talking about. Yet there are anticipations of it in the Old Testament, and one of the central ones, I think, in the Old Testament is David himself. Remember that Jesus himself is of the lineage of David, of the family of David, and there's


something about David that reflects Jesus. A little bit of the glow, of the fascination, of the anointing that is on Jesus, that we were talking about, is also on David. A little bit of the magic of Jesus is already visible in King David. A lot of things one could say about David, a lot of things one could say about his heart, because in some way he's the man who is, in the Old Testament, the one who has a human heart, and yet a heart which is really grounded in God. He's the ancestor of the Christ, and of course Christos means the anointed one. Remember, David was anointed as king. He wasn't the first anointed king of Israel, he was the second, and we have Saul before him as a drastic contrast to show us what is new that comes with David, which is the heart, the inner man, rather than the exterior. And yet the inner man that I'm talking about is very much a human being, however.


For instance, if we speak about David as a man of prayer, his prayer is a more human prayer, in a sense, than that of Elijah, or that of Moses, who were the men of God, but who were not in the center of God's people in the same way that David was, the king. In fact, he was too human. His excesses were human, too. David was a married man, and so in some way he manifests the fullness of human life there. That marriage banquet that we were talking about, the king who made a wedding feast for his son, and this whole nuptial imagery of Old Testament and New Testament, therefore finds a place in David's life, even with his excesses, even with his affair with Bathsheba, and so on. So there's a kind of a fullness about the humanity of David which cannot appear in Jesus, because he couldn't have the same relationships, and so on. I just suggest that to you to think about, because we use so much the Psalms, we spend


so much of our time with the Psalms, which are the songs of David, after all, that we should try to familiarize ourselves with the insides of David's heart, as it were, which is one way into the heart of Christ. David was the anointed of the Lord, whom the Lord said, and I don't remember where, is a man after his own heart. I have found David, a man after my own heart, and so somehow the heart of David reflects the heart of God, even though very imperfectly, and even though he is a sinner. Remember the spontaneity of David, playing his harp while Saul was getting ready to pin him to the wall with his spear, and so on, dancing when he brought the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. When he brought the Ark of the Lord, the presence of God, into the center of the people, the holy city, which is the city of David, which is somehow the heart of Israel.


So David represents the bringing of the presence of God into the center of his people, into the heart of the people of God, which is a kind of anticipation of the Incarnation. If you read Jerusalem, if you read the Psalms, as the Fathers did, you find these various levels of interpretation of the symbols, and of course one of the interpretations, one of the levels for Jerusalem, the holy city, is the heart. That's what they call, what do they call it, the moral or the psychological level of interpretation. And so that's the city of David. And so sometimes when we're singing the Psalms, when we're in the Psalms, we should perhaps reflect on those things, and let the symbols, let the images grow within us, and let them interact. Often we sort of have to let them go, I think, those biblical images, not try to force a


meaning into them, not try to rush the fruit in developing, but just let them be within our own hearts until they begin to radiate, until they begin to interact, until they begin to fit together kind of organically and give us a unified kind of meaning, symbols like the holy city and so on. Before we leave the subject, there's one or two verses at the end of the book of Revelation which bring a couple of these notions together. It's right in the last couple of paragraphs in the Apocalypse. I, Jesus, have sent my angel through you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star. The spirit and the bride say, come, and let him who hears say, come, and let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. Okay, about prayer then, we can ask another inane question now.


What is the place of prayer in our life, if we want to look for kind of a theological basis for prayer, theological place for prayer? Is it an occupation? Is it one thing that we do? Yes, prayer is one thing that we do, but it's more than that. It's a dimension of our life, actually. Prayer is one of the transcendentals of Christian life, which means that it's a thing that's around all the time, like being, like truth, like beauty, like goodness. It's an aspect, a dimension of our being. I think it's better to look at it in that way. Prayer is not basically something we do. Prayer is not even entirely something that happens. Prayer is something that is. It is all of the time. There's a kind of an ontological reality underlying it. We can say, we can almost equate prayer with the dimension of transcendence in our life. The dimension of movement back into the ground of our being, which for us is movement towards


the Father, Ad Patsum, because we're located, where are we located? We're located in Christ, we're located really in the heart of Christ when we pray. And so a lot of the definitions of prayer leave us vaguely unsatisfied, especially those that tend to restrict it to petition, or tend to restrict it to verbal prayer. Even a beautiful definition like a conversation with God. We find a lot of meaning in those words, and yet somehow they don't capture the whole thing. They don't go deep enough, or far enough. Evagrius defines prayer as a continual intercourse of the Spirit with God. In the Greek, the words are homilia, homilia, friendly conversation, which is what our homilies in the Eucharist are supposed to be like. Homilia, of the mind, the spirit, the nous in Greek, which means the spiritual intellect. Evagrius was very much in that Greek intellectualist tradition which saw man as being sort of essentially intellect, and prayer itself as being an act of the mind, an activity of the intellect.


He says in a later chapter of the same work, those chapters on prayer that Father John has translated, the man who loves God constantly lives and speaks with him as a father. And there he seems to be, right on center. That's the theology of prayer, is simply our relationship with the Father as we dwell, as we stand, as we are rooted in Christ. If this is the theological place of our prayer, which is something like our breath, the breath of the sons of God, whether we're conscious or unconscious of it, what's the place in man? Well, we know the answer to that already. It has a place not only in our life, but also in our being, even in our body. Probably some of you have read that article of Andre Luce some years ago, I guess it was in 74, in Cistercian Studies, a brief article in which he asks that question. With what faculty does a man pray?


He says, there's in man a place where this gift of grace, that is the gift of prayer, is received, an organ in him which is made for prayer. Here we must simply make a choice of terminology, and above all start with our experience. Prayer is not only in the intellect. The intellect is affected by prayer and becomes more clear-sighted through prayer, but this takes place as a side effect. Prayer touches a core somewhere very deep in man, a nerve center where he really gets involved with his freedom. For the philokalia, there is in man a place of prayer which is called the heart. By this is meant the deep heart of man, which is not his intellect, nor his will, nor his imagination, nor above all his heart as the word is used today in cheap novelettes, that is the superficial sensibility, a shallow sentimentalism on the outside of his personality. The heart is that deep place within us where we are in prayer, where we have received the germ of the life of the Spirit, and where the Spirit cries in us, Abba Father, from


our baptism onwards. So, the heart is the boundary of our being as it comes from the being of God. It's the boundary between our consciousness and that infinite consciousness, that infinite light and infinite love which is God. And so, that's where we find prayer. Probably some of you also know that book, The Art of Prayer, which is an orthodox anthology, which is largely the writings of Theophane the Recluse, but also has some other people in it. One of them is Saint Dimitri of Rostov, whom I'm not acquainted with otherwise, but this is what he has to say. Man needs to enclose himself in the inner closet of his heart more often than he needs to go to church. Now, this comes from Matthew 6.6, but when you pray, go into your room and shut the


door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And collecting all his thoughts there, he must place his mind before God, praying to him in secret with all warmth of spirit and with living faith. At the same time, he must also learn to turn his thoughts to God in such a manner as to be able to grow into a perfect man. We have two elements there, really. One of them is the prayer, the awareness, the awareness of the presence of God in the heart. And the other is a turning around of his life. In other words, there's a prayer and then there's a conversion. There's the intercourse with God, the contact with God in prayer, and this is the beginning of a turning around of the whole person, which begins with his thoughts, which begins with what goes on in his heart. So the prayer is kind of the germ, the seed or the spark of this conversion, which is after all the life of the Christian, the life of the monk. The hesychast is really centered in on the heart as the place of prayer.


