Sunday, August 31, 2008

Aidan ( ?-651 )

During his exile Oswald had lived at Columba's monastery of Iona. He converted and was baptized there. As a result he sent to Iona, rather than to Canterbury, for missionaries.

The head of the first mission was a man of no tact, who soon returned home to report that the English were unteachable.
A fellow monk named Aidan suggested that his approach was too harsh. Aidan was sent to replace him.

He centered his work on Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast of England similar to Iona. With his fellow monks and the English youth he trained, Aidan restored Christianity in Northumbria. King Oswald often served as his interpreter. The mission extended through the midlands as far south as London.
Aidan died at the royal town of Bamborough, 31 August, 651. The historian Bede wrote of him: "He neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the poor whatever was given him by kings or rich men of the world. He traversed both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless compelled by some urgent necessity. Wherever on his way he saw any, either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, he sought to strengthen them in their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good works."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jesus Prayer Part 5: The Chotki

Most of us are familiar with the Roman Catholic Rosary, but not the Eastern Christian Chotki.

The Orthodox and Eastern Catholics use the Chotki or Komboskini as it's known in the Greek for focusing ones heart during the Jesus prayer. The chotki can be wooden or woven and can concist of 25, 35, 50, 100 or 103 beads or knots.

The posture of the Eastern Christian during prayer is standing. In the Orthodox tradition bows, prostrations or making the sign of the cross may accompany blocks of repetition.

The Jesus Prayer is said on each bead. You can add the our father at intervals.
For praying for the sick or others needs , place the name of the person you intend to pray for. eg. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on ......." using the person or situation in place of "me".

The tassel at the end is to to dry one's tears.

The tradition of the prayer ropes dates back to the 7th century.

My chotki came from Macideonian , given to me as a gift from a friend.

To order a hand crafted wood bead Chotki, go to

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Brief directives for the Jesus Prayer (part 5)

1. Sit or stand in a dimly lit and quiet place

2.Re-collect yourself

3.With the help of your imagination find a place in your heart and stay there with intention.

4.Lead the mind from the head into the heart and repeat "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."

5.As much as possible guard the attention of your mind and do not allow any other thoughts to enter in.

6. Be paient and rest.

7. Learn to love silence.

taken from The Pilgrim Way

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Jesus Prayer (part 4) Personal experience

I became acquainted with the Jesus Prayer over 25 years ago but never began applying it until 2000. Around that time a friend who had been in Macedonia brought me back a Chotki (a knotted cord for keeping track of prayers) and I began implementing the practice.

The Jesus prayer has become for me a wonderful tool for helping in the cultivating of an awareness of God's presence through out the day. I have a job that doesn't particularly engage my mind and this type of prayer is easily implemented in situations like that. It has also been useful as a discipline when dealing with stress or a wandering mind.

I have also used the Prayer in tandem with the Chokti.
Not when working, of course. This has been useful when out and about. I keep it in my pocket where i can easily reach it. I will expand more on prayer using the Chokti later.

Experiment. This along with other practices or disciplines (as they are often referred ) that we discuss are simply tools to help us in deepening our relationship with God.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

King Oswin of Deira (?- 651)

Oswin succeeded Oswald as king and ruled Deira a southern province of Northumbria for seven years. Educated by Aidan he was greatly beloved by his people. It is recorded that he was "of rare humility and virtue" and that "courtesy shone from him".
Not only had Adian mentored the King, they were dear friends. Oswin once tried to give him a horse to make travel easier. Adian gave the horse away to the first begger asking alms.
Bede records an insident that took place shortly before Oswin's death: "They went in to dinner and the bishop sat down in his place whilst Oswin warmed himself by the fire. Suddenly, the king unbuckled his sword belt, knelt at the bishop's feet and begged his forgiveness, and promised never again to question how much of his bounty the bishop gave to God's children. The bishop was deeply moved, raised Oswin to his feet, and begged him to sit down to his food.

As the king and his party grew merrier, so the bishop became sadder until he shed tears. His chaplain asked him what was wrong, and the bishop replied, "I know the king will not live long, for I have never before seen a humble king. I feel he will soon be taken from us, because this nation is not worthy of such a king".

