Monday, 15 November 2010

Daily Office

I am a member of the community, a frequent contributor to the forums there.  Well, I say 'contributor', but mostly I hang out there to gain a little understanding of orthodoxy through the eyes of those well versed in it.  It sure is an education!
One discussion centred on the use of the Jesus Prayer in personal meditation, contrasting our approach to that of say, Zen meditation or even Christian Meditation as proposed by
The discussion left me a little dissatisfied with my prayer rule - which was self-prescribed and pre-dates my being joined to Holy Orthodoxy.  I have been in the habit of saying the Rule of St Pachomius, basically the Opening Prayers from the Hours, Psalm 50, the Creed, and then 10 minutes Jesus Prayer, and then some closing prayers - all in all about 20 minutes, twice a day. I used to use a prayer rope and do 100 Jesus Prayers, but found I was spending more time counting than praying, so I switched to using the cellphone countdown timer - which leaves one hand's free to pray! (as recommended by Archimandrite Meletios Webber)
Well, being dissatisfied I went to Father John and asked for a new prayer rule.  Long discussion ensured about standing in the conflict with God, and how the Holy Spirit works to cleanse the heart.  The standing is important, not sitting or kneeling.
So for the last week I have been chanting Matins and Vespers, as reader services.  So far, without the Kathismata of psalms, which more than double the length of the services on most days.  I'll add those gradually if my strength holds, after my throat has got used to chanting.
Far from being a chore, I have to say these last few days have been wonderful, I am looking forward to Matins as I lay down in the evening, and after the sun sets my thoughts turn straight to Vespers.  There also seems to be a calming of my anger, especially my snappiness when interrupted in thought, for which I am truly grateful. We will see if these benefits are sustained, or if the demons have just retired for a while to return refreshed.
What is quite interesting, if I look at myself in a detached sort of way, is that my concentration is on singing the prayers and meaning the words, and not on feeling the presence of God - right now I want to be able to sing the psalms without hesitation, phrasing them properly, hearing each word clearly.  It is very easy when meditating to imagine light and warmth and so end up feeling good - but that doesn't last, it goes at the first stumbling block - on reflection the good feeling is probably not from God at all, it's just the ego-self exercising its pride.
I ask for your prayers that I can maintain this discipline.