I’ve been too busy, tired, and uninterested in online things to post anything lately, for which I apologize.
To all of you Eastern Orthodox readers, I wish a beautiful Holy Week.
As a gift and an act of contrition of a sort, I provide here a selection of some instruction on prayer given by St Isaac of Nineveh in the first chapter of the Second Part of his Ascetical Homilies (from Sebastian Brock’s translation in Sobornost 19.1):
I want now to set down for you a few words of prayer, and then I will bring this letter to an end. It seemed to me necessary to put these in the letter, so that they might provide you with material for prayer, and so that, by means of the tenor of the meaning in them, the mind might acquire humility, and stay away from empty distraction through the feelings of contrition they contain. And when you eat or drink, stand up or sit down, or are going to sleep, or doing something—even when you are walking on the road, or are among many people—you should be occupying youself in the hiddenness of your heart with these words of prayer that I am writing down for you. The same applies to when you make a prostration. Once you have said the obligatory prayers and you are in need of these in your supplication, continue with the following prayers.
By what sort of stirrings the mind is awakened so as to gaze on God at the time of prayer.
When you pray, attach the following to your prayer:
O GOD, make me worthy to become aware of the hope that is reserved for the righteous at your coming, when you will come again in our body to make known your glory to the two worlds.
O CHRIST, haven of mercies, who effected the revelation of yourself in the midst of a sinful generation; for whom the righteous awaited in their several generations, and who was revealed in your own time to the joy of the entire creation: grant to me different eyes, a different sense of hearing, and a different heart, so that, instead of the world, I may see, hearn and perceive those things which are kept back by you for the revelation of your glory to the race of Christians, by means of that sight, hearing and perception which is outside the ordinary senses.
STIR UP IN ME, LORD, the taste of perception of you, so that I may be held worthy of passing from this world to you, seeing that the world has captivated me, away from you, by its joys. As long as my eyes rejoice at the sight of corruptible things, and my mind has a corporeal understanding, it is not possible for me to be completely free from the feeble feelings, subject to corruption, that arise out of them.
MAKE ME WORTHY, LORD, to encounter that mode of vision over which corruption holds no sway, so that, on encountering it and becoming oblivious of the world and of myself, all corporeal images may be wiped out before my eyes.
STIR UP IN ME, LORD, the delight of our human race, the consolation of our impoverished condition, the support of our human nature’s low estate, seeing how it has tottered and fallen, the hope of those deprived, the honourable name that became known among humanity: accord a rising up for my fallen condition, effect a resurrection to my deadness, cause an awareness of life to stir within me, bring my soul out of the prison of ignorance, so that I may give thanks to your name. Blow upon my limbs with some of the air of the new life; visit my corrupt state in the grave, and bring me out of the place of darkness. May the dawn of the revelation of you visit me in the Sheol of ignorance. Human nature, endowed with speech, has grown silent in me: do you, Lord, stir it once again to its natural vitality, for ‘Sheol will not acknowledge you, nor will those who go down to the pit give praise to your name.’ I have no tongue to utter that last thing, but may the living, such as me today, give thanks to you.
THE SENSES HAVE GROWN DUMB, the heart’s stirrings have been silenced, thoughts have dried up, the entire operation of human nature in me is destitute of true life: there is no remembrance of you in me, there is no thanksgiving to you in Sheol where I dwell, there is no joyful sound of the praises of you in my soul’s lost state, all my limbs which are dead are awaiting the birth-pangs of resurrection. There is no one who comes in to me in the desolation of Sheol.
O MY GOD, cause me to hear your voice that resurrects all in a hidden way, decree for me in symbol the example of Lazarus, your friend. I know, Lord, that I have never been seen to be a diligent friend of yours, yet I belong to your flock, and my enemy has taken me off and humiliated me on earth. O God, make me worthy of a share in that magnificent state which you have prepare for your friends in the new world, and likewise of an awareness of the knowledge of your love, and the inseparable union, and the indissoluble bond of the delight that comes from gazing upon you. O Lord, do not withhold from me your acts of grace; may I not be deprived of the knowledge of you that is filled with hope.
O LORD, save be from darkness of soul; O compassionate Christ, give me joy in your hope: sow the hope of yourself in my thoughts, and make me worthy of your compassion when the revelation of you shines out from heaven. O Lord, may I not be required for the judgment of my wrongdoings when you come in your glory.