Friday, 2 July 2010

How to pray by Evagrius of Pontus Chapter 2

Chapter 2
A soul which is full of virtue and therefore pure has a mind which is habitually free from distractions and can receive the tranquility it seeks.
Translated from the Greek by John de la Tour Davies.

(Illustrated version of chapter 2)

Counsels of perfection!
Evagrius 's second chapter connects with his first, and again, notes the importance of the virtues for the life of prayer. Being in balance, emotionally, psychologically, even physically means that we are less likely to be distracted by the 'cares and riches and pleasures of this life' (Luke 8.14), for we are centred in Christ, rooted in the ground of God, rather than struggling to bear the fruit of tranquility amid the thistles and thickets of our anxieties.

However, it seems to me that the issue is that for many people today it doesn't really help to encourage them to put their fears and concerns in a mental 'box', and try to be centred and serene. This is rather like saying '"Peace, peace!" where there is no peace.' It simply puts a plaster over a deep seated wound, and when you do that, problems can go on for ages!
What Evagrius is trying to do, I think, is refocus us on the virtues, and in particular, to encourage us to recall the words of Micah 6.8: 'And what does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.' So maybe if we ask, "What is the most just thing I can do?", and do it, then distractions won't be such a problem in our prayer.

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