Friday, October 14, 2005

Chrysostom, Mother Teresa, and George Herbert on Prayer

Certainly for me, one of the most enriching things I have done in recent years is read large quantities of the greatest of the exegetes among the Greek Fathers---- John Chrysostom. I awoke this morning to this reading, which I thought was certainly worth sharing.

"For the psalmist says,'When I remembered you upon my bed, I thought upon you in the morning dawn.' We ought then to have God always in remembrance but then especially when thought is undisturbed and when by means of that remembrance one is able to concern himself, when one can retain things in memory. For in the daytime, indeed if we do remember, other cares and troubles, entering in, drive the thought out again; but in the night it is possible to remember continually, when the soul is calm and at rest; when it is in the harbor and under a serene sky. ...For it were indeed right to retain this remembrance through the day also. But inasmuch as you are always full of cares and distracted amidst the things of this life, at least then remember God on your bed. At the morning dawn mediatate on God. If at the morning dawn we meditate on these things, we will go forth to our business with much security. If we have first made God propitious by prayer and supplication, going forth in this fashion we shall have no enemy. Or if you should, you will laugh him to scorn, having God propitious. There is war in the marketplace; the affairs of every day are a fight, they are a tempest and a storm. We therefore need arms, and prayer is a great weapon. We need favorable winds; we need to learn everything, so as to go through the length of the day without shipwrecks and without wounds. For every single day the rocks are many, and oftentimes the boat strikes rock and is sunk. Therefore, we have especial need of prayer early and by night." (Homily on Hebrews 14.9).

Mother Theresa in crossing the border into Israel on one occasion was stopped by the guards and asked "Have you any weapons?" The question seemed superfluous and even ridiculous when one looked at this diminutive nun in her habit. She replied defiantly looing the guard right in the eye: "Yes," she said, "I have my prayer books."


Prayer the Church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, the heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against the Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ's side-piercing spear,
The six-days' world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness and peace, and joy and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood
The land of spices; something understood."

George Herbert


opinionated said...

Amazing how up-to-date Chrysostom seems.

Ben Myers said...

Thanks for this -- all George Herbert's poems on prayer are marvellous, but this one is best of all.