He was murdered the 20th of Agust 651 at Gilling in Yorkshire England on order of his jelous cousin Osway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Jesus Prayer (part 3) Variations of the prayer

A number of different repetitive prayer formulas have been recorded in the history of Eastern Orthodox monasticism (e.g. the Prayer of St Ioannikios ) Sometimes the Jesus Prayer is alternated with an invocation to the Mother of God "Most Holy Theotokos, save us." In such a case, the practitioner repeats, for example, 100 Jesus Prayers and then 10 invocations of the Mother of God.

Variations on the theme

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (this is the most common for of the prayer LK 18: 9-14).
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. (rule of St John Chrysostom)
Lord have mercy.
Jesus have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Son of God have mercy.
Most Holy Trinity have mercy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Jesus Prayer (part2)

The Jesus Prayer can be considered practical application of the lesson taught by the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee demonstrates the improper way to pray by exclaiming: "Thank you Lord that I am not like the Publican", whereas the Publican prays correctly in humility "Lord have mercy on me, the sinner." (Luke 18:10-14.)

In the Eastern tradition the prayer is said or prayed repeatedly. A prayer rope (Russian chotki; Greek komposchini) is often used in addition to the prayer it's self. The cord is usually woolen and tied into many knots. The person saying the prayer says one repetition for each knot.

Orthodox monks often prayed this prayer many hundreds of times each night as part of their private cell vigil. Under the guidance of an Elder (Russian Starets; Greek Gerondas), the monk aims to internalize the prayer so that he is praying unceasingly. Diadochos refers in the Pitfka to the unconcious repetition of the Jesus Prayer, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, even in sleep. This state is regarded as the accomplishment of Saint Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing". (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The monk's goal is also, in advanced practice, to bring his mind into his heart so as to practice the Jesus Prayer with his mind in his heart.

It can be used as a means of finding contrition or a practice to help facilate humility in the individual. In its more advanced use, the monk aims by the practice of the Jesus Prayer to be moved by Divine grace into a place of contemplation.

In a modern context this continuing repetition is regarded by some as a form of meditation. The prayer functioning as a kind of mantra. However, traditional users of the Jesus Prayer emphasize the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ and the object of the exercises being contemplation on the Triune God rather then simply an emptying the mind.

adapted from several sources.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The Jesus Prayer also refereed to as the Prayer of the Heart, is a short repetitive prayer. It has been taught and used throughout the history of Eastern Christianity. The words of the prayer have varied from it's simplest form "Lord have mercy," to the more common form: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (LK 18: 9-14)

The Jesus Prayer is highly esteemed in the Eastern Orthodox tradition . It has an important place in personal ascetic practice. The constant praying of the prayer is considered to be profoundly mystical and trans formative in nature. Its practice is an integral part of the Philokalia. A collection of texts on prayer compiled in the late 18th Century.

The use of the prayer most likely has it's roots in the Egyptian desert around the end of the 4th century. John Cassian describes this type of prayer in the 'Conferences' his diolouges with the Desert Fathers. It's earliest known specific mention is in the Gnostic Chapters of Saint Diadochos of Photiki, a work found in the first volume of the Philokalia. Diadochos encouraged the use of the Jesus Prayer for the purification of the soul. He also taught that it's repetition produced interior tranquility..

John of Sinai recommended it's use in his work the "Ladder of Divine Ascent". The Russian spiritual classic "The Way of a Pilgrim" encourages the use of the Prayer as taught in the Philokalia. J D Salinger in his modern classic Franny and Zooey even eludes to it's practice as a solution to the spiritual deadness of our age.

Though practiced primarily by the Eastern tradition, it has drawn a wider range of practitioners from different streams in the 20th century.

the Christ portrait is by

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clare of Assisi (1194-1253)

Clare was born on July 16th 1194 into a family of nobles. As a little girl she would sometimes hide food from her plate and later give it to the poor.
On hearing St. Francis preach Clare became determined to live the gospel in a more radical way. On Palm Sunday, March 20, 1212 Clare and cousin Pacifica, secretly meet with Francis in the dead of night in the little chapel of ‘Mary of the Angels’. There she laid aside her title and had Francis cut her hair. From that moment she vowed to live her life entirely in the service of Jesus, her heavenly spouse.
She began the Order of Poor Ladies or Poor Clares at San Damiano, which Francis and the brothers had rebuilt by hand. In the beginning, most of the young girls who joined her in this life of radical poverty were from the noble families of Assisi and the surrounding area. They served the poor and tended the sick and lepers.
Part of Clare’s work was the help and encouragement she gave to her spiritual father, Francis. It was to her that he turned when in doubt and it was she who urged him to continue his mission in preaching when he thought his vocation lay in becoming a hermit.
On August 11, 1253, just before dawn, Clare, foundress of the Poor Ladies passed peacefully away.

