The Holy Name

In 1913, a small Russian fleet landed a contingent of soldiers who forcibly removed a group of Russian monks from Mount Athos. This action came at the end of a stormy controversy surrounding the name of God. The monks were known as the Imyaslavsy (“Name worshippers”) and were following ideas that had been promulgated in a text published in 1907. That work, On the Caucasus Mountains, written by the staretz, Schemamonk Hilarion, was a very popular work on the Jesus Prayer, and contained the statement, “The Name of God is God Himself.” The arguments surrounding the statement and the work itself reads like a who’s who of early 20th century Russian theological figures. Its greatest opponent was Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitsky as well as the bulk of the Holy Synod. Defenders included figures such as Fr. Sergius Bulgakov and Fr. Pavel Florensky. Interestingly, the topic has been brought up for re-examination in our own time.

All of this might sound like a storm in a tea cup, a battle over semantics, but it centered around the very important place of the Holy Name within Orthodoxy. It is easy to say, without fear of contradiction, that no group within Christianity holds greater reverence for the name of Jesus, in word and in practice than Orthodox Christianity. The most universal devotional prayer in Orthodoxy is the ‘Jesus Prayer’: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And those who teach the prayer always include the instruction that the devotional recitation of the prayer is to focus on the Name.

There are three texts in the New Testament worth noting in this regard:

God has given him a name which is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Phil 2:9-10).

There is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. …Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it you (Jn 16:23-24).

Christian instinct has always had a sense that when the name of Jesus is invoked, Jesus Himself is invoked. There are countless Pentecostal choruses and Protestant hymns that extol the “sweetness” and the “power” of the name of Jesus. The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Name on January 3rd, though others in the West associate it with January 1st (the Feast of the Circumcision in Orthodoxy).

Taken in the wrong way, “The Name of God is God Himself,” is certainly heretical. That would be true were someone to say that an Icon of Christ is Christ Himself. However, the Church says that in an icon, the person (hypostasis) of Christ is truly present. According to St. Basil, “An image makes present that which it represents.”

It is at least the case that the Holy Name is a verbal icon of Christ. But it is also the case that it seems to be more than an icon. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we believe that the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Orthodox are quite realist in such language. The elements of the Eucharist are treated in the most holy and reverent way possible, though there is not an Orthodox practice of “adoration” as a service in itself, as is practiced within Roman Catholicism. As it was explained to me, “Christ said, ‘Take eat.’ He did not say, ‘Take, look.’” And so we treat it with all possible reverence – and then consume it. The sacrament is reserved for the purpose of ministering to the sick or dying – but not for the purpose of adoration.

These are interesting waters within the theological life. The heart has an understanding that frequently defies our attempts at description. Perhaps the most serious charge (of substance) brought against the Imyaslavsy was that they were “innovators.” In saying, “The name of God is God Himself,” they were declaring something that the Church has not said. My own take on the matter is rather similar. Were I to hear such a declaration, I would immediately recognize a friend rather than an enemy. But something within me would hesitate and say, “Yes. But I don’t think that is quite the right way to say it.”

The danger associated with such a statement is that of making the name of God into a fetish, a religious object by which we seek power (or some such thing). The same charge, of course, was long ago brought against the making and veneration of icons and the Church refuted it – as heresy. There is a right veneration given to icons – and that veneration is important and salvific.

In the same manner, calling on the name of Jesus is essential in the Christian life. “There is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”

This short passage from St. Basil the Great offers wisdom in the matter:

But if someone claims that it is written: “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Jl 2:32 & Acts 2:21), and that therefore a Christian need only invoke the name of God to be saved, let him read what the Apostle has said: “How can they call upon him if they do not believe in him” (Rom 10:14). And besides this there are the words of the Lord himself: “Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21). Moreover, if someone is doing the will of the Lord and does not do it exactly in the way ordained or does not do it out of the proper motive of love for God, then all the effort he puts into the action is useless, and Jesus Christ himself has said in his gospel: “Hypocrites do these things as to be seen by men: I tell you truthfully, they have already received their reward” (Mt 6:16). It was in this divine school that Saint Paul learned the lesson which he taught when he said: “If I give away all my possessions to feed the poor and give my body to be burned, but lack charity it profits me nothing” (Cor 13:3).

This wisdom seems similar to the right-honoring of icons. The Church defended the making and veneration of icons and described precisely what was meant by veneration (it is not worship). Years ago, I wrote that it is necessary to venerate an icon in order to actually see it. Those who do not honor the one represented in the icon only see an object of art. But the icon exists within the relationship that is established through communion. I honor the icon of Christ, because I love Christ. How do I not love His image? How could I not love His name?

But consider for a moment an error too easily overlooked. The Name of God is not an idea. Honoring the name is more than pondering it my mind. Like an icon, the name itself has substance. It may be spoken, sung, written. We are told to “call upon the name.” We do not honor an abstraction, but recognize and honor a Reality that is itself present in the name. Those who attacked the Imyaslavsy often fall into this error, embracing a Nominalist view of reality instead. The name of God is real.

His name is sweet. It dwells within me and burns with Divine fire. It is a treasure given to me in my Baptism. It causes demons to flee and calms the wind and waves. It heals the sick and brings hope to all. It opens the gates of paradise. But this is true of the Name-in-communion and not as an object-in-separation.

Veneration is the primary means that brings us into true communion. It is love-extended-towards-the-other. It finds a huge variety of forms in the life of devotion – love is very creative in its expression. That God has given us His name is itself a revelation of the Incarnation. “Jesus” is a very human name, nothing other than the name “Joshua.” It was probably a common name. It still is. But it is also The Name when spoken by the heart of love. Above all names it bears the Savior and He deigns even to dwell on our lips.

Glory to God.


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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86 responses to “The Holy Name”

  1. Fr. David Abernethy, CO Avatar

    Again another wonderful post. However I just want to humbly draw your attention to the fact that today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name in the Catholic Church – not January 1st.

    God bless you

  2. Fr. Barnabas Powell Avatar

    As someone who grew up around “apostolic Pentecostals” and their “Oneness” theology, the fetishizing of the name “Jesus” is alive and well in certain parts of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. We humans much prefer magic over the hard work of faith.

  3. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Fr. David,
    I stand corrected, but surprised. In Orthodoxy, the Feast of the Circumcision, on January 1st, is the 8th day, the day upon which Jesus was given His name. The Anglicans also associate the Feast of the Holy Name with the Circumcision. Sometimes Rome makes me scratch my head.

  4. Fr. David Abernethy Avatar
    Fr. David Abernethy

    “Sometimes Rome makes me scratch my head.”

    Me too. I understand the desire to honor Mary and in particular under the title of Mother of God especially during the Christmas season but in all other respects it makes more sense to celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus at the circumcision.

  5. Dino Avatar

    The sanctifying and consecrating power of the invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ encompasses the supplicant, predominantly, in proportion to the measure that the supplicant’s nous/attention is undistractedly engrossed upon the Person represented, addressed and summoned (i.e.: the Person of the Lord Himself). Such invocation of His Name is able to truly procure the very power of Holy Communion, yet, it can do this at all places and times.

  6. Byron Avatar

    I honor the icon of Christ, because I love Christ. How do I not love His image?

    To a certain extent, we can see the same thing in the command to love our enemies. We honor Christ by honoring (the very substantial) people around us. Perhaps the reason we do not see His image in those around us is found in the following?

    it is necessary to venerate an icon in order to actually see it.

    Proper veneration to those around us is so very humbling and difficult….

  7. David Avatar

    R. Kendall Soulén has an excellent essay arguing that the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in fact YHWH, the divine name revealed by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, and that NT authors used typical tactics of Greek-speaking Jews to avoid writing or pronouncing the name through the use of various epithets (e.g., Κύριος often appears in the New Teatament without an article but with a known and specific referent, implying that it is a standin for a proper name, the name in question being YHWH). Your essay reminds me of another passage of Scripture that I think provides the paradigm for what St. Paul is saying in Philippians 2:6-11:

    “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.” (Exodus 23:20-21)

    This passage implies what you write above, Fr.–namely, that the name evokes the person, bears the person, makes the person present, denotes their nature, such that if another person bears the name they are somehow included in the identity of the first. The Angel of YHWH is, in a very real sense throughout the Hebrew Bible, YHWH himself. This, of course, was a favorite way of understanding the Angel of YHWH among the Fathers.

    So, following Soulén, I would offer the following suggestion: in Christ’s Divinity, the Name of YHWH, His Father, has always dwelt in him by virtue of his consubstantiality and Sonship to the Father; the Son, finding his origin in the Father, is called by the Father’s name from all eternity. When God exalts him with “the name which is above every other name” (which Soulén rightly acknowledges would obviously be the Divine Name, the Name God gives as his own Name, YHWH), it is an exaltation of him in his humanity, that he should assume the name status he has always held as the Divine Word and Wisdom of YHWH but as a human being.

    The name of Jesus, then–something given the Lord at birth, and thus properly belonging to the Incarnation–is imbued with the power and authority of the name of YHWH. The Son of God, fully divine and fully human, bears in himself all the fullness of Deity in bodily form: he bears the Divine Name, the one Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in both natures.

