Thursday, October 20, 2016

Into the Heart, Its Wide Open Places

Kallistos Ware on the Orthodox practice of prayer, with a special eye on The Jesus Prayer.  At 36:00 (minutes), he touches on the very compelling similarities between the Sufi/Muslim tradition (invoking the name of Allah in prayer) and his own Orthodox tradition (invoking the name of Jesus).  He wonders about the relationship, maybe even the influence of one tradition upon the other.

Since my second sabbatical, and visits to Orthodox monasteries in Greece and the Middle East, I've found the tradition around The Jesus Prayer very meaningful and deeply encouraging.  It's at the center of my own prayer life and meditation practice.  As Kallistos Ware suggests, I've adjusted the words for my own use, while still linking the prayer's phrasing with my breathing.

IN: Brother Jesus
OUT: Christ of God
IN: Have mercy on me
OUT: Have mercy on us

Lately I've experienced a particular kind of gift in the prayer as I move through some of my busiest days -- from one activity or visit to another, or in and out of meetings.  Often, I don't have the luxury of scheduling breaks in my schedule.  I find I can turn to The Jesus Prayer and let go a bit -- as my mind 'drops down' (in Kallistos Ware's terms) into the wide open places of the heart.  "Brother Jesus -- Christ of God -- Have mercy on me -- Have mercy on us."  The prayer, the tradition, the connection with so many others -- all of this invites a loosening of my grip and a willingness to yield.  God is near.  Christ is near.  And all will be well.