Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Cassian: Discipline in Prayer"

Derek posted something at haligweorc last week that astounded me.  It's so beautifully simple, and brings together, via prayer, some of what I see as the most central ideas in the life of faith:  "conscious contact with God"; living "a day at a time" - and at the same time in expectation of something greater; the dynamic process of "preparation"; simplicity; having and living a "primary purpose."  Other things, too, I think, which I'm having trouble articulating at the moment.

Here's his post; he's talking about his current Prayer Book Spirituality project:
In doing some research for the next section, I ran again across this passage which was marked with double lines, underlines, and a star in the margin in my copy of the Conferences and which must be shared:
For whoever is in the habit of praying only at the hour when the knees are bent prays very little. But whoever is distracted by any sort of wandering of heart, even on bended knee, never prays. And therefore we have to be outside the hour of prayer what we want to be when we are praying. For the mind at the time of its prayer is necessarily formed by what went on previously, and when it is praying it is either raised to the heavens or brought low to the earth by the thoughts on which it was dwelling before it prayed. (John Cassian, Conferences 10.14.2)

What's really stunning to me is that I've never heard of this before!   I mean, there are dozens of contemplative prayer disciplines and techniques (or, as Keating calls Centering Prayer, methods) - some of which are quite elaborate.  Yet this, from John Cassian - and the 4th century - seems somehow never to have made that list.  Perhaps it's just too simple.

This idea takes a person's day-to-day life and in one simple idea sweeps it up into the life of prayer and aspiration - all by means of simply recalling the process itself to itself.  It is, really, I believe, the way to "prayer without ceasing."


Anonymous said...

Have you read Brother Lawrence?

bls said...

That's "Practice of the Presence of God"? No, haven't read it (although have been meaning to.

Does he include this idea? I'll have to check it out; I may actually have it on Kindle but haven't gotten around to it yet....