    One last thought: the Greek Ιησούς is a transliteration of יהושוע or the shortened form ישוע, as you rightly point out, and means “YHWH saves.” The exaltation of the name of Ιησούς Χριστός or ישוע המשיח is fundamentally the exaltation of the name of YHWH implicit within the name of Jesus. To call upon Jesus Christ as Lord and to implore him is to seek out YHWH who saves.

  8. Bill M Avatar
    Bill M

    Interesting that this is your post today, in that we just completed a Sunday School series on “The Names of God” where we looked at various names (and descriptions) over 9 weeks. One of the discussions that came up was how language and translation change the Name, and if that has any relevance. “Jesus” is English by way of German-Latin-Greek back to “Yeshua” (however *that*) gets spelled. There are some factions out there arguing that “Jesus” is not the right name because it’s not spelled right, and it does not sound right.

    Does the Church offer any guidance on that question? Do the letters and sounds matter when calling on the Name? How does language and linguistics come into play? (Sorry if this is a side trail… It’s just something that came to mind because if the recent class discussion.)

  9. Michelle Avatar

    Isn’t invoking the name of Jesus the same thing as invoking the name of my husband when he’s in the house with me -I call out my husband’s name so that his person will come to me and attentively join me. When I call my husband I do not single out and place significant contemplation in the name “Dat” (he’s Vietnamese). The person of my husband and his name are a whole, and I always relate to him as a whole. So it seems to me that even just talk of the significance of Jesus’ name runs the risk of separating what is whole. It’s like unpurportionately focusing on the significance of His nailed hands -the His pierced hands are not singled out and contemplated in the Church. The Church focuses on the Crucifixion of His whole Person. There are no feast days for His pierced hands. So when a small group of monks begin focusing on His nailed hands, which isn’t common to the life of the whole Church, I tend to look at them with suspect. Same goes for an unpurportionate focus on His name.

  10. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Bill M
    The Church would say that all representations of the name of Jesus, in whatever language, is the name of Jesus. No language holds a unique claim to be the “true” language. There are many differing icons of Christ, and yet all are Christ. Interestingly, Orthodox tradition holds that an icon becomes an icon when the name is inscribed on it. The Tradition guards us against the silly tide of opinions that rise up repeatedly.

  11. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Perhaps. But the contemplation of the Name as name is quite Biblical and tells us that names are more important than we imagine (particularly in our Nominalist modern imagination). Your husband’s name is important even when he is not there to hear you say it.

  12. Michelle Avatar

    When I say to a friend, “Gee, I really need my husband’s attention so he can help me out here,” my friend does not respond by saying, “You should invoke his name, “Dat.” It has the power to bring him to you.” No, rather my friend refers to his whole person by saying, “Why don’t you call for him,” without this unpurportionate focus on his name. Obviously my husband’s name is a significant aspect of his whole person, and you cannot call out to him so intimately and specifically without it, but hyper-focusing on it makes no sense in light of his whole person.

    So, why when referencing the “Jesus Prayer” do we hyper-focus on invoking His name? Can’t we speak of the prayer as calling upon Him in the same way my friend speaks of calling upon my husband, as simply invoking the person as a whole?

  13. Joan Moulton Avatar
    Joan Moulton

    Father Stephen, The morning prayers of the Orthodox Church refer to the Holy Trinity as the name of God, as in prayer 1 of St. Macarius, “and praise Thy holy name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of he Holy Spirit, ….” I realize that punctuation, in this case the colon, is significant. The same reference to the name of God appears in the prayer of St. Basil to the most Holy Trinity, “sing praises to Thine all-holy name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit ….” I don’t know whether this is significant, but these prayers are quoted from the prayer book as printed by R. O. C. O. R. Do you have any comments to make on these references to the name of God?

  14. Michelle Avatar

    Father, I just seen your response. So, you’re saying that my friend’s first response would be right, that invoking my husband’s name does have a special power to make him present to me? I have a hard time with thinking about this concept in that I immediately begin separating the “power” of the name from the person. Its seems to separate and divide, not it’s intended purpose of uninfying, but this may just be me.

  15. Tavi Avatar

    It is not a small thing to wake up to a text on the name of God. Reading it felt like a prayer :).

  16. Byron Avatar

    I immediately begin separating the “power” of the name from the person. Its seems to separate and divide, not it’s intended purpose of unifying

    The first thing that came to my mind is the thought of a doctor next to your bedside in the hospital. I can always refer to him/her generically (“Doctor”, a title) and never really respond to them relationally, as a person. That is the “separation” that I see; the Name is not a reference to power but to communion.

    I call out my husband’s name so that his person will come to me and attentively join me.

    That’s the nicest description I’ve ever heard of a wife calling her husband! LOL! 😉

  17. Aleksandrs Kalnins Avatar
    Aleksandrs Kalnins

    Father, there is small mistake “Imyaslavie” is “Name worshipping” and “Imyaslavci(or Imyaslavcy)” are “Name worshippers”

  18. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Thank you Aleksandrs

  19. Michelle Avatar

    “I can always refer to him/her generically (“Doctor”, a title) and never really respond to them relationally, as a person. That is the “separation” that I see; the Name is not a reference to power but to communion.”

    Yes, I can see how names are important for communion. If I never used my husband’s name, but always called out “Hey, you” it would be improper and harmful to our marriage. It would be even more harmful if he referenced me as “Hey, you,” lol 😉

    And if I imagine myself as a prisoner of the holocaust, or some other painful separation from my husband, I can begin to understand how sweet even just a whisper of his name would be to me.

    This is a helpful conversation for me because I had read about the imprisonment of these Russian monks a while back and I immediately thought that, even if they were quite innocent in their focus on Jesus’ name, it is definitely a subject that cannot be taken lightly because of the dangers it could lead too. This topic requires great care and discernmemt, I think.

  20. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Indeed we Baptize, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Christ Himself gives us that at the end of St. Matthew’s gospel. But, we also have, as noted in the article, the name of Jesus and specific things associated with it, not the least of which being the Jesus Prayer – as well (a favorite) as the Akathist Hymn of the Sweetest Name of Jesus.

    In all things pertaining to the Trinity, we do no offense in speaking to one of the persons and not necessarily all three. Thus, the O Heavenly King, addresses the Spirit (not a very common form of Orthodox prayer). And there are others that address Christ (Jesus). Most liturgical prayer is addressed to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit. But there is no jealousy in the Godhead such that we should stumble in these matters.

    Some suggest that the “Name” of the Father, of the Son and the Holy Spirit is “YHVH” (the “I Am Who I AM”) in the Old Testament. Icons certainly identify Christ as the “I AM” labeling Him thus in the Cross on His nimbus(halo). But we do not say that Christ is the “I AM” and the Father is not, etc. Thus, I think it is correct to direct the “I AM” as Christ and the Trinity.

    It is interesting in speaking the name of “Jesus,” that it is a human name. We do not say (if we are precise) that “Jesus existed from before all time, etc.” The “Son” existed from before all time, but becomes “Jesus” in time in the Incarnation. However, we also speak of the “circumincession” – the sharing of qualities between the two natures – and so we don’t generally speak so precisely.

    Like the Icon of Christ – we may paint it in certain out-of-time circumstances such as icons that depict Him creating the heavens and the earth – that is a projecting of the image to a time before it was made known. That timeless image (the Son is the “express image of the Father” it says in Hebrews) may indeed be depicted as Christ Jesus (because it has now been made known to us). In the same manner, the name Jesus functions like the icon. We do not point at the image of Christ creating the heavens and the earth and say, “That is not Jesus.” It is Jesus.

    I hope that’s not too much of me going on and on about this…

  21. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    Your post, forgive me, is quite confusing. First, I can’t find any info online about R. Kendall Soulén that would help me understand where he’s coming from. Nevertheless, after reading your post I came away with the impression that Jesus is secondary to The “To call upon Jesus Christ as Lord and to implore him is to seek out YHWH who saves.” It’s very hard for me to express myself here, but it seems that my confusion has to do with an attempt by Soulen to explain the mystery of the Three in One. I don’t know….

  22. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    Father, I just read your answer to Joan…very helpful….thank you!

  23. TimOfTheNorth Avatar

    The discussion here raises a question that I have had for a while. On a couple of occasions, I have read Orthodox writers (some with scholarly credentials) describe a difference between East and West being that whereas Western Christianity sees YHWH/the LORD of the Old Testament scriptures as a reference to the Father or to the undifferentiated true God of Israel, Orthodoxy emphasizes that YHWH is specifically the divine Son/Christ. This has confused me because (a) it seems to make a muddle of Psalm 110 (“the LORD says to my Lord…”) and similar Messianic prophecies; and (b) I first heard this idea from Mormon missionaries and it didn’t make any more sense from them.

    It seems to me to make more sense to say that the LORD of the Old Testament is simply the triune God. In some cases, it is clearly the Father acting/speaking and in other cases it is the Son. But to draw a straight line from “the LORD” to a specific person of the Trinity seems fraught with misinterpretation.

    I would appreciate if someone could help me think through this. Have I correctly represented the Orthodox view?

  24. jacksson Avatar

    Lots of difficulties are found within the various traditions of the Orthodox communions. For instance, as you have pointed out, Father, we need to be careful with the Name of Jesus, in how we approach it in our prayers and statements; we need to be careful to not fall into a worshiping of the Name rather than reverence for the Name.

    We also have the same problem with the Cross, the problem of reverence versus worship. On the day of the Great Feast of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, we sing in our hymnology:

    “Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy resurrection, we glorify!”


