Please join me:
P O Lord, C have mercy.
P O Christ, C have mercy.
P O Lord, C have mercy.
P O Christ, C hear us.
P God the Father in heaven, C have mercy.
P God the Son, Redeemer of the world, C have mercy.
P God the Holy Spirit, C have mercy.
P Be gracious to us. C Spare us, good Lord.
P Be gracious to us. C Help us, good Lord.
P By the mystery of Your holy incarnation;
by Your holy nativity;
by Your baptism, fasting, and temptation;
by Your agony and bloody sweat;
by Your cross and passion;
by Your precious death and burial;
by Your glorious resurrection and ascension;
and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter: C Help us, good Lord.
P In all time of our tribulation;
in all time of our prosperity;
in the hour of death;
and in the day of judgment: C Help us, good Lord.
P We poor sinners implore You C to hear us, O Lord.
P To prosper the preaching of Your Word;
to bless our prayer and meditation;
to strengthen and preserve us in the true faith;
and to give heart to our sorrow and strength to our repentance:
C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
In our prayer group and our monthly prayer breakfast, we’ve been talking a lot of really impressing on our heart what you might think of as a background program. In case you don’t know, while your computer is running the program you are using, it is also running what are called “background” programs. These are programs that are there to make your computer run properly, to keep it from getting viruses, you don’t notice them, but they are always there, always running, if they stopped, your computer would stop.
I have a good fifty-cent word for you – “Hesychasm”. No it’s not a new Japanese steak house.
According to Thomas Von Hagel in his book Christians Through the Century [pp 192, 223 – 224] it has “been an integral component of the Eastern Church. It was kindled in the New Testament, fanned in the Early Church and burned brightly throughout the history of Orthodoxy.”
“Hesychasm” is defined as silent and inner prayer. It often repeats a short phrase such as a psalm verse. Most commonly, it utilizes the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner’ or some variation thereof. This prayer is repeated over and over until it is no longer spoken with the mouth, but ceaselessly recited in the heart. Hesychasts were not required to be hermits, but to recite the Jesus Prayer while they ate, conversed, worked and slept.”
One reason why we want to start liturgical worship is that it is a constant, sort of like those background programs that run on your computer. As liturgical worship becomes more ingrained you will start to realize that many parts of it will become a “background” program, as it were, in your heart. During times of stress and even during timesof great joy, these background programs on your heart will bubble up to the surface. Two of these programs that I am trying to get ingrained in my heart, and I hope you will join me is “Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy” and “God use me for your glory”. The other one I am starting on is “Glory to God in the highest”. Just like the Orthodox monks, I try, to repeat this over and over again and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, these will become so ingrained that when I do confront those times, these will just spring from my heart to my head. From there, I hope, that some of today’s readings will also follow.
Don’t mistake this with some concept of eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism) idea of a “mantra”. Which means repeating over and over an otherwise meaningless phrase in order to “clear the mind”. The idea in Christian prayer is to always bring us into the presence of the Father, to always remember who our Savior Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us, that He is Lord of our Life and He who paid the price for our sin, that we are sinners in need of a Savior. The meaning of any of these Hesychasms should always be very readily in your heart while you are reciting them in your head.
I especially resonate with “Lord have mercy”, folks one thing we should always readily remember is how merciful God is, how ready to forgive He is, how quickly He is to restore us. We see that so frequently throughout the Bible and we should be quick to understand that just like someone like Moses, David, Paul, we are quickly forgiven as they were, God is merciful, when we turn to Him in repentance He is quick to forgive, to give us mercy through His grace. As we grow in Christian maturity, as disciples of Christ we take the word of the Beatitudes to heart, and we start to integrate Jesus’ words as that background program. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” and with that we come full circle; “Jesus is merciful to me a sinner, I am called to be merciful and Jesus promises me “I shall receive mercy”. The Greek “el-eh-ay-mone meaning mercy in both thought and action. All of the Beatitudes, as you get really moved and motivated by the Holy Spirit, become more and more a part of what you think and what you do.
One caution, I seem to run into this particular person a lot: “I live my life by the Beatitudes”, saying it in a way that is more of works, then it is the Holy Spirit working through you. Let’s be clear what the difference is. This prideful attitude that I seem to encounter regularly is all about what that person does, it’s not about what God is doing through him/her. Paul tells us in our reading, and it may not sound very flattering, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” He’s writing this to the Corinthians and if you remember from last week, the Corinthians had kind of a high opinion of themselves. God tells us through Micah: “O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Paul is trying to remind them what Jesus and Micah are telling us. It’s not about you, you are expected to “love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”, “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy, blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You can try to make it all about yourself, but when you start counting it up as points scored, blessings “earned”, then the entire paradigm falls apart. Hey you’ve got it all together, you don’t need mercy, you earned all this, you don’t even need the kingdom of heaven, because you’ve tried to make it all about you. What did Paul say? “…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
When we dial it back and remind ourselves, with that background program running in our heart, “Lord have mercy”, that we are completely dependent on the mercy and grace of God. We cannot do anything to earn that mercy, we cannot claim that as our work, it is always and forever the work that God does in us. God speaking through Micah laments “…what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you?” In other words “what did I do that you treat me like a rented mule, as if I am unimportant, “ain’t no thing but a chicken wing”. Ambrose says “Micah lamented the ingratitude of Jews of his day for God’s deliverance. God is not appeased by sacrifices and rituals; rather, the Lord requires justice, mercy and love of those who profess to follow him.” It’s sort of like a spouse or a parent telling a child, hey I pay the bills, I feed you, I shelter you, what else do you want? Well any spouse or any child wants the love and attention, to feel special in the eyes of their parent or spouse. If we just toss God the leftovers, go through the motions, can we really expect mercy, can we expect comfort, can we really expect to be called sons and daughters of God?
Keep those background programs running on your heart, it’s not about what you do, it’s about what the Holy Spirit does through you. It’s what Christ has done for you, He who suffered and sacrificed in order to assure you of mercy, of salvation, of a constant relationship with the Father who continuously gives us grace, mercy and continually sustains us. We just cannot do anything of ourselves, we continually turn to God for His mercy, we continually turn to Him to be used by Him for His glory. We serve a great God who loves us above anything, ANYTHING, who wants to save us and be merciful to us. Is it really difficult to continue to turn to Him for mercy, for guidance, to serve Him in order to reach those around us for Him?
So remember Hesychasm, take it home with you as homework to recite over and over “Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy”, “Father use me to your glory” and let those be the background programs of your heart in all you do.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.