Fr. Lev Gillet|
The Jesus Prayer
Online book of "The Jesus Prayer". A classic treatise on the Jesus Prayer written by Fr. Lev.Gillet,also known through many of his writings as "A Monk of the Eastern Church".
9. THE NAME OF JESUS AS EUCHARIST
... This do in remembrance of me. Luke, 22.1,9
The mystery of the Upper Room was a summing -up of the whole life and mission of Our Lord. The sacra-mental Eucharist lies outside the scope of the present considerations. But there is a "eucharistie" use of the Name of Jesus in which all the aspects which we have seen till now are gathered and unified.
Our soul also is an Upper Room where an invisible Lord's Supper may be celebrated at any time. Our Lord secretly tells us, as of old: "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you (Luke 22.15) • • • Where is the guest-chamber where I shall eat the passover with my disciples (Luke 22.11)... There make ready" (Luke 22.11). These words do not solely apply to the visible Lord's Supper. They also apply to his interior Eucharist, which, though only spiritual is very real. In the visible Eucharist Jesus is offered under the signs of bread and wine. In the Eucharist within us He can be signified and designated by His Name alone. Therefore the invocation of Holy Name may be made by us a Eucharist.
The original meaning of "eucharist" is: thanksgiving. Our inner Lord's Supper will first be a thanks-giving over the great gift, the gift made to us by the Father in the person of His Son. "By him... let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually..." (Hebrews 13.15). The Scripture immediately explains the nature of this sacrifice of praise: "... that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." So the idea of the Name is linked with that of thanksgiving. Not only may we, while pronouncing Jesus' Name, thank the Father for having given us His Son or direct our praise towards the Name of the Son himself, but we may make of the Name of the Son the substance and support of the sacrifice of praise rendered to the Father, the expression of our gratitude and our offering, of thanks.
Every Eucharist is an offering. "That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness " (Malachi 3.3). We cannot offer to the Father a better offering than the person of His Son Jesus. This offering alone is worthy of the Father. Our offering of Jesus to His Father is one with the offering which Jesus is eternally making of Himself, for how could we, alone, offer Christ? In order to give a concrete shape to our offering we shall probably find it helpful to pronounce the Name of Jesus. We shall present the Holy Name to God as though it were bread and wine.
The Lord, in His Supper, offered to His disciples bread which was broken and wine which was shed. He offered a life which was given, His body and blood ready for the immolation. When we inwardly offer Jesus to his Father, we shall always offer Him as a victim— both slain and triumphant: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive... honor, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5.12). Let us pronounce the Name of Jesus with the awareness that we are washed and made "white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7.14). This is the sacrificial use of the Holy Name. This does not mean that we think of a new sacrifice of the cross. The Holy Name, sacrificially used, is but a means to apply to us, here and now, the fruits of the oblation once for all made and perfect. It helps us, in the exercise of the universal priesthood, to make spiritually actual and, present the eternal sacrifice of Christ. The sacrificial use of the Name of Jesus will also remind us that we cannot be one with Jesus, priest and victim if we do not offer within Him, within His Name, our own soul and body: "In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure : Then said I, Lo, I come" (Hebrews 10.6-7).
There is no Lord's Supper without a communion. Our inner Eucharist also is what tradition has called "spiritual communion", that is, a feeding by faith on the Body and Blood of Christ without using the visible elements of bread and wine. "The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world... I am that bread of life" (John 6.33,48). Jesus always re-mains the bread of life which we can receive as a food, even when we do not partake of any sacramental element : "It is the spirit that quickeneth; The flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6.63). We can have a purely spiritual and invisible access to the Body and Blood of Christ. This Inner, but very real, mode of approach to Our Lord is something distinct from any other approach to His Person, for here is a special gift and benefit, a special grace, a special relationship between Our Lord, as both feeder and food, and ourselves partaking (though invisibly) ofthat food. Now this spiritual communion of the divine Bread of life, of the Body and Blood of the Saviour, becomes easier when it is given expression in the Holy Name, receiving from the Name of Jesus its shape, its frame and support. We can pronounce the Name of Our Lord with the special intention of feeding our soul on it, or rather on the sacred Body and precious Blood which we try to approach through it. Such a communion maybe renewed as often as we desire. Far from us the error of treating lightly or lowering in esteem the Lord's Supper as practised in the Church. But it is to be hoped that everybody who follows the way
of the Name may experience that the Name of Jesus is a spiritual food and communicates to hungry souls the Bread of life. "Lord, evermore give us this bread" (John 6.34). In this bread, in this Name, we find ourselves united with all them that share in the same Messianic meal: "We being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers ofthat one bread" (i Corinthians 10.17).
