Monday, 3 October 2005

The Jesus Prayer 5

Protestants and others should be able from our previous posts to infer our recommendations about their use of the Jesus Prayer. However, we want to pass on a story, which is true, that our friend George told us. George was visiting an Orthodox monastery. There, he heard about Father James.

Father James was a Calvinist pastor called Rick, middle-aged, married, with a couple of children. Rick was well-educated and serious in his love of Jesus Christ. As a pastor he got interested in Orthodoxy. Icons started to appear here and there. His sermons started to take on an Orthodox tinge. His church council, disturbed, required him to make a confession of faith. Rick eventually got a divorce, freely giving everything to his wife, including the children, and then went to an Orthodox monastery. There he was received, a penniless stranger. Over time, he was catechized, baptized and eventually made a monk. During his baptism, his Orthodox baptism, the Holy Spirit descended in a particularly evident manner upon Rick, and the Abbot, who had the gift of clairvoyance, spent much time in a meeting after the baptism discussing the Holy Spirit with the brotherhood. Rick had difficulties in adapting to the monastery because of his somewhat authoritarian personality. But he struggled and was eventually made a monk. Before he was made a monk, he was offered a bishopric. He turned it down. He wanted to become a monk. He became a monk with the name James. Later, he became a hermit, making some progress in the Jesus Prayer. Eventually God gave Father James a case of cancer. One day he woke up in the hermitage with a very sharp pain. He lay down, and Jesus Christ gave him a very great feeling of peace. That same day someone came by the hermitage and, realizing that Father James was ill, came back in a car with the monastery doctor and the monk responsible for the grounds. They took Father James away, and within days he was in the hospital. The prognosis was very poor. The doctors told him the truth. Father James was operated on; he had radiation therapy to relieve the pain. He returned to the monastery. He received palliative care. Another monk was sitting with Father James on the balcony of the monastery talking with him when Father James—who had stick-on pain-killers because of the very great pain he was in—said, ‘This is a very great blessing of our God. I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ A week later, Father James was buried. Another monk, who was nursing Father James, had publicly said to Father James: if you find favour with God, I want to die such and such a death. Five weeks after Father James died, that monk died in the way he wanted.

We can see from George’s story that, when Pastor Rick left everything for Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Gospel Jesus Christ accepted that and honoured it. Moreover, we can see that Jesus Christ blessed Rick at his Orthodox baptism. Moreover, whatever was good in Rick’s pre-Orthodox life, God kept and used. For even before Rick was baptized into the Orthodox Church he loved Jesus Christ. However, Rick accepted all the doctrines of the Orthodox Church without reserve and without ulterior motive. He was not of two minds. Finally, we can see that Rick had difficulties because of his personality. That was probably due to his Calvinist background. He had to work to overcome his weaknesses.

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