    “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We venerate Thy cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection, for Thou are our God, and we know no other than Thee; we call on Thy name. Come all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s holy Resurrection!”

    If one takes the first part only, then it is proper to “worship” the Cross, but in the later portion of the hymn one can see that the cross is to be venerated and the worship is to be ascribed to the one on the Cross, our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The part where we state: “we venerate Thy cross, O Christ,” and “we praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection” could also be ascribed to the Name of Jesus, “we venerate Thy Name, O Christ,” and “we praise and glorify Thy holy Name.”

    Sometimes the person can be found in the words. For instance Bishop Jean (Kovalevsky) of Saint-Denis (France – ROCOR) in his book on Modern Prayer, tells the story of praying in church where after a period of time asking the Mother of God to let him know which prayer to her was the most important and which was to be prayed most frequently. At this point, a voice spoke to him and said, “The Lord’s Prayer.” He mulled this over, the Father is in the prayer, and the Name (Jesus) is in the prayer, but where is Mary? So, he said, “but, you aren’t in the prayer.” The voice answered, “I am there.” He replied, “Where?” The answer came, “Thy Will be done.”

    My point being that the words are very important and in this case, Mary’s responsed to the the Angel Gabriel at the time of the annunciation, by saying “I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.”, which portrayed her absolute obedience and is thus reproduced in the Lord’s Prayer.

    Regarding Bishop Jean, he was the first modern Bishop of Saint-Denis. His principal consecrator was St. John (Maximovitch) (the ROCOR’s representative in Western Europe at the time).

  25. Dino Avatar

    To be more clear-cut, in referencing the “Jesus Prayer” we do not “hyper-focus on His Name” but on “calling upon Him”, through the use of His Name.

    The added bonus of the clear exposure of our inability to stay concentrated upon this (as well as of the darkness that tries to suffocate the Light we are reaching our towards) – in those times we might exclusively single-out for this ascesis – is also of immense, and genuinely humbling help to our souls.

  26. jacksson Avatar

    My second to the last paragraph should have read:

    My point being that the words are very important and in this case, Mary responded to the the Angel Gabriel at the time of the annunciation, by saying “I am the Lord’s servant,’ and “May it be to me as you have said.”, which portrayed her absolute obedience to the Will of God and is this willingness is reproduced in the Lord’s Prayer. In all of this, we need to locate the middle road which is what the church has always advised us to do, we should not go to extremes such as the Russian monks on Mt. Athos had gone to in their desire to follow Christ.

  27. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Michelle, it is not that you husband’s name has a special power for you, it is that his name is significant in a unique way.

    Try this experiment, I know it works for me. Think of “your husband” and be attentive to all that comes to mind.

    Then say his name as you are thinking of him. If you are anything like me, when I say Merry, my heart tends to soften and a joy precedes my soul that is more intense and special than when I think of “my wife”.

    She is more present to me in her name, a unique particular, than in the more general. That has nothing to do with power however. Our names are uniquely expressive and evocative of who we are. Even if, like mine, it is common.

    It is Merry with whom I am one flesh, not just “my wife”.

    Tribal cultures know this. In many cultures, the father contemplates on what the name of his child is to be. On the 8th day, he takes the child apart and whispers the child’s name into the child’s ear. The child is the first one to here it’s own name spoken.

    There s much more to a name than my old friend Will Shakespeare seemed to think.

  28. David Avatar


    Soulén’s article is an essay entitled “The Holy Tetragrammaton and the Name of the Trinity” in Jews and Christians: People of God edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert Jenson. Soulén argues rather persuasively that the one Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is the Tetragrammaton: the Holy Name of YHWH, revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

    Re: Jesus as secondary to the Father–Orthodox Trinitarian theology looks somewhat different from typical Western constructions. Credal Trinitarianism professes faith in “one God, the Father,” and in “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages” and in “the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of Life.” The Father is himself the unoriginate God, from whom the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds, from whom the Son and the Spirit derive their being and personhood (but in a way whereby they are fully divine with all of the Father’s divinity and possess the same divine life and nature as he does).

    Fr. John Behr has outlined this well here:

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    They are correct, in a certain sense. Essentially, when the Father speaks, He speaks through His Son. The Son is the Word of the Father. Mostly, they are seeking to correct the false (and all too common notion) that the OT God is the Father, while the Son appears in the NT. And worse still, that there is a character difference between them.

    It is the Son who speaks to Moses.

    We have to make a distinction between what is called the “economic Trinity” and the Trinity, per se. The “economic Trinity,” is the Tri-une God as He manifests Himself to us in this created realm (this “economy”). Sometimes the language of one does not quite fit in the language of the other.

  30. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Good thoughts.

    One problem that you note is simply a problem in English. It’s not there in the Greek (don’t know about the Russian). But “proskynesis” (veneration) is frequently rendered “worship” in many English treatments. And it’s not incorrect, though it is rather “antique.” The old English Prayer Book had the groom say to his bride, “With my body I do thee worship…”

    As time has gone on in our modern period, “worship” has come to be carefully associated with “latreia” (the worship given to God alone) and “honor” or “veneration” is given to icons, the Cross, etc.

    “Come Let Us Worship and Fall Down before Christ…” is, interestingly, “proskynesis” and similarly in Russian. It would be helpful, I suppose, if we became quite precise about how we translate. Don’t hold your breath, though.

  31. Michelle Avatar

    Hi Dino and Michael,

    I think we are all in agreement here. Nowhere in my comments have I said my husband’s name was insignificant to his person. I dont think I’ve spoken nominalistically in any of my comments. In fact, my point was more that his name is indeed an important aspect of his person, and that I would not want to use his name in a way that would undermine his wholeness and personhood.

    It is true, as Father Stephen out it, that his name important to me even when he’s not around. I responded by suggesting his name had “power,” but I do think I misspoke and maybe should have said his name has “presence.” Like how icons point to the presence of Christ and the Saints. But a name is even more intimate somehow than an icon, because a person can be “icon-less” (like the Saints who are unknown to us) but a person cannot be nameless. Even if a baby is not given a name at birth I am certain he or she has a hidden name in God’s Kingdom.

    My main concern was speaking of focusing on the name of Jesus in a way that could lead people into separating His name from His whole Person, and attributing divine power apart from His Person. Or the inverse, using His name in a way that overly confuses His name with His Person, without distinguishing the linguistic name of Jesus from His Godhood, so that the name itself is seen as God Himself (which is what the monks were accused of, I think.)

    My personal grievance is that I’ve often heard the admonishment to focus on the name Jesus when saying the Jesus Prayer, which automatically incites in me (and I may be the only one) the idea that the name itself stands alone, and as such is brimming with spiritual benefit. I am apparently taking the admonishment the wrong way, but it’s presentation is of such a nature (telling me to focus specifically on the name) that this incitation seems a natural conclusion. This, I’m arguing, is not because I think of names nominally, but because of the focus of the admonishment. Why not just admonish me to simply focus on Jesus when saying the Jesus prayer, instead specifically pinpointing a specific need to be aware of His name in my consciousness. If we were simply admonished to focus on the Person who is Jesus, instead the name of Jesus, would it be lacking something? Are both adomishmemts perfectly equivalent, yes or no? Why or why not?

  32. Sam Avatar

    Fr. Stephen and Fr. David,

    One point of clarification regarding the Catholic calendar. Part of the confusion is that we have a new calendar and old calendar. The “new” calendar (instituted after Vatican II) has the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on the octave day of the Nativity – January 1. But according to the “old” but still licit 1962 calendar (the “Latin Mass” of Trent), the octave day of the Nativity is the feast of the Circumcision, as is the case with the Orthodox.

    Thus, at our parish, which celebrates the Mass according to the 1962 missal, we celebrated the feast of the Circumcision on January 1st and the feast of the Holy Name on January 2nd. In many similar ways, the “old” Tridentine calendar of the 1962 Missal. agrees much more frequently with Orthodox feasts and fasts. It makes sense far more frequently. It is just one of the reasons I love the Tridentine liturgy. The new calendar is the one that often leaves me scratching my head.

  33. Dino Avatar

    The singular focus on the name of Jesus, [sometimes to the point of shortening the Jesus Prayer to that one Word, -when brought about by the Holy Spirit and not contrived, like a self-willed ascesis, (i.e.: you catch yourself uttering it in your heart after Holy Communion and then your intellect’s awareness of this immediately starts spoiling this spontaneity), remains a focus on His Person. However, our vigilance to avoid visualizational delusion are generally aided hugely by the initial concentration on just the words of the Prayer – while obviously addressing our Lord’s Person and not just uttering a string of letters. So, both admonishments are equivalent but there is a technical perspicuity to do with the avoidance of delusion in the admonishment towards concentrating on the Name.

  34. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Father Bless,
    In one of your responses you equated “name” with “icon.” I read this post earlier and thought on all that has been said and this statement seems to get to the heart of the matter. A name is truly an icon for if I say a persons name, my mind focuses on that person and I remember them as I know them. Its not that experience of recalling acts about them but the relation experience of knowing them. I often spend time praying the Jesus Prayer and most of all my experience is Him, not a word but Him as I would experience someone familiar being near me.
    I am not claiming any special knowledge or insight from this, but I sense presence and it is comforting. I really cannot separate name from person and venerate a name because when I say the name of either the Lord or any other person, their presence/being is what I am focused on.
    It is difficult for me to imagine that this group of monastics were actually worshiping the NAME as an object. I know the ancient Hebrews were deeply respectful of the NAME as the only one who ever said was the High Priest, only on Yom Kippur and only standing in front of the Ark. I also know from my Hebrew studies that in everyday use they would never say “I am going to the store” because I AM is the meaning of the first syllable of the NAME. It is no small wonder that when Jesus said it, the “authorities” were enraged. (I also know He said it more often than it is translated that way in English.) But, even the Hebrews did not worship the NAME, they worshiped Him.