Through the Eucharist we "do show the Lord's death till he come" (i Corinthians 11.26). The Eucharist is an anticipation of the eternal Kingdom. This "eucharistie" use of the Name of Jesus leads us to its "eschatological" use, that is, to the invocation of the Name in connection with the "end" and with the Coming of Our Lord. Each invocation of the Holy Name should be an ardent aspiration to our final re-union with Jesus in be heavenly kingdom. Such an aspiration is related to the end of the world and the triumphal Coming of Christ, but it has a nearer relation to the occasional (and, as we should ask, more and more frequent) breakings in of Christ into our earthly existence, His wonderful forcible entrances into our, everyday life, and still more to the Coming of Christ to us at the time of our death . There is a way of saying "Jesus" which is a preparation for death, an aspiration towards death conceived as the long-expected appearing of the Friend "whom having not seen, ye love" (i Peter 1.8), a call for this supreme meeting, and here and now a throwing of our heart beyond the barrier. In that way of saying "Jesus", the longing utterance of Paul, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear. .. " (Colossians 3.4) and the cry of John, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22.20), are already implied.
10. THE NAME OF JESUS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
... I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. John, 1-32
The Name of Jesus occupied a pre-eminent place in the message and action of the Apostles. They were preaching in the Name of Jesus, healing the sick in His Name; they were saying to God: "Grant unto thy servants... that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus" (Acts 4.29,30). Through them "the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified" (Acts 19.17). It is only after Pentecost that the Apostles announced the Name "with power". Jesus had told them: 'Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1.8). In this "Pentecostal" use of the Name of Jesus we find clear evidence of the link between the Spirit and the Name. Such a Pentecostal use of the Name is not restricted to the Apostles. It is not only of the Apostles, but of all "them that believe" that Jesus said : "In. my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues... they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16.17-18). Only our lack of bold faith and charity prevents us from calling upon the Name in the power of the Spirit. If we really follow the way of the Name, a time must come when we become able (without pride, without looking at ourselves) to manifest the glory of Our Lord and to help other men through "signs". He whose heart is become a vessel of the Holy Name should not hesitate to go about and repeat to those who need spiritual or bodily relief the words of Peter: "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3.6). o that the Spirit of Pentecost may come and write within us the Name of Jesus in flames!
The Pentecostal use of the Name is but one aspect of our approach to the Holy Ghost through the Name of Jesus. The Name will lead us to some other and more inward experiences of the Spirit. While pronouncing the Name we may obtain a glimpse of the relationship between the Spirit and Jesus. There is a certain attitude of the Spirit towards Jesus and a certain attitude of Jesus towards the Spirit. In repeating the Name of Jesus we find ourselves at the crossroads, so to speak, where these two "movements" meet.
When Jesus was baptized "The Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him" (Luke 3.22). The descent of the dove is the best expression of the attitude of the Spirit towards Our Lord. Now let us, while saying the Name of Jesus, try to coincide, if we may say with the Jesus-ward movement of the Spirit, with the Spirit directed by the Father' towards Jesus, looking to Jesus, coming to Jesus. Let us try to unite ourselves — as much as a creature can unite itself to a divine action — to this flight of the dove ("Oh that I had wings like a dove..." (Psalm 55.6)) and to the tender feelings expressed by her voice: "The voice of the turtle is heard in our land" (Song of Songs 2.12). Before making "intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8.26), the Spirit was and eternally remain sighing after Jesus. The book of Revelation shows us the Spirit, together with the Bride (that is, the Church), crying to Our Lord. When we utter the Name of Jesus, we can conceive it as the sigh and aspiration of the Holy Ghost, as the expression of the Spirit's desire and yearning. We shall thus be admitted (according to our feeble human capacity) into the-mystery of the loving relation-ship between the Holy Ghost and the Son.
Conversely the Name of Jesus may also help us to coincide with the attitude of Our Lord towards the Spirit. Jesus was conceived by Mary "of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 1.20). He remained during His whole earthly life (and still remains) the perfect receiver of the Gift, He let the Spirit take complete possession of Him, being "led up of the Spirit" (Matthew 4.1) or driven by it. He cast out devils "by the Spirit of God" (Matthew 12.28). He returned from the desert "in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4.14). He declared: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 4.18). In all this Jesus shows a humble docility towards the Holy Ghost. In pronouncing the Name of Jesus we can (as far as it is given to man) make ourselves one with Him in this surrender to the Spirit. But we can also make ourselves one with Him as with the starting point from which the Spirit is sent to men: "He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you (John 16-15)... I will send him unto you" (John 14.7). We can see the Name of Jesus as the focus from which the Spirit radiates towards mankind: we can see Jesus as the mouth from which Spirit is breathed. Thus, in the utterance of the Name of Jesus, we can associate ourselves with these two moments: the filling of Jesus with the Spirit, the sending of the Spirit by Jesus. To grow in the invocation of the Holy Name is to grow in the knowledge of the "Spirit of his Son" (Galatians 4.6).
11. THE NAME OF JESUS AND THE FATHER
... He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. John, 14-9
Our reading of the Gospel will remain superficial as long as we only see in it a message directed to men or a life turned towards men. The very heart of the Gospel is the hidden relationship of Jesus with the Father. The secret of the Gospel is Jesus turned towards Him. This is the fundamental mystery of the life of Our Lord. The invocation of the Name of Jesus may afford us some real, though faint and transient, partaking in that mystery.
