In the last section of the third chapter of Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition on “Manners of Praying,” Father Gabriel (Bunge) balances what he had said about praying aloud in the previous section, by pointing to the importance of silence in prayer. The Fathers warn us about vain display in prayer and point out that it is only God who knows what is in our hearts. As Saint John Cassian tells us:
We pray “in secret” when we make our petitions known to God alone in our heart and with a watchful mind, in such a manner that the hostile powers cannot even tell what sort of a petition it is. Therefore one should pray in the most profound silence, not only so as to avoid distracting the brothers around us by our whispering and calling, or disturbing the sentiments of those who…
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Gift of Tears ….
Prayer is not a disembodied exercise of the mind or intellect. At the deeper levels of prayer, the body and its senses are involved, and prayer becomes an experience of the total person. “Becoming prayer” is a favourite patristic expression. Tears, as an expression of the “sensible” experience, have always been associated with deep compassionate prayer. When the ascetic tradition speaks about “the gift of tears” (charisma ton dakuron), it is not as an expression of sentiments, but as a special charism of the Holy Spirit that induces an incessant flow of tears that “make the flesh bloom” (Isaac the Syrian) in joy and compassion.
In a civilization dominated by the objectivity of cold reason, tears are a matter of shame, vulnerability and the expression of subjective and irrational sentiments. So they are censored from public display and banished from all serious intellectual discourse. Christian theology has followed…
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