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Step 18

ON SLEEP, PRAYER, AND THE CHANTING OF THE PSALMS, ETC.

1. Sleep is a suspension of the functions of nature, an image of death, the slumber of the senses. It is always the same in itself, though it arises from many different causes, like concupiscence, which, though but one, acts in divers ways, according to the motives that prompt it to action. For sleep at one time is the effect of nature, at another of repletion from food, now the oppression produced by demons, and the effect of exhaustion after excessive fasting, when nature is anxious to recover its strength by repose.

2. As it is by repetition that we contract the habit of intemperance, so excessive drowsiness is the effect of unmortified habit. Hence we should strive to master this drowsiness at the commencement of our religious career, since it is very difficult to overcome an inveterate habit.

3. If we notice we shall observe that, when at the sound of the bell, the spiritual trumpet of the monastery, the brethren awake and assemble in the church for the matutinal office, our infernal enemies are likewise there gathered together invisibly. Some present themselves just when we are roused from sleep, that by a gentle drowsiness they may lull us again to rest, persuading us to prolong our slumbers, until the prayers and hymns which precede the psalms are completed, and that it will then be time enough to enter the church. Others overpower us with sleep whilst reciting the divine office. Many will urge us to leave the church under some feigned pretext, or engage us in improper conversation. These assail our minds with bad thoughts; those tempt us to lean against the wall, as if we had not sufficient strength to stand upright. Frequently they excite us to laugh during our prayers, and then to yawn, that by this indecent and unbecoming behaviour we may provoke the wrath of the Almighty. Some of them hurry us on too rapidly in gliding over the verses, whilst others make us drag behind the rest, as if we had no spirit or energy to observe the proper time of recitation. Yea, they many times so take possession of us, that they perch upon our lips, and by closing them, silence our tongues, and render it difficult for us to speak.

4. But he who seriously reflects that, during the solemn hour of prayer, he stands in the presence of God, will remain like a firmly based column, immoveable amidst these temptations and illusions of the devil.

5. The truly obedient Christian oftentimes experiences a heavenly light, a glowing fervour and extraordinary joy, immediately he presents himself before God in prayer, because he prepares himself by a faithful accomplishment of the divine precept, and enters upon his devotions with a heart already inflamed with celestial charity.

6. All the members of a religious community are permitted to pray in public. But there are many servants of God who derive the greatest advantage from reciting office with another endowed with the same spirit as themselves. To pray alone is beneficial to few.

7. If you chant with a numerous choir in the church, you will have difficulty in preserving the spirituality of your prayers, free from the images and temptations of the senses. But, to keep your mind occupied, you have merely to meditate upon the verses you are chanting, or to say some private prayer, whilst the alternate choir are chanting their verse.

8. To employ ourselves with things useless, or even with what is profitable, during prayer, is contrary to the respect which is due to God. The time for prayer, as well as labour, should be well regulated. This is what the angel, who appeared to the great St. Anthony, expressly ordained.

9. As fire tries gold, so prayer tries the fervour and love of solitaries towards God.



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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
USA
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