Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | July 1, 2010

Met. Anthony and the Words of Others

There is a consistency in the use of words in our lives, and how they enrich us. Their currency is often striking, though not necessarily as much for their vintage as for their worth, for whether new or old what matters is whether they speak directly to our hearts. As Metropolitan Anthony points out, the Gospels are full of places where Jesus teaches the multitudes, but they are equally full of specific places where His words are meant for a very specific person at a very specific time. And his point is not that these persons are all historical, but that those persons are now, are us and in our time. We shouldn’t ignore these words, but listen very closely for those which resonate both as being “good” (we like them and don’t mind lingering over or re-reading them) and being “bad” (we don’t like them and find them bothersome) and understand that here our hearts have been quickened for a reason…. the reason that here, Christ speaks directly to us.

Ah, but there’s that handy out… the “usual suspects”, the exegesis we already know, and so we grab the “out”, move on by, and refuse to hear by skipping by and not going to the hard place of wondering exactly why this is the case that we are quickened here – pro or con.  Of course, this isn’t a particularly new or unique insight, nor is it new to think of its  application beyond an understanding of the Gospels to broader application in learning to understand each other.

So whether the words of others are those of the great saints and their prayers, the words of Christ recorded in the Gospels, or simply the words of the person before us, I think the good Metropolitan Anthony intends that we find a lot of similarity in how we are to come to listen and address each in its turn:

“We must mold our minds and hearts so that we should have the mind of Christ – meditation on the Gospel, to grasp with intellectual integrity what the Lord said, in all truth, and not what we wish him to have said; the ability by an effort of moral integrity to see that these words of God judge us and lead us into a greater measure of truth.”

“The same is true when we choose words of prayer.  So often we say, why pray in words coined by others? Do not my own words express adequately what is in my heart and mind? No, this is not enough.  Because what we aim at is not simply to express lyrically what we are, what we have learned, what we wish. In the same way in which we learn from the great masters of music and art what musical or artistic beauty is, so also do we learn from those masters of the spiritual life, who have achieved what we aim at, who have become real, live and worthy members of the Body of Christ; from them we must learn how to pray, to find those dispositions, those attitudes of mind, of will and of heart which make us Christians. This again is an act of rejection of our own self, to allow something greater and truer than our self to live in us, to give us shape and impetus and direction. “

He says this beautifully and of course speaks exclusively of prayer. But it leads me to wonder what it would be like if our attitude were that in every encounter we had with the life around us – with people, with problems, with our joys and sorrows, with the whole cacophony of our daily lives as well as those quiet moments when we find ourselves free to consider the soaring beauty of a summer’s day – what if in each of these we were to strive to see that God really is everywhere present and filling all things… and that all in which we live and move and have our being is indeed as much a wonder as the breath of prayer, and we were in fact to let this prayer breathe the most holy energies of God and surround our hearts – that we may be full? There’s a thought.


  1. Beautifully said. I think most of us who come to the Church’s prayers wonder how someone can pray like that and our own seem soooo banal in comparison.

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