  35. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Tom Dykstra’s book, Hallowed Be Thy Name: The Name-Glorifying Dispute in Russia and on Mt. Athos, 1912-1914 is about the only thing I’ve seen in English. It was, I think, his Master’s Thesis at St. Vlad’s and is quite excellent. Based on that book, which has many original sources in it, I would say that the monks were not actually guilty of worshipping the name, only in wrongly describing what they were, in fact, doing. It came down to a fight with their position versus a blatant nominalism that is as much an error as worshipping the name. That nominalism is an excellent example of the thinking that Fr. Georges Florovsky describes under the heading of “Western Captivity.” I recommend the book quite highly.

  36. Michelle Avatar

    Dino, you said,

    “However, our vigilance to avoid visualizational delusion are generally aided hugely by the initial concentration on just the words of the Prayer – while obviously addressing our Lord’s Person and not just uttering a string of letters.”

    I am an extremely right-brained, artsy kind of person who cannot think about something without thinking in visual images. If I’m asked to focus on the name Jesus then the letters visually show up in my mind with artistic shape and color. This may be why I’ve had a hard time understanding the purpose of focusing on the name, because when I do it I can’t help but visually see the letters in my head.

    I will take your word for it that visualizing a made up image of a man can cause delusions. Not really sure why this would be the case. It’s hard for someone who exclusively thinks in visual images to accept that they are more prone to delusion than those who dont, but I will accept and believe your word.

    And I have heard this about delusions before, and the only thing I can do to avoid it during prayer is to talk to Jesus in conversation, just as I do to ordinary people (I cannot avoid this while reading Scripture though. While the images in my head stop when I’m talking to others, it is impossible for me to read without visual images). And this really doesn’t require an exclusive focus on His name, just like I don’t need to focus on my husband’s name when I talk to him. It just requires knowing Jesus is in the room with me. Often I first think about the fact that God is really there, as real as anyone else, and then precede to talk to Him. I hope this doesn’t also out me at risk of delusion in some way.

  37. Dino Avatar

    I am the same. The visual tempation to delusion is a fairly advanced one that approaches hesychast ascetic. However, it does distract and pervert the internal “seeing” of God which is of a different kind -to anything rooted in our created and demanding imagination. That’s why it is always safer to concentrate on our awareness the He sees me and not that I see Him.

  38. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    Thank you for your response, appreciate it.
    very helpful discussions and answers here, thank you.

  39. Karen Avatar

    Michelle, it seems to me with regard to the spontaneous visualizations that accompany your thinking and praying, you are describing something we all experience automatically. It is simply a description of a process that accompanies human cognition and unavoidable. As such, it seems relatively innocent and at worst a bit of a potential distraction from true prayer/communion with God.

    Dino can correct me if I’m mistaken, but it seems to me the prohibition of the Orthodox fathers against “visualization” or “imagination” in prayer has more to do with the dangers of purposely manipulating and cultivating a particular image in our minds and the temptation to confuse this created and deliberately cultivated imagining with spiritual reality. This seems even more obvious when I recall descriptions of counterfeit spiritual practices, such as those described by the “Young Man” in the book about his encounters with Greek Elder Paisios vs. the Gurus of New Age and Hindu practice in Greece and in India. The latter involved intentional hypnotic suggestion and manipulation (whether by a guru or by the practitioner himself). The same contrast seems evident for “guided meditation” and “guided visualization” popular in modern New Age practice, in some modern psychotherapies, and in some versions of Western Christian “contemplative prayer” practice, and the like. I believe modern “Word of Faith” notions of prayer, “Power of Positive Thinking”, and the “name it, claim it (a.k.a., “prosperity gospel”) heresies are also modern (only nominally “Christian”) counterfeits of prayer that encourage and produce spiritual delusion akin to those in Eastern religious practice. Perhaps to some degree, we are all guilty of the same error when we inadvertently in our sinful imagination and wandering treat God as an Object (Divine Vending Machine, Divine Policeman or Judge) to be manipulated or appeased, rather than as the Divine Person Who loves us and Whom we may love in return. True Christian prayer has nothing in common with an occult incantation, and neither the Holy Spirit, nor the Divine Name of Jesus Christ is like a magic wand I can wield subject to my own self-will, concentrated self-effort, and the limits of my own imagination/fantasy. I believe that is the point, and it seems to me you get that as well as any of us reading here.

  40. Geri Avatar

    Why do Protestants typically only pray in the name of Jesus and appear to avoid prayer invoking the Trinity? It seems they frequently focus on one Person of the Trinity…”Father, I just want to…” Etc. It seems they purposely avoid addressing the Three-in-One.

  41. Byron Avatar

    I will take your word for it that visualizing a made up image of a man can cause delusions. Not really sure why this would be the case. It’s hard for someone who exclusively thinks in visual images to accept that they are more prone to delusion than those who don’t, but I will accept and believe your word.

    The first thing I think of when I think of visualized “delusions” are the (numerous) cartoons that typically have a man with a large belly standing in front of a mirror. He is rotund but his mirrored image has a classic six-pack! Perhaps the delusion is not necessarily how we think of the Name but how we think of ourselves when calling upon Him? The danger may be in our expectations of an answer to prayer as opposed to our self-emptying in prayer to God.

    Another thought: I think in terms of visual images all the time and I’ve noticed that my images quite often paint myself in a far better light than I am. Delusions are often nothing more than toe-holds for the passions in our own lives. Once the seed is planted, they only grow (it seems) so vigilance is required to stop their rooting. Just thinking out loud here. Forgive me if I’m off on an unnecessary tangent.

  42. TimOfTheNorth Avatar


    As someone with a Protestant background, I suspect that the answer to your question is mostly “because that’s what we do.” You do what you hear being done. I suppose originally it derives from the commitment to prioritize those practices that are explicit in the Bible. Look through the book of Acts, for example, and notice how often the “name of Jesus” is invoked or mentioned. Outside of Matthew 28, there’s very little explicit scriptural use of the trinitarian formula. Now, I am in no way suggesting that the Trinity is extra-biblical or that (most) Protestants don’t affirm the traditional confessions regarding the Trinity. But when your rule is “do what the Bible does (and avoid what the Catholics do)”, you end up with the kinds of prayers that you have heard.

  43. Drewster2000 Avatar


    I suggest not frustrating yourself too much with this discussion of the name. Pray as you can, not as you can’t. We in the West tend to see things separately, i.e. here is the person and here is his name, and therefore understanding how they are linked so closely as to be possibly confused with one other is very difficult.

    I suggest that if you’re going to try practicing focus on Jesus’ name (with spiritual guidance), concentrate on the actual doing of it without trying to continually monitor yourself to see if you’re doing it right. A person cannot both do the work AND supervise it.

    If that’s not possible for you, revert to a different method of prayer. Communion with God should not generally be a topic of frustration. He wants to be with us and will not throw a lot of roadblocks in the way of that.

  44. Dino Avatar

    “A person cannot both do the work AND supervise it”


    Yet we must keep reigniting the ‘engine’ of our, still novice, invocation of God’s Name. It is the most readily available form of ascesis! Quantity is far more dependant upon our efforts than quality here, and God knows this, so we should too. May we embrace that artless, childish keenness that fans our zeal and quit analyzing.

    Our private joyfulness, our martyric zeal (to the point of yearning to die like Christ) and our perpetual calling upon Christ’s Name are three things we cultivate that work as one, three perspectives of the wholesome effort towards the end of divine humility: becoming a truly, voluntarily relational being, in the image and likeness of the One Who created us for this. All three are sustained and fuelled by our sacramental life, yet all three are preconditions of it too. We might, at times, work more on the one rather than the other, yet all three keep us robust and vigilant without perverting our mystical life into hyper-analytical jams.
    Our spiritual path becomes rightly oriented, towards Communion with God (and others), the instant we forget ourselves in humble trust of God’s love for us and for all. To this end, we must retain continual awareness of His loving gaze (Luke 22:61), fixed upon us, while Crucified and exalted for us, keenly offering Himself up to partake of ‘the Cup’ (John 18:11) of death, in order to transform death itself into a voluntary passage to an eternal life inconceivable to any human imagination. This is why Christian joy, its power of reorientation towards the Other, is so significant. It transforms suffering and bestows a peculiar “invincibility” – as long as its bearer does not “return to self” [which is tremendously easy to occur, yet very easy and quick to cease, too]. This internal spiritual jubilation is greater than that of a child that is excited at the imminent arrival of its Father, or of a love-struck Cinderella, who comprehends that the shoe which the loving Prince’s custodian is trying out on her nasty step-sisters is actually destined for her… And when vigilantly guarded, this joy can make even one’s intense reserve into a flamboyant, ‘missionary silence’ that can evangelize with a strength that is similar to that of the wordless, yet ‘baffling smile’ of the Great martyrs that could not be wiped off their serene and lovestruck faces, even when they were being brutalized; and this is what made their hitherto unbelieving bystanders change and shout out ‘we are Christians too!’.