Fr. Hausser also wrote about this. He's got a famous article way back in 1935 in that Eastern Church's quarterly, it was translated, called The Great Currents of Eastern Spirituality, which is really a classic article in which he sets side by side the different ways in which Christian spirituality went in the early centuries. There's a kind of a primitive current, especially with the Assyrians and with the apostolic fathers, Ignatius and so on. Then there's a more intellectualist tendency, and then you've got a current of spiritual sentiment as it were, the pseudo-Macarius and so on, where there's a lot of talk of the heart, but where all spirituality has to be conscious, where grace is thought of as experience as it were, and anything that's not experienced isn't really there. Way over on the side there is the Massalian era, that you don't have any grace except what you feel. And then finally, in the 14th century, we get to hesychasm, hesychasm which is a return


to the heart, but with a sound theological basis here. And it's based on the intellectualist theology of Evagrius and so on. But here's what happens. Briefly, we might say that hesychasm had replaced intelligence by the heart. It had made of the heart the faculty of religion, of piety and of mysticism. In the Evagrian school, man was considered an intellect. In the others, a psychological consciousness fully aware, that is either a moral consciousness as with St. Basil and Dorotheus and so on, or a consciousness which experienced God, feelings. In the hesychast school, man was considered as a heart. All ascetic effort was made to consist in the custody of the heart. The whole secret of contemplation was to bring the other faculties back to the heart, for unless gathered in the heart, they became causes of distractions and illusions. On the contrary, as soon as the mind finds the region of the heart, it at once contemplates


things which hitherto had been unknown. It perceives indeed the air which is at the center of the heart, and then sees itself entirely luminous. That's from a treatise on the hesychast prayer from that period. Thus had spoken... No, that's before the hesychast. For the hesychast, the metaphor became a reality. Beginning with sobriety, or neipsis, they found at the end of their efforts the inebriation of happiness. Neipsis is kind of a key word, neipsis or nepsis. You had Callistos Werger, I guess, and he no doubt talked about that when he was here. Neipsis is sobriety or watchfulness, a kind of awareness, which implies all sorts of other things. It's basically a custody of the heart, but it implies a whole system of asceticism, as it were. So this sobriety... Now, after all, sobriety is abstinence from alcoholic beverages. This sobriety, this water diet, as it were, of neipsis, this kind of spiritual poverty,


gradually leads to this sober inebriety, this sober drunkenness, as it were, of contemplation, of the filling of the heart with the Holy Spirit, and the experience of God in the heart. The same phenomenon that we found this morning in another context. Theophane goes on. Without inner spiritual prayer there is no prayer at all, for this alone is real prayer, pleasing to God. What then is prayer? Prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God, and praise and thanksgiving to Him, and supplication for the good things that we need, both spiritual and physical. Okay, but somehow he seems to narrow down his horizon too much with that definition of prayer. Once again, it leaves us unsatisfied. The essence of prayer is therefore the spiritual lifting of the heart towards God. The mind in the heart stands consciously before the face of God, filled with due reverence,


and begins to pour itself out before Him. This is spiritual prayer, and all prayer should be of this nature. External prayer, whether at home or in church, is only prayer's verbal expression and shape. The essence or the soul of prayer is within a man's mind and heart. So prayer is a matter of the consciousness, a matter of the heart. Every prayer must come from the heart, and any other prayer is no prayer at all. Prayer book prayers, your own prayers, and even short prayers, ejaculations, all must issue forth from the heart to God, seen before you. And still more must this be so with a Jesus prayer. He's been greatly concerned with a Jesus prayer, which also is referred to often as a synonym as the prayer of the heart. Here's Theophane's formula for prayer. The principal thing is to stand with the mind in the heart before God, and to go on standing before Him unceasingly, day and night, until the end of life. To stand before God, first of all.


Stand before God as Father, which is to stand in the place of Christ. With the mind in the heart. What does he mean by that? Well, first of all, there's an actual psychological, an actual experience, experiential thing that happens there. At a certain point, when a monk has been using the Jesus prayer, his mind, they say, descends into his heart in a sense that no longer is he in a world of multiplicity. No longer does he have a continual movement of thoughts inside of his mind. As it were, his mind has descended into a place of unity, where even though there is some movement, even though there is some multiplicity, it's all contained within the unity. And feeling is no longer separated from thought. And there's a constant, as it were, singleness and centering of attention. Descent of the mind into the heart. As it were, the joining of the two aspects of our consciousness. The aspect of the intellect, of the reason also.


And the aspect of feeling, as if the word and the spirit find their way back into their common source, which is the heart. Remember, we described that as the primordial place, before the dichotomy between body and soul, before the dichotomy between intellect and will, between love and knowledge. So somehow, the mind, the consciousness, the ego even, finds its way back into that place, before that division. And there it finds that all reality in some way is relational, that all somehow is in unity. To stand with the mind and the heart before God. Standing implies that this takes some effort. It's not just a relaxing into it. It's not just a disappearance into something that's going to sustain you effortlessly, like floating. It's to stand. The attitude of prayer of the primitive Christian. And to go on standing unceasingly day and night until the end of life. So prayer is less doing something than being somewhere, being in a place.


Which is being before the face of God. And the place, of course, where we're before the face of God, once again, is the heart. Andre Leu speaks of the heart not only as the place of prayer, but as the organ of prayer. In his book, which has been reprinted on the back of a postage stamp here by the Paulist This is really a precious book. It's the best book on prayer as far as I'm concerned. It's appeared in recent years. Teach us to pray by Andre Leu. The main reason why prayer and talking about prayer seems so difficult nowadays is that we simply do not know what we are to pray with. Where in our body are we to locate the organ of prayer? And he goes through the litany of the intellect and the imagination and so on, and the emotions. And we know the answer he comes up with, the heart. So we have two levels, really, of existence and of life, and they don't have the same degree of reality for us.


Remember Buber, the distinction he makes between an I-Thou relationship and an I-It relationship. One is a living relationship for us, and it engages a certain part of our being, a deeper level of our being. The other is not really a living relationship because there's no dialogue. There's nothing on the other end, on our own level. And so we use the It. We manipulate the It. Which is okay up to a point, but when we turn people into an It, when we turn God into an It, then that's something else. It's similar to the two levels of existence that we're talking about. There are two ways of thinking. There's a level of life which is our rational, mechanistic, functional, and sort of semi-conscious level of life. A social existence, in interaction with other people, but still really isolated. Right in the interaction, we're still in solitude somehow. Or in isolation, a better word to use. And then there's a level of meaning and of relationship, of core experience, of personal involvement.


