Elder Aimilianos Simonopetritis †
None of us would doubt that prayer is, indeed, a fundamental necessity for any soul. It is the tree of life which nourishes people and renders them incorruptible, because it allows them to enter into communion with the eternal and incorruptible God. Just as there is no-one without a soul, so it is inconceivable that anyone could live in Christ without prayer.
The prayer of the heart is the ceaseless activity of the ranks of the angels, the bread, the life and the language of these immaterial beings; it is the expression of their love for God. And so the monks, too, imitating them in the flesh and engaged in spiritual struggles, live in the angelic state and fan their divine love through unceasing prayer of the heart.
This is why we have seen, time and time again in the course of history, monastics who for hours and days at a time, forget to eat, forget themselves, lost completely in gazing upon the Lord in their hearts. How often has someone knocked at the door of a saint, or the cock has crowed and the saint within has been completely oblivious because his or her mind was uplifted in communion with God. Prayer for them is the most spiritual exercise, which is an offering to the Father and Creator of the world; it is the warmth of solace in their hearts, an ascent to the heavens. It is the embrace and tender kiss of the monastics towards the Bridegroom and Savior of our souls.
Who does not know the prayer of the Holy Mountain? It consists of a short phrase of few words.
With the reverberating cry ‘Lord’ we glorify God, His glorious majesty, the King of Israel, the creator of the visible and invisible universe, before Whom tremble the Seraphim and Cherubim.
Through the most sweet invocation and invitation ‘Jesus we bear witness to the fact that Christ, our Savior, is also present and we give him grateful thanks for preparing eternal life for us. With the third word, ‘Christ’, we confess our theology that Christ is the very Son of God and is God Himself. We were not saved by any man nor by an angel, but by Jesus Christ, the True God.
After this, through the intimate supplication ‘have mercy upon me we adore God and ask that, of His loving-kindness, He will meet our demand for salvation and the desires and needs of our hearts. And what breadth there is in that ‘me’. It is not only me, but all who have rights of citizenship in the state of Christ, in the holy Church; it is all those who are members of my own body.
And finally, so that the prayer may be complete, we close with the word ‘sinner’, confessing – for we are, indeed, all sinners- as all t eh saints confessed and through this cry became sons of the light and the day.
From these words we realize that the Jesus prayer contains glorification, thanksgiving, theology, supplication and confession. So what shall we say now, my dear friends, about prayer of the heart, since in our own age, thanks be to God, it is everywhere spoken of and countless books are being published with ‘the Prayer’ as their subject. Even little children know it and say it. Young and old are being saved through it.