  45. Dino Avatar

    To summarise this differently: Christianity is epitomised in the Paschal joy of jubilantly voluntary sacrifice, (with its countless manifestations).
    Our vigilance [“Nepsis”] to continually stay ‘within’ while invoking the Lord Jesus, to persist in Christ and deep in our heart, fighting off, vain thoughts, base desires, worries, and ties of the world, is a struggle to remain in Christ’s joy – to become increasingly more aware of the inscrutable pits of our already forgiven sinfulness, as well as more ardently desirous to be further conformed to the image of Christ through joyous self-sacrifice.

  46. Drewster2000 Avatar


    I don’t disagree with you. What you’re saying is echoed by many of the Fathers I’ve read, but to us in the West at least, you’re almost speaking Greek. Like the boy’s father, I plead “I believe! Please help my unbelief.” What you’re talking about seems so foreign, so naive and so fairytale-like that it stretches my faith greatly.

    Part of this stems from our worship of individualism. The understanding that you have to make it happen or no one else will makes it very difficult to trust that something outside yourself is actually responsible for your success and practically everything besides saying yes to God. (Hyperbole to make my point.) This talk of jubilant voluntary sacrifice and self-emptying has the ring of truth and I don’t doubt it at all….but at best it’s a faint echo of something I used to know and at worst it sounds a lot like suicide to my ears. (Again I’m playing a bit of devil’s advocate because I don’t think these sentiments are exclusive to me.)

    Another part of this is caused by our tendency to dissect and analyze everything. Those traits in themselves are good and essential to life, but when understanding the wholeness of the person – or of anything really – they are of little use. I desire the mathematical answer for how I can start with me ( 1 ), take away all of it through surrender, sacrifice and self-emptying ( -1 ) and end up with something better through God’s hidden hand working in my life ( +1 ). Some distant part of me knows that the wisdom you espouse is older and deeper and more true, but I’ve drank this other kool-aid all my life and it’s virtually the only thing available at the marketplace – in an infinite number of varieties of course.

    And finally we are very literal and visual. You can see that evidenced in Michelle’s thinking and she’s not alone: Do I focus on the name? The letters? The person? If I just focus on the name, how do I not attach an image of a person to go with it? What does it mean to only focus on the name? Is that worshiping something other than God?

    So while I don’t disagree with anything you said, it sometimes feels like you’re offering meat to babes: a few manage to gum it into a swallow-able size, some choke and others just wander away wondering why they don’t measure up. At least that’s the way I experience it.

    We need small portions – and the understanding that it’s okay if some are never ready for meat. I believe meat should always be offered, but alongside a portion of grace. Those who never reach the jubilant joy of sacrifice should never be in doubt of God’s ability and desire to be with them and in them and have them in Him. There is always a balance to be struck.

  47. Dino Avatar

    Indeed, our times have lost the true essence of what spiritual joy is and have increased the distance one needs to travel to even start grasping all this!, especially the heroic joy of a martyr who understands what a God it is we worship [a freely sacrificed One, Who cannot complete His creation of us humans until a specific person/human follows Him in voluntary, {joyful} kenosis].
    Father John Behr is magisterial in his treatment of the above…
    Saint Igantius’ letter to Romans is a perfect example of it.
    Elder Aimilianos’ references to joy are imbibed with this too.
    Father Stephen aludes to it here:

  48. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Thanks Dino, I will slowly digest them as I can.

  49. Ryan Avatar

    I should also point out that imiaslavie is defended by Elder Sophrony of blessed memory in his books On Prayer and His Life is Mine. I believe Met Hilarion of Volokolamsk is also a sympathizer. I think it’s fair to say that the condemnation of it was based on misinterpretation. The things the imiaslavtsy are accused of (e.g. deifying sounds, letters, etc) are clearly rejected in their own documents.

  50. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Based on the information I’ve seen, I agree. Those were very interesting times.

  51. Geri Avatar

    Perhaps this is relevant to the discussion…on a walk on Monday I was asking God how I could gain interior peace/silence when there are situations that tend to cause interior agitation/lack of peace/”noise”. In a few moments, I seemed to be asked to “Drink of this”–the overwhelming beauty of the sky and all the blessings of my life. I drank it in, but then, my mind began to perceive that the “cup” I’m asked to drink includes those people/situations that are difficult. In fact, the cup of salvation includes the cross: wine is not just “sweet”–it is more complex than that. The “martyric joy” may be possible because it is like wine–full of both sweetness and a touch of bitter, sour and other flavors. But, it is good. All that agitates me is to be embraced in this Cup of Salvation. To drink it in, however, requires a trust that God is working in all situations. His seeming lack of seeing the “emergency” of fixing things–now–is probably because He can see the “emergent seed” that I cannot yet perceive in my prideful desire to use analysis/intellect/”noisy” words to fix things. Lord have mercy.

  52. Drewster2000 Avatar


    I agree. But the river we swim in daily is flowing opposite of that. The approach you speak of is the right way, but then we have to accept our lot as salmon swimming upstream.

    The world around us continually says that if it hurts or is difficult, you must be doing it wrong, when in fact in this case it hurts because we’re doing it right. This is counter-intuitive and it takes a longer time ingraining habits that cut across the common grain.

    This requires time and patience, two things that no one believes they have much of. And faith – that “surely the universe is unfolding as it should” and God is not only in control but actively bringing things to where they need to go.

  53. Geri Avatar

    Of course, you are right…It is a struggle. I like the salmon analogy. Anyone looking at the salmon would think their behavior ridiculous when observed from a narrow perspective…But, quite beautiful from a higher vantage point. So, again, we believe this is the Way because we believe Christ has told us the Truth…And so we seek to swim upstream, get pushed around by the current…And keep moving upwards as best we can.

  54. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Drewster, Geri,
    We live in a culture that seeks to create an artificial stream. That stream is simply global consumerism and all that goes with it. It creates the “need” that it then purports to “meet” through the consumerist lifestyle. But it’s really just culture noise. The stopping and noticing that Geri mentioned is avoided because we’ve become so accustomed to the pain/pleasure cycle created by the consumerist lifestyle. But it’s actually not natural. Stopping and noticing is, however, quite natural. So is quiet and stillness.

    It’s not upstream so much as refusing to live in the false stream the culture tries to create. There is a real stream – quite natural. Living in union with Christ is perfectly normal. It is important that we get into the right river.

  55. Michelle Avatar

    All right, I almost hate to do this, but I feel like Ive been misunderstood a little. To be clear, In my previous comments I was not asking what is the proper way or “technique when thinking of Jesus’ name while praying (though I do thank you all for your advice). And I think we’ve all established that names aren’t to be treated nominally, but that the connection between Jesus and His name may be even greater, on an ontological level even, than the connection between icons and the persons, or Person, they depict. The ontological aspect of names is not my beef. I am not speaking nominally.

    So here’s my beef:

    First, I’ll present a statement I found (from here of St John of the Ladder’s to help demonstrate. He says to, “Flog your enemies with the name of Jesus, for there is no weapon more powerful in heaven or on earth…Let the remembrance of Jesus be united to your every breath, and then you will know the value of stillness.” I’ll state right off the bat that I do not disagree with St John here, and that I believe he is speaking ontologically and not nominally. So keep this in mind as I further explain my point. I’ll come back to it later…

    Ok, back to an illustration I used in my first comment, but I’ll expand on it a little. The Scriptures talk a little here and there are Jesus’s pierced hands, and the wound in His side. They are not unimportant ontological aspects of the Person of Jesus Christ, and they are not unimportant for us either -Simeon says to Mary that she will be pierced too (and she is what mankind made perfect in Christ looks like, so what is said to her I think pertains to our own salvation). And I have read great homilies, and have heard many great sermons on Christ’s pierced hands and His wounded side, all of which are not unimportant to our salvation. We need to hear and meditate on His hands and wounded side and the truth they reveal. Same goes for Jesus name. It is mentioned in the Scripture, in the Church Fathers, and the Church’s prayers, etc. It is important for our salvation, and we can not gloss over it as though its not. We are shown by many Saints that, such as St John of the Ladder does above, the we should continually remember of Jesus, being always in communion with Him. This is to pray ceaselessly. So far I think we all are in agreement, so where is my beef?

