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Christe Eleison!

The Invocation of Christ in Eastern Monastic Psalmody c. 350-450


James Frederick Wellington

For centuries the Jesus Prayer has been leading Orthodox Christians beyond the language of liturgy and the representations of iconography into the wordless, imageless stillness of the mystery of God. In more recent years it has been helping a growing number of Western Christians to find a deeper relationship with God through the continual rhythmic repetition of a short prayer which, by general agreement, first emerged from the desert spirituality of early monasticism. In this study James Wellington explores the understanding and practice of the psalmody which underpinned this spirituality. By means of an investigation of the importance of psalmody in desert monasticism, an exploration of the influence of Evagrius of Pontus and a thorough examination of selected psalm-commentaries in circulation in the East at this time, he reveals a monastic culture which was particularly conducive to the emergence of a Christ-centred invocatory prayer.
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Chapter Four: Encountering Christos in the Scholia ad Psalmos


← 70 | 71 → CHAPTER FOUR

Encountering Christos in the Scholia ad Psalmos

Having considered at some length the relationship between psalmody and prayer in the works of Evagrius, and having identified the encounter with Christ as one of the key elements in that relationship, we will now explore more deeply the nature of that encounter as it is revealed in the Scholia ad psalmos.

Dysinger writes: ‘The theme encountered most frequently in Evagrius’ Scholia on Psalms is Jesus Christ’.1 As has been noted in the previous chapter, he goes on to state that the title Χριστός is ‘explained or employed in 159 scholia’, and in a footnote he lists each of these references.

The purpose of this chapter is to examine the various ways in which this title is employed in the Scholia ad psalmos, in order to attain a fuller picture of how Evagrius sought to explain his understanding of the encounter with the person of Christ, which he believed that he and his fellow monks experienced in the reading of, chanting of, or listening to monastic psalmody of the late fourth century.

It should be noted from the outset that in the absence of a published edition of the Scholia ad psalmos such a task has proved to be far from easy. Dysinger offers only a selection of such psalm-texts in his on-line edition and translation,2 and of the 159 scholia recorded by him only 151 have been located...

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