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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 Seven: The Invocation of Christ as Onoma


← 128 | 129 → CHAPTER SEVEN

The Invocation of Christ as Onoma

‘While now people rage against the kingdom of the Saviour, there will come a time when they will confess his great name’.1 Eusebius of Caesarea’s gloss on the text of Psalm 98.3 specifically identifies the ‘your great name’ of the psalmist with that of Christ. This is but one of many texts in the psalm-commentaries attributed to Origen Eusebius, Athanasius, Didymus, Cyril and Theodoret where the exegete associates the divine ὄνομα of the Psalms of the Septuagint with the Second Person of the Trinity.

The purpose of this chapter is to examine the extent to which and the manner in which the aforesaid works invite the reader or the singer to accept a Christological understanding of those psalm-verses which refer to the ‘name of the Lord’. From these psalm-commentaries it will draw on seventy-one texts, which, taken together, provide a considerable body of material for the investigation.

Of the thirty-five psalms in which the relevant texts appear, Psalm 88 is the most well-endowed with seven texts, while Psalms 98 and 117 account for four each. Three such texts are to be found in each of Psalms 44, 47, 71, 79, 104 and 112, while Psalms 19, 43, 53, 65, 67, 73, 74, 82, 90, 95, 101 and 105 each provide two. A single text is to be located in each of Psalms 5, 7, 17, 22, 28, 60, 75, 85, 91, 114, 121,...

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