The level which is concerned with things like freedom, and courage, and communion, koinonia, and also with honesty, with really facing ourselves, with truth, that's on another level of existence. It's not our habitual level of life. It's not where we start from. And finally, of the experience of God and of prayer, real prayer. The heart is the center of human life, the center of the man. And being the center, when we find the center, we find the whole. When we get to the center of our being, somehow we've gotten to the, as it were, the communication center. That's not a good expression for it. But at the center, we possess the whole. But the fact is that we are a succession of centers, and as we descend into ourselves, we can become more and more central. We can find centers within centers, like a series of concentric circles. St. John of the Cross says this,


The soul's center is God. When it has reached God with all the capacity of its being, and the strength of its operation and inclination, it will have attained to its final and deepest center in God. In other words, there's not only one center, but there's a series of centers, each within the other, each deeper than the other. It will know, love, and enjoy God with all its might. When it has not reached this point, it still has movement and strength for advancing further and is not satisfied. Although it is in its center, it is not in its deepest center, for it can go deeper in God. Now that goes beyond the level of imagination, because when you find the center of something physical, you're there. There isn't any further center. It's not that way with man. What are we talking about when we're talking about centering? We're talking about, first of all, actually a physical interiority. When we talk about the heart, we're talking about something that's inside of us, physically. That's kind of symbolic. We're talking really about descending into a greater depth and intensity of reality. We're talking about an ontological centering of some kind,


because there's a hierarchy of grades of being, as it were. And we have to move from the periphery, from the exterior, from the relatively trivial, to the greater intensity, the greater depth, the greater degree of being, as it were, where we are still in contact with God, where the unity of being is still fresh and still real. When a man finds his center, his heart, then he finds also there his fundamental dynamism. We can consider ourselves as really being not just something, but as being a dynamism, as being completely in tendency towards something, just like we're drawn towards the center of the earth by gravity. There's another gravity in us which is much stronger, but of which we're seldom aware because it's always with us. It's always there. It's not often for most of us that it comes into consciousness.


But I think it's a great thing to become aware of that other gravitation. And we won't become aware of it in the normal way of our emotional experience, not with our imagination, not with our ordinary senses, but only somehow by opening to an intuition of this deeper ontological level. A lot could be said about that dynamism. Man somehow is a tendency. Man is always in movement, and somehow the whole of himself is able to be integrated into that one central tendency, that one central movement of his life. And that's what prayer is about, I think, and that's what asceticism is about, and in a sense what the monastic life is about. Sort of to become aware, to release, to, how would you say it, zero in on that basic tendency, which is our deepest tendency, and then to integrate everything else into that, so that we're completely movement, as it were, so that that movement breaks into our consciousness itself as much as it can.


The movement's already there, but we have to get the debris out of the way so that we can become aware of it, and also so that, as it were, the water can flow without obstruction. We have to clear the channel. Andrei Lufkow said, a monk who said that, the business of a monk is to set wood ablaze, to set wood afire. What does that imply? It implies that there's something there that's combustible. Now, there's something there that can actually be transformed into dynamism, that man is spirit, and when he becomes aware of that, he becomes aware that the whole of himself can be gathered up into this movement, this movement which is somehow already there, and that that can provide the orientation of his conscious life as well as simply the unconscious, the deeper orientation of his whole being. William Law


Here's a quote from William Law, which actually comes from B. Griffith's book on Returning to the Center. For though God be everywhere present, yet he is only present to you in the deepest and most central part of your soul. Your natural senses cannot possess God or unite you to him. Nay, even your inward faculties of understanding, will and memory can only reach after God, but cannot be the place of his habitation in you. Remember we were talking about man as being the image of God. The image of God which is reflected certainly in consciousness, reflected in intellect and in will, reflected in knowledge and in love. But beyond those two, there's something else. The reflection of the Father, which is pure mystery, which is as it were emptiness, which is the depth, which is beyond words and so we can't attempt to describe it. That's what he's talking about here. You remember also we were talking about that quote from Rahner about the heart as being that primordial unity, which in some way reflects the Father, which itself being the origin, the undivided source of man's being right within man,


is somehow a symbol, an image of the Father. We find the same thing here on another level. But there is a root or depth in you from whence all these faculties come forth, as lines from a center or as branches from the body of a tree, with the idea. This depth is called the center, the fund or bottom of the soul. This depth is the unity, the eternity I had almost said, the infinity of your soul, for it is so infinite that nothing can satisfy it or give it any rest but the infinity of God. Saint Augustine talks about the heart as being insatiable until it finds its rest in God. This sounds like Eckhart too. So the heart has these different levels and the deepest of them is the point where man is really rooted in God, where he's still in the creative hand of God. We can talk about all of this in terms of love because that one activity, that basic dynamism of man is really the dynamism of love.


It's about the only word you can give it in the end. Which is not only an orientation towards God which gathers up this whole being, but which also gathers everything else into it. Everything is fuel for this particular fire. Everything in creation is fuel for this fire which is supposed to burn within man. And in that way man is supposed to be the priest sort of of the cosmos, the cosmic priest. Because everything that's around him, and he's built right in the center of it being both spirit and soul and body, everything around him is able to be gathered up into this fire which can only dwell really in him, in his consciousness. And which is rooted in him, in the depths of his being where he is still rooted in God, in the image of God. So man is the link between the creation and God. At the risk of jumping a bit from one idea to another,


which is not immediately related to it, let me quote something from Thomas Merton. This is from The Climate of Monastic Prayer. We're talking about love and I would want to talk also about desire. We're talking about experience and yet we're talking about something which is beyond experience. We're talking about dynamism, a tendency, a movement, which is also a movement experienced in consciousness, but which is also somehow beyond movement. In the contemplative life, it is neither desire nor the refusal of desire that counts, but only that desire which is a form of emptiness. That is to say, which acquiesces in the unknown and peacefully advances where it does not see the way. All the paradoxes about the contemplative way are reduced to this one. Being without desire means being led by a desire so great that it is incomprehensible. Somehow we get beyond the level of duality,


beyond the level of subject and object, but also beyond the level of desire and not desire. We get to the point of a desire which itself is non-desire, of a movement which is rest. In John of the Cross we're talking about the soul finding its rest in God at its deepest center, but that rest is still movement because God is always the beyond. The Father is always the beyond, or the Son. And so we get to a point where movement and rest are the same thing. Now, this says actually a lot practically about the conduct of our life and what it means to enter more deeply into prayer. It means that all of our desires, as they disappear, are actually being liberated to enter in, to be integrated, to be included in this one great comprehensive desire which yet is not consciously reflected as a desire, or at least very rarely,


which may burst into flame at a particular moment, but which ordinarily is beyond consciousness. Merton writes a lot about that when he writes about contemplation. Being really beyond experience. A person is somehow aware of it, and yet he doesn't experience it in the way of his ordinary experience. Being without desire means being led by a desire so great that it is incomprehensible. It is too huge to be completely felt. It is a blind desire, which seems like a desire for nothing, only because nothing can content it. And similarly, a consciousness, a knowledge, which is no longer knowledge of anything in particular, no longer knowledge of anything in particular, but as it were, awareness of your own existence. What is it that's there when you get up in the morning? What is it that's there the first thing when you get up, that was there the day before? What can you call it? It's your being, it's your existence somehow.


But we have no way of experiencing it directly. What is the background, what is the ground of all of our experience, of all of our life? It's something that we're not really aware of in the same way we experience other things, and yet it's there. And that becomes, I won't say the object of our experience, because there is no object anymore. But the context, the perspective, the framework of our life itself becomes that of which we are aware, and is itself sufficient. It's sufficient. One no longer needs the particular object of knowledge. One no longer needs a particular object of desire. He has the whole, he has the all, as St. John of the Cross says. And so we can be content with nothing, but nothing in particular. And more immediate to us, perhaps still, is the matter of hope, of where we put our security. No longer in this or in that. No longer having to be shored up by this or that little hope.


