Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Prayer, Healing and Resilience

When you hear the word "resilience" and especially terms like "personal resilience", you may get the idea that it's about being "tough".  And you would be right...

...although ancient traditions have a more comprehensive idea of being "tough" than we do.  

Some of the toughest people I've ever met were Orthodox Christian monks living in remote locations, such as on Mount Athos in Greece.  There I encountered men of prayer who, despite being twice my age, sure gave me a run for my money in the "tough" department - just following their daily routine would knock most professional athletes off their feet pretty quickly.  

You're about to see a short video about one such person.  For Orthodox (ancient) Christianity, as for any "authentic ancient tradition", the idea that you could become "resilient" without having a spiritual life, a life connecting you to the Absolute Reality, would be absurd.  

Today we're going to look at what ancient Christianity considered the single most important practice in human life - unceasing prayer of the mind in the heart, also called "noetic prayer".  

As you watch this all-too-short video, I'd encourage you to take very careful note of what Fr. Teofil, our special guest today, has to say:

"Praying for the Unity of Our Own Being"

That's a remarkable statement!  Most people think of prayer as a request for something outside of ourselves, and least of all do they think of it as a means to reunite their inner powers of their mind-body organism.

In fact, the practice of unceasing prayer is quite different from other understandings of prayer for a number of reasons:

  1. It's not the usual "give me, give me" approach to prayer (although making requests in prayer is perfectly legitimate)
  2. Neither is it the "please save my sorry ass" approach we lapse into when our own decisions come back to haunt us ;-)
  3. It's not so much an activity with a start and end point, but the search for an ongoing meditative state, where you remain immersed in and under the loving influence of the Absolute.
Of course, there are some presuppositions basic to this meditative prayer, the first of which is that God, the Absolute Reality, is "uncreated, personal existence".  That is, God is conscious of you personally and actually loves you personally.  God is not just the amorphous total of "all that is" nor some form of "divine electricity".  Like electricity, God has energy, but face it, electricity never loved anyone.  

The ancient tradition goes so far as to claim that this kind of prayer is the center of spiritual life, simply because it is the one activity that, more than any other, unites the human person to the Source of all life.  And, as Fr. Teofil suggests, it heals and creates wholeness within you while you're on the journey.

Without the knowledge that comes uniquely through noetic prayer, faith remains intellectual, our inner being remains unhealed and the likelihood we will have a genuine encounter with God in this life remains slim.  Unfortunately, though, the ancient teaching on noetic prayer was methodically suppressed in the West over this past millennium.  

As one holy man described the fruits of this kind of prayer:

"Compared to the Uncreated divine light, all the lights of this world, even the sun at high noon, are nothing but darkness.  It is a strange thing: when that true light comes, there takes place a union of the Infinite and Uncreated with the human person, who is created and finite.  By His energies the latter are truly transformed into gods and children of the Most High.  It is then and only then that a person can understand that he really is created in the image and likeness of God."  

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger :-)


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