Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sr Geegory of Sinai

Objection: Tell me, if a person fasts, practices self-control, keeps vigils, stands, makes prostrations, grieves inwardly and lives in poverty, is this not active asceticism?

How then do you advocate simply the singing of psalms, yet say that without ascetic labor it is impossible to succeed in prayer?

Do not the activities I mention constitute ascetic labor?

Answer. If you pray with your lips but your mind wanders, how do you benefit?

'When one builds and another tears down, what do they gain but toil?' (Eccles. 34:23). As you labor with your body, so you must labor with your intellect, lest you appear righteous in the body while your heart is filled with every form of injustice and impurity. St Paul confirms this when he says that if he prays with his tongue - that is, with his lips - his spirit or his voice prays, but his intellect is unproductive: 'I will pray with my spirit, and I will also pray with my intellect' (cf. 1 Cor. 14:1415). And he adds, 'I would rather speak five words with my intellect than ten thousand with my tongue' (cf. 1 Cor. 14:19).

St John Klimakos, too, indicates that St Paul is speaking here about prayer when he says in his chapter on prayer, 'The great practitioner of sublime and perfect prayer says, "I would rather speak five words with my intellect." '

There are many other forms of spiritual work, yet not one in itself is all-sufficient; but prayer of the heart, according to St John Klimakos, is pre-eminent and all-embracing, the source of the virtues and catalyst of all goodness. 'There is nothing more fearful than the thought of death,' says St Maximos, 'or more wonderful than mindfulness of God,' indicating the supremacy of this activity.

But some do not even wish to know that we can attain a state of active grace in this present life, so blinded and weak in faith are they because of their ignorance and obduracy.

St Gregory of Sinai

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