"In the beginning was the Word" (John 1.1). The Person of Jesus is the living Word spoken by the Father. As the Name of Jesus, by a special divine dispensation, has been chosen to mean the living Word uttered by the Father, we may say that this Name par-takes to some extent in this eternal utterance. In a some-what anthropomorphic manner (easy to correct) we might say that the Name of Jesus is the only human word which the Father eternally pronounces. The Father eternally begets His word. He gives Himself eternally in the begetting of the Word. If we endeavour to approach the Father through the invocation of the Name of Jesus, we have first, while pronouncing the Name, to contemplate Jesus as the object of the Father's love and self-giving. We have to feel (in our little way) the outpouring of this love and this gift on the Son. We have already seen the dove descending upon Him. It remains to hear the Father's voice saying: "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3.22).
And now we must humbly enter into the filial consciousness of Jesus. After having found in the word "Jesus" the Father's utterance: "My Son ! ", we ought to find it in the Son's utterance: "My Father ! Jesus has no other aim than to declare the Father and be His Word. Not only have all Jesus' actions, during His earthly life, been acts of perfect obedience to the Father "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me" (John 4.34); not only has the sacrificial death of Jesus fulfilled the supreme requirement of the divine love (of which the Father is the source): "Greater love hath no man than this, that a may lay down his life..." (John 15.13) — not only the deeds of Jesus, but His whole being were the perfect expression of the Father. Jesus is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person" (Hebrews 1.3). The Word was "towards God" (John 1.1) - the translation "with God" is inaccurate. It is this eternal orientation of the Son towards the Father, his eternal turning to Him, which we should experience within the Name of Jesus. There is more in the Holy Name than the "turning to" the Father. In saying "Jesus" we can in some measure join together the Father and the Son, we can realize and appropriate their oneness. At the very moment when we utter the Holy Name, Jesus Himself says to us as He said to Philip: "Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me?... Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (John 14.10,11).
12. THE NAME AND THE TOTAL PRESENCE
... that ye may be filled unto all the fulness ... Ephesians 3.19
We have considered the main aspects of the invocation of the Name of Jesus. We have disposed them according to a kind of ascending scale, and we think that this scale corresponds to the normal progress of the life of the soul. Nevertheless God, who, "giveth not the Spirit by measure" (John 3.34), overpasses all our limits. These aspects of the Name intermingle; a beginner may straightway be raised to the highest perception of the content of the Name, while somebody who has been waiting on the Name for years may not go beyond the elementary stages (it is not this that matters, the only thing that matters is to do what Our Lord wants us to do). So the pattern which we have followed is, to a large extent, artificial and has but a relative value.
This becomes quite evident to anybody who has had some experience of all the aspects of the Name which have been described here. At that stage — the reaching of which does not necessarily imply a greater perfection, but often some intellectual and spiritual acumen, some quickness of perception and discrimination concerning the things of God — it becomes difficult, even wearisome and tedious, and sometimes even impossible, to concentrate on this or that particular aspect of the Name of Jesus, however lofty it may be. Our invocation and consideration of the Holy Name then becomes global. We become simultaneously aware of all the implications of the Name. We say "Jesus", and we are resting in the fullness and totality of the Name of Our Lord; we are unable to disjoin and isolate its diverse aspects, and yet we feel that all of them are there, as a united whole. The Holy Name is then bearing the whole Christ and introduces us to His total Presence.
This total Presence is more than the Presence of proximity and the Presence of indwelling of which we have already spoken. It is the actual "givenness" of all the realities to which the Name may have been for us an approach: Salvation, Incarnation, Transfiguration, Church, Eucharist, Spirit and Father. It is then that we apprehend "what is the breadth and length and depth and height..." (Ephesians 3.18), and that we perceive what to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1.10) means.
This total Presence is all. The Name is nothing without the Presence. He who is able constantly to live in the total Presence of Our Lord does not need the Name. The Name is only an incentive to and a support to the Presence. A time may come, even here on earth, when we have to discard the Name itself and to become free from everything but the nameless and unutterable living contact with the person of Jesus.
When we separately consider the aspects or implications of the Name of Jesus, our invocation of the Name is like a prism which splits up a beam of white light into the several colors of the spectrum. When we call on the "total Name" (and the total Presence) we are using the Name as a lens which receives and concentrates the white light. Through the means of a lens a ray of the sun can ignite some combustible substance. The Holy Name is this lens. Jesus is the burning Light which the Name, acting as a lens, can gather and direct till a fire is kindled within us. "I am come to send fire on the earth..." (Luke 12.49).
The Scripture often promises a special blessing to them that calLon the Name of the Lord. We may apply to the Name of Jesus which is said of the Name of God. We shall therefore repeat: "Look upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name" (Psalm 119.132). And of every one of us may the Lord say what he said to Saul: "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name..." (Acts 9.15).