Chapter 15, ON PRAYER, Tito Colliander, Way of the Ascetic

      It follows from this that prayer is your first and incomparably most important means of fighting. Learn to pray, and you vanquish all the evil powers that could imaginably assail you.

     Prayer is one wing, faith the other, that lifts us heavenward. With only one wing no one can fly: prayer without faith is as meaningless as faith without prayer. But if your faith is very weak, you can profitably cry: Lord, give me faith! Such a prayer seldom goes unheard. The grain of mustard seed, says the Lord, grows into a great tree.

     The person who wants sunshine and air opens the window. It would be folly to sit behind drawn curtains and say: There is no light; there isn’t a breath of air! Let this picture show you clearly how prayer works. God’s power, or grace, is always and everywhere accessibly to all, but one cannot get one’s share of it without wanting it and acting accordingly.

     Prayer is action; to pray is to be highly effective. For every kind of effectiveness needs practice. It is by speaking a foreign language that one learns it, and by praying one learns to pray.

     Without prayer you can never expect to find what you are seeking. Prayer is the beginning and the basis of all striving towards God. The first gleam of light is lit by prayer; prayer gives the first hints of what you are seeking, and it awakens and sustains the desire to go further.

     Prayer is the foundation of the world, St. John Climacus has said, and another saint has likened the universe to a bowl in which the Church of Christ rests, but the Church is held together by prayer. Prayer is humanity’s intercourse and encounter with God. It is the bridge on which man crosses over from his carnal self with its temptations, to the spiritual, with its freedom. It is a wall of defense against troubles, a weapon against doubt; it annihilates affliction and bridles anger. Prayer is food for the soul and light for the mind, it bears in the present the joy that is to come. For him who truly prays, prayer is the verdict, the tribunal, and the Judge’s throne, not waiting for the Last Judgment, but now, in the next moment, in the heart.

     Prayer and watchfulness are one and the same, for it is with prayer that you stand at the gate of your heart. The watchful eye reacts immediately to the slightest shifting in the field of vision; so also does the heart that is steadfast in prayer.

     The spider may be another example for you. In the middle of his web he sits and feels the smallest fly and kills it. Likewise prayer watches in the middle of your heart: as soon as a trembling makes it known that an enemy is there, prayer kills it.

     To leave off praying is the same as deserting one’s post. The gate stands open for the ravaging hordes, and the treasures one has gathered are plundered. The plunderer does not need long to accomplish his work: anger, for example, can destroy everything in a single second.

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Meditation on the Economy of the Lord

From memre (verse homily) #28 of St. John [Saba] of Dalyatha, “The Spiritual Elder”

     Rise and open your heart and your eyes to behold the Light.

     With the birds, fly in the atmosphere of His purity, and with the fish, swim in the sea of His glory.

     In your inspired air, breathe the fragrance of His holiness, and with your words mix His sacred name…

     Hold him in your arms like Mary his mother.

     Enter with the Magi and offer your gifts.

     Proclaim his birth with the shepherds. Proclaim his praise with the angels.

     Carry him in your arms like Simeon the Elder.

     Take him with Joseph down to Egypt.

     When he goes to play with little children steal up to him and kiss him. Inhale the sweet savor of his body, the body that gives life to every body.

     Follow the early years of his childhood in all its stages, for this infuses his love into your soul.

     Cleave to him: your mortal body will be scented with the spice of the life in his immortal body.

     Sit with him in the temple and listen to the words coming from his mouth while the astonished teachers listen. When he asks, when answers, listen and marvel at his wisdom.

     Stand there at the Jordan and greet him with John. Wonder at his humility when you see him bow his head to John to be baptized.

      Go out with him to the desert and ascend to the mount. Sit there at his feet in silence with the wild beasts that sought the company of their Lord. Stand up there with him to learn how to fight the good fight against your enemies.

     Stand at the well with the Samaritan woman to learn worship in spirit and truth.

     Roll the stone from the tomb of Lazarus to know the resurrection from the dead.

     Stand with the multitude, take your share of the five loaves and know the blessings of prayer.

     When the waves rage around you, go, wake Him up who is asleep at the stern of your boat.

     Weep with Mary, wash his feet with your tears to hear a word of comfort for your heart.

     Lay your head on his breast with John, hear his heart throbbing with love to the world.

     Take for yourself a morsel of the bread he blessed during supper to be one with His Body and confirmed in Him forever.

     Rise, do not keep your feet away that he may wash them from the impurity of sin.

     Go out with Him to the Mount of Olives. Learn from Him how to bend your knees and pray until the swear pours down.

     Rise, meet your cursers and crucifiers, surrender your hands to the bonds, do not keep your face away from the slapping and spitting. Strip your back to be lashed. Rise, my friend, do not fall to the ground, bear your cross, for it is time for departure. Stretch your arms with him and do not keep your feet from the nails. Taste with Him the bitterness of gall.

     Rise early while it is still dark. Go to his tomb to see the glorious resurrection. Sit in the upper room and wait for his coming while the doors are closed. Open your ears to hear the words of peace from his mouth. Make haste and go to a lonely place. Bow your head to receive the last blessing before he ascends.