But having lost all hope into the enormous certainty of being, of existence, which carries all assurances with it, really, that we can become aware of it. And because this desire is able to rest in no thing, then it rests, relatively speaking, in emptiness. But not in emptiness as such, emptiness for its own sake. And then the rest of it goes up on something else. When Cassian talks about purity of heart, he talks about purity of heart and perfect charity and contemplation and pure prayer as being just about the same thing.


There's a kind of a drift in Cassian, if you notice. He starts out talking about purity of heart. First thing you know, he's talking about charity. And then in the next paragraph, he's talking about a kind of tranquility, a kind of contemplative quiet. And in the next paragraph, he may be talking about pure prayer. So prayer and love for him are very much the same thing, and also very much the same thing as is tranquility. And when Cassian talks about the highest prayer, he's simply talking about perfect love, which has become conscious. Remember in his Conference Ten there, where he quotes Chapter 17 of St. John, about the love which is in the Father and the Son also being in us, and being conscious so that our every thought, our every internal movement is prayer. So prayer and love for him are the same thing. Prayer and perfect charity. So without going very far wrong, we can consider prayer as the love of God, which has become conscious, and sometimes deliberate.


This consciousness, this prayer as we know it, as we experience it, may be the most timid or delicate spark, as in that Merton quote just now, where he says that this desire is so great that it's not reflective, it's not conscious. Or it may be a kind of a bonfire. There's a saying from the Desert Fathers concerning Arsenius. A brother came to the cell of Abba Arsenius at seat, and waiting outside the door he saw the old man entirely like a flame. When he knocked, the old man came out and saw the brother marveling. He said to him, Have you been knocking long? Did you see anything here? The other answered, No. So then he talked to him and sent him away. He looked through the window and he saw Arsenius all on fire. For a moment, a little like a moment of transfiguration, where what was going on in Arsenius in his life of prayer became visible to this disciple, who the narrator says he was worthy of this sight.


Abba Joseph said to Abba Lot, You cannot be a monk unless you become like a consuming fire. Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office. I fast a little. I pray and meditate. I live in peace, and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What more can I do? Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, If you will, you can become fire. If you will, you can become fire. So, prayer is a thing that can take over. We are the wood, we are the fuel, and we are combustible. Very important for us to realize that we are combustible. That we can be turned into this fire. A fire which is not, what would you call it, is not necessarily spectacular. A fire which is not visible, not experienced, but which nevertheless is a tendency of the whole of our being towards God.


I guess that's about all the time we have this evening. I'll just run through a couple of other ideas which are maybe a little important to complete this sequence of thought. If prayer is rooted in our sort of ontological makeup, in our very structure, something new happens with our baptism, of course. We were talking about the image and the likeness. The image having lost the likeness. And which means that this tendency towards God, of course, can't really be fully activated until the likeness comes back. And so what baptism does is to restore the likeness and also to introduce into us the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, who really is the soul of this movement towards God. The Holy Spirit who is the intra-trinitarian movement between the Father and the Son, and who becomes the voice and the movement of our own hearts


towards God, towards the Father. Now this comes into us through our baptism. So as Gregory of Sinai, I think, says, prayer is the manifestation of baptism. Prayer is the manifestation of baptism. You see, there's a great peacefulness, there's a great quietness in that sort of thought. Because we're used to trying so hard to pray, trying so hard to work up some feeling, or to have some good thoughts, or to convince ourselves that we're getting any closer to God after all these years. Prayer is the manifestation of baptism. Let it happen. That's as much as he said. Let the prayer happen. If you can forget what's in your mind, in a sense, you'll find that the prayer is already there. The prayer is a reality. The prayer is a reality. It's written into our being, and it's something that's put into our hearts as a movement, as a tendency, as a power. And we have only to get out of the way.


I think maybe tomorrow we can go on. This morning I'd like to continue with the subject of prayer. Last night, the last point we talked about was the fact that prayer is a manifestation of baptism, in the words of Gregory of Sinai. A manifestation of baptism. It can be a little discouraging sometimes to have to keep going back to the beginning, as if we were never getting anywhere. But we have to avoid that discouragement, that impression. As we heard our little reading just now, he who humbles himself shall be exalted, he who exalts himself shall be humbled. So it is very much in our faith. I think it is in any religion, that the whole thing consists really in getting back to the beginning. Our religion is the religion of the Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father. So the whole matter is getting back out of our complexities


and back into the simplicity of the relationship of the Son with his Father. So when we go back and talk about the beginning of our spiritual life, when we go back and talk about baptism in connection with prayer, it shouldn't bother us really. Also the repetition quality. It is really not repetition, but it is getting deeper into one thing. In our temporal terms it seems like repetition. There is a Zen Roshi who wrote a book entitled Beginner's Mind, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Probably some of you know it. That principle is valid for us too. It is a matter largely of developing the kind of mind which is always ready to begin over again. Because it is not going to acquire anything that is going to add to what it already has. It is as if we were always going to encounter truth for the first time. Because in a sense we are. Truth is not quantitative. And as it were, it is always outside of us


in the sense that we can always penetrate it for the first time with the freshness of the beginning. And in this paradoxical process of our Christian life it is largely a matter of getting rid of our progress. Our progress gets in our way. We have to learn how to be beginners. We have to learn how to be little ones. And once again to find the Father. To rediscover the simplicity of Jesus. So, Callistos Ware, he has got a little pamphlet on the Jesus Prayer entitled The Power of the Name. I am going to quote from that for a moment on this matter of baptism and prayer. The action of the Lord is not, of course, limited solely to the baptized. God is present and at work within all men by virtue of the fact that each is created according to his divine image and likeness. Back to that theme again. But this image has been obscured and clouded over


although not totally obliterated by man's fall into sin. It is restored to its primal beauty and splendor through the sacrament of baptism whereby Christ and the Holy Spirit come to dwell in what the Fathers call the innermost and secret chamber of our heart. So we have something new taking place in the heart there. For the overwhelming majority, however, baptism is something received in infancy of which they have no conscious memory. We received the Holy Spirit. We received Christ when we didn't have the human equipment really to experience what we were experiencing, what we were receiving. Most of us have never had, as children when they are baptized, the experience of coming into Christ, the experience of rebirth. So that's something that remains, as it were, latent for us, dormant within our hearts until somehow it gets awakened for us someday. Although the baptismal Christ and the indwelling Paraclete never cease for one moment to work within us,


save on rare occasions, most of us remain virtually unaware of this inward presence and activity. True prayer, then, signifies the rediscovery and manifestation of this baptismal grace. To pray is to pass from the state where grace is present in our hearts secretly and unconsciously and grace means the presence of the Trinity to the point of full inward perception and conscious awareness when we experience and feel the activity of the Spirit directly and immediately. In the words of St. Callistos and St. Ignatius of the 14th century, they were on Athos, I think, the aim of the Christian life is to return to the perfect grace of the holy and life-giving Spirit which was conferred upon us at the beginning of divine baptism. Turn the tape over now and continue on the other side. St. Seraphim of Sarov, in the last century, when he was asked, what is the aim of the Christian life? He said, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit which doesn't mean merely to receive the Spirit passively


but it means to receive the Spirit in the whole of our consciousness as well, to receive the plenitude of the Holy Spirit, to allow our lives to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That's the aim of the Christian life. So our Christian life and our monastic life stretches between the reception of the Holy Spirit and we could say the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. And our difficulty largely is awakening this reality in our hearts and then keeping it awake and giving it room so that it can expand and fill our lives, getting other things out of the way. There's a question of prayer, that is of a deepening consciousness and a question of asceticism, of making room for that growing dynamism within us, making room for that one desire, that one movement, that one tendency to take over everything within us, which it is capable of doing and turning us into fire as the Father said. The purpose of prayer can be summarized in the phrase


become what you are, become consciously and actively what you already are, potentially and secretly, by virtue of your creation according to the divine image and your recreation in baptism. Now the big question, of course, is how do you do it? How do you awaken the heart? This is something that Andre Louf has written about, at some length, the central question for him, of course. And I'd like to quote. I'm going to read a few things to you that may seem to be making slightly divergent suggestions, but which I think converge at the end. The first is from that article of Louf on the place of prayer. How can we awaken our heart? Simply by trying to put ourselves in a certain attitude before the word of God. For the heart is the place of the word and only the word can awaken it. So, finding some way to encounter the word in our hearts.


