Saturday, August 15, 2009

John Chrysostom: How to Pray Without Ceasing

How is it possible, you ask, for a man of the world, tied to the bench, to pray three times a day and betake himself to a church? It is possible and quite simple: even if heading off to a church is not manageable, it is possible even for the man tied to the bench to stand there in the vestibule and pray. After all, there is not such a need for words as for thoughts, for outstretched hands as for a disciplined soul, for deportment as for attitude, since Hannah herself was heard not for uttering a load and clear cry but for calling out loudly inside in the heart: "Her voice was not audible, but the Lord hearkened to her," the text says, note. Many other people also did this in many cases, despite the officer calling out from inside, threatening, ranting and raving, while they stood in the porch making the sign of the cross and saying a few prayers in their mind, and then going in and transforming and soothing him, turning from wild to mild. They were not prevented from praying like this by the place or the time or the absence of words. Do likewise yourself: groan deeply, recall your sins, gaze towards heaven, say in your mind, "Have mercy on me, O God," and you have completed your prayer. The one who said "Have mercy," after all, gave evidence of confession, and acknowledged their own sins: it belongs to sinners to have mercy shown. The one who said "Have mercy on me" received pardon for their faults: the one who said "Have mercy" attained the kingdom of heaven: the one on whom God will have mercy he not only frees from sin but also judges worthy of the future goods.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Homilies on Hannah, Homily 4, in St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume 1, pp. 118-19 (2003), Robert C. Hill translator.