The community of Poor Clares continues to this day, in both the Roman and in the Anglican communions.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Sign of the Cross

Over the last four years i have developed the habit of Crossing my self. I apply this particularly when i first wake, before eating and after praying. I have found this to be a good way to put me in mind of the Presence. I've also taken to doing this instead of saying an audable grace particularly in public settings..
In the tradition of the eastern and western churches ( Roman Catholic and Orthox) it is customary to cross ones self when invoking the Trinity.

I have adopted the Orthox method for making the sign of the cross.

Use your right hand, even if you are left-handed. Hold your thumb and first two fingers together, and fold the other two fingers down against the base of your thumb.

Touch your forehead
Touch your navel
Touch your right shoulder
Touch your left shoulder
As you cross yourself, say, whisper, or think: “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” ( i add "the sacred three in one", my celtic connection)
The movements trace a cross on the body.
The three fingers represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; the two fingers folded down represent the human and divine natures of Christ. Fully Man. Fully God.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Pile of Stones (part two)

"A Monument of Remembrance.""Tell me about the goodness of God", is a request i make fairly often to my wife... I seem to have a very short memory.

One day back in the mid-eighties during a difficult season (my mother had just passed away) while reading Joshua, we had an ephiany. Why don't we make a pile of stones and establish a monument of rememberance like the children of isreal were told to do. We made a list of Miracles, promises, answered prayer, words, tokens (more about that another time) and obvious kindness of God, so in times of trial and darkness or a tell me the stories moment we would have somthing tangable to turn to.

So we drew a pile of stones on a piece of full scap and wrote on the individual stones. God promised this. He provided that. The Lord healed so and so. We have added a sheet or two over the years and still ocasionally pull the tattered pages out to refresh our memories.

Eventually we made a real pile of stones in our back yard and had a gathering where we placed stones of rememberance. From time to time we place new stones if something warrants it.

We've even had friends come over and place stones to mark monumental times in there lives. Some have simply given us a stone and asked us to place it for them. Each time we see that pile in our back yard not only are we reminded of God's goodness in our lives but that of our friends as well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

King Oswald of Northumberia (605-42)

In 616 Aethelfrith the pagan King of Northumbria sent his son Oswald to Scotland to the monastic settlement founded by Columba in the late 500's on the island of Iona for protection.. Oswald encountered the Christian faith converted and was baptized.

In 628 Oswald returned from exile to claim the throne. He met Cadwallon in battle near Hexham. Oswald won a victory "as complete as it was unlikely," defeating and slaying Cadwallon (the victor, as the Welsh bards tell us, of forty battles and sixty single combats). The battle site was thereafter known as Heavensfield.

Northumbria, now united, became the most powerful of the Seven Kingdoms, and Oswald was recognized as paramount king of the Heptarchy.

Out of concern for the his people he sent messengers to Iona asking for a Christian priest. The first to come was a tactless failure. His replacement,
Aidan, was an outstanding success. Oswald, who was fully bilingual, would stand beside Aidan as he preached and would interpret his sermons. Aidan was soon joined by other missionaries establishing Lindisfarne mission resulting in the flourishing of the Church in Northumbria.
In 642 Oswald was killed in a great battle near Maserfeld. As he fell dying, Oswald prayed aloud for the souls of his bodyguards, who died with him, and for the salvation of the people of Northumbria, and for his slayers.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pile of Stones (part one)

1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight." Shortly after being delivered from slavery in Egypt the children of Israel found themselves wandering in the barren sands of the Sinai desert.

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been [
a] in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day. 

Joshua 4:1-9 Shortly after being delivered from slavery in Egypt the children of Israel found themselves in trouble the primary cause: a short collective memory. They quickly forgot God's goodness and provision and began to murmur and complain. This lead to all sorts of trouble.

Ever find yourself complaining. Don't know about you but I find it really really easy to forget God's kindness in my life. When the proverbial crap hits the fan and we find ourselves in the heat of life's battles it's easy to lose sight of God's goodness. We quickly forget the time's He's lavished His kindness on us, opening windows of promise, provision and protection .

When you catch your self beginning to gripe, complain, fear or doubt try building a pile of stones.

photo taken by bc