He says only the word can awaken the heart. We tend to objectify the word in a way. We tend to think of it as a word. When we're talking about the word, we're talking about Christ. We're talking about God who speaks to us personally. In other words, he's saying only God can touch your heart in such a way that it will come to life, in such a way that it will open, that it will awaken and kindle. And God is for us in his word in the way in which this can take place. In other words, our first way of contacting God is through truth. Man is so constructed, call him rational animal or whatever you will, but man is so constructed that newness, the new life, an opening of his horizon, a rebirth comes to him, first of all, through truth, into his consciousness. And so it is that the word is given to us by God to address us in that way, according to our own nature. Think of the parable of the sower. The seed is the word.


The field is the heart of man, and it must be good. The heart must be prepared then to receive the seed of God. The word of God is made for our heart, and our heart is made for the word of God. The two are made for each other. The heart is truly the organ of the word. At the end of his book, Teachers to Pray, he quotes a little image, I think one of the Byzantine fathers of the lute player, where the lute is the heart, and the word is the plectrum. And with the word, the word of God, the lute player, that is the monk, strums the strings of the lute, which is his heart, until the lute itself turns into music. The lute is awakened, comes alive, and itself turns into music. And his own being begins to resonate with the word of God. As the spirit in the instrument, the spirit in the heart, responds to the spirit in the word. That's the way Louvre puts it. And so the two become one. And then he talks about a particular mode of doing this.


How do we get into touch with the word? He says, here there must be a kind of desert, what Origen calls the absolute poverty of the senses. We set up our dwelling in the desert, in the presence of the word. In other words, there has to be a hunger. There has to be a need. If we're full, we don't have any room for the word. We don't have any room for the bread of life. And hunger here means a kind of emptiness, a kind of poverty of the senses. A kind of separation from normal preoccupations. A willingness to go away from our own world a little bit. A little exodus. Remember, salvation comes that way. The John the Baptist appeared in the desert, preaching the gospel. And so we have to be ready to go a little away from other things in order to encounter the word. Or you could say, to go a little inside in order to encounter the word. At a given moment, the word says nothing more to the intellect and no longer touches the sensibility. But in the desert, our heart awaits and desires,


moved interiorly by the Holy Spirit. Now, pretty evidently, he's not talking about the first encounter with the word, and he's not talking about the first awakening of the heart, but he's talking about something which is a recurring phase in a person's life, and especially in a monk's life, of re-encountering the word in order to be reawakened. And which means moving a little bit out of our own life, out of our own world, out of our own comfort, indeed. Being willing to be a little bit hungry, to be a little bit empty and to know it. To scoop out a hollow for desire to fill. And of course, that's the meaning of Lent, and it's largely the meaning of the monastic life, too. But in the desert, our heart awaits and desires, moved interiorly by the Holy Spirit. At that moment, the heart is seized and touched by the word. It is like a miracle taking place within us. The heart is awakened and the word is revealed. The heart is awakened and the word is revealed.


The heart is opened and the word is opened at the same moment, and it's as if there's a spark that leaps across from one to the other, from the word to the heart, or vice versa. And the two suddenly become one in a kind of mysterious third, which is the Holy Spirit, which is, as it were, the climate, the atmosphere, which encompasses both. The heart is awakened and the word is revealed. They're opened, one to the other. In the measure that the word becomes living, our heart lives, because the Holy Spirit is present in the word. In the measure that the word becomes living, our heart lives. It reminds us, once again, of that nuptial imagery of the Fathers and of the Scriptures, of the Son of God coming to espouse, as it were, mankind, His Church. He comes to espouse the heart in a certain way, and He does it, of course, in the word. Okay, that's one pointer, as it were.


An encounter of the word, an encounter with the word, and especially awaiting the word in silence, in a kind of emptiness. Louvre talks in other terms in his book, Teach Us to Pray, but he's saying about the same thing, I think. Each and every method of prayer has but one objective, to find the heart and alert it. It must be a form of interior alertness, of watchfulness. Jesus Himself said, being awake and praying side by side. The phrase, be awake and pray, certainly comes from Jesus in person. Only profound and quiet concentration can put us on the track of our heart and of the prayer within it. All the time watchful and alert, therefore, we must first recover the way to our heart in order to free it and divest it of everything in which we have encapsulated it. So, he's talking about a first watchfulness, which, in a sense, is already being awake,


as far as we can be awake. In other words, we have to be awake to the word in order to let the word awaken us. We have to make the greatest effort that we can to open our consciousness to the word, so that the word can really open it. So that the word can really bring it alive. And then we have to make the effort to keep the heart open, to keep it awake, by freeing it from what he says we've encapsulated it in. From those things that we've muffled it in. Eckhart somewhere talks about the heart or the intellect being covered over with skin after skin. He's got good, dense German imagery. He says 30 or 40 thick cow hides or something like that. And that's the way it is. So, there's a beginning effort to open the heart, and then the gift of the awakening of the heart, and then the problem of maintaining. Maintaining that openness, maintaining that flame, which is a lifelong pursuit, and which includes asceticism, of course. Okay, but that attentiveness to the word


and that concentration that he's talking about, is that just a mental effort? Or is that just a psychological thing that we do? Is this sort of going inside towards the heart? Is that a kind of technique? Well, not really. There's a lot more to it than that. There's a whole other moral aspect involved, as it were. Because that implies a conversion. Even if we want to open ourselves to the word, we're not going to be able to unless somehow we thrust off from us the things that are fighting the word inside of us. Because they're the things that close us up. And this involves bringing the whole of our life, in some way, into alignment with the word. We can't really hear the word unless we turn ourselves around already to face it, as it were, which can be a difficult thing, which can be a real crisis. There's a book by Ralph Martin entitled, Hungry with God. Maybe some of you know it. I think the charismatic people have made a real contribution in a couple of ways here. One of them, of course, is reawakening the realization


of the actuality of the Holy Spirit, the experience of the Holy Spirit in our life, in Christian life. But another one is the steps to that awakening. Now, what we're calling the awakening of the heart is often referred to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It's the same thing, really, in different terms. Simeon the New Theologian, back in, what is it, the 11th century, he talks about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, following the baptism of water. And as being the kind of threshold of the monk's inner life, inner life of prayer. So Martin talks about two steps, really, for the awakening of the heart. He says, Prayer is not God's primary way of coming to us. We are saved by faith in Jesus and not by our efforts at prayer or anything else, including morality. Many of us are in need not of new techniques or a new understanding of prayer,


but of a reconsideration of where we stand as regards Jesus of Nazareth and what our personal response to him is. He is not the dogmatic background or popular symbol of Christianity, but the living person at the heart of it. He desires to be the living person at the heart of our life and at the heart of our prayer life. He desires to release the power of the Spirit into our lives. The genius of Protestant spirituality is this very emphasis. That is, the emphasis on the interpersonal relationship, we want to call it that, between Christ and us. That matter of conversion on not only the moral level, but along the whole horizon of conscious life. Emphasizing, getting ourselves, bringing ourselves into the right relationship with Christ. And first of all, believing in him as he really is, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Sounds like a simple thing, but this is one of those things also that has to be open to us. And it's not until we look into ourselves a little bit that we realize that maybe we've never really done that.


