The Invocation of Christ in Eastern Monastic Psalmody c. 350-450
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 an increasing number of Western Christians to engage with God not only with the lips and the mind but also with the heart, and drawing them into a deeper contemplation through the continual rhythmic repetition of a short prayer which, by general agreement, first emerged from the desert spirituality of early monasticism.
It has been claimed that the earliest source to cite the standard formula of the Jesus Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me’ (Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, υἱὲ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με), is the Peri tou Abba Philēmon,1 a work dating from the sixth or early seventh century.2
This anonymous piece of writing relates to the teaching of an Egyptian hermit and to his rule of life in the later period of the Roman Empire in Egypt. In the Peri tou Abba Philēmon we encounter many of the words and concepts traditionally associated with the spiritual environment of the Desert Fathers. Throughout the narrative there is a pronounced emphasis on stillness (ἡσυχία), watchfulness (νῆψις), ‘pray without ceasing’ (ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε), and secret or inward meditation (κρυπτὴ μελέτη), all of which are acknowledged to have played a part in the development of the Jesus Prayer.
← 1 | 2 → There is also, within this work, an important passage relating to another aspect of the...
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