Patristic Tradition

On prayer ( 11.03.2009 )

It is not out of place here to point out that there is nothing automatic or magical about the Jesus Prayer. If we do not strive to obey His commandments, calling upon His Name will be in vain. He Himself said, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’ It is very important that we should become like Moses who ‘endured, as seeing him who is invisible,’ and invoke Him recognising the ontological connection between the Name and Him Who is named, with the Person of Christ. Love for Him will grow and perfect itself in proportion as our cognition of the life of the beloved God increases and deep­ens. When we are fond of a fellow human being, it is pleasant to pronounce his name which we do not grow tired of repeating. Thus it is, and immeasurably more so, with the Name of the Lord. When someone we love further and further reveals his talents, then we value him more and more and take pleasure in noting new features in him. Thus is it with the Name of Jesus Christ. With gripping interest we discover new mysteries in His Name of the ways of God, and ourselves become bearers of the reality contained in the Name. Through this organic cognition in the very experi­ence of our life we become partakers of eternity. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’ ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us and on thy world.'

The name Jesus was given to us by a revelation from on High. It proceeds from the eternal Divine sphere and is in no way the product of any earthly mind although it is expressed by an everyday human word. Revelation is an act - the energy of Divinity, and as such belongs on another plane, and transcends cosmic energies. In its celestial glory the Name Jesus is meta-cosmic. When we pronounce the Name of Christ, calling upon Him to communion with us, then He, all-fulfilling, hears us, and we enter into living contact with Him. As the pre-eternal Logos of the Father He dwells in undivided unity with Him, and God-the-Father through His Word enters into communion with us. Christ is the Only-begotten, co-eternal Son of the Father, and therefore says, ‘No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ The Name Jesus means God-the-Saviour; as such it can be applied to the Holy Trinity. It is applicable to each Hypostasis separately. But in our prayer we use the Name Jesus exclusively as the proper Name of the God-Man, and our attention is turned to Him. ‘In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,’ - says St. Paul. In Him there is not only God but all the human race also. Praying the Name of Jesus Christ, we place ourselves before the absolute fulness of both the Uncreated First-Being and created being. To enter into the realm of this fulness of Being we must install Him in us so that His life becomes ours through invocation of His Name, according to the commandment: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. ‘He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.’


Elder Sophrony Sakharov