    There have never to my knowledge been a group of monks way up in a mountain somewhere who only read homilies and devise or listen to sermons strictly on the pierced Hands and wounded side of Christ, because, as important and irremittable as the this aspect of Christ is, this is not the what the Apostolic deposit of faith given to the Church looks like. And there certainly haven’t been any monks who have devised certain breathing techniques, nor heartbeat monitoring techniques, to practice while listening to the steady words of such beautiful homilies or sermons on His wounded hands and side. To make one aspect of Christ’s ontological Whole the whole of your worship, no matter how flawless your theological gleanings of this particular aspect are, does not properly reflect the image of the Life of the Church lived out by its members. And from what I’ve been reading on the early Church Fathers and Saint is that while yes they did practice the ascetic of ceaseless prayer, it was originally done by memorizing and repeating various psalms throughout the day. The phrase “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” did not have a special fiat over the other simple prayers (I don’t think it existed in this form till the 6th century, so it couldn’t have), though they do all reflect the same truth no doubt. And they did not admonish the faithful to mainly put their focus on His name in particular while praying, though the importance His name was no doubt spoken of in the same ontological way. And it is true that the remembrance of Jesus is undoubtedly implied in the practice of ceaseless ascetic prayer that the early Church references, BUT the Jesus Prayer that the Orthodox Church prescribes today seems to be placed on a pedestal above all other prayers, with a very specific admonishment to focus on His name alone, along with a relatively recent (when considering the span of the history of the Church) entrance of prescribed breathing techniques and heart beat monitoring techniques for the advanced in faith to practice. What I am arguing is that its possible that this is not what the Life of the Church lived out by its members looked like in the early Ancient Church. And no matter how flawless the theological gleaning behind the prayer is, we still need to look like the Life of the Church. It is not just what you say, its how you say it. And its not jus what you do, its how you do it. An ultra-focus on sermons concerning only the hands and wounded side of Christ is not what the Church looks like. Is an ultra-focus on one specific prayer what the Church looks like?

    At least this is what Ive gathered so far in my studies on the subject. But I admit, I am nobody, and have no spiritual knowledge to pronounce any judgment on the subject. So my observation that the Jesus prayer as it is done in recent history looks different, and is described differently than what the early Life of the Church has shown us is nothing more than a layman’s interpretation. But it is what Ive interpreted. So, what I am looking for in responses from all of you is a good explanation that shows me that, in fact, these supposed idiosyncracies Ive described concerning the of the Jesus Prayer (such as its relative newness, its apparent fiat over all other simple ascetic prayers done for the same purpose, the repeated and specific admonishment to focus only on His name, and the breathing and heartbeat techniques Ive read about) are exactly, 100% what St John of the Ladder, as well as all the other early Saints, were referencing despite that they appeared to be speaking in markedly different terms when talking about praying ceaselessly.

  56. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you for this, this reminder of hope. It’s a wonderful truth (which I often forget) that there is indeed another stream of reality, the original one – and also that the other stream isn’t actually real at all. It takes a “renewing of your mind” to see the real stream and then live there, but we ourselves less and less as salmon as the true stream begins to materialize all around us.

    I think the visual shift from one stream to the other is tricky to make because the steps seem way too simplistic, like the 55 maxims. We are told by voices without and within that we are fools to go that way, that we had such potential and were almost there when we “gave up”.

    Thanks for the reminder of the hope of the truth.

  57. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I agree with you…and think the push-back to your earlier posts was too strong. Forgive me for not saying so earlier. I especially think it is correct to see that there is far more to the name of Jesus – that what is going on is indeed ontological. The devotion using the name of Jesus is impossible to really pin down historically. We can, however, point to certain historical points where its practice was discussed and emphasized.

    Any kind of prayer, including ceaseless prayer, has to take place in the context of the larger life of the Church, i.e. the liturgical/sacramental life. There is no substitute for that primary part of our life. And no practice of prayer is greater than love of enemies and charity to the poor. The Philokalia, for example, is a collection of teachings originally set in a monastic situation. I often think that there is a romanticized Orthodoxy that seeks to extend it too far in the life outside the monastery.

    There is, though, wide-spread use and experience with forms of the Jesus prayer, practiced and encouraged by many saints. I’m no great ascetic (not even a very poor ascetic), but over my ordained life and practice over 30 something years, I’ve tried many things, including the short psalms. I still use that on occasion. But I’ve found nothing as steady and salutary as the Jesus prayer. I use a simple form: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.” I have problems with “have mercy on me.” It somehow distracts me into myself in an unhelpful way. So, I pray “us.”

    What we have, I think, in the later writings on the Jesus prayer is something you don’t actually see much in the early Church at all – a careful description of what’s actually going on inside, viz. prayer. Those things, and greater experiences, were often the most hidden things. What might be interesting, historically, is the fact that such hidden things became known and described publicly at some point. And, if one is doing historical work on the topic, we could ask why that happened.

    We are ourselves, now living in the most psychologized, inward-looking period of history that I know. So, I think it’s not surprising that we can find so many books on the Jesus Prayer, or prayer in general, etc. I take the Jesus Prayer to be something that has become as widespread as it is in Orthodox practice for the simple reason that it has proven to be perhaps the best of all the short prayers and has gained its place through the fact that it “works.” It does not mean that it is the only way, or that it was taught by the Apostles, etc. It’s just that it has proven itself in the life of the Church.

    There was a certain point in my life that issues surround an anxiety/panic disorder made the prayer problematic for me. It seemed to echo the inner sound of my own anxious mind and amplified it. I’ve heard others describe an opposite effect, but that was my experience at the time. I often used the Marian prayer from the Rosary during that period, mostly because it was a longer “narrative” as a prayer and seemed to calm me and comfort my mind. In short, it worked.

    I’m back to the Jesus Prayer now, having been largely anxiety/panic free for the last 5 years.

    There is, as well, a wordless prayer that is ceaseless. But it seems way beyond me.

  58. Dino Avatar

    That question you posed has been addressed before and answered by various writers. I’m sorry that I don’t have a meticulously enough organized memory so as to point you to all the right sources here… They often don’t even refer to it as the ‘prayer in the Name of Christ’, while actually tackling the subject you address, e.g. they might be teaching merely on something like the ‘3 different stages of prayer’ (St Symeon the New Theologian) or something similar, ( The way of the Pilgrim etc. ) But the Philokalia is filled with useful answers to this…
    It’s true that, some erudite monks would live out their contemplative stillness with the use of the psalter instead of the Jesus prayer, (both of these ‘techniques’ to continuously “stand before the Lord” to, like David, “see the Lord always before you” –which, remember Michelle is the crux of the matter – date from the most ancient times), but the Church’s experience teaches that it is far more effective to have those very short prayers –as you also mentioned – and out of all the short prayers, experience again teaches that it is the Jesus prayer that is by far the most effective.
    Experience teaches that one cannot fulfill all the commandments in all the variety of the manifestations of the Christian faith unless they stop being scattered and concentrate on never, somehow, leaving the remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ Do you see why the unceasing calling upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:3) has from the start been so important?
    The dispersed light always turns into a focused beam when you genuinely start to approach close to it, and the laser-focused beam is far easier to monitor by our Nous than the dispersed and variable light.

  59. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Michelle, sorry. I misunderstood you initial question and responded to what I thought you said rather than what you did say. Nevertheless, as you have continued to explicate it has helped me understand the whole picture better. Thank you for your persistence.

  60. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, I have just the opposite experience from you on using the word “us” instead of “me” in the Jesus Prayer.

    If I use us, I tend not really include myself in the us. Using “me” makes it easier. Example, in comforting someone else, particularly my wife, if I touch her and silently pray the Jesus Prayer with her pain in mind as I say “me” there are times she experiences some relief. More than just from my touch alone. I do not feel as attached to her if I say us. Wired, but my mind works that way.

    I started doing that because of my contemplation on the posts here that emphasized the notion that I am responsible for the sins of the world. As I have worked with that, it has seemed to bring fruit into my life in dealing with fear, anxiety and anger.

    The unique, personal nature of salvation, never ceases to amaze me.

    This blog does so much. God grant you many, many years writing it.

  61. Dino Avatar

    When faced with the weakness of human nature a believer naturally asks themselves, ‘how to be saved?’. They might try to follow all the best advise, struggling here and there, trying to be humble, meek, watchful, loving, forgiving, patient, calm, courageous, courteous, discerning, joyous, repentant, temperate etc etc etc… But they are bound to discover, like Paul, the weakness of our nature in vaster depths through all these myriad of fronts of battles, and all this simply reinforces their visceral prayer to God for help, for His aid to be delivered from this body of death (Romans 7:24). The more one discovers that the mystery of salvation is intertwined with our reorientation towards God (Ezekeil 33:11), the more they realize that such firm orientation is the sole thing that can fulfil the first commandment of love of God with all one’s mind and soul and being at all times, as well as of all other commandments. Besides, we only properly realize that we are inconceivably forgetful creatures [forgetful of the one thing needful (Luke 10:42)] once we start working on the Jesus Prayer in earnest. But that one battlefront is easier to deal with than a myriad ones from all sides. And what other prayer can become a constant, unceasing companion -without interfering with the use of our mind for everyday tasks? There isn’t one! Its simplicity, completeness, adaptability and focus are unsurpassed. Of course, as I commented earlier, we soon discover that it is only quantity that is within our power, and only God can provide us with true quality, – He seems to have arranged this so to help us in humility and gratefulness by keeping quality as an obviously, evidently ‘pure’ gift. Not that we mustn’t struggle for quality of course, but, for us to ever achieve something like pure prayer of any length, immense amount of quantity is usually the way there. And this also means you need a prayer that can be done, at times, exclusively, as well as –at other times- as supplement to other tasks.
    It is noteworthy that the greatest recent practitioners of the Jesus prayer, (I am thinking of Elder Joseph the Hesychast and Elder Ephraim of Katounakia), vehemently promoted obedience over and above this prayer to all monastics (!), however, to those living in the world, they counselled the Jesus prayer. They had spiritual children in the world with families and cares who achieved unceasing prayer in the name of Jesus with their Saintly Elders’ constant spurring and inspiring word [sometimes only in letter form] towards this. The Jesus prayer is not the objective of the Christian life, but it is possibly the easiest, most available, and effective vehicle you can drive to get there…

  62. Agata Avatar

    Dear Fr. Stephen, Michelle, Dino, Drewster, Michael
    …. and all who commented on this article of Father’s…..
    (and please forgive me for this long comment)

    Michelle especially, your questions always inspire a wonderful conversation, and they are so applicable to the struggles of all of us, I think. This discussion has brought into light some aspects of my life I didn’t know were broken and needed healing…. Thank you all for this, to you Father especially….