Maybe we've never really tried to take him that seriously. If we do realize that, then it's an opportunity to swing ourselves around a bit. In another place he says this. The present hunger for experience of God, tendency to look in the wrong direction, that is, group experiences, or I don't know exactly what he's talking about there, or borrowing of techniques from Eastern religions, or help from the tradition, which almost universally proceed on the basis of presupposing that the basic relationship with God is in good order, and that what is needed mainly is a spiritual tune-up or a return to the sources in prayer. Now, we may look at that in another way, because we are very aware of our need to return to the sources. Nevertheless, what he says is valid, I think. For many people this is a disastrous way to proceed because it's putting the cart before the horse, leading many to a wrong perception of their situation. Often what is missing in people's lives is a clear and definite act of commitment to the person of Jesus,


which gives them the basis on which to proceed with the relationship with Jesus and the Father. A person must know and experience being reborn in Christ, being a new creation, in order to have the solid basis of real relationship with God, in which prayer comes naturally and makes sense. So he's talking about a kind of initial conversion, which is necessary, and which has Jesus in the center of it, or I should say which accepts, receives, places Jesus at the center of our life. I think Saint Benedict is talking about something like this when he says right in the beginning of the prologue, To you now my words are addressed, whoever you are, who, taking up the strong and bright weapons of obedience, set out to fight under Christ your true King. So he presupposes in the people that the rule has anything to say to, that they have made this act, as it were, in their hearts, this act of commitment to Christ, this act of kind of existential faith that Christ is Lord, and therefore that they're fighting under his banner, as it were.


Okay, that's the first of these conditions, as it were. The first one is related to the Word, and we spoke before of the dimension of the Word in our lives, the dimension of faith and of fidelity, the dimension of meaning and of understanding, the dimension of coherence of life. And then the second dimension here is the dimension of the Spirit. And there's another condition there, which I don't know exactly how to express it, how to make it seem comprehensible. Let's hear what Martin says of it. In addition, what is missing oftentimes is any real and definite knowledge and experience of the person of the Holy Spirit. Is Christian prayer truly possible without a definite and concrete knowledge and experience of the person of Christ and the Spirit? Remember that our spiritual life is a matter of moving towards the Father, the Source, the Invisible God, through the Word and the Spirit.


And so we have to come into deep contact with both Word and Spirit, and allow them to work together, to interact inside of us if we want to get there. And so both of them, in some way, have to come alive for us. Now, this matter of the experience of the Holy Spirit, what does that call for from our side? What can we do about it? And that's the question, that's the problem. I think it's a matter of desire. It's a matter of believing, first of all, that the whole climate of our life can be changed. A matter of believing that grace is a reality, and that grace changes a person's life, and changes the whole context of one's experience, too. And a matter of desiring it. A matter of desiring to have a new life, a new consciousness, desiring to have a new heart. And there's not a whole lot more that we can do, that we can do but that. But we have the promises of Christ that he who seeks will find,


he who knocks will find the door open, he who asks will receive. And what does he say there? In St. Luke's Gospel, remember, he gives a parable of the person who goes and knocks in the middle of the night, and then he goes on and says, and he's hurt because of his persistence, and he goes on and he says, what father, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? If he asks him for an egg, will give him a scorpion or whatever? He says, so your heavenly father will not refuse his Holy Spirit to those who ask him. So the second condition then seems to be, the second requirement for us, seems to be believing in the actuality of the Spirit of God, that which deifies man, that which changes man from within. Believing in the reality of a new heart and then desiring it. Desiring it. Desire is very important. From the beginning to the end, desire is important. Even though sometimes it may become


that huge invisible desire that Merton was talking about in that quote of last night. And then here's a passage in which he sort of recapitulates these first two. Even within the religious orders, there are many Catholics who have worked hard for years trying to grow in prayer without seeming to make much actual contact with God. It must be said that many of these people are missing something essential to making that effort fruitful. First, a clear and definite personal relationship with Jesus, and secondly, a release of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic tradition tends to presume this initial experience. A great deal of our spiritual literature, for instance, is built on the presumption that a person has already had this life awakened within him. St. John of the Cross, for instance, St. John of the Cross goes further than almost anybody else as far as a teacher of spiritual life, a teacher of contemplation. And yet, if one reads only St. John of the Cross, there's a great danger that he won't get anywhere


because he doesn't talk much about the beginning. It's as if you were starting on the third or fourth floor. And if we leave out the whole context and the foundation of Christian life, there's a great danger that we'll simply frustrate ourselves. I think that's happened to a lot of people because somehow our Catholic spirituality in the last four or five hundred years has gotten too far away from the source, too far away from the beginning. It's lost its simplicity. Our culture, our tradition has become in some way over-developed, over-civilized. This tends to happen really in every department. We've gotten over-specialized. And when you get over-specialized in this area of spirituality, it's fatal because what you're doing is not a specialty, is not a specialization. It is, in a sense. But what one is doing is simply trying to penetrate into the center of all life, into the source of all life, into the most general, the most common, the most universal, to penetrate into the heart


of existence itself. And to become specialized, over-specialized, is to become focused on some individual particle of the whole thing, is to miss the forest for the tree, miss the all for the little bit, the part. And that's why Christianity is a liberation because it freezes from the little thing. It even freezes from our own minute little self to have all of the freedom of the sons of God, which means to have all of the flexibility, the ability for movement, all of the room which belongs to our Father who is in Heaven, in many ways, in practical things, also especially in spiritual things, to discover that all truth is in Christ, to discover that all things are good


because the Father made them. All these things are very simple, and yet they constitute that liberation which is the joy of Christianity, but which depends upon our not getting stuck on any one little thing, not getting stuck any place, not getting too specialized, not making too much progress. You've got to be careful of making too much progress, not becoming experts. Okay, those are two conditions or steps, and the third one, I think, André Loup has already expressed there, because the third dimension, the first being the dimension of the Word and coherence of our life, and sort of, you can call it submission to God, you can call it faith in Christ, St. Paul talks about bringing every intellect into obedience to God in the truth which is Christ, so accepting the Gospel, really, fully. The second one is believing and desiring this new life,


this new heart, this recreation, and praying for it. And the third is something that may be there at the beginning, but which leads us further along the route, and that is the dimension of depth. That's the centering that Loup is talking about. We've already said a lot about that. The difficulty with the charismatic movement often is that it doesn't go beyond those first steps and remains sort of a conversion, a threshold phenomenon, and then doesn't have a structure, or whatever you want to call it, for growth, for further development. That's the risk, just as that's the risk in Protestant spirituality. Whereas in our Catholic tradition we have, of course, a lot of help given us for that movement of depth afterwards. And that's what Loup is largely talking about when he talks about going into the desert and awaiting the Word, going into the silence, moving towards the center, returning to the heart, all of those things. So the depth dimension, which is the dimension of mystery, which is the dimension, really, of the Father, the epithetic dimension,


moving into the beyond, beyond our experience, beyond our knowledge, moving into it in, you can say, a contemplative way with our consciousness, but moving into it also in another way, which is very important for a monk. Rahner's got a beautiful little article on the theology of hope, in which he says, hope is a matter of committing oneself to the mystery, committing oneself to the uncontrollable, to that which is beyond our fiddling with it. Because what we do is, we try to make a little kingdom for ourselves by controlling everything around us. And when that sort of movement meets up with God, it meets up with a blank wall. There's no encounter there. So it's a matter of letting go, a matter of committing ourselves to the very uncontrollability, to the very unpredictability, committing ourselves to the freedom of God is really what it is. And that calls forth our innermost freedom.


