St. John Chrysostom on the Jesus Prayer

St. John on the Jesus Prayer:

The remembrance of the name of Jesus rouses the enemy to battle. For a soul that forces itself to pray the Prayer of Jesus can find anything by this prayer, both good and evil. First it can see evil in the recesses of its own heart, and afterwards good. This prayer can stir the snake to action, and this prayer can lay it low. This prayer can expose the sin that is living in us, and this prayer can eradicate it. This prayer can stir up in the heart all the power of the enemy, and this prayer can conquer it and gradually root it out. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it descends into the depths of the heart, will subdue the snake which controls its ranges, and will save and quicken the soul. Continue constantly in the name of the Lord Jesus that the heart may swallow the Lord and the Lord the heart, and that these two may be one. However, this is not accomplished in a single day, nor in two days, but requires many years and much time. Much time and labor are needed in order to expel the enemy and instate Christ.   Letter to Monks (PG 60, p. 753).

This quote from the great preacher of Orthodoxy, echoes the thoughts of St. Macarius on the contents of the heart:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (H.43.7)

It also reinforces postings on this blog which speak of the “slowness of grace.” Thus we are not only enjoined to be vigilant, but also to be patient.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



5 responses to “St. John Chrysostom on the Jesus Prayer”

  1. Athanasia Avatar

    A good lesson for me to hear on the Eve of a New Year. Patience! I can hear Fr. Seraphim chiming it in my ear “Patience Athanasia! Patience!”

    I have far to go and much to learn with this lesson.

    Blessed New Year to you and yours Fr. Stephen. Thank you for this post. I am grateful.

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  4. Daniel Monroe Avatar
    Daniel Monroe

    Father, bless!
    Christ is risen!
    Firstly, many thanks for your excellent book, _Everywhere Present_, which our Orthodoxy 101 group read and enjoyed recently.
    Secondly, I checked out the Migne reference provided for the Epistula ad Monachos. The editor was indignant that this piece (and others like it) had been ascribed to Chrysostom, since they were in the matter of style “mostly bungling and laughable.” I am no judge of Chrysostom’s style–my Greek is strictly Homeric–but I doubt that Migne (or his amanuensis) would have employed such strong language idly.
    Historical considerations also make it unlikely that Chrysostom penned these lines. St. Neilus the Ascetic is generally regarded as the earliest exponent of the Jesus Pryaer. If Chrysostom had published the Jesus prayer, surely he would have said more about it in his voluminous writings. Also, St. Neilus would have claimed Chrysostom’s sanction in the same way that Cassian claimed his Egyptian mentor’s authority for the perseverative use of Ps. 69.1.
    Perhaps it would be appropriate to dub the author of the passage in question as Ps.-Chrysostom?
    Faithfully, Daniel Monroe

  5. Daniel Monroe Avatar
    Daniel Monroe

    Father, bless!
    I recently leafed through Chrysostom’s Baptismal Instructions. Here are some suggestive quotes. It seems to me that Chrysostom might be the earliest pioneer of repetitive prayer.

    Now he who repents, no longer touches the same matters of which he repented. On this account, also, we are bidden to say, I renounce you, Satan, in order that we may never more return to him.

    How then will you laugh this fancy to scorn? If you will remember that word, which you sent forth when thou were initiated, I renounce you, Satan, and your pomp, and your service. For the frenzy about pearls is a pomp of Satan. For you received gold not in order that you might bind it on to your body, but in order that you might release and nourish the poor. Say therefore constantly, I renounce you, Satan. Nothing is more safe than this word if we shall prove it by our deeds.

    And after all these things, he does not require of us witnesses, or registration, but is content with the single word, if you say it from your heart. I renounce you, Satan, and your pomp, has included all. Let us then say this, I renounce you, Satan, as men who are about in that world at that day to have that word demanded of them, and let us keep it in order that we may then return this deposit safe.

    When you are about to pass over the threshold of the gateway, say this word first: I leave your ranks, Satan, and your pomp, and your service, and I join the ranks of Christ. And never go forth without this word. This shall be a staff to you, this your armor, this an impregnable fortress, and accompany this word with the sign of the cross on your forehead. For thus not only a man who meets you, but even the devil himself, will be unable to hurt you at all, when he sees you everywhere appearing with these weapons.

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