    But here I would like to comment on the ‘exchange’ between Dino and Drewster, if I may. I have been thinking about it a lot, and especially after listening to the lecture by Fr. John Behr that Dino suggested, I hope you allow me to share a couple of thoughts.

    Drewster said:
    “What you’re saying is echoed by many of the Fathers I’ve read, but to us in the West at least, you’re almost speaking Greek. Like the boy’s father, I plead “I believe! Please help my unbelief.” What you’re talking about seems so foreign, so naive and so fairytale-like that it stretches my faith greatly.”….

    Even if maybe at first I was inclined to agree, I reminded myself quickly why I appreciate and look forward to Dino’s comments, always. He is showing us that “higher standard”, the way of the Saints, the way of the Orthodox Tradition, which, as he said a bit further down, is nearly foreign to us….“Indeed, our times have lost the true essence of what spiritual joy is and have increased the distance one needs to travel to even start grasping all this!”

    I appreciate being shown that higher standard, even if I will never attain it….

    But after listening to Fr. John (search YouTube for “Fr. John Behr Which God do you believe in”), maybe a more accurate description is “the only true standard”, “the nearly forgotten standard”… What the Gospels offer us is EVERYTHING, the fullness of Christ, not some bits and pieces to choose from. Either we desire the true Christ of the Gospels (inseparable from His Cross), or we insult Him by making out of Him our “little God” (a “bozenka” to be confined to once a week on Sunday morning, if that much)….

    This always makes me think of how the Lord wondered if He will find any true Faith when He returns. Fr. Zacharias tells a story of an early desert elder who told his disciple (in the times when the Saints “raised the dead”) that the faith will be basically halved with each generation, and in last times those who keep the faith will be more glorious than the Saints who stopped the sun in the middle of the sky….

    I love Fr. John’s progression of this lecture…. My favorite part is that you have to be “in the arena” to recognize what is happening, from the outside, one only sees the “spectacle”.. I think that is what people hear when they read that first part on Dino’s comment on the martyrdom (and other similar)… There is no way to understand it from outside, it only makes sense if we identify ourselves with those in the arena suffering with and for Christ. And I think this is what Dino is helping us see, that we have to be willing to be in the arena, and we have to have examples of the Saints (past and especially more present), because without those examples, those embodied (in the Saints) standards, we “don’t have a prayer”, we will never be ready “for meat”. To say that “we need small portions – and the understanding that it’s okay if some are never ready for meat” to me reads “it’s OK to stay outside the Church and just look at it as some curiosity”…. Isn’t this refusing God and His Kingdom? Isn’t it denying Christ and His Love for us?

    So Michelle, please continue to ask your wonderful questions.
    And Dino, please continue to offer us everything you can, where else will we ever hear:

    “….(i.e.: you catch yourself uttering it in your heart after Holy Communion [the Lord’s name] and then your intellect’s awareness of this immediately starts spoiling this spontaneity)”….

    Glory and thanks to God for all of you and for everything we are offered here!!

  63. Michelle Avatar

    Michael Bauman,

    Don’t worry about it. The conversation was still profitable to me. I always enjoy your comments! They’re very helpful.

  64. Michelle Avatar


    Thank you for your encouragement! I think you’re right, a lot of us come here to gain a little meat.

    In my experience it’s one of the few trusted places where one is exposed to and actually engage in conversation on real, sound Orthodox “meat.”

    And as one who discovered this blog at the beginning of their conversion to Orthodoxy I’ve always felt comfortable here, and not too terribly overwhelmed (fact, I honestly don’t know where I would be without it). Back then whenever Dino would go over my head I would just I would just ignore him 😉 Lol, just kidding. But there are plenty other good commenters, including most importantly and especially Fr Stephen, to give us newbies milk and guide us towards consuming the meat.

  65. drewster2000 Avatar


    I can appreciate your perspective, the caution against “it’s OK to stay outside the Church and just look at it as some curiosity”, but that’s not the context of my comment. Look around at the people of your parish and understand that in any sense you can think of, there will always be some who are far behind other in one way or another – and will never “catch up” in this life no matter how hard they try.

    As an example let’s take a famous artist. Some people, after much devotion and imitation, may eventually approach a good likeness to this artist in their paintings while other never would – no matter how bad they wanted it and how much effort they expend.

    There are those in this world who will never be able to follow some of Dino’s comments, until the ideas are pureed or at least chopped up into smaller pieces. As a side note, being able to “translate” the ancient Christian faith so that modern ears can receive it is one of Fr. Stephen’s great gifts.

    This is definitely not a disparagement of Dino, simply an acknowledgement of the reality of the distances and differences between one person and another.

    And there will always be one person on milk and another on meat, comparatively speaking. Both have their job to do, the first to push forward and outside of their comfort zone so that they may move closer to solid food, the second to provide grace and patience for the first.

    There are many thoughts wrapped up in here but hopefully these words are helpful.

  66. Dino Avatar

    I was similarly often nearly outraged by some of the ‘meat’ that the Elder Aimilianos (and others) would offer to all-and-sundry, when I was first asked to listen and study all his homilies, some twenty years ago.
    They were so (seemingly intentionally) exceedingly uncompromising that, although I was sometimes inspired, I was often simply shocked!
    But when I inquired meticulously vis-à-vis this matter I came to understand what is going on first hand… I’ll try and summarized it in few words:
    When the Church speaks ‘generally’ (meaning the word that will be heard by all), it must retain the full ‘perfection’ of its message. [If Christ’s words to all didn’t shy away from the scandalous ‘meat’ of the admonition to: ‘hate your mother and father and self if you want to be His disciple’, then who can ever judge Him for not offering us the ‘milk’ something less despair-inducing for our weakness…
    But in private, it is a completely different story, in an intimate tête-à-tête, when addressing a particular person for a specific issue, the precise form of ‘milk’ or ‘meat’ must always be cherry-picked, and that’s when we see a different face and a different message.

    A real example: The Elder to all his spiritual children with an austere, stern voice: ‘if one even conceives of adding sugar to their coffee they might as well give up on their ascetic life altogether (!)’, and a mere ten minutes later in his one-to-one private chat with the same spiritual children, he speaks with the kindest voice and friendliest smile: ‘here’s some sweets, confectioneries, cookies and other goodies I know you like my child, take them with you my beloved child!’
    I don’t know what others make of this but I have come to profoundly appreciate such curiously diverse, discerning pedagogy.
    Prayer within such a fatherly ‘blessing’ has a force and purity that’s unprecedented. You feel the ‘right type of freedom’ in such presence and while devoted to such counsel. You can (somehow) not really manage to do most of what is asked of you “in the general discourse”, yet you do not despair because of this, and you know that you are unquestionably working towards the true calling of man, and you are loved despite the minuteness of your steps. You never give up in this manner. Few things in this life compare to experiencing the freedom of sons and daughters of the Church, and this needs to be part of even the first spiritual steps one makes. The uncompromising general word with the tailored personal word breeds this well I believe.

    Just like a lecturer will have to lecture the whole 100% of his topic to all, depriving none of what the end objective should be, but in private tutoring, that’s when he will differentiate and help the first with 50%, the second with 20% and the third with his mere 2%…

  67. Michelle Avatar

    Fr Stephen,

    You wrote, “Any kind of prayer, including ceaseless prayer, has to take place in the context of the larger life of the Church, i.e. the liturgical/sacramental life. There is no substitute for that primary part of our life. And no practice of prayer is greater than love of enemies and charity to the poor,” and this personally has been my experience in the Church, in both my local parishes and expressed on this blog.

    And I am hoping, and taking your’s and Dino’s (and everyone else’s) word for it, that the reason for the Prayer’s popularity is its spiritually edifying qualities alone, and not because we live in what I would say is a “psychologized, inward-looking” POP-CULTURE. In other words, in our culture we eat up and consume spiritualized psycho-babble like addicts. (I’m personally an INFP with a tinge of neurosis and an anxiety complex. How about you? Its easy to find out, just take one of the thousand of psycho-babble quizzes online! Need to know what your dreams mean, too? There’s an app for that!) And if you google “Jesus Prayer book,” or simply “Jesus Prayer,” you just might get the impression that for the Orthodox this one single prayer may be the addict’s next fix, giving the positive, fleeting high they want. Hopefully we’re not just eating up these books and websites like the next self-help craze. However, I am merely speculating on this from the “outside” (not that I don’t say the prayer myself. I do), because I have never actually read any of the many books on the Jesus Prayer (if anyone has a good recommendation I’ll get right on that). And even if we are just consuming the Prayer with these numerous books and websites it doesn’t automatically mean that the Prayer is no good. It just means that we are using and abusing the Prayer, and that is definitely NOT what the Life of the Church lived by its members looks like! And obviously from my own experience, and from the testimony of so many others, the Prayer IS spiritually edifying. I don’t deny it, but I am just afraid of our appetites for these sorts of things, and our willingness to consume, consume, consume! I know I am a product of our culture, and am not free of the risks of these kinds of addictive behaviors present, even when concerning things belonging to the Church.

