Feast of St Basil the Holy Martyr Bishop of Amasea
PRAYER is the mind’s dialogue with God, in which words of petition are uttered with the intellect riveted wholly on God. For when the mind unceasingly repeats the name of the Lord and the intellect gives its full attention to the invocation of the divine name, the light of the knowledge of God overshadows the entire soul like a luminous cloud.
Concentrated mindfulness of God is followed by love and joy: “I remembered God, and I rejoiced,” writes the Psalmist (Ps. 77.3, LXX). Pure prayer is followed by divine knowledge and compunction: again the Psalmist writes, “On whatever day I call upon Thee, behold, I shall know that Thou art my God” (Ps. 56.9, LXX); and, “The offering acceptable to God is a contrite spirit” (Ps. 51.17). When intellect and mind stand attentive before God in fervent supplication, compunction of the soul will ensure. When intellect, intelligence, and spirit prostrate themselves before God, the first through attentiveness, the second through invocation, and the third through compunction and love, the whole of your inner self serves God; for “You shall love your God with all your heart” (Deut. 6.5; Mt. 22.37).
You should take particular notice of this lest, though you think you are praying, you wander far from prayer, and accomplish nothing. This is what happens during the chanting of psalms when the tongue utters the words of the verses while the intellect is carried away elsewhere and is dispersed among passion-charged thoughts and other things, with the result that comprehension of the psalms goes by the board. The same thing also happens where the mind is concerned. Time and again, when the mind repeats the words of the prayer the intellect does not keep it company and does not fix its attention on God, to whom our words of prayer are being addressed; imperceptibly it is turned aside to one thought or another. The mind says the words as usual, but the intellect lapses from the knowledge of God. As a result, the soul is devoid of understanding and devotion, since the intellect is fragmented by fantasies, distracted by what has enticed it away or by what it has deliberately chosen.
When there is no conscious understanding of prayer and when the suppliant does not put himself in the presence of Him whom he invokes, how can the soul be gladdened? How can a heart find joy when it only pretends to pray but lacks true prayer? “The hearts of those who seek the Lord will rejoice” (cf. Ps. 105.3). To seek the Lord is to prostrate yourself with your whole mind and with great fervor before God and to expel every worldly thought with the knowledge and love of God that spring from pure and unremitting prayer.
~Theoleptos of Philadelphia, On Inner Work in Christ and the Monastic Profession
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