Hello, friends! Today I want to speak about a very serious matter. Very serious — because in today’s article, I intend to reconcile the old Christian dispute.
Let us begin our prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
The essence of this dispute is that some consider the psychosomatic aspect of prayer as something good, others are convinced that such practices like breathing, the special position of the body, etc., in conjunction with prayer, are unacceptable for a Christian. Whether our prayer becomes in idolatry if we begin to breathe evenly through your nose, or when we bow our head to the breast, or when using a bench for meditation? It’s time to put everything in its place!
Being a Christian
It should be noticed that some Christians who are against the psychosomatic method of prayer have taken such position with a certain reason. The fact is that recently (100-200 years?) In Europe and America a lot of religious movements appeared from Asia which stands for religion practice through all sorts of psychosomatic exercises. To this kind of movements can be, for example, included yoga and Zen Buddhism.
No wonder that the «esoteric» doctrine aroused the curiosity especially in those who didn’t meet Jesus Christ in his personal life. In yoga and Zen Buddhist meditation many saw the way of individual and spiritual growth, which requires no religious faith as in Christian church (although if you delve more thoroughly into this question, it turns out that every religious movement requires a certain faith from those who within this movement is practicing, praying, meditating. But in this article, we will not consider this issue).
Wide dissemination of yoga and other religious movements in Europe and America have been considered by many Christians (with a certain reason) as a temptation for Christians. That’s why this unpleasant fact caused to the rejection of any form of psycho-physical practices related to prayer (meditation) along with other religious movements. Even the traditionally Christian term «meditation» turned into a curse. In the «Wikipedia» there is an article about meditation, and the word “meditation” is not mentioned anywhere in it, in connection with Christianity (I’m writing about it in my other article “In favor of meditation«).
The fact that we, as Christians, «denied» from this Latin word (meditation — is the Latin word, but not transcription from Hindi) with the fear, said that many of us have adopted the «ostrich policy». Most of us are completely swept aside all that is connected with new religious movements, simultaneously, as the proverb says, «Throw out the baby with the bath water” — I mean the psychosomatic aspect of prayer.
Others frantically began to «run off» from the Asian psychosomatic practices elements and artificially adapt them to Christianity … (such adaptations often looks attractive enough). Anyway, last years «Jesus’s Prayer» became known in the West and, but no one considered it as a certain spiritual and ascetic system (hesychasm). I mean, Jesus’s Prayer often struggled and pulled out form a specific spiritual context, certain Christian practices.
So is the psychosomatic aspect of prayer an evil or not? I am deeply convinced that this aspect is simply a tool. Tool by itself is neutral. Knife is great tool for cleaning vegetables. He is neither bad nor good morally, but used by unskilled hands, it can cut a finger or harm another person, used by the criminals hands it can be an instrument for the immoral act execution — for the murder.
There is no doubt — the knife is very effective and very dangerous (in terms of human security) instrument but it is not the reason to abandon it.
Situation is the same with the psychosomatic aspect of prayer: it is possible that this tool can be dangerous, but is it the serious reason to stop using it?
Christian anthropology — a positive attitude to the body
Anthropology — the science of man. People act one way or another, based on its view of who they are. (For example, if someone believes that a person — it’s just a development of the animal, then such a person has to act as the pig does). The Bible from the very first lines makes certain statements that affect our Christian vision of anthropology.
What are these statements? Here is just one thing: «God saw all that he had made, and it was very good » (Gen. 1, 31a). God created everything good, including humans. When we talk about the human we have in mind not only separately taken part (or aspect), but the whole person! However, historically, many Christians treated negatively certain aspects of a human throughout the ages. And these aspect are the physicality of human and related to body – sexuality.
Ignoring the Christian doctrine about human or been unaware Many Christians cause harm to themselves and others, spread the negative vision of the physicality and sexuality. But through such a prism becomes unattractive that in Christianity is called penance, fasting. And, of course, this is one of the reasons for negative attitudes towards the psychosomatic aspect of prayer.
Hesychasm — Catholic Spirituality
As a Catholic, I am irritated by the fact, that in the West the Jesus‘s Prayer or the hesychasm is mentioned usually in the context of the Orthodox Church. Considered that «Jesus’s Prayer is the great prayer of the Orthodox Church» and «hesychasm is the spiritual direction in Orthodoxy.» And fact is not in that I am a fierce enemy of Orthodoxy or ecumenism! Actually I am a priest of Greek Catholic Church, thats why Orthodoxy and ecumenism very important for me. The point is that such claims are wrong.
