January 21, 2024

Homily on the Twelfth Sunday of Luke - The Prayer of Jesus (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily on the Twelfth Sunday of Luke

The Prayer of Jesus

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"and they lifted up their voices and said: 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.'"

The ten leprous men as soon as they saw Christ "lifted up their voices and said: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us," that is, they shouted loudly: "Jesus, Teacher, have mercy on us."

This small prayer, as seen in today's Gospel passage, has great power, because when it is said with faith, it attracts God's mercy that frees man from all evil spirits.

The prayer of the lepers is the continuous prayer of the Church that we hear in every church service. To every request of the Priest, the people respond with "Lord have mercy". Since we too are members of the Church and must acquire an ecclesiastical phronema, which means that the life and mindset of the Church must become our life and our mindset, this supplication must become our unceasing prayer.

A greater development of the supplication of the lepers and the prayer of the Church is the so-called "prayer" of Jesus, i.e. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner," which the Holy Fathers exhort us to say often, in order to get rid of our spiritual leprosy.

The value of the "prayer" is incalculable, because within a few words the confession about the God-man is closely connected with the confession of our sinfulness, and precisely in this wonderful combination is found all the blessed spirit of our holy Orthodoxy.

By saying the "prayer" we experience the blessed state of humility, which, according to Saint Maximus, consists in double knowledge: the knowledge of Christ's power and the knowledge of our own weakness. On the contrary, ignorance of Christ's power and ignorance of our own weakness constitutes pride.

Thus, the denial of Christ as the God-man and the ignorance of our sinfulness constitutes a heretical life and reminds us of the heretical situation in which the West finds itself.

Indeed, all Western civilization, despite its brilliance and external success, is heretical, since at its foundation it is self-redemptive and self-deifying. Because it ignores the saving power of the God-man and the weakness of man, it blows up the conditions of salvation, and could be said to create the "incarnation" of the God-man. Even the religious life of Western man is distinguished by these two dangerous points.

That is why we emphasize with certainty that by saying this small, but "full of grace" prayer, we live the spirit of Orthodox Tradition and are permeated by the current of eternal life. With "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God" we profess faith in the God-Man, and with "have mercy on me the sinner" we ask Him, as sinners, for salvation.

In Orthodoxy, as seen in this "prayer", faith and life are closely connected.

We know well from the teaching of our Holy Fathers, that faith without works and works without faith do not redeem man. By the word "works" we do not mean merely external good deeds, but the spiritual life, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is how we now understand that we cannot truly believe without the spiritual life. Without the Orthodox Faith (as handed down by the Apostles and the Holy Fathers) we do not have a complete life (a life of repentance, communion with God), we cannot live the essence of faith, since then the dogmas are simply idolized or ideologicalized. This goes to say that when faith changes, life changes immediately. Therefore it is necessary to associate true life with true faith.

Applying this secret weapon will transform our whole life. According to the Fathers, prayer is a "deifying virtue" because it prepares the ground for God to dwell in us. With unceasing prayer, God becomes indwelling and our heart becomes the abode of the Holy Trinity.

The short prayer "restrains the carnal appetites and dulls the advantageous will and banishes insolence and cancels envy and disciplines anger and the remembrance of wrongs" (St. Gregory Palamas). On the contrary, the absence of the prayer from life leads man to callousness, which the Fathers call "zealotry".

We can say the "prayer" in the morning, at night, and at any other time of the day, sometimes with the lips, sometimes with the mind, sometimes with the heart and then we will be freed from our spiritual leprosy, we will understand the life-giving spirit of Orthodoxy and we will obtain our salvation.

The "prayer" of Jesus is not only the work of monks. Everyone can gain experiences and enjoy its treasures. This is shown by the conversation of Saint Gregory Palamas with the monk Job and the revelation the latter had. That is, to the teaching of Saint Gregory, that everyone can pray without ceasing, the monk Job objected, that unceasing prayer is only for monks. But according to the story of Saint Philotheos, "after they departed each to himself and to his prayer, God from above immediately judged Gregory's words, sending a philanthropic angel from heaven to the elder (Job) to teach him as unlearned in what he did not learn, and at the same time honoring Gregory with what was spoken. So the divine angel full of light appeared to the elder and said to him: 'O Elder, do not completely doubt what sacred Gregory said a little while ago; he spoke correctly and for this reason you should think likewise and confess from now on.'"

Let us say whenever we can the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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