Our innermost freedom, as it were, our deepest courage to be able to commit ourselves to the unknown and uncontrollable God. So that's what Rahner calls hope. And hope, I think, is the central axis of the monk's life, really. Hope is the central axis of our life. It's putting ourselves into the hands of God. This has all sorts of ramifications in different areas. One of them, of course, is poverty. Simply not having. Not getting our security out of something that we can grab or control or pile up or count. But having our security in our Father who is in heaven. Anyway, maybe that's enough about that. So there's three dimensions. The dimension of the Word, the dimension of the Spirit, the dimension of mystery or of the Father or of the Source. And I think if we begin with those three dimensions in order to open our hearts, we'll find that the same three dimensions persevere throughout the life of prayer. Because how does the life of prayer develop?


We have... Remember the old ladder of contemplatism? It was Gregor the Carthusian. Lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio. Often later writers have talked about discursive prayer or meditative prayer, first of all, where you take the Word and you sort of dialogue with it. You think about it. And all of these methods of meditation that grew up since the Middle Ages, like Ignatian meditation, the French school, and so many others, are sort of in that area of using the mind, using the imagination in a discursive way. And after that comes affective prayer. So first you begin with the dimension of the Word once again. An encounter with the Word, a sort of dialogue situation in some way with movement in the reasoning mind. And then you move into the area of the feelings, of the affections, which we can really call the dimension of movement, the dimension of the Spirit. No longer is there this rational discourse, this dialogue in the same way,


but just a sort of concentration into a single movement as one is drawn towards God, very simply. And then finally, what do we find? Finally we find just a kind of cessation of movement in quiet. In quiet. A kind of simple awareness, which is no longer in the realm of duality perhaps, which no longer knows God as out there, even as a person, as distinct from ourself. An awareness which is only awareness, which can't be called awareness of itself or awareness of another. Something like what Merton is talking about when he says, isn't it, there's a hearing where there is no hearer. Maybe there's nothing to be heard, but the hearing and the hearer and the thing to be heard are all one in the quiet. Which, once again, is the dimension of mystery, the apophatic dimension, the dimension of the Father, which is the dimension that is


re-brought into our attention once again very much, very emphatically by the Eastern traditions, and which really has to be recaptured in our Christianity, especially if we want to have anything to say to the young people, many of whom are pilgrims seeking a way to capture this transcendence, this dimension of mystery, which they don't find within our conventional church structures very often, which stay very much on the word level. The dimension of mystery. When we think and talk about prayer


and our practice of it, there are some traps, of course, and one of them is to consider prayer too much in isolation. In fact, we can come to see prayer as being isolation in a way. It can be a refuge. It can appeal to us as a kind of sweet and protected area of life, an inner sanctum in which we're freed, but we're freed from responsibility for our lives. That's not the kind of freedom that prayer is supposed to bring us. When we consider the relationship of prayer to life, there seem to be two obvious tendencies, two obvious exaggerations. One is for the introverted type of person. He's the one who's likely to make his prayer life an inner sanctum into which he can retire to escape from the problems of life. And I think a lot of us have some of that motivation when we come to the monastery in the first place. It's a matter of correcting and of purifying that motivation as we go on.


It's a matter, first of all, of being aware of it, that our reasons for seeking prayer are not all that supernatural. A genuine spiritual attraction, the sweet call of the Holy Spirit to an interior presence and experience of God, which are all true, can become the pretext to oneself and maybe to others, too, for this kind of evasion. Recollection, silence, and solitude can provide the context not only for growth, but for sleep as well, for vacuity, for curling around ourselves in self-love. Merton has written quite a lot about false kinds of prayer life, quietistic kinds of prayer life. And the principle seems to be that we have to keep two things in tension once again. One is interiority. One, you can say, is solitude. And what's the other? The other is encounter. The other is interaction. We always have to have those two elements in our life, and if we let go of one of them, we're going to lose


the integrity of our life, and it can be a disaster in the monastic life. If we lose the element of interiority, we go into overactivity and so on. Even overactivity in what may seem like a very spiritual sphere, like studying theology or writing or teaching or whatever. If we let go of the element of the pole of encounter, of interaction, and become simply interior people, then we can really become schizophrenic. Then we are no longer necessarily in touch with the reality which is God, because we've taken ourselves out of contact with the realities through which God meets us. So you have the one person who wants to sort of retire completely into the shelter of the prayer life, and you have the other person who says, well, my work is my prayer. And both of those are exaggerations, of course. Our work should be a prayer. Our work can be a prayer.


But if that's our only prayer, then it's very unlikely that it's going to be prayer at all. Because the kind of prayer which penetrates work and animates it and fills it, cannot really exist without times given to exclusive prayer, without times given to explicit prayer. The implicit can't really survive without the explicit. The inclusive type of prayer, you know, the comprehensive prayer that accompanies us at every moment, can't really survive without times which are given to nothing but prayer. And by this we mean, of course, not only the divine office, not only our common prayer, but times in which we just go apart and keep ourselves in the presence of God. Somebody, maybe it was Tugwell, I don't remember, who defined prayer as simply giving time to God, which sounds like a stupid definition, but it's an excellent one really in the end. Because in the long run,


what matters is how much of our life we give to God. That is, if we want to be contemplative. In the long run, what matters is how much of our life we give to God, which means giving some of our life, means giving some hours of our life to God regularly by just being with him, by just letting that time be empty. Now that seems like a crude rule of thumb, but also it's subtle in a sense because remember the phenomenon of simplification, a sort of disappearance of all experience in prayer. So in the end, what we're going to be left with as far as experience is concerned, is just that elapsed time. Sometimes the time of prayer is going to be perfectly empty, and it may be during that time that we're closest to God, without being aware of it. So we have to treat ourselves very simply in a way, very crudely in that way. Just giving time to God,


as simply as possible, with as little activity as possible, and not expecting to experience anything special. Martin often talks about contemplation of the contemplative life as simply the preference for emptiness, the preference for non-experience. There's a real paradox. As if you prefer just to spend half an hour with God, with absolutely nothing happening, only not going to sleep. Because it's in this way that a deeper kind of consciousness opens up for us, that we're no longer dependent upon the kind of psychological input, psychological experience that we've had before. And so our consciousness becomes able to deepen and to broaden. Something like what Luke is talking about when he talks about going into the desert to listen to the Word. In other words, you're going into an emptiness in order to begin to perceive on a level that you haven't perceived on before. And when you begin to experience on that level,


you may not call it experience at all. It may not seem like experience at all. St. John of the Cross talks about the manna in the desert, remember? The Jews got into the desert there and God started to feed them on the manna. And they complained because it was tasteless, because they didn't like these rations, it didn't have no substance to it. They wanted to go back to the flesh pots and the onions and the garlic and all that stuff. And he said, well, that manna, that manna signifies the very subtle food that God is giving you. And up to now, your palate, your taste buds are too crude to perceive that. And so you have to go through a kind of fast, a kind of emptiness, a time in the desert without any experience at all in order to begin to be able to receive and perceive, to savor that food that God is giving you. So that's what happens as we go on in prayer. And so we'll be moving into an emptiness, moving into a nothing, into a desert really, until gradually we begin to find that the water comes up out of the earth itself


and that the desert begins to bloom. Not because of anything we did, but maybe because of the things that we kept ourselves from doing. And so we'll know that the grace comes from God and not from ourselves. There's been a lot of writing and discussion about the question of continual prayer. How do you pray at all times? Because we have these admonitions in the scripture. St. Paul says, Pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. He says, Pray without ceasing. And some of the monks took this very seriously, of course. And some of them tried to pray at least in shifts, 24 hours a day. So the fathers concerned themselves with this. And they tried to work out something which is more rational.


