About a year ago, I was reading the Light and Life Publishing book, by Anthony Coniaris, Confronting and Controlling Your Thoughts According to the Fathers of the Philokalia. I posted a few times citing portions of the book and reflecting on my struggle to practice such oneness of mind and to practice the Jesus Prayer. I also read Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim’s translation of a couple of works of St. Paisius Velichkovsky, much of which dealt with the Jesus Prayer. (At the counsel of one of our parishioners, a man more mature than me, I deleted those posts.) I also spoke with our parish priest about the Jesus Prayer and practicing it.
It was difficult for me to make sense of some of what I was reading and the counsel I was receiving. I now see that such counsel was not essentially contradictory, but it felt to me as though I was being encouraged in two opposite directions, to both pursue and avoid the same things. I was quite confused.
But I knew better than to simply trust my own thoughts, or work toward my own conclusions on the matter. So I simply stood still, neither pursuing nor avoiding what I had been counseled on, and just maintaining my modest and irregular practice.
One thing I did do, however, was to ask the intercessions of one of my patrons, Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim, on my behalf, that I might be brought to both correct thought and correct practice on the matters that were confused in my own mind.
For the next several months, however, I shied away from reading certain books on the Jesus Prayer, did not post on it, and simply continued what I had been doing, doing it no more nor no less than had been the case. I had one book on my shelf, Igumen Chariton of Valamo’s The Art of Prayer (Faber and Faber), which I frequently was drawn to read, but hesitated to do so, because I did not think I was at a point in my life where I would be making useful gain of such reading. I was concerned that reading it apart from a state of readiness to both receive and to practice the teaching would end up being spiritually harmful to me.
Recently, I have sensed a change, not only in heart but in act, in which I have found myself more ready to receive and to practice whatever may be given me in reading Igumen Chariton’s book. And in so doing, I have at last, about a year later, received the answer to Blessed Seraphim’s prayers on my behalf.
I wanted to share that extended passage with my readers, but I do so without identifying in any way the specific questions I wanted resolved. Absolutely everything of this sort must be brought to one’s spiritual father. If the passage, of itself and out of any context of my own life, is helpful to others, it will be no surprise, for St. Theophan the Recluse is a well-recognized saint. But for my part this post is nothing more than a marker of an answer to prayer.
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