Who Am I?

The Jesus Prayer 6 – Miracles

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Book Reviews, Prayer | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on The Jesus Prayer 6 – Miracles

This series of reflections is on The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Khouria Frederica mentions something I believe it’s important to expand. Experiences which we call miracles remain common within the Orthodox world. However, I think miracles in a Christian sense are deeply misunderstood in the modern West. At least, they are understood differently than they are in the East. Much of that difference stems from different perceptions of reality.

A great deal of Western Christianity today views God as somehow removed from creation. God may not be placed far away where the Deists placed him, but there is a sense of separation. Operating from within that mindset, a miracle is typically perceived as God intervening or contravening the natural order.

That is not the case within Eastern Christianity. God is perceived as everywhere present and filling all things. In him we live and move and have our being. He is also seen as in some sense restoring creation and in another sense having already restored creation in Christ. (It’s spoken of in both senses. Some of that expresses the way the reality of God transcends our concept and experience of time.) A miracle, then, is not God contravening the “natural” order of creation. In some cases, like the burning bush and the Transfiguration (and any other experience of the uncreated light), it’s God helping us to see the true nature of reality. In other cases, it’s a restoration of the true nature and function of our humanity. (Within Orthodoxy, Jesus’ ability to command the storm is seen as much an expression of his true humanity as it is of his divinity — though you will find it discussed both ways.) In some instances, it’s an eschatological  revelation of the fulfillment of all things achieved in Christ.

Of course, in Orthodoxy there is also a deep awareness that there are forces intent on deceiving us. Not every “miraculous” occurrence is of God. Not every “angel” is truly an angel of light. Indeed that is a favored deception! Not every “spirit” is the Holy Spirit. I’m reminded of a story of an Orthodox bishop who, for whatever reason, was invited to a modern charismatic meeting. It was one of those in which the Spirit (supposedly) descended and created spontaneous outbursts of “holy barking.” The hierarch immediately said, “That’s not the Holy Spirit. That’s the spirit of Anubis.” I think he was right, though I never would have phrased it that way before I heard the story.

We have lost much of our ability to discern reality in the West. The discipline of the Jesus Prayer, if practiced with a true heart, can help us learn to have eyes to see and ears to hear. I truly believe that or I would not heed it at all, much less discuss or attempt to practice it. We do not want to open ourselves to any spirit or any experience. Although I have practiced such disciplines in the past (as a non-Christian), I now see my former actions as foolhardy. By the grace of God I was relatively unscathed, but many are not so fortunate. No, we wish to experience and encounter only the Holy Spirit. We need to be careful to practice disciplines better focused toward that end. The Jesus Prayer has centuries of use supporting it. That’s not true of many modern Christian practices.

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