And what you come up with, ultimately, is something like this, that to pray continually does not mean to be continually in the conscious act of prayer, but somehow to be dwelling on a level of depth at which your orientation is continually towards God, even though you're not conscious of it all the time. In other words, it's a matter of orienting your heart towards God, living continually towards God, living towards God. Which doesn't mean just living towards God by having all of your attention on Him all the time, because that's obviously impossible. But getting to a level which is deep enough so that at that level all of your life is oriented towards God. Now this is possible for man. This is given to us. And as we heard yesterday, it's also written into our structure, the way that we're made. It's not a matter, especially this matter of continual prayer, it's not a matter of focusing on two objects at once. A lot of people, I think, when they come into the monastery,


try to do that sort of thing. They try to maintain a continual recollection by praying explicitly and deliberately while they're working, for instance. And you can make yourself very nervous in that way. As if we were going to perceive God and relate to God in the same way that we relate to our work or to another object. It's not that way. Ultimately, the way that we relate to God is not as an object, but as it were, as the ground of being. And we have to remember that our life comes from God. That we're living with the sap of God's grace of His Spirit within us. And that's our communication with God. And the sap of God's Spirit is rising towards God anyway, whether we reflect on it or not. The more we reflect on it, the more we're aware of it, the better. Up to a point. But it doesn't depend on what we do. It doesn't depend on a nervous effort or an effort of will. Even though we need efforts of will. We need to go back to the memory of God.


But it's something that's already there. Here's Theophane the Recluse on this. You regret that the Jesus Prayer is not unceasing for you yet. He's writing to some disciples, that you do not recite it constantly, but constant repetition is not required. What is required is a constant aliveness to God. That's a very good expression, I think. A constant aliveness to God. Which means alive to God, not just in your consciousness, but in the whole of your life. So that no matter what you're doing, St. Paul says, whether you're eating or drinking or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Not just a virtual intention, but somehow our whole life, ontologically, gets oriented towards God. It's not as if we had to be watching Him all the time to make sure that He's present. Sometimes we behave in that fashion, that if I'm not remembering God, God's not remembering me. If I'm not aware of His presence, He's not really present. But that's kind of childish. Aliveness to God.


Remember those words in St. John's Prologue. Ad patrem, prostanteam. The way the Word is related to the Father is the way that we're to be related to the Father. And no longer either with the Word or with God or with Christ, just outside of us, but really beyond that subject-object duality. Alive to God. With the very life of God as the life of our life within us. So if the very life of God is our life, well then we're alive to God. And it's moving back towards the Source. And the Spirit is returning to the Father. And we're in that cycle. That must have been the way that Jesus prayed continually. Theophane goes on here. He's talking about the command of St. Paul to constant prayer. It's clear to everyone that the advice of the Apostle is not carried out merely by the practice of established prayers at certain hours, but requires a permanent walking before God,


a dedication of all one's activities to Him. St. Basil talks about continual prayer. He solves the problem in that way. Dedicate all of your activities, everything that you do to God, and that virtual intention as it were, that orientation of will is sufficient to keep you in continual prayer, even when you're not thinking about God. Dedication of all one's activities to Him who is all-seeing and omnipresent. An ever-fervent appeal to Heaven with a mind and a heart. With a mind and a heart. So that's what your recollection does. Even though you won't be thinking about God as an object, but your mind will be in a place where you are sort of in the atmosphere, which is God. The whole of life with all its manifestations must be permeated by prayer, but its secret is love for the Lord. Its secret is love for the Lord. As the bride loving the bridegroom is not separated from Him in remembrance and feeling, so the soul united with God in love


remains in constancy with Him, directing warm appeals to Him from the heart. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Well, if you're one spirit with the Lord, then you don't have to continually be turning to Him as an object, as it were another person, even though we may do that frequently. It's another paradox of the Christian life that we relate to God not only as other, but as self. We relate to God not only as other, as self. We were talking before about the way that the Word comes to us from outside. And Luke writes in that way. The Word comes to us from outside. We encounter the Word. We dialogue with the Word. And then it sets our hearts afire and kindles them. But also we heard that we are a Word of God. We are a Word of God. And if we move in that direction, then we find ourselves moving beyond our self-consciousness and our life becomes a pure and simple listening. Listening not just for the ear, but listening actually to the whole of our existence


and to everything that happens to us, which we see issuing from the hand of God. We always seem to find at the end those two ways. The way of duality, as it were, and the way which goes beyond duality, beyond the subject-object division, beyond even what we think of as the inter-trinitarian relationship of father to son, and just becomes a simple awareness. Being conscious, as it were, backwards into the source from which we come. Being aware of the issues issuing of all of our life at every moment from the Father. Luff and Merton make a good contrast in this regard. Merton in his later years gets very much into this area with his Zen experience of getting beyond subject and object and the act of contemplation as being simply, as it were, entering into the act of being. Let's see if I can... There's a poem of his, maybe I can conclude with that.


I think it's in Emblems from the Season of Fury. Look at the empty, wealthy night, the pilgrim moon. This is a poem about solitude. It's solitude speaking, as a matter of fact. I am the appointed hour, the now that cuts time like a blade. I am the unexpected flash beyond yes and beyond no, beyond duality, beyond yes and no, beyond subject and object, the forerunner of the word of God. The two ways here. Follow my ways and I will lead you to golden-haired suns, logos and music, blameless joys, innocent of questions and beyond answers. For I, solitude, am thine own self. I, nothingness, am thy all. I, silence, am thy amen. It's getting to this place which is beyond our self, beyond our ordinary ego, and so beyond our ordinary life and our ordinary experience, which really is the dimension, is the place of the Father. In another place, he writes this.


What can the wind say where there is no hearer? He just said that the wind and the pine trees had already said everything that there was to be said about the contemplative life. He said, what's the use of talking anymore? Just listen to the wind and the pine trees, and it says all that there is to be said about contemplation, all that there is to be said about the solitary life. What can the wind say where there is no hearer? There is then a deeper silence, the silence in which the hearer is no hearer. That deeper silence must be heard before one can speak truly of solitude. So that's that paradoxical place which is beyond our self, the third place as it were. The first place being outside of our self and below ourselves. The second place being the heart, being within ourselves. The third place being our center also, but our center beyond ourselves, in that self which is no longer any self. And that's where our prayer leads us.


Always related to God as a son to his father, but also related to him simply silently as the source of all of our being. Next time perhaps we can talk about asceticism. Thank you.