This talk was given by Fr. Gabriel at the Benefit Dinner for Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, on January 18th, 2018:
For just a moment, take the next 20 second…and try to think of absolutely nothing. Clear your minds, turn out the lights, shut your eyes, and try to be still! After you are done…read on!
Ok, now be honest with yourselves for just a few moments…and raise your hand if any of these next questions pertain to you.
How many of you were thinking “what on earth is Fr. Gabriel having us do this for?”
How many of you were thinking and concentrating on not moving or making a sound?
For how many of you, did that 20 seconds seem a lot longer than 20 seconds?
Finally…for how many of you was that 20 seconds absolutely deafening?
We live in a world that has been slowly programmed by fallen society to constantly be on the move. The schedules of a typical family in today’s world is erratic. We wake up early. We grab our coffee to give us strength to get to work. We drink an exorbitant amount of caffeine, and it has gotten so bad, that most of the world will tell you that coffee is now necessary in the morning, just so our bodies are able to function and keep up with the demands that the world has now placed on our shoulders!
If you have school aged children, you come home after working for the entire day, and take the kids to all of their after-school activities and functions. And after all of our social tasks for the day are completed, we get come from a long day of being on the go, crawl into our beds, and wait for the alarm to go off again…so that we can repeat the entire process all over again.
There was a priest who once said a beautiful quote…”in our lives, we have become to busy to live…and to busy to die.” In the chaos of our worldly existence, we so often forget of what our highest task in this life truly is. Some think it is family. Some think it is our jobs. some think it is to gain happiness. Some think it is our friends. And although all of these things are important, they are not the reason were put on this earth.
Our highest task in this life…the very reason you and I were created and placed on this planet…is prayer. Why? Because it is the way we come into communion and union with God.
The human being is so deep…it is so unknown. We read in Genesis how we are made in the image and likeness of God, and like Him…the human being has infinite depth. But when we lose or do not practice this basic connection to God through prayer, when we ignore the importance of inner stillness…we not only become disconnected to Him, but we become disconnected from ourselves. When we refuse or forget to worship God, we lose something of our basic humanity. We deny what we made for and we become completely DEAD inside.
A life without prayer…a life without inner depth…will destroy us.
I am reminded of a wonderful quote from St Ephraim the Syrian: When a person is terminally ill, he often stops eating food. His friends and family then know that death is near. In the same respect, when the angels see us refrain from the nourishment of prayer and the Eucharist…they begin to grieve, because they know that our souls are dying.
A beautiful quote and a reminder of just how important our prayer life and communion with God truly is. According to the saints, when we are able to truly converse with our Lord through prayer, we are achieving something that has COSMIC significance. The angels are watching! They are praying to God that we all can learn how to pray! That we all realize how important our prayer life truly is! They understand the importance of human beings to achieve inner stillness…because that is what makes us ALIVE!
We in the Ancient Christian Church have been given a wonderful gift to aid us in our quest for life. It is the tool that has been used throughout all of the centuries of the Church, that allows us to step out of our fallen existence, and enter into the hidden depths of our souls. It is the Jesus Prayer…those simple and profound words: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me a sinner.”
The Jesus Prayer is one that every Christian Man and Woman should know by heart, because in this one simple prayer that everything that we learn in Sunday School…everything that we gain from reading the Holy Scriptures…everything we internalize from attending the Divine Services and hearing the words of our Orthodox Worship…EVERYTHING we believe…is wrapped up into this one simple prayer!
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God…” We preach the Divine Name of Jesus Christ and profess in that simple affirmation what both the Old and New Testament said about Him…that He is the Son of God and He came into this world to give us the ability to live up to our true potential as Sons and Daughters of the Most-High.
The second part “Have mercy on Me a sinner” We acknowledge our faults and the fact that we are a fallen people. We acknowledge that we are full of pride and passions…and when we ask the Divine One for Mercy…we embrace humility and realize that without His unconditional Love for us…we are nothing.
Everything we believe is put into this amazing tool that the Church has given us to use. It is through the Jesus prayer that we are able to provide order to the chaos which surrounds us. It is through the Jesus prayer that the murky waters of life become clear. It is through the Jesus prayer that we are able to become true Human beings…and we can reach that state of inner stillness, so that we can begin our relationship with God.
Practice….this….prayer….my brethren in Christ. Wear a prayer rope around your wrist, and call upon this prayer while you are in your carpool to work. When you become agitated with your friends or family…call upon the Jesus prayer to calm yourself. Before you go to bed, use this tool to remind you of the blessings that you had received throughout the day…and the places where you could have handled certain situations better. When you wake up to turn your alarm off in the morning, rather than following your first instinct to pick up your phone, pick up your prayer rope…so that you may go into the day with a calm mind and a quiet disposition towards the stresses of the day.
Practice this prayer…and in time you will find those words eventually moving from your lips to your heart. It is there that you will see the true power of the Orthodox Spiritual Life.
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on us All”