Thursday, 18 July 2013
Keeping the mind focused
in prayer and in liturgy
If the summer school went to the monastery yesterday, then the monastery came to the summer school today [Thursday 18 July 2013], with a number of monks from Saint John’s Monastery in Tolleshunt Knights accompanying Archimandrite Zacharias Zachrou to Cambridge this morning.
Father Zacharias was speaking on ‘The Mind of Man and the Mind of the Enemy’ at the summer school organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Sidney Sussex College Cambridge
Father Zacharias is a disciple of Father Sophrony, the founder of the monastery, and he quoted extensively from the writings of Father Sophrony and Father Silouan throughout his lecture.
Talking about the distractions of temptation and seeking to concentrate in prayer, he reminded us of Saint Silouan, who cried out in prayer at one stage, and hear the reply: “Keep thy mind in heaven and despair not.” The nature of our God is mercy, comfort and consolation.
Keep your mind in your heart and in heaven, Saint Silouan says. The more you humble yourself, the more the gifts you receive from God in prayer.
Earlier in the morning, Father Philip Steer, a priest of the Diocese of Sourozh working at the Orthodox Parish in Walsingham, spoke about ‘Angels and the Liturgy.’
He reminded us that in Greek, the word angel (ἄγγελος, angelos) means simply a messenger. The Persians had a highly-developed system for sending messages, and there is a related word in Persian angaros. Aeschylus in Agamemnon speaks of the beacon fire of the Persian messengers. So, from classical times, flame was associated with the messengers and with bringing the news.
When we rise up and prepare for the Holy Liturgy, we sing the Hymn of the Angels, “Holy, holy, holy ...” The Trisagion is the ceaseless song of the angels. The angels actually perform the liturgy with us. Heaven and earth are having a common celebration.
At the precession of the Gospel, the deacon becomes like an angel, becoming a messenger of the Lord. The angels are not directly names in the Creed, but they are referred to as the invisible in the creation.
The angels are with us throughout the Liturgy, before it and after it, as our invisible companions. Speaking from his experience of the Liturgy, he said: “I know that they are there.”