    And as a side note, one thing that really does concern me is the breathing and heartbeat monitoring techniques that can accompany the Prayer. About seven or so years ago, before I became Orthodox, I dabbled a little bit in those kinds of mediative practices for anxiety reasons. Our culture eats these sorts of things up. But I soon quit after accidentally putting myself into a couple of very trippy, deep trances (no hallucinogens required) and realized the extreme spiritual dangers they expose people to. It has the potential to open one right up to demonic influence, without defense, and when I realized this it scared the living day lights out of me! Even if Elder Sophrony himself appeared to me and told me to try these techniques I still wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole! (Well, maybe, just maybe, if that happened I would at least mull it over a bit before I declined.)

    Anyway, overall this conversation has been beneficial and encouraging for me concerning my concerns. I do say the prayer, along with other short psalms, and as Dino said, the crux of the whole matter is keeping the Lord before us! And despite my speculations I know that the Jesus Prayer does just that. Its a beautiful prayer. sIt our human tendency to corrupt what is pure, my own tendencies to corrupt what is pure, that I fear. Not the Prayer itself.

  68. drewster2000 Avatar


    I appreciate your last comment and fully agree with it. I very much support the lecturer in his need and responsibility to deliver the 100%. This is the way it should be.

    I guess I’ll I’m saying is that there will always be a need for translators who can turn to others after lecture is over and relay it to those who can only digest the 50%, the 20% and the 2%. And the lecturer himself only has time and energy to meet with so many for the one-on-ones. We could always use more translators.

    I feel sure you yourself just performed that role for me, and I’m very grateful. (grin)

  69. Dino Avatar


    There can be a hazard for sure, however, it’s the same danger that we encounter in all facets of the spiritual struggle, nothing more exceptional or distinctive…
    Elder Joseph the Hesychast was unequivocal that it is our evil adversary who disseminates the idea that one might become deluded through the practice of the Jesus prayer; when that very notion is a great delusion itself.
    Of course, if one demandingly concentrates on “techniques”, shuns the approval from a guide for such a thing, and does it in order to selfishly achieve supposed higher states, this, as with any other virtue which could be attempted analogously, can be most noxious… But to simply ‘keep at it’, adding wood to the spiritual fire at every single moment, desiring to please our Saviour by never forgetting Him, invoking like a child, unassumingly, even in such quiet where our heartbeat, our breathing and our prayer seem to start to work in unified harmony [but forgetting about that since it is the Lord that occupies our remembrance], and referencing our life to a Spiritual Father, does not lead to any delusion whatsoever, quite the opposite in fact. It reveals the delusion that lives within us and we weren’t even aware of… It can transform a person completely; and if one is lucky enough to be living the hesychastic life, there are no words to describe the transformation according to Joseph the Hesychast.

  70. Lena Avatar


    Have you ever come across the book
    “The Jesus Prayer: the ancient desert prayer that tunes the heart to God”
    by Frederica Mathewes-Green?

  71. Michelle Avatar


    No, I haven’t. I appreciate the recommendation. I will check it out. Thanks!

  72. Agata Avatar


    Please forgive me if my comment sounded like a criticism. It was not intended as such, I was more talking to myself, trying to figure out what I do with what you said and what Dino says. And especially, after listening to Fr. John Behr’s challenging talk , how to apply all this to my life.

    I know people are on all sorts of levels, but I always remember what I think Father Stephen once said on this blog, that the Last Judgement will not be “on the curve”… It really does not matter what others are doing (the Lord says that to one of His disciples after an inquiry of such sort, “what’s it to you if I will something else for this other person? *You* follow Me!”)…. That it will not be a matter of comparison, or even adherence or non-adherence to certain rules, it will be a “matter of our being” – us and Christ, and nobody else…. So when I hear Dino introducing us to the “higher standards”, I appreciate it, and it inspires me, even if just for a day 🙂

    Please forgive me, your comments here are some of the most wonderful, helpful (I especially appreciated your parenting advice a while back) and practical and I appreciate them very much!

    Best Wishes to all in this season of our Lord’s Theophany!

  73. Dino Avatar

    a very well-targeted recommendation of a great little book!

  74. Agata Avatar

    I like to recommend Fr. Meletios Webber’s book “Bread and Water, Wine and Oil”. It was my first introduction to the actual practice of the Jesus Prayer.
    If you prefer a sort of an “audio book” version of the content of this book, there is an AFR recording of a talk called “Life as a Mystery”. If you have never heard Fr. Meletios speak, you are in for a great treat!

    And here is his lecture on the Jesus Prayer itself:

  75. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Michelle, I think you key statement about the breathing techniques is “before you were Orthodox”.

    The Jesus Prayer in the context of the whole life of the Church: sacraments, fasts, feasts, confession, etc. is a much more balanced tool.

  76. Drewster2000 Avatar


    You’re fine. There’s nothing to forgive. I just clarified my intentions. My point was that it’s not about comparison but rather about recognizing everyone isn’t on the same level so we can all help each other in the areas where we lack – which we do here on this blog very well.

    Best wishes to you as well.

  77. Michelle Avatar


    Perhaps the Orthodox techniques are somehow entirely, 100% completely different than what I was doing (I honestly don’t know), but if not I will have to stand suspect of them until it’s absolutely proven to me to be harmless.

    I like how Dino explained it, as totally spontaneous, and that we’re not even to be conscious of it if it does happen, because Christ is our only care. In other words, if at some point while saying the Jesus Prayer I start spontaneously breathing in unison to it, and my heart miraculously starts beating a steady rythem with it, then great! I didn’t try to do it, it just happened. In fact, that means I don’t even have to know about, think about, or in anyway be conscious of the technique in the first place, and neither does anyone else. So, how come I’ve heard about it? Why is anyone even talking about it?

    What I was practicing (incidently by accident) was a means to achieve a euphoric sense of peace, and, oh boy!, was it euphoric! I got real high off my own juices. Luckily, as a Christian, I sensed the possible demonic dangers of the practice, no different than the demomic dangers of doing psychidelic drugs, to be sure. It would be extremely, extremely easy for someone to mistake this for an authentic religious experience. A person might even try dabbling in it for the sake of trying to experience God Himself, it’s that good of a high.

    No thanks. I won’t be deluding myself to into thinking that now that I’m Orthodox this sort of practice is all groovy.

  78. Michelle Avatar


    I actually own that book. I almost forgot! I will have to revisit it, because I bought it right after I converted to Orthodoxy and only read it the one time. Maybe now that I’ve been Orthodox for a few years, and have learned so much, now I’ll understand it better and get more out of it. I’ll also listen to the podcasts, I haven’t heard Fr Webber speak before. Thanks!

  79. Michelle Avatar

    Earlier I stated, “Perhaps the Orthodox techniques are somehow entirely, 100% completely different than what I was doing (I honestly don’t know).”

    I just googled the techniques of the Jesus Prayer and found a good description of it by Kalistos Ware (found here, and now I can confidently say it is EXACTLY the same as the meditative practices I was doing, minus repeating the prayer. No thanks, I’ll pass.

  80. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    In my general experience, I know of no one who encourages the breathing techniques. They may be used at some monasteries, but that is beyond my experience. Mostly I’m just aware of caveats steering people away from them.

    I am not a fan of them. “Technique” is a dubious thing in my book.

  81. Michelle Avatar

    Thank you, Father.

    It’s easy to get swept away looking into these things on random websites within the vast sea of the internet, where things get distorted, and non-issue ideas and whatnot get overly amplified, and what’s actually true is often absent or minimized. Actual solid, real life guides are much more reliable on this journey. Thank you for the guidance 😊

  82. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Michelle, I am not advocating the breathing techniques either, I am just saying there is a vast difference in the context.

    IMO, “The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit” allows us to pray from within to a certain extent even as neophytes.

    No question the breathing can be dangerous, especially if it becomes a focus.

    BP Kallistos has his own approach to the prayer. I have heard him talk about it. It makes me uncomfortable so I won’t describe it other than to say, lay people probably ought not try it.

  83. Panayiota Avatar

    I just wanted to let all of you know how truly grateful I am that you have been having this conversation. So much has been said…things that I think about, but been unable to articulate.

  84. John Suits Avatar
    John Suits

    “His name is sweet. It dwells within me and burns with Divine fire. It is a treasure given to me in my Baptism. It causes demons to flee and calms the wind and waves. It heals the sick and brings hope to all. It opens the gates of paradise. But this is true of the Name-in-communion and not as an object-in-separation.”

    Father, your statement here reminds me of the wonderful story of the sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11–ff

    “11. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”

    It would seem that even the demons prove that the name of Jesus is not an object to be wielded by a user independent of a an abiding relationship with Him.

    Hope my scriptural quotation helps.


  85. Andreas Avatar

    Dear Fr. Stephen and other participants,

    The Roman Catholics’ here in the Philippines have a habit of putting a picture of the acronym of the Lord Jesus together with the word “Most Holy Name of Jesus, Save Us!” What are your thoughts about it? Is it theologically correct?

    And, the same group have the “Litany to the Most Holy Name of Jesus”, what are your thoughts of it? If I am not mistaken, the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate approved the use of it in there vicariate.

  86. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    There is great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus in the Orthodox Church as well.

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