Saying that Jesus’s Prayer and hesychasm is the practice of the Orthodox Church we Catholics automatically reject the experience of Eastern Christianity until 1054 (the year in which there was a final break of the Church on the west Catholic and Eastern Orthodox). But the hesychasm basis was established by holy fathers in the desert and spiritual authors on the Sinai and Athos mount before the Great Schism.
For this reason one of the Greek Catholic Church missions is the preservation, promotion and distribution of Jesus’s Prayer and hesychast spirituality in the Catholic Church. We Catholics should remember that Eastern spirituality is our common heritage with the Orthodox Church.
Prayer’s technique in hesychasm
Technique of prayer in Christianity is not something new. Many texts of spiritual writers included mainly in the anthology of spiritual texts, the Greek Philokalia prove that and the Catholic Church recognizes their spiritual value.
I would like here to quote the most significant descriptions of Jesus’s Prayer’s technique.
For example, as described by the psychosomatic method of prayer Gregory of Sinai:
The active prayer of the heart and mind can be accomplished in the following way:
Sitting on a stool, bring your mind from the head into the heart and hold it there.
From there call with your mind and heart, «Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!«
Regulate your breathing also, because rhythmic breathing can disperse distracting thoughts.
When you are aware of thoughts, do not pay attention to them regardless of whether they are good or no.
With your mind enter the heart and call on the Lord Jesus often and patiently and in this way you will soon overwhelm and destroy these thoughts through God’s name.
Here it is the instruction of mysterious stranger (from the known around the world stories «The way of pilgrim«), with whom he refers to his blind companion:
I started telling him: “now you can’t see, but you can imagine in your mind what you have seen before, that is, the person, or any thing, or a any member, such as arm or leg, you can so vividly imagine how would it look, and then you can point and look at this even if your eyes are blind?”
“I can”, answered a blind man.
“So you just as well imagine your heart by moving your eyes, as if looking at your hart through the chest, and as you can vividly imagine it and listen with ears how your hart beats again and again. When you adopt to the heart pulsing, then start to adopt the prayer’s words to each heart beat. Thus, with the first beat say or think about “Lord”, with the second “Jesus”, with the third “Christ”, with the fourth “have mercy” and with the fifth “on me”,and repeat these things several times. I’s convenient to you, since the beginning and the preparations for the heart’s prayer you already have.”
When you become comfortable with that, start to enter and exhaust all Jesus’s Prayer in heart together with breath as fathers learn, that is breathing air in, say: My God Jesus Christ, and breathing air out: have mercy on me! Do this more often and more, and you will shortly feel thin and pleasant heartache, warmth and relaxation will be then in it. So, with God’s help, you will reach self-action of a charming heart’s internal prayer.
But in every possible way be careful from imaginations in mind and images. Do not accept at all any fantasy; because st. fathers strong recommend doing internal prayer to keep detachment from images and away from charm»
In the short article «Jesus’s Prayer: first conversation. Who can pray?» (To read here) I submit criterion which allow the Christian to keep out of the spiritual charm (adhere to the true spiritual path). Here are some key points (three bases) for those who would like to practice Jesus’s Prayer and not to lose a right direction:
1). Correct intention, i.e. intention which corresponds to Christian, Church understanding of a prayer. It is necessary to remember that the method in itself costs nothing. Why do we need the wood, if there is no stove, what for to buy winter tires if there is no car? Thus, why would someone need in Jesus’s Prayer if this person has not met Jesus Christ in his life, the Savior, the Lord and God? Therefore the very first step on a prayer way is the Jesus Christ acceptance in the heart, as Lord and God, and the Savior.
2). Christian belief’s practicing according to the Church Science (especially we are talking about a regular — for example, once a month — Sacrament of Penanceand regular Eucharist). Also belief’s practicing means rational substantiation what you believe. (About substantiation importance you can read here).
3). Regular (as much as possible) Bible reading. «Ignorantio Scripturarum, est ignorantio Christi» — «ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of the Christ» tells St. Ieronim. Without regular reading of the Bible (especially the New testament) Jesus’s Prayer practicing is inconceivable! (How to learn read the Bible prayerfully you can read here).
Friends, I finish this article, but I do not close a theme of psychosomatic aspect in a prayer. I hope that through this article I will find like-minded people and those who with theirs questions will spur me in my spiritual wanderings in search of more close contact with our Lord Jesus Christ.